Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was once feted in Western capitals as a new breed of economic and social reformer. Then came the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul on Oct. 2 — and with it, a whirlwind of international controversy and criticism that has engulfed the young Saudi royal.
This week, less than two months after the killing of Khashoggi, Mohammed traveled to Buenos Aires for a G-20 meeting that brought together leaders from the world’s top economies. For the Saudi crown prince, it was a chance to see whether he would now get the cold shoulder from the same leaders who once embraced him.
At a photo call during the official welcome ceremony Friday, Mohammed stood to the far right of the stage on the second row of world leaders. Footage showed the crown prince walking away from the stage as other world leaders, including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, mingled.
But the crown prince appeared far from isolated. Later, Mohammed sat next to Russian President Vladimir Putin as the G-20 summit began. The two were filmed aggressively shaking hands and laughing as they greeted each other.
A more ambiguous interaction from earlier in the day with French President Emmanuel Macron was also captured on film that was shared by Saudi news outlets. What the two leaders are saying is hard to discern, but at one point Mohammed appears to tell Macron not to worry. “I do worry,” Macron responds.
An Elysee official later told Reuters news agency that Macron had conveyed a “very firm” message that Saudi Arabia needed to allow international experts to be part of the investigation into Khashoggi’s death.
Earlier this week, President Trump had said he had no plans to meet with Mohammed. “I would have met with him, but we didn’t set that one up,” Trump told reporters Thursday.
On Friday, the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya news organization reported that the two leaders had a “friendly” meeting at the sidelines of the G-20. Trump later told reporters that there had been “no discussion” with the crown prince. “We might, but we had none," he said.
Al Arabiya English also noted that Mohammed had been welcomed by Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri at Friday’s summit. Macri had previously told reporters that he thought the killing of Khashoggi was a valid subject for discussion at the G-20.
"This issue, which has impacted the world, is on the table, and it may come out in bilateral meetings or not, or in the G-20 agenda,” Macri said at a joint news conference with Macron on Thursday. Earlier in the week, Human Rights Watch had asked the Argentine government to investigate the role of the crown prince in Khashoggi’s killing, as well as possible war crimes in Yemen.
British Prime Minister Theresa May is also scheduled to meet with the Saudi crown prince Friday. The British leader has said that she will be “robust” as she calls for an investigation into Khashoggi’s killing.