The international Monetary Fund (IMF) announced on Wednesday that its Managing Director, Christine Lagarde, has postponed her Middle East trip that included attending the Future Investment Initiative, also known as "Davos in the Desert," in Saudi Arabia. The conference is scheduled for October 23rd to 25th.
“The Managing Director's previously scheduled trip to the Middle East region is being deferred," an IMF spokesperson said. The IMF did not give a reason for the postponement.
The investment event in Riyadh has seen mounting cancellations since the disappearance and suspected killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. Turkish officials allege that he was murdered by a team of Saudi operatives, but Riyadh has fiercely denied the claim.
Media outlets including CNBC, the Financial Times, CNN and The New York Times have also withdrawn from the event, citing concerns about Khashoggi's disappearance.
Lagarde told reporters last week at the IMF and World Bank annual meetings in Bali, Indonesia, that while she was "horrified" at the disappearance and suspected killing of Khashoggi, she was still planning to attend the conference in Riyadh.
"I have to conduct the business of IMF in all corners of the world, and with many governments," she said at that time. "When I visit a country, I always speak my mind. You know me, I do. At this point in time, my intention is to not change my plan and to be very attentive to the information that is coming out in the next few days, but I speak my mind."
Khashoggi, who had been living in the United States was last seen on October 2nd when he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
President Trump has defended Saudi Arabia, saying in an interview with the Associated Press that “we have to wait until the investigation is completed.”
Trump said he has talked to Saudi King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and both denied any knowledge about what happened to Khashoggi.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met Saudi leaders on Tuesday, including the king and crown prince, and said he stressed the need for a “thorough” investigation. The Saudi leaders “strongly denied any knowledge of what took place in their consulate in Istanbul,” Pompeo said in a news release from the State Department. He arrived in Turkey early Wednesday for talks over the Washington Post columnist's disappearance.
US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo met Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Ankara on Wednesday morning. In their meeting, he expressed the United States’ concern over Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance and reiterated the willingness of the US to assist Turkey in its investigation.