Total CEO to attend Saudi investment conference

Thomson Reuters

PARIS, Oct 22 (Reuters) - Total's chief executive said on Monday he would attend an investment conference in Saudi Arabia this week, despite rising pressure on business leaders to drop out after Riyadh admitted a journalist was killed at its Istanbul consulate.

Saudi Arabia has drawn strong international criticism after saying that Jamal Khashoggi, a prominent critic of Saudi rulers, died in a fight inside the consulate - after two weeks of denials that it had anything to do with his disappearance.

"I am convinced that an 'empty chairs at the table' strategy serves no useful purpose, especially when it comes to respect for human rights," Total's CEO Patrick Pouyanné said in a statement.

The French oil major's decision comes despite President Emmanuel Macron's decision last week to pull his finance minister out of the Future Investment Initiative conference.

It contrasts with the decision of Siemens' CEO not to attend the conference.

Total and Saudi Aramco co-own one of the largest refining facilities in the world, the SATORP complex in the eastern Saudi city of Jubail.

Paris and Riyadh enjoy close diplomatic and commercial relations spanning energy, finance and weapons. But France, which considers Riyadh a bulwark against Iranian influence in the Middle East, now faces a delicate balancing act in its response to the incident. (Reporting by Michel Rose in Paris and Philip George in Bengaluru; Editing by Adrian Croft)