US President Donald Trump said on Monday he is sending his top diplomat to Saudi Arabia after Saudi King Salman told him in a phone call that he has no idea what happened to missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
“Just spoke to the King of Saudi Arabia who denies any knowledge of whatever may have happened ‘to our Saudi Arabian citizen,’” Trump said in a tweet, adding he was “immediately sending” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to meet with the king.
Trump has taken a cautious position since the disappearance of Khashoggi — a Washington Post contributor and critic of powerful Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Trump has threatened “severe punishment” should proof emerge to back claims that Saudi agents killed Khashoggi and disposed of his body.
However, the US president has repeatedly made clear that he will not risk billions of dollars in deals to sell weapons to the kingdom, which is a strategic ally in the tinderbox Middle East.
Following days of mounting tensions, Saudi officials were allowing Turkish investigators to enter the consulate on Monday.
A Turkish diplomatic source said it was expected that the search, to be conducted jointly with Saudi authorities, would “take place towards the evening.”