A Turkish forensic officer arrives at the Saudi consulate to conduct a new search over the disappearance and alleged slaying of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi, in Istanbul, early Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018. Pro-government newspaper Yeni Safak on Wednesday said it had obtained audio recordings of the alleged killing of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

French, UK, Dutch ministers cancel trip to Saudi conference

October 18, 2018 - 8:51 am

PARIS (AP) — Senior government officials from France, Britain and the Netherlands joined a growing list of people cancelling out of an investment conference in Saudi Arabia amid questions over the kingdom's involvement in the disappearance of dissident writer Jamal Khashoggi.

"I will not go to Riyadh next week" for the conference known as "Davos in the Desert," French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said Thursday on TV channel Public Senat.

Le Maire said the disappearance of Khashoggi is "serious" and facts about it need to be explained by Saudi authorities. He added, however, that his decision doesn't call into question the strategic partnership between France and Saudi Arabia.

Dutch Finance Minister Wopke Hoekstra canceled after discussing the issue with Le Maire, the Dutch foreign minister said. Foreign Minister Stef Blok wrote that a Dutch trade mission planned for December to Saudi Arabia also likely will not go ahead.

Britain's trade minister, Liam Fox, later pulled out as well. Britain says it is "very concerned" about the disappearance of Khashoggi, who was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul earlier this month. Turkish officials say he was killed and dismembered there.

Saudi officials have denied the allegations as "baseless," but haven't provided evidence of the writer leaving the diplomatic mission alive.

Several top business executives have also cancelled their plans to attend , as has the head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde.

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