The United Kingdom and the United States are considering boycotting a Saudi Arabia-backed conference set to take place in Riyadh later in October over the disappearance and alleged murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Diplomatic sources told BBC Sunday that both the U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and the U.K. International Trade Secretary Liam Fox might not attend the Future Investment Initiative (FII). The event is being hosted by the kingdom's Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman to promote his reform agenda.
Jamal Khashoggi, a vocal critic of the policies of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, and a columnist of Washington Post has allegedly been murdered by the Kingdom when he entered Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. While Turkish authorities are claiming to have proof of what Saudi Arabia did, Riyadh has denied all allegations.
Sources close to the Turkish investigation have told Middle East Eye that Khashoggi was dragged from the consul general's office inside the consulate before he was brutally murdered by two men who then cut up his body.
Events following Khashoggi’s disappearance and alleged murder saw many organizations renouncing their ties with Saudi Arabia. Virgin head Richard Branson suspended future investment in Saudi projects. The Brookings Institution and the lobbying firm Harbour Group have ended their relationship with the country.
The New York Times, Financial Times, Bloomberg, CNN, and CNBC withdrew from the FII conference. The Washington Post published a full-page notice demanding answers.
U.S. President Donald Trump said Saturday in an interview with CBS, "We're going to get to the bottom of it, and there will be severe punishment," Trump said. But he mentioned that the country would not halt big military contracts because if Saudi Arabia does not buy arms from the U.S., they will buy from Russia or China and that would be like punishing oneself, according to the president.
Following Trump’s threat, the Saudi stock market plunged. Two hours into trading, the index was down seven percent, which is its biggest drop since December 2014, Reuters reported.
While international groups have been condemning Saudi Arabia for its involvement in the Khashoggi affair, his fiancee, Hatice Cengiz wrote for the New York Times Saturday that condemnation alone was not good enough.
"If we have already lost Jamal, then condemnation is not enough," she wrote, "The people who took him from us, irrespective of their political positions, must be held accountable and punished to the full extent of the law."
Responding to the “threats” from Washington, Saudi Arabia said Sunday that it would retaliate to possible economic sanctions taken by other states over the case of Jamal Khashoggi, the state news agency SPA reported quoting an official source.
"The kingdom affirms its total rejection of any threats or attempts to undermine it whether through threats to impose economic sanctions or the use of political pressure.”
“The Saudi economy has vital and influential roles for the global economy,” said the source threatening bigger measures if countries decide to impose any sanctions.
Anadolu Agency reported that Trump said Friday he would call Saudi King Salman to discuss the disappearance of Khashoggi “at some point” without elaborating on it.
Saudi Arabia has been under pressure since Jamal Khashoggi disappeared on Oct. 2 after visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.