<pre><pre>Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia makes a brief appearance at the investment forum | Saudi Arabia News

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) has briefly attended a high profile economic forum in Riyadh, which was boycotted by global and political business leaders after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Many of the more than 2,000 spectators applauded or applauded when the prince, the de facto ruler of the kingdom, entered the main hall on Tuesday, smiling as he sat next to King Abdullah II of Jordan.

The 33-year-old arrived at the forum late in the day after attending a meeting at which his father, King Salman, received members of Khashoggi's family, including journalist Salah's son.

MBS said it was "satisfied" with the Future Investment Initiative while touring the site.

"Great, more people, more money," the crown prince told reporters.

He left soon after, without delivering a speech.

The organizers said he is expected to participate in a panel on Wednesday.

The three-day conference, a creation of MBS, was the kingdom's first major event since the assassination of Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul earlier this month.

Critics of the crown prince suspect he ordered the assassination or, at least, he knew it, a claim denied by Saudi officials.

The Saudi cabinet has promised to hold those responsible for Khashoggi's death and those who "failed in their duties" responsible in the case that caused an international uproar and tightened the ties between Riyadh and its international allies.

SEE: Erdogan from Turkey – Khashoggi killing a & # 39; political murder & # 39; (2:08)

Khashoggi, a critic of MBS, disappeared after entering the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul on October 2.

After denying any participation in his disappearance for the first time, Riyadh said Saturday that Khashoggi died during a fight at the consulate. Later, a Saudi official attributed the death to a strangulation.

& # 39; Difficult days & # 39;

Many foreign investors see the risk that Khashoggi's case, which caused a global condemnation, could damage Riyadh's ties with Western governments.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and the ministers of Great Britain and France withdrew from the event along with the CEOs or presidents of a dozen large financial firms such as JP Morgan Chase and HSBC, and the director of the Monetary Fund International, Christine Lagarde.

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, who also withdrew from the event, said the firm was awaiting full facts about Khashoggi's case before deciding whether that would affect Saudi Arabia's participation in the transport service.

Despite the high-profile retreats, the conference, dubbed "Davos in the desert", started as scheduled in the midst of strict security at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh, with the head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund , Kirill Dmitriyev and the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan.

The Saudi organizers also tried to show that it was a business as usual, announcing 12 "mega agreements" worth more than $ 50 billion in oil, gas, infrastructure and other sectors.

Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih, however, acknowledged that "these are difficult days."

"We are going through a crisis," Falih said in a speech that day.

Falih said the killing of Khashoggi was regrettable, adding that "no one in the kingdom can justify it."

He also praised the CEO of French energy giant Total, Patrick Pouyanne, for defending Saudi Arabia in this difficult period.

"We see what the association means when you have difficult moments," Pouyanne replied while sharing the stage with Falih.

"This is when you really strengthen an association."

Several other Western banks and other companies, fearful of losing business, such as the tariffs involved in arranging deals for the $ 250 billion wealth fund of Saudi Arabia, sent executives at lower levels even when their main employees were kept away.

Meanwhile, Dmitriev, the head of Russia's Direct Investment Fund, said that Khashoggi's murder needed to be investigated and that the perpetrators were punished, but that the Saudi drive for economic and social reform could not be ignored.

"The reforms in Saudi Arabia are important and worth supporting," he told the Reuters news agency.

The top executives of Asian firms have also hesitated to withdraw, so the participation of Chinese and Japanese institutions can help Riyadh to claim the three-day conference as a success.