Saudi Arabia’s top diplomat in Istanbul has reportedly left Turkey, hours after it was announced his official residence would be searched in connection with a journalist’s disappearance.
Mohammed al-Otaibi, the Saudi consul general, apparently left on a 2pm flight as security forces set up barricades outside his residence in the city.
It comes as police who searched the nearby Saudi consulate found evidence dissident writer Jamal Khashoggi died there, according to a senior Turkish official.
Saudi Mr Khashoggi, a 60-year-old US resident, has not been seen since entering the building on 2 October to get documents for his wedding.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has suggested parts of the consulate had been repainted since the disappearance of the journalist, who was a critic of the Saudi regime.
Mr Erdogan said: “The investigation is looking into many things such as toxic materials and those materials being removed by painting them over.”
There are claims that Mr Mr Khashoggi was killed and dismembered inside the building by a 15-member Saudi “assassination squad”.
Saudi Arabia previously called the allegation “baseless”, but reports suggest they may admit he died during a botched interrogation.
CCTV footage showed diplomatic cars travelled to the consul general’s home shortly after Mr Mr Khashoggi disappeared.
Until Monday, Riyadh had not allowed Turkish investigators to search the consulate, with reports both sides were at odds over the conditions.
The investigators, who eventually searched the premises for eight hours, took samples with them, including soil from the consulate garden, according to an official at the scene.
Forensic vehicles also took away a metal door from the garden.
US President Donald Trump has sent his top diplomat, secretary of state Mike Pompeo, to Riyadh to discuss the incident with King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The US state department said Prince Mohammed agreed there must be a thorough and transparent investigation into the journalist’s disappearance.
Speaking on Monday, Mr Trump said Saudi leader King Salman denied “any knowledge of whatever may have happened” during a phone call.
But the US president also said “rogue killers” could be behind the disappearance and that King Salman had told him Saudi Arabia is “working closely with Turkey to find answers”.
The international community has demanded Riyadh provide clear answers over Mr Khashoggi’s case.
Germany, Britain and France issued a joint statement over the weekend expressing “grave concern”, calling for a credible investigation to ensure those responsible for the disappearance “are held to account”.
Mr Khashoggi appeared regularly on Arab talk shows and moved to Washington last year.
He had been critical of Prince Mohammed, who has cracked down on dissent with arrests.