Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman said he's ready to allow Turkish authorities to search the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul for a Saudi opponent journalist, who went missing after entering the building.
"The premises are sovereign territory, but we will allow them to enter and search and do whatever they want to do," Prince Mohammed told Bloomberg in an interview on Wednesday at a royal palace in Riyadh. "We have nothing to hide," he added.
Jamal Khashoggi, who's been living in self-imposed exile for the past year, has been missing since Tuesday. His fiancee and friends say they fear he's been detained or kidnapped for his criticism of the government, and Turkish authorities believe he's still inside the consulate. The prince, however, said Khashoggi left the building not long after he entered.
The 33-year-old heir to the Saudi throne said the arrests over the past year were a small price to pay for peacefully eradicating extremism in the world's top oil exporter.
The prince said authorities have detained about 1,500 people over the past three years on national security grounds rather than as part of a clampdown on dissent. The number, he said, pales in comparison with Turkey, where President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has locked up tens of thousands since a failed coup against him in 2016.
"I didn't call myself a reformer of Saudi Arabia," Prince Mohammed said when questioned about criticism of the arrests. "I am the crown prince of Saudi Arabia and I am trying to do the best that I can do through my position."
When Canada called for the release of two female activists, the Saudi government responded by banning the Canadian ambassador from returning to Riyadh.
The crown prince said he is not concerned about his image overseas.
"I don't care how the world views me as much as I care about what's in the interest of the country and the Saudi people," he said. "Whatever serves the Saudi people and Saudi Arabia as a country, I will do it with full force."
Movements for change around the world have come "with a price," the prince said. "Ending slavery in the US, for instance, was only possible after a civil war," he added.
"Here we are trying to get rid of extremism and terrorism without civil war, without stopping the country from growing," he said. "So if there is a small price in that area, it's better than paying a big debt to do that move."
The prince accused some of those held of giving information to intelligence agencies connected to regional foes Qatar and
Asked in the interview whether the journalist faces charges in Saudi Arabia, Prince Mohammed said it was first important to discover where Khashoggi was.
"If he's in Saudi Arabia, I would know that," he said.