The Saudi king and his son Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman received family members of murdered Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi in Riyadh on Tuesday, state news agency SPA reported.
The royals greeted two of the journalist's sons, Salah and Sahel, at the Yamama Palace in Riyadh. A friend of the Khashoggis' has told The Associated Press that Salah is under a travel ban. The individual spoke to the A.P. on condition of anonymity, fearing reprisal.
The visit, which was filmed and photographed, came as Saudi Arabia sought to contain a firestorm of criticism over its handling of Khashoggi's disappearance after he entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.
After vehemently denying any official involvement in the incident, the kingdom said on Friday that Khashoggi had died in a "rogue operation" during a fight in the consulate. This followed allegations by Turkish authorities who said they had audio recordings proving that Khashoggi had been killed and dismembered inside the building. Other regional diplomats have told NBC News that they believe his remains were removed from the consulate in boxes.
Khashoggi, a former regime insider who last year went into self-imposed exile, was a prominent critic of the crown prince and his crackdown on dissent.
Earlier, the Saudi cabinet promised to hold to account those who were responsible for Khashoggi's death and those who "failed in their duties" in a case that has strained ties between Riyadh and the West.
The absolute monarchy is a longtime U.S. ally and considered a bulwark against Iran, but the crisis over Khashoggi's death has helped crystallize growing unease about the 33-year-old crown prince, the country's de facto ruler.
Earlier Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said evidence showed Khashoggi's killing was "brutal" and "premeditated," contradicting Saudi Arabia's most recent version of events.
Erdogan’s address coincided with the opening of the Future Investment Initiative, a glittering gathering under the auspices of the crown prince that is aimed at showcasing oil-rich Saudi Arabia as a moderate high-tech mecca. In recent days, a slew of businesses leaders and media companies announced that they were pulling out of the Riyadh meeting, dubbed “Davos in the Desert.”
Bin Salman received a standing ovation when he made an unannounced stop at the conference, and appeared at an afternoon panel next to King Abdullah II of Jordan, but made no public remarks.
The A.P. also reported that Turkish officials said Erdogan called another of Khashoggi’s sons, Abdullah, to express his condolences on Tuesday, and also spoke with other members of his family.