Trump aide in Riyadh to meet Saudi King over Khashoggi issue

Trump aide in Riyadh to meet Saudi King over Khashoggi issue


The US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, has arrived  in Saudi Arabia for talks with King Salman over the disappearance and alleged slaying of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi, who vanished two weeks ago during a visit to the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

Mr. Pompeo landed in Riyadh on Tuesday morning and was to immediately meet the king over the crisis surrounding Khashoggi. He  was welcomed by Saudi Foreign Minister,Mr.  Adel al-Jubeir, on landing.

Turkish officials say they fear Khashoggi was killed and dismembered inside the consulate. Saudi officials previously have called the allegations 'baseless,' but reports in U.S. media suggested the kingdom may acknowledge the writer was killed there.

Meanwhile, a Turkish forensics team finished earlier in the morning a search inside the consulate. Technicians in coveralls, gloves and covered shoes treated the diplomatic mission as a crime scene during their hours-long search. It wasn’t immediately clear what evidence they gathered.

Mr. Trump, after speaking with King Salman, had dispatched Mr. Pompeo to speak to the monarch of the top oil exporter over Khashoggi’s disappearance. He  himself said without offering evidence that the slaying could have been carried out by 'rogue killers,' offering the U.S.-allied kingdom a possible path out of a global diplomatic firestorm.

However, left unsaid was the fact that any decision in the ultraconservative kingdom rests solely with the ruling Al Saud family. Noticeably absent from discussions was Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whom Khashoggi wrote critically about for The Washington Post and whose rise to power prompted the writer to go into a self-imposed exile in the United States.

'The effort behind the scenes is focused on avoiding a diplomatic crisis between the two countries and has succeeded in finding a pathway to deescalate tensions,' said Mr. Ayham Kamel, the head of the Eurasia Group’s Mideast and North African practice. 'Riyadh will have to provide some explanation of the journalist’s disappearance, but in a manner that distances the leadership from any claim that a decision was made at senior levels to assassinate the prominent journalist.'

CNN reported that the Saudis were going to admit the killing had occurred but deny the king or crown prince had ordered it _ which does not match what analysts and experts know about the kingdom’s inner workings.

The New York Times reported that the Saudi royal court would suggest that an official within the kingdom’s intelligence services _ a friend of Prince Mohammed _ had carried out the killing. According to that  claim, the crown prince had approved an interrogation or rendition of Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia, but the intelligence official was tragically incompetent as he eagerly sought to prove himself. Both reports cited anonymous people said to be familiar with the Saudi plans.

What evidence Turkish officials could gather at the consulate remained unknown. Saudi officials have been in and out of the building since Khashoggi’s disappearance Oct. 2 without being stopped. Under the Vienna Convention, diplomatic posts are technically foreign soil that must be protected and respected by host countries.

Forensics tests like spraying luminol, a chemical mixture, can expose blood left behind, said Ms. Mechthild Prinz, an associate professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice who previously worked at the New York City’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

'It depends on how well they cleaned it up,' Mr. Prinz said. 'Obviously, you don’t want anybody to have a chance to clean it up, but very often people do miss blood.'

Told that a cleaning crew walked into the consulate before the team arrived, she said: 'You saw that? Wow. That’s going to be a problem.'