U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and UK International Trade Secretary Liam Fox have pulled out of an investment conference to be held in Saudi Arabia this month. This move comes as there are no clear answers as to the fate of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi who has not been seen since he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.
The Future Investment Initiative summit is scheduled to take place from 23 to 25 October in Riyadh and has been dubbed as Davos of the desert. The investment summit is to be hosted by the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) who is increasingly being seen as the man who ordered the apparent killing of Jamal Khashoggi.
Ever since news reports began to show the possible complicity of MBS, big name entrepreneurs have been quick to announce their withdrawal from the event. The biggest being Richard Branson, Viacom chief executive, Bob Bakish, and Uber’s chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi, have also confirmed they will not attend.
A slew of media houses have also announced their withdrawal -- Financial Times, Bloomberg, CNN and CNBC have withdrawn as media sponsors.
The World Bank said it had previously informed the Saudi authorities that its president, Jim Yong Kim, would not be attending the Future Investment Initiative.
So the announcement of the withdrawal of the U.S. and UK government representatives comes almost as an endnote. Steve Mnuchin announced he would pull out of the summit following a discussion with President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo after the later came back from his visit to Riyadh over Khashoggi’s disappearance.
— Steven Mnuchin (@stevenmnuchin1) October 18, 2018
UK international trade secretary Liam Fox’s announcement of withdrawal came almost at the same time as Mnuchin – evidence that the allies co-ordinated their response to what can only be described as a crisis.
A government spokesman said Dr Liam Fox had "decided the time is not right" for him to travel there, and that the UK remains "very concerned" about Mr Khashoggi.
He added: "We encourage Turkish-Saudi collaboration and look forward to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia conducting a thorough, credible, transparent, and prompt investigation, as announced.” "Those bearing responsibility for his disappearance must be held to account."