British, French and Dutch ministers have all canceled plans to attend an investment conference in Riyadh next week due to concerns over the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
U.K. Trade Secretary Liam Fox, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, and Dutch Finance Minister Wopke Hoekstra all said they would no longer participate in the Future Investment Initiative conference, which will be hosted by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman from next Tuesday to Thursday.
Khashoggi, a U.S. resident and critic of the Saudi government, has not been seen since earlier this month when he entered Saudia Arabias consulate in Istanbul, where Turkish officials say they believe he was tortured and killed. His disappearance has sparked a growing diplomatic crisis in the U.S. and prompted calls from European leaders for the Saudi government to provide answers about what happened.
A government spokesperson said the U.K. is “very concerned” about the journalists disappearance and added that Fox “decided the time is not right for him to attend” the conference in Riyadh.
“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,” the spokesperson said.
Le Maire said Thursday that the reports about Khashoggis disappearance are “serious” and require an explanation from the Saudi government before he can travel to the country. He emphasized in an interview with Public Senat that his decision would “absolutely not” jeopardize bilateral relations between the two countries.
Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok announced that Hoekstra also would not attend in a letter to parliament Thursday, saying “Saudi authorities have been unable to provide clarity in this serious matter.” He added that many international companies, the World Bank, and the IMF also canceled their participation.
Blok also said a trade mission to Saudi Arabia headed by Trade Minister Sigrid Kaag in December has been placed on hold.