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GCC, allies should ‘boycott’ companies backing out of Saudi summit – Al Habtoor

GCC, allies should ‘boycott’ companies backing out of Saudi summit – Al Habtoor

‘We can no longer trust Western handshakes that soon become slaps’, says Dubai businessman Al Habtoor

The GCC states and its allies such as Egypt and Jordan must “boycott” companies that are pulling out of the investor summit in Saudi Arabia this month over the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a senior businessman has said.

In a op-ed written for Arab News, Dubai-based Khalaf Al Habtoor lashed out at US companies and executives who have backed out from the Future Investment Initiative (FII) summit on October 23 in Riyadh.

Media companies including the New York Times, CNN, the Financial Times, CNBC and Bloomberg have pulled out of the summit, while Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, Virgin’s Richard Branson, Viacom CEO Bob Bakish and Steve Case, one of the founders of AOL, have also announced that they will not be attending the event.

Also read: JP Morgan and Ford will not attend Saudi investor event

“Sadly, the hopes for a successful Saudi investment summit scheduled for Oct. 23 have been shaken, despite the fact that the Khashoggi case still being investigated,” wrote Al Habtoor.

He said he was “disturbed at the backlash from respected business leaders”, who have “spurned a lucrative business environment by suspending ties with Riyadh on a mishmash of unconfirmed leaks designed to paint the Saudi government in a poor light”.

“The truth has yet to be determined, so I am left wondering why news outlets, government officials, US lawmakers and major international companies have been competing in their rush to judgment. I am shocked that the US Congress is leaning on President Donald Trump to punish America’s closest Middle East ally with sanctions,” Al Habtoor stated.

He urged that the Saudis’ GCC allies, as well as Egypt and Jordan, to stand “shoulder to shoulder with Riyadh to show those companies they are not welcome to operate within our borders”.

“They should be boycotted. Together we must prove we will not be bullied or else, mark my words, once they have finished kicking the kingdom, we will be next in line. Now is the time to prove our loyalty and transparency toward each other,” the Dubai businessman wrote.

Also read: UAE expresses solidarity with Saudi over ‘politicised campaign’

His comments came as investigations continue into the disappearance of Khashoggi, who was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.

The kingdom has dismissed allegations that Khashoggi was murdered in the consulate  – as alleged by Turkish sources – and said last week it would be conducting a joint investigation of what happened with Turkey.

Meanwhile US President Donald Trump said over the weekend that the country would not cancel arms deals with Saudi Arabia but promised “severe punishment” if its role in the incident was proven.

Britain, France and Germany said on Sunday they were treating the case with “utmost seriousness”.

Read: Saudi team in Turkey investigating Khashoggi disappearance

In his op-ed, Al Habtoor also hinted at the possibility of a “long-held plan” that is now being executed to “ruin” the region’s economies in the hope that they will “bend to become vassal states”.

“Last week, Saudi basked in America’s friendship. A single individual goes off the radar and Riyadh is targeted with warnings and threats from America’s political, financial and business sectors. Considering that the investigation is not yet over, if this is not gross overkill, then what is?,” he wrote.

“There is only one solution. We can no longer trust Western handshakes that soon become slaps. We need to be responsible for our own defense, entailing the creation of a strong and united front.

“The first step is for Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the other GCC countries to establish an Executive Committee for Political and Economic Affairs tasked with furthering our interests abroad and monitoring not only our enemies but also who is influencing some of our friends,” he added.

 

 

 

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