U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday said the authorities were getting closer to understanding the disappearance of Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, as Turkish investigators prepared to enter the Saudi consulate in Istanbul where he was last seen.
“I have to find out what happened…and we’re probably getting closer than you might think,” Trump said in an interview on the Fox News’ “Fox & Friends” programme.
In the interview, Trump said the U.S. was working with Turkey and Saudi Arabia, adding, “We have investigators over there.”
Global pressure has mounted on close U.S. ally Saudi Arabia about the disappearance of Khashoggi, a prominent critic of Saudi policies, who entered the consulate on Oct. 2 to get documents for his planned marriage.
But three U.S. law enforcement sources said that because Khashoggi is not an American citizen and disappeared outside the country, the FBI has no automatic jurisdiction to get involved in the case and could only become involved if requested by a foreign government such as Turkey.
Senior U.S. officials, including Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, have spoken with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman about Khashoggi’s disappearance.
Kushner and the crown prince forged a close relationship soon after Trump took office.
Trump made Saudi Arabia the first stop on his first foreign trip as president in May 2017, but in recent weeks has appeared to sour a bit on Riyadh, complaining directly to King Salman about the cost of American support for the Saudi military and for OPEC oil price increases.
The U.S.-Saudi relationship is being further tested by the Khashoggi case as the administration finds itself under pressure from Congress, where there has already been tension over Riyadh’s role in the Yemen war.
Turkish sources have said they believe Khashoggi was killed inside the building and his body removed, allegations that Riyadh dismisses as baseless.
His Turkish fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, who was waiting outside, said he never re-appeared.
A team of investigators is preparing to go into the consulate, a Turkish security official said.
“Now, they are waiting (for) the final permission to enter the consulate,” the official said, following an initial offer from Saudi authorities. It was unclear when that might happen.
Later on Thursday, Turkey accepted a Saudi proposal to form a joint working group to investigate the case, Turkish Presidential spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, was quoted as saying by Anadolu agency.
Khashoggi’s disappearance is likely to further deepen division between Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
Relations were already strained after Turkey sent troops to the Gulf state of Qatar in 2017 in a show of support after its Gulf neighbours, including Saudi Arabia, imposed an embargo on Doha.
The Khashoggi incident has been largely absent from Saudi media, but on Thursday Saudi-owned newspaper Asharq al Awsat cited an unnamed source who said the kingdom was being targeted by “those who try to exploit the reality of the disappearance’’.
Erdogan, whose AK Party is rooted in political Islam, also supported a government in Egypt led by the Muslim Brotherhood, which Saudi Arabia has designated a terrorist movement.