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Erdogan, Trump step up pressure over missing Saudi journalist

AFP  |  Istanbul 

Turkish Recep Erdogan urged to release footage of and demanded answers over his fate, as the kingdom faced growing pressure Thursday to provide a convincing explanation for the journalist's disappearance.

The Post, the daily to which was a contributor, added to the mystery by reporting Saudi Crown had ordered an operation to "lure" the critical back home.

has not been seen since October 2 when he went to the Saudi consulate in to obtain official documents for his upcoming marriage. Turkish officials quoted in media have said he was killed but denies that.

The mystery has captivated the world but also threatens to harm brittle Turkish-Saudi relations and hurt efforts by the crown to improve the image of his country with a reform drive.

Erdogan challenged to provide CCTV images to back up its account that Khashoggi had left the consulate safely, indicating he did not find the current Saudi explanations sufficient.

"Is it possible there were no in a consulate, in an embassy? Is it possible that there was no Saudi camera system where this incident took place?" Erdogan told Turkish reporters in comments published in newspapers.

"If a bird flew, or a fly or a mosquito appeared, the systems would capture this; they (Saudi Arabia) have the most cutting-edge systems," he was quoted as saying.

The consulate said CCTV cameras were not working that day and dismissed the murder claims as "baseless".

The case is also threatening the strong relationship the has built with Mohammed, who wants to turn the into a hub for innovation and reform.

The two sides have worked together on challenging despite growing concern over the prince's campaign against dissidents, which critics say has revealed the true face of his rule.

In a reversal from Washington's initial low-key response, Trump reaffirmed that he has to "find out what happened".

"We can't let it happen. And we're being very tough and we have investigators over there and we're working with and frankly we're working with Saudi Arabia," Trump said in an interview with "Fox and Friends".

Jeremy Hunt, the of key Saudi ally and trade partner, Britain, warned there would be "serious consequences" if the allegations were true.

"People who have long thought of themselves as Saudi's friends are saying this is a very, very serious matter," he told AFP.

Khashoggi is a former government who fled in September 2017 and lived in the US fearing arrest back home.

In his columns for Post and comments elsewhere, Khashoggi was critical of some policies of as well as Riyadh's role in the war in

While unnamed Turkish officials quoted in the media have been giving sometimes macabre details of the alleged murder, Erdogan has so far been more circumspect.

He has said Saudi Arabia must prove its version of events but so far has stopped short of directly accusing the kingdom or laying the blame on the powerful

"It's not possible for us to stay silent regarding an incident like this," Erdogan said.

He added that it would "not be right" to comment yet but said he had "concerns".

and have worked over recent years to maintain cordial relations despite disputes on key issues, such as the ousting of the and the blockade on Turkey's key regional ally

Friends of Khashoggi told Post that for several months, senior Saudi officials were offering him protection, "even a high-level job working for the government" if the returned to the kingdom. Khashoggi was sceptical of such offers.

are looking into a team of 15 Saudis who they say were at the consulate at the same time as Khashoggi and arrived in on October 2 on board two private planes.

Turkish media have said the 15 were an "assassination team" and that they took the consulate's footage with them.

After images of the men and their names were published by pro-government daily, media identified most of them as senior figures in or close to the

Turkish authorities have been given permission to search the consulate -- Saudi sovereign territory -- but it has not yet taken place.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Thu, October 11 2018. 19:35 IST