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UK and US pull out of Saudi Arabia conference over missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi


Dr Liam Fox has pulled out of a conference in Saudi Arabia, following the disappearance and alleged murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The international trade secretary was due to attend a major investment summit in Riyadh next week, dubbed Davos in the Desert.

A government spokesman said Dr Fox had “decided the time is not right” for him to travel there, and that the UK remains “very concerned” about Mr Khashoggi.

He added: “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.”

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Other business leaders and European politicians, including the French and Dutch finance ministers, have pulled out of the conference.

Saudi Arabia has faced intense pressure to explain what happened to Mr Khashoggi, who was last seen entering the country’s consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, two weeks ago.

A Turkish official, speaking to the Reuters news agency, said Mr Khashoggi was killed in a premeditated murder and his body removed from the consulate.

The Saudis have denied wrongdoing.

Dr Fox had faced mounting calls to pull out of the summit.

Andrew Mitchell, a Conservative MP and former international development secretary, told Sky News it was “inconceivable” a UK minister would attend.

Mr Mitchell added Britain would be “charged with hypocrisy” if it did not pull representation and “take a very strong line on this” because of its reaction to the Salisbury poisonings.

“It’s not conceivable that a British minister should go to Saudi Arabia as if it’s business as usual,” he said.

US treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin has also said he will no longer attend.

On Thursday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo updated President Trump on his meeting with the Saudi king.

Referring to the Saudis, Pompeo said he told Trump that “we ought to give them a few more days to complete” their investigation in order to get a full understanding of what happened.

He added: “At which point we can make decisions about how – or if – the United States should respond to the incident surrounding Mr Khashoggi.”

“I think it’s important for us all to remember, too – we have a long, since 1932, a long strategic relationship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” Mr Pompeo said.

He also reiterated that the kingdom is “an important counter-terrorism partner.”

(c) Sky News 2018: UK and US pull out of Saudi Arabia conference over missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi