Turkish officials told reporters Tuesday that police have found evidence that Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Turkish police conducted a search of the consulate Monday and Tuesday and claim to have found "certain evidence" that Khashoggi was indeed murdered there, according to the Associated Press.
Investigators spent roughly nine hours searching the consulate for clues as to the reason for Khashoggi's disappearance. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the search was complicated because some of the rooms inside the consulate were freshly painted, raising some questions.
"My hope is that we can reach conclusions that will give us a reasonable opinion as soon as possible, because the investigation is looking into many things such as toxic materials and those materials being removed by painting them over," Erdogan told reporters Tuesday.
The White House did not immediately respond to request for comment regarding the findings.
The journalist was last seen the afternoon of Oct. 2 entering the Saudi mission. Turkish officials believe Khashoggi was murdered inside the embassy, where he was to fill out paperwork for his wedding, and previously told U.S. officials they have audio and video evidence to prove it. The officials claim Khashoggi was dismembered at the consulate.
The statement comes as America's top diplomat met with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who claims his government has "nothing to hide," Tuesday in Riyadh. President Trump dispatched Secretary of Mike Pompeo to Saudi Arabia Monday to meet with Saudi Arabian leadership regarding the disappearance and alleged murder of Khashoggi.
Saudi Arabia's government has denied involvement in Khashoggi's disappearance, despite early reports from the Turkish government that the crown prince of Saudi Arabia ordered a hit on the journalist. Saudi Arabia initially took the position that Khashoggi walked out of the consulate shortly after he entered Oct. 2.
Shortly after the meeting, the U.S. released a statement that said Pompeo spent the meeting with Saudi Arabian leaders and officials raising a number of concerns the U.S. has about Khashoggi's disappearance.
The controversy is playing out as the Turkish government released American pastor Andrew Brunson who was held in the country for two years, sparking a yearslong diplomatic dispute between the U.S. and Turkey. The successful release of Brunson has put the situation in Saudi Arabia and the United States' ongoing relationship in the national spotlight.
President Trump said Thursday that he is not considering halting the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia in light of Khashoggi's disappearance. The president has ordered an investigation into the matter and there are no sanctions in place at the moment in response.