Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to lead delegation to Future Investment Initiative
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will lead an American delegation to Saudi Arabia’s annual financial conference, a year after widespread boycotts of a prior event over the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Saudi writer Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post, was strangled and dismembered at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, 2018. Dozens of top global officials and business leaders boycotted last year’s Future Investment Initiative, a lavish event dubbed “Davos in the desert,” as international outrage over Khashoggi’s killing peaked.
But Mnuchin will attend this year’s event representing the United States, a key ally of the petro-state, a Treasury Department spokesman said on Wednesday. Also in the senior delegation will be Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, The New York Times reported. Brian Hook, the State Department’s special envoy overseeing Iran policy, will also attend, the newspaper said, citing unnamed sources.
Global firms including Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup are also planning to send top executives, according to The Washington Post.
The leaders of India and Pakistan, Narendra Modi and Imran Khan, will also attend, according to local press reports in their countries this week.
The conference, which begins next week, is aimed at drawing foreign investors to help Riyadh diversify its oil-reliant economy. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the conservative kingdom’s de facto leader, was feted by global leaders and business titans before Khashoggi’s gruesome murder.
The global fallout over the killing rendered the heir to the Arab world’s most powerful throne a pariah, casting a shadow on his reforms, putting the kingdom’s human rights record under the microscope and testing old alliances with Western powers.
The CIA has reportedly concluded that the prince, who controls all major levers of power in the Saudi government, likely ordered the killing. A report by United Nations Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard also said there was “credible evidence” linking him to the murder and an attempted cover up.
Eleven suspects have been put on trial in Riyadh over Khashoggi’s murder, five of whom face the death penalty, but hearings are held behind closed doors and the names of the defendants have not been released.
Amnesty International has denounced the trial in Riyadh as a “sham” and “a mockery of justice.”