Mon, Dec 03, 2018 - Page 5 News List

A high-five from Putin and an awkward photograph

Reuters, BUENOS AIRES

Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, left, and and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands during a meeting on Saturday on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Photo: AFP

Russian President Vladimir Putin walked up to Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman at a summit of G20 world leaders, high-fived him and then shook his hand heartily.

Moments earlier the prince had been pictured on the far edge of the traditional “family portrait” photograph, ignored by other leaders.

The two moments captured the dilemma facing world leaders at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires: How to deal with the crown prince, who is dogged by controversy over the murder of a Saudi journalist, but is also de facto leader of a rich, oil-producing kingdom that is a major global investor.

To be sure Putin’s exuberant greeting of the prince was seen as over the top and promptly went viral, but, while leaders appeared to ignore Prince Mohammaed on stage during the “family photo,” many went on to have closed-door bilateral meetings with him during the two-day summit.

The prince, facing a global outcry over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, six weeks ago, had conversations with at least 12 world leaders.

Three of them, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron, said publicly they had pressed him for a full investigation into the murder.

Saudi Arabia has said the prince had no prior knowledge of the murder of the prominent Saudi Arabian journalist.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said the killing was ordered by the highest level of Riyadh leadership, but probably not from King Salman, putting the spotlight instead on the 33-year-old prince.

He demanded that Saudi Arabia extradite suspects in the killing.

“It’s essential that these people are tried in Turkey in order to eliminate any question marks that the international community may have,” Erdogan told reporters in Buenos Aires. “Whoever has ordered and implemented this violent crime should be found out at once. Unless the perpetrators are found out, the whole world and the Islamic community shall not be satisfied.”

Trudeau said he had a frank conversation with the prince at a leaders’ dinner on Friday, telling him there was “a need for better answers on the killing of Khashoggi.”

May said she called for a full, credible and transparent investigation, while Macron insisted the crown prince allow international investigators to take part in any inquiry.

US President Donald Trump, who has defended US ties with Saudi Arabia, “exchanged pleasantries” with the crown prince, the White House said.

The prince also discussed investments and economic partnerships with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平). Readouts of those meetings did not say whether Xi and Modi had confronted the prince over the Khashoggi case.

Before the start of the summit, Argentine President Mauricio Macri had said it was possible that the accusations against the prince could be discussed, but in the end they were not.

Additional reporting by AFP

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