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Trump Sending Pompeo to Riyadh for Talks on Missing Journalist
U.S. President Donald Trump says he is dispatching Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to meet with Saudi King Salman after the monarch denied any knowledge about the disappearance of a Saudi journalist last seen two weeks ago entering the country's consulate in Istanbul.
Trump said Monday on Twitter, "Just spoke to the King of Saudi Arabia who denies any knowledge of whatever may have happened 'to our Saudi Arabian citizen,'" The U.S. leader quoted Salman as saying his country is "working closely with Turkey to find answer," adding Trump is "immediately sending" Pompeo to to Riyadh for more talks with the king.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Salman on Sunday discussed forming a joint working group to look into the disappearance of the journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, whom Turkish officials believe was murdered by Saudi agents October 2 at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Saudi Arabia calls the allegations "baseless" and says Khashoggi left the consulate on his own, although neither Turkey nor Saudi Arabia has provided clear evidence to support its version of events.
Trump told the CBS news show 60 Minutes there would be "severe punishment" if it is determined Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi consulate, but Riyadh dismissed the U.S. threat and said it would retaliate if Trump took any action against Saudi Arabia, according to an unnamed source quoted by Saudi Press Agency
Khashoggi was living in self-imposed exile in the United States and had criticized Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in columns written for The Washington Post.
Trump said "nobody knows yet" what happened inside the consulate, "but we'll probably be able to find out" if Salman ordered Khashoggi's murder. Trump added the United States "would be very upset and angry if that were the case."
In protest of Khashoggi's disappearance, several U.S. businesses leaders have pulled out of next week's Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh, dubbed "Davos in the Desert," after the annual meeting of world economic interests in Switzerland. However White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said the Treasury chief is still planning to go.
The Washington Post reported in recent days that the Turkish government informed U.S. officials it was in possession of video recordings that prove Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate, but have not made them public.