Tuesday 13 November 2018

US treasury secretary joins those skipping Saudi Arabia’s ‘Davos in the desert’

Steven Mnuchin acted after discussions with Donald Trump and Mike Pompeo who has visited Riyadh and Turkey to discuss Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance.

A security guard walks out of the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul (Lefteris Pitarakis/AP)
A security guard walks out of the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul (Lefteris Pitarakis/AP)

By Martin Crutsinger

There have been further withdrawals from Saudi Arabia’s “Davos in the desert” investment conference following concerns over the disappearance in Turkey of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

US treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin said he will not attend the event, following similar moves from the UK’s International Trade Secretary Liam Fox and France’s finance minister, Bruno Le Maire.

Mr Mnuchin made the announcement on his Twitter account, saying the decision was made after a White House meeting with President Donald Trump and US secretary of state Mike Pompeo.

Mr Mnuchin said in his tweet: “I will not be participating in the Future Investment Initiative summit in Saudi Arabia.”

His announcement comes after Mr Pompeo told reporters at the White House that the administration would await the outcome of investigations by Saudi Arabia and Turkey before deciding how the US will respond.

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File photo of Jamal Khashoggi in Davos (Virginia Mayo/AP)

Earlier, a UK government spokesman said Dr Fox had decided the “time is not right” to participate.

Mr Le Maire said on French TV channel Public Senat that “I will not go to Riyadh next week” for the conference known as Davos in the desert, a nod to the annual gathering of the rich and famous in the Swiss Alps.

Several top business executives have also cancelled their plans to attend, as has the head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde.

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International Monetary Fund (IMF) managing director Christine Lagarde will not attend the meeting (John Stillwell/PA)

Dutch finance minister Wopke Hoekstra also cancelled, after discussing the issue with Mr Le Maire, the Dutch foreign minister said.

Stef Blok wrote that a Dutch trade mission planned for December to Saudi Arabia also likely will not go ahead.

Mr Le Maire said the disappearance of Mr Khashoggi is “serious” and facts about it need to be explained by Saudi authorities.

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Investigators at work in Istanbul (Emrah Gurel/AP)

Turkish officials say Mr Khashoggi was killed and dismembered at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

Saudi officials have denied the allegations as “baseless”, but have not provided evidence of the writer leaving the diplomatic mission alive.

Mr Le Maire added his decision on the investment conference does not call into question the strategic partnership between France and Saudi Arabia.

Press Association

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