Prince Andrew's bid to strengthen ties with Saudi Arabia sparks backlash following Khashoggi murder

'We hope to expand into Saudi,' prince Andrew told investors at his pitching event in Abu Dhabi

Peter Stubley
Friday 26 October 2018 12:44 BST
Prince Andrew and his enthusiasm for working with Saudi Arabia

Prince Andrew has been criticised for attempting to build closer business links with Saudi Arabia in the wake of the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.

The Duke of York told entrepreneurs at the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi that he hoped to expand his Pitch@Palace initiative to the kingdom.

His enthusiasm for Saudi Arabia at the event on Thursday contrasted with the alarm expressed by business leaders and politicians around the world since Mr Khashoggi’s disappearance three weeks ago.

The UK’s trade secretary Liam Fox was among the list of politicians and company executives who dropped out of the “Davos in the Desert” conference in Riyadh as a result of the scandal.

Prince Andrew did not make any reference to the issue in his remarks to a gathering of business leaders.

“We have been expanding over the past two years to include other members of the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council),” the Duke of York said.

“What we are doing with Pitch in this part of the world is to work in partnership, first of all with the Khalifa Fund but also with Bahrain ... and hopefully in the future with Saudi Arabia and other parts of this world.”

In his closing remarks, he again repeated his desire to bring his pitching initiative to Saudi Arabia.

“It’s hugely important for us to have partners in the region, we look forward to working in Bahrain with our partners there and, as time goes by, we hope to expand also into Saudi and other GCC countries,” he said.

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The prince’s remarks came days after campaigners called for the royal family to sever its relationship with Saudi Arabia.

Allan Hogarth, Amnesty International UK’s head of policy and government affairs, said: “The appalling killing of Jamal Khashoggi is a worldwide wakeup call over Saudi human rights for politicians, business people and, we would hope, for our own Royal Family.”

Mr Khashoggi, who wrote for the Washington Post, had become an outspoken critic of the kingdom and its crown prince Mohamed bin Salman in particular since his exile to the US.

Saudi Arabia initially denied allegations by Turkish officials that it was involved in the disappearance of the journalist at its consulate in Istanbul on 2 October.

It later claimed that Mr Khashoggi died accidentally during a “fight” at the building.

However the Saudi prosecutor general has since described the killing as a premeditated crime while a UN investigator has called it an “extrajudicial execution”.

The crown prince has denied any involvement in the alleged murder but is facing mounting pressure over the scandal.

Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle told The Independent: “Prince Andrew’s open call for doing business with a man who has just ordered the murder and dismemberment of a journalist hits a new low, even for him.

“Business as usual cannot go on with a regime that violates diplomatic norms by executing one of its citizens in its own embassy and is targeting civilians in Yemen according to all impartial observers.”

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