Donald Trump & son-in-law Jared Kushner, former British Prime Minister David Cameron and pop star Will.I.Am belong to a large number of prominent people because of the & # 39; Davos in the Desert & # 39; conference of Saudi Arabia, which Tuesday started.
Organizers boast that 300 speakers from more than 30 countries, including heads of global banks and state investment funds, will participate in the three-day event, officially called the Future Investment Initiative (FII).
It comes just a year after the conference was largely boycotted amid indignation at the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Security services including the CIA have since said that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is directly responsible for killing. He denies direct involvement.
Jared Kushner (left) and David Cameron (right) are among the two high-profile figures who hold the & # 39; Davos in the Desert & # 39; conference. from Saudi Arabia, which began Tuesday, attended
Organizers boast that more than 300 speakers from 30 countries will attend the Future Investment Initiative conference, one year after it was largely boycotted following the murder of Jamal Khashoggi
Rapper Will.I.Am (left) and US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin (right) will also participate in attendees in Riyadh this week
A strong turnout during the event, focused on projecting the isolated kingdom as a dynamic investment destination, would help restore Salman's image.
Amnesty International has strongly criticized David Cameron for choosing to attend the event because of the & # 39; horrible human rights record & # 39; from Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi regime has also been heavily criticized for its imprisonment of women's rights activists and the four-year war in Yemen that has caused the worst humanitarian disaster in the world.
Cameron will close the summit on Thursday with the former prime ministers of Italy, France and Australia with a debate about the future of the world economy.
The American finance minister Steven Mnuchin, who stayed away last year, will be among those present this year, alongside British advertising creator Sir Martin Sorrell.
The top managers of HSBC, Standard Charter and the London Stock Exchange – who all stayed away a year ago – also booked tickets this time.
& # 39; I have been coming to Saudi Arabia for 20 years, but what I have mainly seen in the last two or three years is (economic) transformation & # 39 ;, Indian tycoon Mukesh Ambani told the conference, which the leaders of the kingdom praised.
& # 39; As a businessman and as an investor I am completely in it. & # 39;
A strong turnout at the conference would be a blessing to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whose reputation was badly damaged after he was associated with the murder of Khashoggi
Khashoggi, a journalist for the Washington Post, was murdered last year at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul by agents of the Saudi regime
Thousands of delegates, including world leaders and financial moguls, crammed into a ballroom with chandeliers in the palatial Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh, in very different scenes until 2018, when many of the sessions were empty.
The murder of the Istanbul consulate in Saudi Arabia led to one of the worst crises of the largest exporter of raw exporters and led a wave of business and political leaders to end last year's conference at the 11th hour.
Despite the enthusiastic turnout this year, many delegates were still overconfident to be mentioned in media interviews – and some hid their name tags behind their tires – as a sign of continued reputation risk for doing business with the Saudis.
But in general, the event has restarted as global outrage fades.
& # 39; More than 6,000 executives and participants are present & # 39 ;, said Yasir al-Rumayyan, head of the huge Public Investment Fund of the kingdom that organized the conference.
& # 39; This is more than double the first FII. The growth has been incredible. & # 39;
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, leaders of major emerging markets, will speak with King Abdullah II of Jordan and four African leaders.
The conference is designed to present Saudi Arabia as a future-oriented investment hub, as part of Bin Salman & # 39; s efforts to diversify oil revenues
A female Saudi journalist attends the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh
A robot welcomes a participant at the Future Investment Initiative forum during the opening session in Riyadh
US Finance Minister Steven Mnuchin leads a powerful US delegation including energy secretary Rick Perry and Jared Kushner, son-in-law and senior adviser to President Donald Trump.
& # 39; This is a big win & # 39; for the crown prince – often known by his initials MBS – said Samuel Ramani, a doctoral researcher at Oxford University.
& # 39; To see corporate executives now claim that Saudi Arabia has made both reforms and mistakes in the context of MBS and argue for the value of economic involvement in Riyadh, suggests that business continues after the killing of Khashoggi & # 39 , he told AFP.
A first draw at the Riyadh conference is the much delayed initial public offering from state oil giant Aramco, & # 39; the world's most profitable company, for which global banks and consultants compete for business.
The kingdom plans to include no less than five percent of the oil colossus in the list and raise an amount of about $ 100 billion in an exercise that, according to analysts, the value of the company at $ 1 Could bring 5 trillion to $ 2 trillion.
Al-Arabiya television from Saudi Arabia said Tuesday that Aramco will finally make its stock debut on December 11 at the Saudi Tadawul stock market.
Some of the 300 speakers of the conference will perform during one of the opening events
The event takes place at the large King Abdulazziz Conference Center in Riyadh
A participant in the Future Investment Initiative at the Ritz Carlton Hotel a day before the event
"I expect that many international observers, like most of those present, will pay more attention to the delayed Aramco IPO than to the legacy of Khashoggi," said Steffen Hertog, associate professor at the London School of Economics.
The worldwide consequences of the murder of Khashoggi turned Prince Mohammed into a pariah, tested alliances with Western powers and cast a shadow on his reform agenda aimed at weaning the kingdom from his dependence on oil.
The CIA has reportedly concluded that the crown prince, who controls all major levers in the Saudi government, probably ordered the murder – an indictment he repeatedly denied.
Since then, the government has tried to renew its image: welcoming western musicians to concerts and relieving restrictions on women's rights.
On the sidelines of the Tuesday conference, memoranda of understanding were signed on $ 15 billion in foreign investment deals that & # 39; the scale and diversity of the kingdom's economy & # 39; represent.
But away from the spotlight, Riyadh is struggling to attract foreign investment and his economy remains heavily dependent on the oil it has brought unimaginable wealth in recent decades.
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