Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been sidelined during the official “family photo” of world leaders and other dignitaries at the two-day G20 summit in the Argentinean capital Buenos Aires.
On Friday, the 33-year-old de facto ruler of the Arab kingdom only managed to secure a place at the far edge of the group portrait and failed to garner any attention among the leaders in the family photo on the first day of the 13th summit of the forum. After the shot, he quickly left the stage without shaking hands or talking with other leaders.
The young Saudi prince’s political future is still being haunted by the consequences of the gruesome murder of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul some two months ago.
Khashoggi, 59, a one-time royal insider who had been critical of Mohammed bin Salman recently, was killed after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2. For weeks, Riyadh denied any involvement in the journo’s disappearance but under growing pressure from international community eventually acknowledged that was killed and dismembered in a premeditated murder.
However, the Saudi regime has sought to distance the heir to the Saudi throne from the assassination despite the emerging evidence alleging otherwise. A recent report by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) said that it had concluded that bin Salman had been behind the gruesome crime.
The killing of Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist, has strained Riyadh’s relations with the West and battered bin Salman’s image abroad. Saudi Arabia claims that the prince had no prior knowledge of the murder.
‘I am worried,’ Macron tells bin Salman
Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron met with Mohammed bin Salman on the sidelines of the summit and had a short exchange with him. According to officials at the Elysee Palace, the French leader conveyed a “very firm” message to the Saudi prince over the killing of Khashoggi.
Reuters quoted Macron as saying that Europe would insist on international experts being part of the probe into the murder of the ill-fated journo.
Furthermore, the English-language Saudi Gazette shared a video of the meeting reportedly showing a cryptic exchange between the pair on the killing of Khashoggi. In the video, the Saudi prince can be heard telling the French president “Don’t worry”, to which he replies, “I am worried.”
Later in the one-minute clip posted on Twitter, Macron is heard saying, “You never listen to me,” to which bin Salman replies, “I will listen, of course”, as they were standing close together and apparently unaware their conversation was being recorded.
The Elysee Palace also said Macron stressed the need to find a political solution to the war in Yemen in his conversation with bin Salman, whose country’s brutal military campaign has left thousands of Yemenis dead over the past four years and pushed the impoverished nation to the brink of famine.
Argentine judicial officials are considering a request by Human Rights Watch to prosecute bin Salman over the Yemen war and Khashoggi’s murder when the Saudi crown prince enter Argentina for a G20 summit.
Additionally on the sidelines of the summit, British Prime Minister Theresa May told bin Salman that he should take firm action in a bid to prevent the recurrence of incidents like the murder of Khashoggi.
“The prime minister stressed the importance of ensuring that those responsible for the appalling murder of Jamal Khashoggi are held to account, and that Saudi Arabia takes action to build confidence that such a deplorable incident could not happen again,” said May’s office in a statement.
Meanwhile, hundreds of people, including protesters from anti-capitalist and rights groups, held multiple rallies against the summit, slamming US President Donald Trump, among other key figures, for what they called failing to address a broad range of issues, including climate change, poverty and immigration.
The demonstrators also accused the G20 group of countries of concentrating too much on financial interests and globalization, while condemning austerity measures proposed by Argentina’s government and backed by the International Monetary Fund, a dignitary at the summit.