The fiancee (left) of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and her friend wait outside Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, October 3 2018. Picture: REUTERS/OSMAN ORSAL
The fiancee (left) of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and her friend wait outside Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, October 3 2018. Picture: REUTERS/OSMAN ORSAL

Saudi Arabia has agreed to let Turkish authorities search the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate after prominent journalist and Riyadh critic Jamal Khashoggi went missing last week, says the Turkish foreign ministry.

"Saudi authorities said they were open to co-operation and that a search can be conducted at the consulate building," ministry spokesperson Hami Aksoy said in a statement.

The search will take place as part of the official investigation, which was being conducted "in an intense manner", he said.

Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributor who wrote for Arab and Western media, vanished last Tuesday after visiting the consulate.

Turkish police were looking into two private aircraft that landed at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport on Tuesday at different times carrying 15 people of interest in the case, as well as the possibility that Khashoggi was kidnapped and taken aboard one of the planes, local media reported.

Previously Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman told Bloomberg Riyadh would be ready to welcome Turkish officials to search the premises.

Ankara sought permission on Sunday to carry out a search after the foreign ministry summoned the Saudi ambassador for a second time, Turkish television reported.

Khashoggi, a former Saudi government adviser, had been living in self-imposed exile in the US since 2017 fearing possible arrest. He has been critical of some policies of the crown prince and Riyadh’s intervention in the war in Yemen.

While Riyadh claimed he had left the consulate after his visit, Turkish police said Khashoggi did not emerge from the building. Government sources said police believe the journalist was killed inside the consulate.

Police also said a team of 15 Saudis were sent to Istanbul and were in the building at the same time as Khashoggi. Turkish security officials were working to identify the 15 individuals, state broadcaster TRT World reported, adding that officials believe the Saudis may have taken the consulate’s CCTV footage with them when they returned to Saudi Arabia.

According to Sabah, a pro-government daily, the team arrived in Istanbul on two private aircraft, one that landed after 3am on Tuesday and one at about 5pm after Khashoggi entered the consulate.

The individuals checked into two hotels close to the consulate, the daily said. Both aircraft later returned to Riyadh, with one stopping in Dubai and the other in Egypt, Sabah reported, adding that the police were looking into the possibility that Khashoggi was kidnapped.

Istanbul police were analysing vehicles that entered and left the consulate, some of which were then seen on camera last Tuesday at the consul-general’s residence, the daily said.

AFP

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