Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser hasn’t decided if he will attend a major investment conference in Saudi Arabia next week in the wake of the disappearance and possible murder of journalist and government critic Jamal Khashoggi.
“I haven’t made up my mind yet, but I need to,” Kaeser said, speaking at the Fortune Global Forum in Toronto on Tuesday. “This is a very serious topic where you actually cannot win-you cannot win. There is a person missing…there is a massive concern. On the other hand, if we skip communicating with countries where people are missing, I just can stay home because I cannot talk to anybody anymore.”
Numerous leading business executives, including Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, and AOL co-founder Steve Case have said they will not attend the Future Investment Initiative conference, which starts October 23 in Riyadh. Khashoggi, a columnist for the Washington Post, vanished after visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2. Turkish officials say they have proof that Khashoggi was killed.
Kaeser said he would make a decision in the next day or two, but appeared to be leaning towards attending. “The more I think about it, the more I believe that if you want to change something, you need to talk to people and not about people,” he said. “And you need to have a say on the table.”
If he does attend, the CEO said he would not stay silent on the controversial topic. “If I go, I am going to address and speak up in this country,” Kaeser said. “Because I do want my people-there’s thousands of people who work (for Siemens) there—to be able to speak up and speak their mind.”