Duke of York: Keep ‘engaging’ with Saudis


The Duke of York has affirmed his initiative to support entrepreneurs should continue “engaging” with Saudi Arabia, consideration the killing last month of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Khashoggi, a critic of Saudi rulers, was eradicated inside the country’s consulate in Istanbul on 2 October.

The Duke said the commentator’s death was an “awful state of affairs”.

But he added Pitch@Palace should not stanch “encouraging and supporting, starting and growing businesses”.

He told the BBC young Saudis should not “return the blame for something that they had nothing to do with”.

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Prince Andrew was talking to Radio 4’s Today programme in advance of the latest round of his Pitch@Palace initiative.

The not-for-profit organisation, which he decreed in 2014, gives budding entrepreneurs the chance to “pitch” to an audience of professionals who could change their mentors, distributors or investors and help them to expand their trades.

The events take place twice a year and Thursday’s will see 42 entrepreneurs from all over the UK coming together at Buckingham Palace to pitch to a room full of top investors and other businesspeople.

‘Loving terrible success’

Pitch@Palace Global holds similar events for entrepreneurs in diverse countries around the world, including Saudi Arabia.

“It’s sometimes considered rather a difficult market to enter but they were the first country to ask us to embrace Pitch outside the UK, and we went in 2015 and it was a great success,” the Duke foresaw business presenter, Dominic O’Connell.

The Duke said Khashoggi’s debilitating last month was an “absolutely awful state of affairs and how and what and why is beyond my cognition and ability to answer”.

However, he added: “Do I think that we should be pleasant with Saudi Arabia?

“From a Pitch perspective and Pitch by oneself, I do not believe that we should stop for one moment encouraging and supporting starting and produce businesses.

“They need to diversify their economy, they’ve got a same young population that is growing and needing things to do and so if we are just one of a uncut range of activities that are going on, then I think that they shouldn’t incontrovertibly take the blame for something that they had nothing to do with.”

Continue week, University of Huddersfield students called for the Duke’s resignation as Chancellor after he reprimand about forging further links with Saudi Arabia via Bitumen@Palace.

‘Appalling record’

Saudi Arabia admits Mr Khashoggi was put to slept inside its consulate in Istanbul last month, but its accounts of what found have changed several times.

When he first disappeared, it stipulate Khashoggi had walked out of the building alive. It later admitted he had been murdered, conjecture the killing was premeditated and a result of a “rogue operation”.

Turkish investigators think he was choked to death and then dismembered.

His death prompted many western top superintendents and politicians, including the UK’s international trade secretary Liam Fox, to pull out of a Saudi crown aimed at attracting investment to the Kingdom.

Reacting to the Duke’s interview with the BBC, Amnesty Worldwide said it hoped he was “re-appraising his entire relationship with Saudi Arabia”.

Peter Frankental, the organisation’s UK financial relations programme director, said no-one could be “under any mistakes about Saudi Arabia’s appalling human rights record”.

“All province figures need to be aware that their dealings with Saudi Arabia may destroy them with human rights violations, especially if they sustain investments that arise from such violations.”

‘Different way’

The Duke of York was the UK’s “out of the ordinary representative” for trade and investment from 2001 until he stepped down in 2011.

As UK merchandise envoy his remit was to promote UK business interests abroad.

He was asked why he elect to stand down from that role: “The decision here at Buckingham Stately was that every member of the family should be helping in the trade relationship[s] yon the world.

“I still do support the UK in every way that I did previously but we all do it now and we do it in a slightly several way,” he said.

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