US officials not invited to upcoming Saudi investment conference

An upcoming Saudi investment conference has failed to invite U.S. officials as a rift grows between Washington and Riyadh, which appears to be gravitating towards Russia amid a deepening energy crisis in the West.

Saudi Arabia will host the Future Investment Initiative (FII), a three-day conference starting Oct. 25 in the capital Riyadh, but the forum organizer said unlike in previous years, US officials were not invited at the upcoming event.

Richard Attias, CEO of the group behind the event, announced on Monday that his group “did not invite any US government figures”, arguing that he did not want the gathering “to become a political platform “.

“We don’t invite too many politicians…because I’ve come to realize that when you have political leaders on stage, the media attention, let’s be very frank, is diverted to the political agenda, and we do not want the IFI to become a political platform,” he added.

Attias said FII – often called “Davos in the desert” – typically attracts Wall Street titans and senior officials from around the world, and up to 400 US CEOs are expected to attend this year.

The decision not to invite US officials to the conference comes as tensions rise between their longtime partners Washington and Riyadh over the recent vote by the Saudi Arabia-led OPEC+ cartel to cut oil production despite Washington’s objections.

Washington has become Ukraine’s number one global supporter against Russia, after Moscow launched a military offensive in the former Soviet republic in February.

Additionally, the United States, along with its European allies, imposed unprecedented waves of sanctions against Russia over the war in Ukraine.

The White House recently accused Riyadh of siding with Moscow by cutting oil production to drive up crude prices. The allegations have however been dismissed by the Saudi kingdom in recent days, insisting it was a purely business decision.

On Sunday evening, the Saudi king said in a live speech that his country was “working hard, as part of its energy strategy, to support the stability and balance of global oil markets”.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting and Allied Countries (OPEC+), which includes the 13 OPEC countries and 11 non-members, including Russia, announced a production cut on Wednesday. The group has agreed to cut production by 2 million barrels per day, or 2% of global supply.

Saudi Arabia is one of the main OPEC+ producers.

Attias told a press conference earlier that “more than 12 economy and finance ministers” would attend the next edition of the FII.

Although the FII Institute is not officially affiliated with Riyadh, the annual forum in the Saudi capital is closely associated with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto ruler of the kingdom.

Attias said he did not expect the row between Saudi Arabia and the United States to impact this year’s FII conference. “No impact at all. On the contrary, we are seeing a growing appetite from the American private sector to participate in the FII,” he said.

The organizers “began to refuse certain delegates” for lack of space. “We don’t do politics at all. We’ve never been in politics since we were born in 2017, so we haven’t started… If people want to talk about geopolitics during the conversation; they are free to do so,” he noted.

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