Weeks after journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder inside Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul, the kingdom’s crown prince attended the G20 summit in Argentina to an apparent cool reception.
During the official family photo, Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), who has faced allegations of ordering the October 2, 2018, killing, which he denies, stood at the far edge of the group portrait. Largely ignored by the leaders of the world’s largest economies, he exited the stage quickly afterwards, without stopping to speak to the others. “Saudi Crown Prince sidelined in G20 family photo”, “A bro-shake with Putin, a talking-to from Macron: The Saudi prince’s less-than-royal treatment at the G-20”, read some of the headlines after the November summit.
The leaders of France, Canada and the United Kingdom, meanwhile, said they pressed for an investigation into Khashoggi’s killing during their separate meetings with Crown Prince Mohammed.
But when the same G20 leaders gathered in Japan’s Osaka in June, things appeared different. This time, Crown Prince Mohammed stood front and centre in the family photo, sandwiched between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and US President Donald Trump, who at a personal breakfast earlier, congratulated the crown prince for doing a “spectacular job” in “opening up” Saudi Arabia and fighting “terrorism”.
The US president has not been the only leader to have heaped praise on Prince Mohammed over the past year, despite the global outcry over The Washinton Post columnist’s murder. During a February visit to Pakistan as part of an Asia tour that included stops in China and India, Prince Mohammed was given Pakistan’s highest civilian honour after signing investment deals worth $20bn.