While European and American officials boycotted the conference, the prime minister of Pakistan and the King of Jordan were set to speak.
Veterans of last year’s gathering said it appeared that there were more Saudis in attendance this year, leading some to suggest that the organizers scrambled to fill empty seats. They also noted more Russian and Asian executives traveled to Riyadh for the conference, attempting to capitalize on less competition for deals from Western investors.
Still, in a demonstration of its continued attractiveness as an investment partner, Saudi Aramco, the oil giant, announced the signing of 15 new business deals with companies in eight countries, including the United States, France, China, Japan, the United Arab Emirates, Britain, South Korea and India. The value of the transactions are worth $34 billion.
And while Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, canceled his appearance at the conference, he traveled to Riyadh anyway and met with Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, who is suspected of playing a role in the killing of Mr. Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident. The two discussed combating illicit financing as well as the investigation in Mr. Khashoggi’s death, a Treasury spokesman said.
As business leaders took shuttle buses past barricades to enter the Ritz, aides to Mr. Mnuchin were having breakfast at a nearby luxury hotel. The secretary was expected to visit the Terrorist Financing Targeting Center before leaving for the next leg of his six-country trip.
It was still undetermined whether Prince Mohammed, who made a splash a year ago by declaring a new direction for Islam in Saudi Arabia, would speak at this year’s summit.
Despite the withdrawals, organizers of the conference said more than 3,000 people were attending this week and in the opening hours the lobby of the Ritz-Carlton buzzed as executives glided across the marble floors, sipping kiwi juice, exchanging business cards and discussing potential deals.