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Norman Foster suspends role on Saudi Arabian ‘mega-city’ project

Norman Foster HR crop use
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Norman Foster has temporarily stepped back from his role on the board overseeing the planning of a $500 billion mega-city in Saudi Arabia as questions mount over the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi 

The international community is demanding answers over what happened to the Washington Post writer following his recent disappearance inside the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul.

Saudi authorities initially said Khashoggi, a vocal critic of the country’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, had walked out of the building in Turkey but have since admitted he was murdered in a ‘rogue operation’.

Foster had been named as one of 18 ‘global experts’ on the global advisory board for NEOM, a proposed desert mega-city in Saudi Arabia, described as the world’s most ambitious project. 

The NEOM advisory board met for the first time in New York in August and its members include former Uber chief executive Travis Kalanick and Italian architect and MIT professor Carlo Ratti.

But Foster has told the AJ he stepped away from the project last week. A statement from Foster + Partners reads: ’Earlier [last week] Lord Foster wrote to the head of the NEOM advisory board, stating that, while the situation remains unclear, he has suspended his activities in respect of the board.’

Meanwhile a spokesperson for Ratti said that the ’board [was] not currently working’, adding that ’both Carlo and our team are gravely concerned about the Khashoggi case’ and ’are waiting for the results of the US investigation to evaluate the best course of action’.

Other board members have also begun distancing themselves from NEOM, including Ernest Moniz, a former US secretary of energy under President Obama, who said last week that he was suspending his participation until the facts of Khashoggi’s disappearance became known.

A spokesperson for another member, Dan Doctoroff, chief executive of Google parent company Alphabet’s urban planning unit Sidewalk Labs, claimed in a statement that NEOM had been ‘incorrect’ to include Doctoroff on its list of advisory board members. 

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