IMF’s Christine Lagarde postpones trip to the Middle East

The International Monetary Fund‘s Christine Lagarde has postponed her trip to the Middle East, according to an IMF statement on Wednesday.

Lagarde was due to visit Gulf states including Riyadh, Saudi Arabia next week to attend the Future Investment Initiative, also known as “Davos in the Desert,” which is scheduled for Oct. 23 to 25.

“The Managing Director’s previously scheduled trip to the Middle East region is being deferred,” an IMF spokesperson said.

Several executives and media outlets — including CNBC, Financial Times, CNN and The New York Times — have withdrawn from the event, citing concerns about the disappearance of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi and his alleged murder. Saudi Arabia has denied it was involved in Khashoggi’s disappearance.

Khashoggi, who had been living in the United States as a voluntary exile from Saudi Arabia, was a prominent critic of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the Saudi royal family. He was last seen Oct. 2 when he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Earlier this month, the IMF chief told reporters that while she is “horrified” at the disappearance and suspected killing of Khashoggi, she still had plans 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 the 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.”

In recent weeks, many prominent decision makers also said they will not be attending the conference in Riyadh. They include J.P. Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, BlackRock CEO Larry Fink, Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman and Mastercard chief Ajay Banga.

— CNBC’s Yen Nee Lee contributed to this report.

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