Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin still plans to attend an investment conference in Riyadh — despite mounting outrage over the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who Turkish officials believe was murdered in Istanbul.
Several media companies and top executives have announced they were pulling out of the Future Investment Initiative in the Saudi capital on Oct. 23 amid allegations that the kingdom was behind the disappearance of the Washington Post columnist.
“We are concerned about what is the status of Mr. Khashoggi … (but) I am planning on going at this point,” Mnuchin said in an interview with CNBC on Friday.
“If more information comes out and changes, we can look at that, but I am planning on going,” he added.
Mnuchin said he had not spoken directly with Saudi officials but that others in the Trump administration were doing so, according to Reuters.
Khashoggi — a vocal critic of Saudi policies — entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 and has not been seen since.
The conference — also known as “Davos in the desert” — is hosted by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and is part of his Vision 2030 plan to break Saudi Arabia’s dependence on oil, CNN reported.
On Friday, the network said in a statement that it “has withdrawn its participation in the Saudi Future Investment Initiative Conference.”
The New York Times also has pulled its partnership, telling CNN that it is “no longer a media sponsor.”
“In light of the current situation related to the disappearance of the Washington Post’s Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Turkey, we are no longer comfortable being associated with the event,” a Times rep said.
Other companies and executives who pulled out include Viacom chief Bob Bakish, The Economist editor in chief Zanny Minton Beddoes, LA Times owner Patrick Soon-Shiong and Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, according to CNN.
“I’m very troubled by the reports to date about Jamal Khashoggi,” Khosrowshahi said in a statement.
“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,” he added.
Fox Business Network and CNBC, which are listed as moderators for the conference, are monitoring the situation, as is Bloomberg.
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