Trump and Saudi crown prince meet on sidelines of G20 summit

Russian president Putin high fives prince but other leaders still outraged over Khashoggi murder

At the G20 summit in Argentina the focus was on crown prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman, as controversy over the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi clouded the event.

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US president Donald Trump met the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, briefly on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires on Friday as controversy over the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi clouded the event.

In by far his most high-profile public appearance since the murder of the Saudi journalist last month, the prince is attending the summit of world leaders which continues over the weekend in Argentina.

The murder of Mr Khashoggi by a group of Saudi men in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul has outraged most of the international community, though Mr Trump has said he is not sure if the Saudi leadership ordered the murder.

Taking a seat beside the young crown prince at the plenary session yesterday, Russian president Vladimir Putin “high fived” Prince Mohammed, a warm interaction that contrasted with the stance of most other leaders who encountered the Saudi prince.

‘Firm message’

Some of French president Emanuel Macron’s conversation with the 33 year-old Saudi prince on the sidelines of the meeting was captured on an audio recording. “You never listen to me,” the French president is heard saying, while Mohammed bin Salman appears to urge the French leader not to worry.

The Elysee later said that Mr Macron had delivered a “firm message” that Saudi needed to permit international investigators to take part in the Khashoggi investigation.

France is one of several countries to have imposed sanctions on 17 Saudi individuals believed to have been involved in the murder of the Saudi journalist. Canada and Germany have also imposed sanctions.

Crown prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia and US president Donald Trump during the opening day of the G20 summit, on Friday, in Buenos Aires. Photograph: Daniel Jayo/Getty Images
Crown prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia and US president Donald Trump at the G20 summit, on Friday, in Buenos Aires. Photograph: Daniel Jayo/Getty Images

While the United States has also introduced sanctions on the 17 individuals, the White House has refrained from more stringent measures. Mr Trump and his secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, have said there was no conclusive evidence proving that the crown prince directly ordered the murder.

But many members of Congress have called for US arm sales to Saudi Arabia to be reconsidered, and have also raised questions about US support of the Saudi side in the Yemeni war.

US military support

The Senate is due to vote on a resolution next week which would end US military support for the Saudi-led effort. Some 14 Republicans joined the Senate’s 40 Democrats and independents to advance the vote earlier this week.

It took place after Mr Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis briefed senators in a closed-door session, where they defended the administration’s response to the Khashoggi murder and provided an update on the war in Yemen.

Senator Lindsey Graham, usually an ally of Mr Trump’s, criticised the White House response. “The way the administration has handled it is not acceptable,” he said after the briefings.

British prime minister Theresa May was scheduled to meet the Saudi crown prince later on Friday, with Downing Street indicating that she would be “robust” in calling for an investigation into the killing.

Britain, which like the US is a close military of Saudi Arabia in the region, has resisted calls to reassess its arm sales agreements with the kingdom.

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