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Jamal Khashoggi: UK pulls out of Saudi Arabia trade conference over missing journalist

British officials said Liam Fox had decided it was not 'the right time' for him to attend the Saudi conference

Joe Watts
Political Editor
Thursday 18 October 2018 14:26 BST
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Jamal Khashoggi: Everything we know

The UK’s secretary of state for international trade has pulled out of a conference in Saudi Arabia amid concern over the disappearance of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

British officials said Liam Fox had decided it was not “the right time” and urged Saudi leaders to conduct a “credible” investigation into Mr Khashoggi’s apparent death.

France's finance minister has also cancelled his attendance at the investment conference in Riyadh amid questions over the kingdom's involvement in the disappearance.

Turkish officials say Khashoggi was killed and dismembered at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Saudi officials have denied the allegations as “baseless,” but haven’t provided evidence of the writer leaving the diplomatic mission alive.

A spokesman from Dr Fox’s department said: “The secretary of state for international trade has decided the time is not right for him to attend the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh on 23 October.

“The UK remains very concerned about Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance.

“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.”

Finance minister Bruno Le Maire said Thursday on French TV channel Public Senat that "I will not go to Riyadh next week" for the conference known as "Davos in the Desert."

He argued that the disappearance of Khashoggi is "serious" and facts about it need to be explained by Saudi authorities. Dutch finance minister Wopke Hoekstra also cancelled, while foreign minister Stef Blok wrote that a Dutch trade mission planned for December to Saudi also likely will not go ahead.

The US treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin also said he would not attend the conference.

The decision was taken after a meeting with US president Donald Trump and secretary of state Mike Pompeo.

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

Turkish crime scene investigators left the Saudi consulate early on Thursday after searching the building and consular vehicles, using bright lights to illuminate the garden.

Earlier, the investigators spent nearly nine hours in the Saudi consul's residence, as did Saudi investigators. The Turkish team's search included the roof and garage and the use of a drone.

Turkish sources have said the authorities have an audio recording indicating Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate, with the Yeni Safak newspaper publishing details of it on Wednesday purporting to document Khashoggi's torture and interrogation.

The newspaper said Khashoggi's torturers severed his fingers during the interrogation and later beheaded and dismembered him.

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