First of all, I would like to make it clear that I fully understand and share the emotions sparked by the death of Jamal Khashoggi under circumstances that must be clarified.
President Macron recently said that the French government has decided “to suspend some political visits in the current circumstances.” He added that “private individuals of the business sector were carrying on with their planned visits”.
Some business leaders have decided that the circumstances do not allow them to visit Riyadh. I respect their choice.
Total has never been in favor of sanctions and isolation — for example, against Russia, Iran or Qatar — and nor do we support boycotts. I have made this point clear on many occasions on behalf of Total and we have consistently maintained that stance. Total believes it is preferable to engage in frank, assertive dialogue, in which we make our values clear, with our partner countries.
A company like Total can and does build economic and business bridges by ensuring full respect of our Code of Conduct, an essential tool that allows us to promote our values to all our partners worldwide. Respect for Each Other, a Group value, and Human rights, are at the core of that code.
Boycotts and withdrawing investment only hurt the ordinary people of the country. Western companies have a key role to play in this area through their presence in a country. I am convinced that an “empty chairs at the table” strategy serves no useful purpose, especially when it comes to respect for Human rights.
I was invited to attend this economic forum by Khaled Al-Falih, Saudi Arabia’s Energy Minister, to talk about energy. I had told the minister — a very honorable man I have known for a long time — that I would attend, and I wish to fulfill that commitment.
Furthermore, Total has partnered Saudi Aramco for 40 years and we have recently announced a major joint investment project in the petrochemical sector in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Which is also why, in keeping with the commitments we have made, out of respect for the leaders of a company I deeply esteem and in recognition of our long, shared history, I will attend the forum in Riyadh.