Trump, Bran­son de­mand an­swers over the dis­ap­pear­ance of colum­nists af­ter vis­it­ing con­sulate

Saturday Star - - WORLD - Agency (ANA) African News

GLOBAL busi­ness lead­ers are re­assess­ing their ties with Saudi Ara­bia, stok­ing pres­sure on the Gulf king­dom to ex­plain what hap­pened to a dis­si­dent writer who dis­ap­peared af­ter vis­it­ing its con­sulate in Is­tan­bul.

Bri­tish bil­lion­aire Richard Bran­son sus­pended busi­ness links with Saudi Ara­bia yes­ter­day, and Uber chief ex­ec­u­tive Dara Khos­row­shahi said he might not at­tend a ma­jor in­vest­ment con­fer­ence in the coun­try this month amid re­ports that Ja­mal Khashoggi might have been killed at the Saudi con­sulate in Turkey’s cap­i­tal.

“What has re­port­edly hap­pened in Turkey around the dis­ap­pear­ance of journalist Ja­mal Khashoggi, if proved true, would clearly change the abil­ity of any of us in the West to do busi­ness with the Saudi govern­ment,” Bran­son said.

Bran­son, founder of Vir­gin Group, says he will sus­pend his role as di­rec­tor in two tourism projects in Saudi Ara­bia while an in­ves­ti­ga­tion takes place. He also is putting on hold dis­cus­sions about a pro­posed Saudi in­vest­ment in space com­pa­nies Vir­gin Ga­lac­tic and Vir­gin Or­bit.

Saudi Ara­bia is fac­ing in­creas­ing in­ter­na­tional pres­sure to clar­ify what hap­pened to Khashoggi, a Wash­ing­ton Post colum­nist, with US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and Bri­tish For­eign Sec­re­tary Jeremy Hunt among those de­mand­ing an­swers.

Khos­row­shahi is sched­uled to speak at the Fu­ture In­vest­ment Ini­tia­tive con­fer­ence, which takes place from next Tues­day (Oc­to­ber 23-25) in the Saudi cap­i­tal, Riyadh.

The event also lists Jp­mor­gan Chase chief ex­ec­u­tive Jamie Di­mon, Black­rock chair­man Larry Fink and US Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steve Mnuchin among dozens of ex­pected speak­ers.

“I’m very trou­bled by the re­ports to date about Ja­mal Khashoggi,” Khos­row­shahi said.

“We are fol­low­ing the sit­u­a­tion closely, and un­less a sub­stan­tially dif­fer­ent set of facts emerges, I won’t be at­tend­ing the FII con­fer­ence in Riyadh.”

Other lead­ers, such as Joe Kaeser, the pres­i­dent and chief ex­ec­u­tive of Ger­man in­dus­trial gi­ant Siemens AG, were still plan­ning to at­tend – for now.

“We are watch­ing the sit­u­a­tion very closely and for the time be­ing his par­tic­i­pa­tion is still planned,” said Robin Zim­mer­mann, Siemens’ head spokesman.

The Fi­nan­cial Times, which is listed as a me­dia part­ner to the event, an­nounced it would no longer be do­ing so.

“The Fi­nan­cial Times will not be part­ner­ing with the FII con­fer­ence in Riyadh while the dis­ap­pear­ance of journalist Ja­mal Khashoggi re­mains un­ex­plained,” Fi­nola Mcdonnell, the head of com­mu­ni­ca­tions, said.

CNN also can­celled its part­ner­ship, and said its an­chors and re­porters The small Gulf Coast com­mu­nity of Mex­ico Beach was known as a slice of Old Florida. Now it lies in splin­ters. See watch-the-florida-town-de­mol­ished-by­hur­ri­cane-michael-17450244 would no longer mod­er­ate pan­els. The New York Times busi­ness colum­nist An­drew Ross Sorkin has sim­i­larly pulled out of the event.

Turkey’s state-run news agency said a del­e­ga­tion from Saudi Ara­bia has ar­rived in Turkey as part of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Anadolu Agency said yes­ter­day that the del­e­ga­tion would hold talks with Turkssa­s­aish of­fi­cials. It did not pro­vide fur­ther de­tails.

Turk­ish of­fi­cials have said The Wash­ing­ton Post con­trib­u­tor may have been killed in­side the con­sulate, but they haven’t of­fered any ev­i­dence. Saudi Ara­bia has de­nied the al­le­ga­tion as “base­less”. | AP

Busi­ness lead­ers cut ties with Saudis

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