Jamal Khashoggi's murder 'premeditated' - Saudi prosecutor

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As part of that probe, Turkish police in Istanbul have been granted permission to search a well in the garden of the Saudi consulate, broadcaster NTV said, after Saudi officials had earlier refused to allow a search.

Surveillance cameras had been disconnected in the Saudi consulate before The Washington Post's columnist's arrival, the President added.

Martin Indyk, a top Middle East policymaker under Bill Clinton, said President Donald Trump had in effect tried to subcontract policy in the region to Saudi Arabia and Israel as he lessens USA commitments.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, shakes hands with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, prior to their meeting in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, on July, 23, 2017.

Saudi Arabia's crown prince on Wednesday joked about allegations that Lebanon's premier-designate Saad Hariri was detained in the kingdom a year ago, saying he hoped his current visit does not spark "abduction" rumours.

After insisting for two weeks that Khashoggi had left the Saudi consulate in Istanbul shortly after entering on October 2 to obtain papers for his upcoming marriage, the kingdom said the 59-year-old was killed when a discussion escalated into a brawl.

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As global outrage has kept the controversy on the front pages for almost a month, however, the USA position has hardened.

The problem is that Turkish officials and commentators have signalled such a crime - allegedly carried out by a hit-squad of 15 men - could only have taken place with the knowledge of a senior member of the Saudi royal family such as Prince Mohammed.

"The prime minister said the current explanation lacks credibility, so there remains an urgent need to establish exactly what happened", a Downing Street spokesperson said in a readout of a call between May and King Salman.

In his first public comment since the killing, the prince called it "a heinous murder that can not be justified", promising that the culprits would be punished. At the inaugural event a year ago, the world's largest oil exporter unveiled plans for a $500 billion futuristic city called Neom.

The former Labour leader is refusing to suspend the deal despite Saudi Arabia's role in the death of Khashoggi and continued war in Yemen.

The killing overshadowed a major business conference in Riyadh this week but Prince Mohammed, striking a defiant tone, told worldwide investors on Wednesday that the furore would not derail the kingdom's reform drive. British Prime Minister Theresa May said its Saudi arms sales were "under review", a stance similar to that expressed by Australia. Prince Mohammed is due to speak on a panel at the event later on Wednesday. He kept up the pressure on Wednesday, saying those responsible would face justice. "And it is painful, heinous to every human being in the world", Mohammed bin Salman said during an address at the Future Investment Initiative Forum in Riyadh.