Senior politicians have called on the London Stock Exchange Group (LSE) to cancel a planned meeting with Saudi officials amid the international fallout from the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Speaking to City A.M., shadow chancellor John McDonnell and Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable both urged the LSE to scrap an “Investing in Saudi Arabia” breakfast planned for Tuesday, which is expected to be attended by several Saudi grandees including its stock exchange chief.
The Gulf kingdom has been under growing pressure from politicians and business in recent weeks, as it scrambled to explain the disappearance and death of Khashoggi, a critic of its government, after he visited the country’s consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.
On Friday, the Financial Times reported that the FTSE Russell – owned by the LSE, which controls assets including the FTSE share index – would be hosting several Saudi officials, including Mohammed El Kuwaiz, chairman of the Saudi financial regulator and Khalid Al Hussan, chief of its stock exchange, for an “educational briefing” for potential investors.
Details of the event are limited, and there is no official description on the FTSE Russell or LSE websites.
Cable, the former business secretary, said it would “be wrong for this meeting to go ahead as planned.”
“Saudi Arabia must first answer for what has happened,” he said. “As for the UK government, they should have already suspended arms export licences to Saudi Arabia.”
McDonnell, who has called for sanctions to be placed upon the country, said “Until the issues of the role of the Saudi regime in both the barbaric attacks on Yemen and the murder of Jamal Khashoggi are resolved this is hardly the time for engaging in this activity,”
“If we are to secure any movement from the Saudi regime we have to be firm in the message we are sending to it with regard to our intolerance of human rights abuses and abusers,” he told City A.M.
An LSE spokesperson declined to comment.
The group launched a partnership with Saudi Arabia earlier this year, with its chair Donald Brydon saying the UK was a “natural partner” to work with the country as it undertakes a high-profile programme of economic diversification under its crown prince, Mohammed Bin Salman.
Several business and political leaders, including international trade secretary Liam Fox and US treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin, pulled out of a major conference for foreign investors held in Riyadh last week, amid news of Khashoggi’s death. David Schwimmer, chief executive of the LSE, was among them.
Pressure is growing for an full inquiry in Khashoggi’s death, after Saudi Arabia repeatedly changed its story on what had happened writer, a Washington Post columnist, in its embassy earlier this month. Some European countries have called for companies to stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia until there is a full investigation.
US defence secretary Jim Mattis said today that he had called for a full, transparent investigation into the killing during a meeting with Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister at a conference in Bahrain yesterday.
“We discussed it. You know the same thing we talked about, the need for transparency, full and complete investigation,” Mattis told reporters.
“(There was) full agreement from foreign minister Jubeir, no reservations at all, he said we need to know what happened and it was very collaborative, in agreement,” Mattis added.