RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Gathered Tuesday under grand domes and crystal chandeliers for a glitzy investment forum nicknamed “Davos in the Desert,” business leaders called the death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi terrible and sad, but said it shouldn’t derail their deal-making or U.S.-Saudi relations.

They knew Saudi agents killed Khashoggi three weeks ago at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. And they knew their host, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was widely suspected of being involved, despite vehement official denials.

Marquee-name sponsors and chief executives, including Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase, Stephen Schwarzman of Blackstone and AOL founder Steve Case had pulled out in protest. The conference website was crippled Monday by hackers angry about Khashoggi’s killing.

But thousands still came, in a wave of black Mercedes and Chevy Suburbans, through the conference center’s enormous stone archways and past elegant fountains, security agents manning a machine gun mounted atop a Dodge Ram pickup.

And when Mohammed arrived, they gave him a standing ovation.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, right, widely suspected of being involved in the slaying of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, got a standing ovation at the start of the forum. Associated Press/Amr Nabil

American executives interviewed at the conference said they were jolted by Khashoggi’s gruesome killing. But they also said business ties between the United States and Saudi Arabia are far too deep and valuable to be disrupted by it.

One U.S. executive, who advises sovereign wealth funds, said that although the Khashoggi case was “shocking,” ultimately it would be only a “hiccup” in the business world.

“You support your friends in good times and bad,” the executive said. “The trajectory (in Saudi Arabia) is toward more openness and transparency, but there are going to be bumps in the road.” He, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.

Todd Albert Nims, a Texan who lives in Riyadh and runs a filmmaking company, said he was born in Saudi Arabia, the son of an oil company executive, and has spent “half my life” in the country.

Nims said the killing of Khashoggi, who contributed opinion columns to The Washington Post, was “horrifying” but should not damage U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia.

“It’s not who these people are,” he said. “Saudi Arabia has been a friend. They have been a huge stabilizer in this region. We shouldn’t trash it all over one thing. It’s like a marriage. This is one day in the life of a marriage.”

President Trump has said Khashoggi’s killing must be investigated, but he has stopped short of criticizing Mohammed, who has close ties to Jared Kushner, Trump’s adviser and son-in-law. Trump has said he does not want the incident to interfere with billions of dollars in U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

Reflecting Trump’s ambivalence, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin canceled his scheduled appearance at the conference, but came to Riyadh anyway and sat for photos Monday with Mohammed.

On Tuesday, Mohammed posed for selfies with delegates, and sat with Jordan’s King Abdullah during a panel discussion.

Chief executives who attended the conference included Patrick Pouyanne of the French oil company Total and Paal Kibsgaard of Texas-based Schlumberger, the world’s largest oil field services company.

The show opening was filled with loud music, laser lights and video on big screens.

But, for a moment, the great hall was also filled with Jamal Khashoggi.

Lubna Olayan, an influential Saudi business leader, stepped to the stage to moderate the first panel discussion. But first, she told the audience that she had known the journalist and said, “May he rest in peace.”

“I want to tell all our foreign guests, for whose presence with us this morning we are very grateful, that the terrible acts reported in recent weeks are alien to our culture and our DNA,” she said. “I am sure that we will grow and emerge stronger as a result of the crisis of the last few weeks.”

When she finished, a tentative round of applause rippled through the crowd, as though people weren’t sure whether it was OK to clap about a murder investigation. But then it was down to business, and she began moderating a panel discussion about sovereign wealth funds.