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US says Saudis agreed to conduct ‘thorough’ probe into missing journalist Khashoggi

Top US diplomat Mike Pompeo met on Tuesday with Saudi King Salman and the crown prince seeking to defuse a crisis over missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi, with American officials saying Riyadh has agreed to the need for a “thorough” probe, AFP reported.

The urgent talks came after US President Donald Trump dispatched Pompeo to the Gulf kingdom amid a growing international outcry about Khashoggi’s disappearance.

Khashoggi has not been seen since he walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 to sort out marriage paperwork.

“Rogue killers” could be to blame, Trump said after a telephone call on Monday with the king.

After first meeting with the king, Pompeo had separate talks with Minister of Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir and powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

“We are strong and old allies. We face our challenges together,” the crown prince said as he warmly welcomed Pompeo to the palace. The two men were also due to have dinner together later on Tuesday.

“The secretary and the foreign minister agreed on the importance of a thorough, transparent and timely investigation,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said later.

Turkish police Monday searched the consulate for the first time since the disappearance of Khashoggi, a Saudi national and US resident who had become increasingly critical of Prince Mohammed.

The UN human rights chief on Tuesday called for the lifting of the immunity of officials who might be involved in Khashoggi’s disappearance.

Due to the seriousness of the case “I believe the inviolability or immunity of the relevant premises and officials … should be waived immediately,” Michelle Bachelet said in a statement.

The investigators, who searched the premises for eight hours into Tuesday morning, took samples with them, including soil from the consulate garden, one official at the scene said.

İstanbul police are now also planning to search the nearby consul general’s residence, a diplomatic source said. Meanwhile, Saudi consul general in İstanbul Mohammad al-Otaibi left the country, according to the Turkish media.

US Secretary of State Pompeo will stop in Turkey after his trip to Saudi Arabia to talk with King Salman about Khashoggi, Reuters reported on Monday, citing a National Security Council spokesman.

“It is absolutely essential that Turkish authorities, with full and transparent support from the government of Saudi Arabia, are able to conduct a thorough investigation and officially release the results of that investigation when concluded,” the spokesperson said.

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