Posts tagged with "Riyadh"

Say what? Embassy staffers gripe Jared Kushner concealed the content of Saudi meetings

March 8, 2019

During meetings with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) and King Salman in Saudi Arabia on February 26, White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner followed the same game plan used by his father-in-law, President Donald Trump, during the Helsinki Summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin last July: What Americans don’t know can’t hurt you.

President Trump famously allowed no U.S. aides in the room when he talked to Putin, did not allow the translator to take notes, and would not release a transcript following the summit meeting.

 Officials and staffers in the U.S. embassy in Riyadh said they were not read in on the details of  Kushner’s trip to Saudi Arabia or the meetings he held with members of the country’s royal court in late February, according to three sources with knowledge of the trip, The Daily Beast reported, noting that his lack of transparency is causing concern not only in the embassy, but also among members of Congress.

The Royal Court was handling the entire schedule,” one congressional source told the news outlet; noting that the U.S. Embassy was not involved.

Lawmakers told the news outlet they were concerned that the embassy in Riyadh did not have knowledge of what was discussed between Kushner, MBS and King Salman—in light of the increasingly fragile relationship between the two countries following the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

Lawmakers are particularly interested in understanding the back and forth between the United States and Saudi Arabia regarding a potential nuclear deal, The Daily beast reported. Indeed, the website reported last week that the Trump administration is still actively working to make a deal to send U.S. nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia and that American energy businesses are still hoping to cash in on Riyadh’s push for energy diversification.

The only facts released to date on Kushner’s travels are that he stopped in Saudi Arabia and, while there, he met with the royal family to discuss U.S.-Saudi cooperation, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and economic investment in the region, according to the White House.

The State Department did have a senior official in attendance, but he was not part of the State Department team in Saudi. He is a senior member of the department focused on Iran, according to a source with direct knowledge of the official’s presence in Riyadh, The Daily Beast said.

When a member of the administration travels to another country, the embassy often helps coordinate the trip and provides some kind of security. This time, though, the Saudi government provided security for Kushner and his entourage, sources told The Daily Beast And the embassy was largely left in the dark on the details of Kushner’s schedule and his conversations with Saudi officials, according to two individuals with knowledge of the trip to the country.

The State Department referred The Daily Beast to the White House for comment. “This reporting is not true and the sources are misinformed,” a senior administration official told the news outlet, adding that the embassy in Riyadh was involved in Kushner’s visit and meetings.

Research contact: Erin.Banco@thedailybeast.com

Scores of companies back away from Saudi business over Khashoggi

October 25, 2018

A number of businesses and investors are backing away from doing business with Saudi Arabia until more answers are provided on the disappearance of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, whom Turkish officials believe was murdered inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on October 2.

According to an October 23 report by Axios, many of the world’s largest prospective financial deals involve Saudi Arabia and are predicated on trust in Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) as a reformer. Meanwhile, there is speculation that MBS was personally involved in Khashoggi’s disappearance.

In the three weeks since Khashoggi’s disappearance, several companies and individuals have pulled out of Saudi Arabia’s Future Investment Initiative (FII), a massive conference nicknamed “Davos in the Desert.” The meeting is being hosted by MBS and the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund from October 23-25 at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Riyadh.

The conference is described by The New York Times as “an extravagant embodiment of Crown Prince Mohammed’s dream to modernize Saudi Arabia and wean it off its reliance on oil by 2030.

Indeed, the Times reported, on the first day of the meeting, MBS presented a blueprint for Neom, a $500 billion planned city that would rise from the desert as a futuristic Zanadu of high-tech jobs and robot workers.

Unfortunately, fewer investors than planned will be on hand to support that vision. According to Axios, the following business, financial, and government invitees have pulled out (in chronological order):

And the list goes on, including about three dozen more high-profile names—among them, J.P. Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, BlackRock CEO Larry Fink, Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman, Ford Chairman Bill Ford, MasterCard CEO Ajay Banga, Sotheby CEO Tad Smith, HSBC CEO John Flint, Credit Suisse CEO Tidjane Thiam, Standard Chartered CEO Bill Winters, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde, President of the New York Stock Exchange Stacey Cunningham, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, U.K. Trade Secretary Liam Fox, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, and Dutch Finance Minister Wopke Hoekstra.

In addition, several major Saudi supporters who are based in the United States and Europe have cut ties with the Kingdom:

  • Richard Branson, billionaire entrepreneur and founder of Virgin Group, announced on October 18 that he would suspend his directorships of two Saudi tourism projects and is suspending talks of a $1 billion investmentwith the country, saying: “What has reportedly happened in Turkey around the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, if proved true, would clearly change the ability of any of us in the West to do business with the Saudi Government.”
  • Ernest Moniz, former energy secretary under President Obama, is suspending his involvement advising Saudi Arabia on its $500 billion smart city project.
  • Neelie Kroes, a Neom board member and former vice president of the European Commission, said she would suspend her role in the project until more is known.

The conference already has started, with fewer speakers scheduled to be heard.

Research contact: zach.basu@axios.com