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UK minister pulls out of Saudi trade conference over Khashoggi 'killing'

Liam Fox has become the latest high-level Western official to withdraw from the FII [Getty]

Date of publication: 18 October, 2018

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Britain's Department for International Trade has said the 'time is not right' for Liam Fox to attend the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh.

Britain's trade minister has pulled out of a Saudi investment conference over the kingdom's involvement in the disappearance and alleged slaying of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox is the latest high-level Western official to drop out of attending next week's summit in Riyadh.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire and Dutch Finance Minister Wopke Hoekstra have also canceled, along with several senior business executives.

Britain's Department for International Trade says Fox "has decided the time is not right for him to attend the Future Investment Initiative (FII)".

Britain says it is "very concerned" about the disappearance of Khashoggi, who was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul earlier this month. Turkish officials say he was killed and dismembered at the consulate.

The FII is scheduled for October 23-25 in Riyadh.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said he will decide on Thursday whether to attend but several big entrepreneurs and media groups have already pulled out of the conference organised by Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund.

The boycott comes after Khashoggi - who was living in self-imposed exile in the US - vanished after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October.

Turkish intelligence have claimed he was murdered and dismembered in the consulate by a hit squad which arrived from Riyadh - claims denied by the Saudi government.

On Wednesday, IMF chief Christine Lagarde's office said she would not be attending the conference.

The boycott of next week's Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh will be a huge embarrassment for Prince Mohammed, who has tried to model himself as a reformer and encourage outside investment into Saudi Arabia.

The trail leading to Riyadh into the investigation of Khashoggi's suspected murder has also tarnished the reputation of the crown prince, who has established strong support in the west for his economic reform programme.

Among those shunning the Riyadh conference, according to official confirmations or reports by Bloomberg News and CNBC among others:

Finance

  • HSBC chief executive John Flint
  • Credit Suisse CEO Tidjane Thiam
  • MasterCard CEO Ajay Banga

HSBC, Credit Suisse and MasterCard are listed among the eight "strategic partners" of the conference. Another is Siemens, whose boss Joe Kaeser is reportedly still coming.

  • JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon 
  • BlackRock chief Larry Fink
  • Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman
  • Standard Chartered CEO Bill Winters

Industry / Technology

  • Ford chairman Bill Ford 
  • Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi 
  • British billionaire Richard Branson 
  • Thrive CEO Ariana Huffington 
  • Google Cloud CEO Diane Greene

Media

  • Viacom CEO Bob Bakish

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