US President Donald Trump expressed concern about the fate of prominent Saudi journalist and regime critic Jamal Khashoggi, who vanished after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last week.
“I am concerned. I don’t like hearing about it. Hopefully that will sort itself out,” Trump told reporters at the White House.
“Right now, nobody knows anything about it. There are some pretty bad stories going around. I do not like it.”
Khashoggi, a US resident, has written articles over the past year critical of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. On the eve of his planned marriage to a Turkish woman, he entered the consulate on October 2 and has not been seen since.
Turkish officials have said he was murdered inside the building. Riyadh denies that and claims he left the compound on his own.
US Vice President Mike Pence also waded into the controversy over the disappeared Saudi, saying “the free world deserves answers“.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said Riyadh must provide “honest answers” about the journalist.
“We agree that if there was any truth to the allegations of wrongdoing by the Saudi government it would be devastating to the US-Saudi relationship and there will be a heavy price to be paid – economically and otherwise,” Graham tweeted.
Our country’s values should be and must be a cornerstone of our foreign policy with foes and allies alike,” he said.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called for a thorough and open probe by Saudi Arabia.
“We call on the government of Saudi Arabia to support a thorough investigation of Mr Khashoggi’s disappearance and to be transparent about the results of that investigation,” Pompeo said in a statement.
US-based political analyst Bill Schneider told Al Jazeera the chorus of comments by American officials indicates the level concern over the journalist’s fate, and how it could effect the close relationship between Trump and Saudi leaders.
“They’re under pressure from members of congress and the press. Members of congress are talking about an investigation… The result is there is pressure domestically to look into this matter,” said Schneider.