UK: London mayor rejects Saudi conference invite

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Mayor of London Sadiq Khan joined major cities including New York and Los Angeles in boycotting an international summit hosted by Saudi Arabia over human rights concerns.

Initially citing “diary commitments”, Khan said he would not be able to attend the Urban 20 summit (U20) held between 30 September and 2 October, and it was reported he would be sending a representative to the summit in his place.

However, after pressure from a coalition of human rights groups, he claimed he would be instructing his officials not to attend the event to avoid ambiguity on his stance on human rights in Saudi.

A spokesperson from London’s City Hall said: “It has never been the mayor’s intention to attend this U20 summit and his invite has previously been formally declined. No one is representing him at the summit or speaking on behalf of London.”

READ: Saudi dissidents form pro-democracy political group

“The normal practice is for an official of the GLA to observe such multilateral events as the U20, which cover the most pressing issues of our time, including the Covid-19 pandemic and the climate emergency – neither of which can be tackled without international cooperation.”

“However, to avoid any implication that this observer status means support for the Saudi government, the GLA, exceptionally, will not dial in to view any of the U20 summit sessions this year.”

This comes after a coalition of human rights groups wrote a strongly worded letter urging Khan and other mayors to completely boycott the event.

They referred to Saudi as “an absolute monarchy without any form of meaningful democratic representation” thus unfit to host such an event as U20.

The letter continued: “The Saudi government has a long record of silencing the very voices that are necessary for a meaningful global conversation regarding the massive challenges we collectively face.”

It went on to tell prominent leaders to publicly demand Saudi take steps towards “ending its record of human rights violations, reckless foreign policy, and environmental destruction.”

READ: Evidence of recent Saudi war crime in Yemen surfaces

On Tuesday, Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo joined New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti in boycotting U20, citing concern for women’s rights in Saudi.

Mayor Hidalgo specially cited the treatment and incarceration of women’s rights activist Loujain Al-Hathloul, who has been imprisoned since May 2018, as a reason she would not be attending the summit.

The U20 Summit ends today, the two-year anniversary of the murder of journalist and outspoken Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.

Intelligence agencies across the world including the CIA believe Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman had a personal hand in the murder. Accusations he has denied.

Middle East Monitor

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