World leaders including a beaming Vladimir Putin welcomed Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Friday at the G20 summit, showing he was no pariah less than two months after the murder of a dissident journalist by a Saudi hit team.
In an image that quickly went viral online, the Russian leader and the prince both beamed and clasped each other’s hands like long-lost friends.
The embrace came amid reports that Russia and Saudi Arabia have reached a pact to cut oil production when the OPEC cartel meets on December 6 in Vienna, to help shore up collapsing crude prices.
The ambitious 33-year-old prince was also seen chatting with US President Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka, and shaking hands with French President Emmanuel Macron, at the start of the two-day meeting of the world’s top economies in Buenos Aires.
The French presidency said that Macron spoke to the prince about the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the Saudi-led offensive in Yemen, where millions are on the brink of starvation in what the United Nations calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Macron told Prince Mohammed that Europeans wanted international investigators to take part in the probe on Khashoggi’s death and stressed “the necessity of a political solution in Yemen,” the Elysee Palace said.
British Prime Minister Theresa May, speaking to Sky News before the summit, said she would press both on Yemen and Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributor who was killed when visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
“The Saudi Arabians need to ensure that their investigation is a full investigation, that it’s credible, that it’s transparent, and that people can have confidence in the outcome of it, and that those responsible are held to account,” May said.
Khashoggi’s killing has sparked widespread outrage but Western powers have pledged to maintain close relations with Saudi Arabia, a top oil producer and buyer of US weapons.
Trump, in an exclamation point-heavy statement before the summit, said it did not matter whether Prince Mohammed knew about Khashoggi’s death and that Saudi Arabia was important for business and for its hostility to Iran.
The US Senate nonetheless moved this week to end support for the Saudi-led war against rebels in Yemen amid outrage over attacks on civilian sites including a school bus and hospitals.