Those business and media firms that once supported Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman have now turned against the kingdom over the alleged disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Major partnerships have been put at risk and a major conference in the kingdom has been boycotted by big names over the issue as businesses express their anger.
Saudi Arabia’s ambitious programme known as Vision 2030 – the brain child of the crown prince, aiming to transform the economy of the kingdom from an oil dependent one to a diversified one, had been admired by businesses and media.
Large investors and prominent media figures have expressed their happiness at the rhetoric of the crown prince and had decided to support his vision despite the kingdom being accused of a dismal human rights record and its role in the war in Yemen.
The Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh was set to showcase the support from international figures to the Saudi government in a lavish conference that was slated to be attended by number of foreign business honchos and was dubbed as the “Davos in the Desert”.
But for even those who were staunch supporters of Mohammed bin Salman’s plans have become concerned about the disappearance of Khashoggi, last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 and missing since.
According to sources in the Turkish government, Khashoggi –who is a contributor to the Washington Post and has on occasions criticised the crowned prince and his policies, was murdered inside the consulate. The allegations and speculations have been strongly refuted by Saudi Arabia but has been unable to what had happened to the journalist after he went inside the Saudi consulate as CCTV footage shows. .
The unexplained disappearance of Mr Khashoggi was cited as the reasons by billionaire British entrepreneur Richard Branson and the owner and founder of the Virgin Group, while announcing his suspension from two directorships that were linked with tourism projects in Saudi Arabia around the Red Sea.
While saying that he still possessed high hopes for the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, but said that if the claims surrounding the disappearance of the journalist were turned out to be true it would “clearly change the ability of any of us in the West to do business with the Saudi government.”
He also added that any further discussions with Saudi Arabia on a proposed investment in Virgin Galactic would be suspended by him.
Unless “a substantially different set of facts emerges”, explaining he was “very troubled by the reports”, he would not longer be attending the event, said the CEO of ride-hailing app Uber, Dara Khosrowshahi.
“They are spending US$110 billion on military equipment and on things that create jobs,” Mr Trump said Thursday. The Saudis will “take that money and spend it in Russia or China or someplace else,” warned US President Donald Trump.
(Adapted from BusinessTimes.com)