Crown prince downplays Trump's statement on Saudi military

Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi.         Source Associated Press

The Saudi envoy was called in on Wednesday, they said, to clarify the whereabouts of Khashoggi, a critic of Riyadh's foreign policy and its crackdown on dissent who left Saudi Arabia a year ago saying he feared retribution for his views.

"Yesterday the Saudi ambassador was summoned to the foreign ministry and the issue of Khashoggi was discussed", one of the sources told Reuters.

That's the approach the Washington Post took today, as the USA newspaper left a blank slate on its Opinion page to draw attention to the disappearance of Saudi journalist and Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi.

Protesters hold pictures of missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a demonstration in front of the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 5, 2018.

Ankara and Riyadh have given contradictory versions of the circumstances of Khashoggi's disappearance, with Turkish officials saying they believed he was still inside the consultate.

Washington Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt said the newspaper had reached out to "anyone we think might be able to help locate him and assure his safety", including US, Turkish and Saudi officials. His friends said police officers reviewed video surveillance in the area and didn't Khashoggi leave the embassy.

'Ever since the relationship started between Saudi Arabia and the United States of America, we've bought everything with money, ' the 32-year-old prince told Bloomberg in an interview, saying he loves to work with the U.S. leader.

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Trump has been increasing his pressure on Saudi Arabia over rising oil prices.

A State Department official told NPR on Thursday, "We are closely following reports of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi's disappearance".

Khashoggi is a prominent columnist for the Washington Post and has long criticised the Saudi government's reform programme under the auspices of the crown prince, commonly known as MBS. All public protests are banned in the kingdom, as are political parties.

Saudi Arabia has recently stepped up politically-motivated arrests, prosecution and conviction of peaceful dissident writers and human rights campaigners.

In January 2016, Saudi authorities executed Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, an outspoken critic of the policies of the Riyadh regime. "Saudi Arabia buys weapons from America and does not take them for free".

Khashoggi's disappearance threatens to further harm relations between Turkey and Saudi Arabia, which are on opposite sides of an ongoing four-nation boycott of Qatar and other regional crises.

In the coming days, Saudi government statements will be important in indicating what has happened to Khashoggi and whether Saudi policies towards dissidents overseas may have become more interventionist.

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