Latest: Mike Pompeo meets Saudi king and crown prince for talks on missing journalist

Update 3.20pm: The US secretary of state met on Tuesday with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and his son Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over the disappearance and alleged killing at the kingdom’s hands of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi at its consulate in Istanbul.

Mike Pompeo smiled and shook hands with both men, who warmly greeted him just hours after a Turkish forensics team finished a search inside the Saudi Consulate, looking for evidence of the Washington Post columnist’s alleged killing and dismemberment.

Police plan a second search at the Saudi consul’s home in Istanbul, a Turkish Foreign Ministry official said, where leaked surveillance footage show diplomatic cars travelled to shortly after Mr Khashoggi’s disappearance on October 2.

A man walks past the Saudi Arabia consul’s residence, in Istanbul (Petros Giannakouris/AP)

Saudi officials previously have called Turkish allegations that the kingdom killed Mr Khashoggi “baseless”, but reports in US media suggested the Saudis may acknowledge the writer was killed at the consulate.

Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir greeted Mr Pompeo when he landed in Riyadh.

Soon after, Mr Pompeo arrived at a royal palace, where he thanked King Salman “for accepting my visit on behalf of President (Donald) Trump” before the two went into a closed-door meeting.

Mike Pompeo, left, meets with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman (Leah Mills/AP)

Mr Pompeo then met a smiling Prince Mohammed, the 33-year-old heir apparent to the throne of the world’s largest oil exporter.

Mr Khashoggi fled Saudi Arabia and took up a self-imposed exile in the United States after the prince’s rise.

“We are strong and old allies,” the prince told Mr Pompeo as journalists watched.

“We face our challenges together, the past, the day of, tomorrow.”

Earlier: Mike Pompeo meets King Salman amid mystery over missing journalist

US secretary of state Mike Pompeo has met with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman over the disappearance and alleged killing of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi, who vanished two weeks ago during a visit to the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

Mr Pompeo landed in Riyadh on Tuesday morning and was welcomed by Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir on landing.

Soon after, Mr Pompeo arrived at a royal palace, where King Salman greeted him.

America’s top diplomat thanked the king “for accepting my visit on behalf of President (Donald) Trump” before going into a closed-door meeting.

US secretary of state Mike Pompeo, centre left, talks with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir (Leah Millis/AP)

Turkish officials say they fear Mr Khashoggi was killed and dismembered inside the Istanbul consulate.

Saudi officials previously have called the allegations “baseless”, but reports in US media suggested the kingdom may acknowledge the writer was killed there.

Meanwhile, a Turkish forensics team finished earlier in the morning a search inside the consulate.

Technicians in coveralls, gloves and covered shoes treated the diplomatic mission as a crime scene during their hours-long search.

It was not immediately clear what evidence they gathered.

Mr Trump, after speaking with King Salman, had dispatched Mr Pompeo to speak to the monarch of the world’s top oil exporter over Mr Khashoggi’s disappearance.

Mr Trump himself said without offering evidence that the killing could have been carried out by “rogue killers”, offering the US-allied kingdom a possible path out of a global diplomatic firestorm.

However, left unsaid was the fact that any decision in the ultraconservative kingdom rests solely with the ruling Al Saud family.

Mr Pompeo also was to meet with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whom Mr Khashoggi wrote critically about for The Washington Post and whose rise to power prompted the writer to go into a self-imposed exile in the United States.

Security personnel inside the entrance of Saudi Arabia’s Consulate in Istanbul (Petros Giannakouris/AP)

“The effort behind the scenes is focused on avoiding a diplomatic crisis between the two countries and has succeeded in finding a pathway to deescalate tensions,” said Ayham Kamel, the head of the Eurasia Group’s Mideast and North African practice.

“Riyadh will have to provide some explanation of the journalist’s disappearance, but in a manner that distances the leadership from any claim that a decision was made at senior levels to assassinate the prominent journalist.”

CNN reported that the Saudis were going to admit the killing happened but deny the king or crown prince had ordered it which does not match what analysts and experts know about the kingdom’s inner workings.

The New York Times reported that the Saudi royal court would suggest that an official within the kingdom’s intelligence services, a friend of Prince Mohammed, had carried out the killing.

Cleaning personnel enter Saudi Arabia’s Consulate on Monday prior to the arrival of a search team (Petros Giannakouris/AP)

According to that reported claim, the crown prince had approved an interrogation or rendition of Mr Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia, but the intelligence official was tragically incompetent as he eagerly sought to prove himself.

Both reports cited anonymous people said to be familiar with the Saudi plans.

Saudi officials have been in and out of the building since Mr Khashoggi’s disappearance on October 2 without being stopped. Under the Vienna Convention, diplomatic posts are technically foreign soil that must be protected and respected by host countries.

Forensics tests like spraying luminol, a chemical mixture, can expose blood left behind, said Mechthild Prinz, an associate professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice who previously worked at the New York City’s Office of the chief medical examiner.

“It depends on how well they cleaned it up,” Ms Prinz said.

“Obviously, you don’t want anybody to have a chance to clean it up, but very often people do miss blood.”

Mr Khashoggi disappeared two weeks ago (AP)

Told that a cleaning crew walked into the consulate before the team arrived, she said: “You saw that? Wow. That’s going to be a problem.”

Turkey has wanted to search the consulate for days.

Permission apparently came after a late Sunday night call between King Salman and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In statements after the call, both praised the creation of a joint Saudi-Turkish probe.

The Turkish inspection team included a prosecutor, a deputy prosecutor, anti-terror police and forensic experts, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

Forensic officers at work in the consulate (AP)

Certain areas of the consulate were to remain off-limits, although officials would be able to inspect surveillance cameras, Turkish media reported.

What evidence Turkish officials gathered at the consulate remains unknown.

Turkey’s private DHA news agency said the Saudi consul’s office was among the rooms searched.

Mr Khashoggi has written extensively for the Post about Saudi Arabia, criticising its war in Yemen, its recent diplomatic spat with Canada and its arrest of women’s rights activists after the lifting of a driving ban for women.

Those policies are all seen as initiatives of Prince Mohammed, the son of King Salman, who is next in line to the throne.

Prince Mohammed has aggressively pitched the kingdom as a destination for foreign investment.

But Mr Khashoggi’s disappearance has led several business leaders and media outlets to back out of the upcoming investment conference in Riyadh, called the Future Investment Initiative.

They include the chief executive of Uber, a company in which Saudi Arabia has invested billions of dollars; billionaire Sir Richard Branson; JPMorgan Chase & Co chief executive Jamie Dimon; and Ford Motor executive chairman Bill Ford.

Mr Pompeo later met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Prince Mohammed said: “We are strong and old allies.

“We face our challenges together, the past, the day of, tomorrow.”

Mr Pompeo thanked Prince Mohammed for hosting him.

- Press Association

Earlier: Pompeo to meet Saudi king over Khashoggi disappearance

US secretary of state Mike Pompeo is set to meet King Salman in Saudi Arabia over the disappearance and alleged killing of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi.

The meeting comes as a Turkish forensics team finished its search for evidence in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul where Mr Khashoggi went missing two weeks ago.

Some reports have claimed that Saudi officials may concede the killing took place in the consulate.

Forensic officers treated the consulate as a crime scene during their lengthy search.

After speaking with King Salman, US president Donald Trump said that the alleged murder could have been carried out by “rogue killers” – offering the kingdom, a US ally and one of the world’s top oil producers, a possible path out of a global diplomatic firestorm.

However, what was left unsaid was the fact that any decision taken in the ultra-conservative kingdom rests solely with the ruling Al Saud family.

Noticeably absent from discussions was Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whom Mr Khashoggi wrote critically about for The Washington Post and whose rise to power prompted the writer to go into a self-imposed exile in the US.

Forensic officers at work in the consulate (AP)

Ayham Kamel, the head of the Middle East and North Africa branch of political risk consultancy the Eurasia Group, said: “The effort behind the scenes is focused on avoiding a diplomatic crisis between the two countries and has succeeded in finding a pathway to deescalate tensions.

“Riyadh will have to provide some explanation of the journalist’s disappearance, but in a manner that distances the leadership from any claim that a decision was made at senior levels to assassinate the prominent journalist.”

CNN reported that the Saudis were going to admit the killing had occurred but deny the king or crown prince had ordered it — which does not match what analysts and experts know about the kingdom’s inner workings.

The New York Times reported that the Saudi royal court would suggest that an official within the kingdom’s intelligence services — a friend of Prince Mohammed — had carried out the killing.

Mr Khashoggi disappeared two weeks ago (AP)

According to that reported claim, the crown prince had approved an interrogation or rendition of Mr Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia, but the intelligence official had been too eager to prove himself, with tragic consequences.

Saudi officials have been in and out of the consulate since Mr Khashoggi’s disappearance on October 2. Under the Vienna Convention, diplomatic posts are technically foreign soil that must be protected and respected by host countries.

Earlier on Monday, a cleaning crew with mops, rubbish bags and what appeared to be bottles of bleach walked into the building past waiting journalists.

Turkey had wanted to search the consulate for days. Permission apparently came after a Sunday night call between King Salman and Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In statements after the call, both praised the creation of a joint Saudi-Turkish probe into the matter.

Mr Khashoggi’s disappearance has sparked a diplomatic firestorm (AP)

Mr Khashoggi has written extensively for the Post about Saudi Arabia, criticising its war in Yemen, its recent diplomatic spat with Canada and its arrest of women’s rights activists after the lifting of a driving ban for women.

Those policies are all seen as initiatives of Prince Mohammed, the son of King Salman, who is next in line to the throne.

Prince Mohammed has aggressively pitched the kingdom as a destination for foreign investment. But Mr Khashoggi’s disappearance has led several business leaders and media outlets to back out of the upcoming investment conference in Riyadh, called the Future Investment Initiative.

Reports have suggested that Saudi officials may concede that Mr Khashoggi was killed at the consulate (AP)

They include Virgin supremo Sir Richard Branson; the CEO of Uber, a company in which Saudi Arabia has invested billions of dollars; JPMorgan Chase & Co chief executive Jamie Dimon; and Ford executive chairman Bill Ford.

Mr Trump had previously warned of “severe punishment” for the kingdom if it was found to be involved in Mr Khashoggi’s disappearance.

The warning drew an angry response from Saudi Arabia, including a suggestion that Riyadh could wield its oil production as a weapon in retaliation.

The US president has been after King Salman and OPEC to boost production for weeks to drive down high crude oil prices, caused in part by the coming re-imposition of oil sanctions on Iran after the US withdrawal from that’s country’s nuclear deal with world powers.

- Press Association

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