Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday that the U.S. is giving Saudi Arabia “a few more days” to come up with an explanation for the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Pompeo traveled to Riyadh on Tuesday and met with King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to discuss the incident. The Saudis assured the secretary of state that they will conduct a “complete, thorough investigation” into the disappearance, Pompeo said during a brief news conference outside the White House.
“I told President Trump this morning that we ought to give them a few more days to complete that,” Pompeo said. “There are lots of stories out there about what has happened. We are going to allow the process to move forward.”
He added that the U.S. must be “mindful” of its “important strategic alliance” with the Saudis. “We have a long, since 1932, a long strategic relationship with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. They continue to be an important counter-terrorism partner.”
Khashoggi, a former adviser to Saudi intelligence, had become an outspoken critic of the Saudi ruling family after moving into exile in the U.S. At the time of his disappearance, he was employed as a columnist for the Washington Post, frequently writing about Saudi affairs. He was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, where he was finalizing divorce paperwork so he could marry his fiancée.
Turkish pro-government media reported Wednesday that gruesome audio recordings prove Khashoggi was interrogated inside the consulate as his fingers were cut off, before being beheaded and dismembered.
The Saudi government has denied accusations that it dispatched killers to murder the journalist, claiming he left the consulate on his own power through a back door.
President Trump told reporters Wednesday that the U.S. has requested any audio or video of Khashoggi’s death. Trump previously said that he would not suspend multi-billion-dollar arms deals with the kingdom over the incident, but warned of “severe punishment” if it is discovered that the Saudi government had Khashoggi murdered.