United States President Donald Trump on Friday said he would speak to Saudi Arabia’s King Salman about the disappearance of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, PTI reported. “I will be calling at some point King Salman,” said Trump. “I’ll be speaking to him, yes.”
Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi monarchy, was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Turkey’s capital Istanbul on October 2 and may have been killed there, according to Turkish officials. The Washington Post contributor, who was living in self-imposed exile in the US since 2017, had reportedly gone to the consulate to collect some papers for his marriage.
Describing the disappearance as a “terrible thing”, Trump said the US would find out what happened to Khashoggi. “Nobody has been able to put it all together. People are starting to form ideas,” he said. “And as they’re formed, we’ll let you know.”
Nearly two dozen Democratic Senators, including Indian-origin Senator Kamala Harris, on Friday urged the administration to reassert America’s moral leadership in protecting freedom of expression. In a letter to the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the senators said the US disagreed with the “strong-arm tactics” of foreign governments who believe that silencing critics through violence and coercion is an acceptable practice of curbing dissent. “No one should get a free pass,” they said.
Saudi event being boycotted
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Saturday said he still planned to attend an economic meeting in Riyadh, AFP reported. Mnuchin is scheduled to attend the Future Investment Initiative conference from October 23-25 even as several media companies and businessmen have dropped out after 59-year-old Khashoggi’s disappearance. The event is unofficially called “Davos In The Desert”.
“The answer is for now I am still going,” said Mnuchin. “If more information comes out over the next week, I will obviously take that into account.”
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce and Ranking Member Eliot Engel on Friday wrote to Trump urging the administration to apply all pressure to bring about Saudi cooperation and cancel Mnuchin’s plan to attend the conference.
“Participation in this conference is not critical to our economic security and would potentially undermine efforts to show the Saudi government and others around the world that brazen attacks on civilians inside consular facilities are unacceptable,” they said.
While World Bank President Jim Yong Kim confirmed he would not be attending the event due to a “scheduling conflict”, the Financial Times, Bloomberg, The New York Times, CNN and CNBC have withdrawn as media sponsors, reported The Guardian. Viacom Chief Executive Officer Bob Bakish and Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi will also skip the event.
International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde on Saturday said she will attend the conference but remain “very attentive” to any new information around Khashoggi’s disappearance.
Conference organisers on Friday removed the names of all attendees from its website. “Whilst it is disappointing that some speakers and partners have pulled out, we are looking forward to welcoming thousands of speakers, moderators and guests from all over the world to Riyadh,” said a Future Investment Initiative spokesperson.