LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
We begin this hour in Turkey, with the mysterious disappearance of a Saudi Arabian journalist at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Turkey and Saudi Arabia are at odds on the world stage. And the accusation by Turkish investigators that Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi consulate has ratcheted up regional tensions. The Saudis have strongly denied the allegation. NPR's Peter Kenyon joins us from Istanbul now to sort through the story. Good morning.
PETER KENYON, BYLINE: Hi, Lulu.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: It's a very confusing tale. Talk us through it. What do we know?
KENYON: Well, we know Jamal Khashoggi walked into the Saudi consulate Tuesday around 1 in the afternoon. He needed some paperwork relating to a pending marriage to his Turkish fiance. She waited for him outside, holding his phone until well after the consulate closed, says he never came out. Turkish police opened an investigation. And then came these surprising reports, first by unnamed Turkish officials, now on the record by an adviser to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that investigators believe Khashoggi was killed in the consulate. Erdogan says he's saddened at the journalist's disappearance but not much more than that so far. We haven't seen any evidence to back up this claim that Khashoggi is dead, just the persistent question - if he's still alive, where is he?
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. What have the Saudis been saying?
KENYON: Well, the Saudis are basically denying everything except the fact that Khashoggi did come into the consulate Tuesday afternoon. The Saudi Press Agency quotes officials saying he left the consulate. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told Bloomberg News they're very keen to know what happened to him.
There's no evidence on the Saudi side, however, to show that to Khashoggi actually did leave the consulate.
The consul general invited Reuters reporters in, showed them around. There was no sign of Khashoggi. He said the consulate has multiple exits. But why would Khashoggi leave by another exit if he knew his fiance was waiting out front? So lots of questions.
This adviser to President Erdogan says he's convinced two planeloads of Saudis who arrived in Istanbul on Tuesday, the same day Khashoggi went into the consulate, were somehow involved. He also says he doesn't believe the Saudi claims that there is no camera footage of Khashoggi either inside or leaving the consulate.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. Two questions. And the first one is, why is this important? What does this mean for Saudi relations with Turkey and with other world powers?
KENYON: Well, it could be very important. But a lot will depend on what we learn from here on about Khashoggi's disappearance, what happened to him. That seems likely to be a further blow to Saudi-Turkey ties. Relations were already strained. Turkey's been siding with another Persian Gulf state, Qatar, in a bitter dispute with the Saudis. Some are wondering what the American response is going to be. Riyadh's an important ally to the U.S. So is Turkey. So far, officials have said only they're aware and following the situation closely. So if there is any pressure from the Trump administration, it's not happening in public.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: And why would Khashoggi, lastly, have been on someone's list? I mean, why is he someone that is of interest?
KENYON: Well, that is a very good question. Khashoggi's writings have sometimes been critical of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman but not in any particularly radical way. He praised Salman's reforms, like allowing women to drive. And then he criticized the accompanying crackdown on women's rights advocates. In the West, he might be seen as a constructive critic. In the conservative Saudi kingdom, dissent is viewed much more harshly.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: NPR's Peter Kenyon in Istanbul. Peter, thanks so much.
KENYON: Thanks, Lulu. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.