Turkey said on Tuesday that it would search Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul where Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi vanished last week, and close ally Britain called on Riyadh to provide “urgent answers” over his disappearance.
Khashoggi was last seen one week ago entering the consulate in Istanbul to get documents related to his forthcoming marriage.
His fiancée, waiting outside, said he never emerged and Turkish sources said they believe Khashoggi, a prominent critic of Saudi policies, was killed inside the mission.
Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan asked Saudi Arabia on Monday to prove its assertion that Khashoggi left the consulate.
The U.S. State Department said it did not know what happened to Khashoggi and whether he was alive or not.
“We don’t know what has happened to him. We don’t have any information on that,” spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters adding: “We don’t want to make any judgments about what happened.”
Saudi Arabia has dismissed as baseless accusations that it killed or abducted Khashoggi, and on Tuesday Turkey’s state-owned Anadolu agency said Riyadh had invited Turkish experts and other officials to visit the consulate.
Britain urged the Saudi government to explain what happened.
“Just met the Saudi ambassador to seek urgent answers over Jamal Khashoggi,” U.K. foreign minister Jeremy Hunt said on Twitter.
“Violence against journalists worldwide is going up and is a grave threat to freedom of expression. If media reports prove correct, we will treat the incident seriously – friendships depend on shared values,” he wrote.
Turkey’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said the investigation was “continuing intensively”. The Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations allowed for consulates to be searched by authorities of a host country with consent of the mission chief, he said.
“The consulate building will be searched in the framework of the investigation,” Aksoy said in a written statement.
There was no immediate comment on the report from the Saudi authorities.
News agency Anadolu later reported that a private plane that had arrived from Saudi Arabia at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport was searched last Tuesday, the day Khashoggi was last seen.
The search proved fruitless and the plane took off again afterwards, it said.
A Turkish security source had previously told Reuters that a group of 15 Saudi nationals, including some officials, had arrived in Istanbul in two planes and entered the consulate on the same day Khashoggi was there, and later left the country.
It was not immediately clear if the Anadolu report referred to one of those aircraft.