NEW YORK: US President Donald Trump said on Saturday that there would be “severe punishment” for Saudi Arabia if it turned out that missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in its consulate in Istanbul.

Khashoggi, a prominent critic of Riyadh and legal resident of the United States, disappeared on Oct 2 after visiting the Saudi consulate in Turkey.

“We’re going to get to the bottom of it and there will be severe punishment,” Trump said in an interview to CBS News.

Asked whether he thought Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman gave an order to kill him, the president said “nobody knows yet, but we’ll probably be able to find out”.

Trump added in the “60 Minutes” interview, which will air on Sunday, that “we would be very upset and angry if that were the case”.

Donald Trump said there was much at stake with the Khashoggi case, “maybe especially so” because he was a reporter.

But Trump signalled that cutting off US military sales to Saudi Arabia may not be an option because “I don’t want to hurt jobs”.

Turkish sources have said the initial police assessment was that Khashoggi was deliberately killed inside the consulate.

Riyadh has been consistently denying the allegations leveled against it.

Agencies add: Turkey accused Saudi Arabia of failing to cooperate with a probe into the disappearance of the journalist inside its Istanbul consulate.

Comments by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu represented a hardening of Ankara’s hitherto circumspect tone over the the case of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The outcry surrounding his disappearance threatens to not just harm brittle Turkey-Saudi relations but also alarm the kingdom’s supporters in the West and tarnish the reform drive spearheaded by the crown prince.

Ankara had said that a search of the consulate had been agreed but this has yet to materialise amid reports the two sides are at odds over the conditions of entry into what is Saudi sovereign territory.

“We still have not seen cooperation in order to ensure a smooth investigation and bring everything to light. We want to see this,” Cavusoglu said.

He said Riyadh must let Turkish “prosecutors and experts enter the consulate” to carry out their investigation.

“Where did he go missing? There, at the consulate,” the Turkish foreign minister said, adding that “talks are continuing” with Saudi officials in a bid to resolve the impasse.

A Saudi delegation was in Turkey and due to have talks this weekend in Ankara and take part in a working group on the disappearance, official Turkish media said.

Khashoggi’s fiancée Hatice Cengiz, who was waiting outside the consulate when he went inside to sort out marriage paperwork, echoed the call, urging Saudi Arabia on Twitter to “officially reveal what happened” to him.

Interior Minister Prince Abdel Aziz bin Saud bin Nayef slammed claims that the kingdom ordered Khashoggi to be killed inside the consulate as “baseless allegations and lies”.

Published in Dawn, October 14th, 2018

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