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WorldSaudi Arabia’s MBS is center stage at G-20, only nine months after Khashoggi killing

22:35  28 june  2019
22:35  28 june  2019 Source:   washingtonpost.com

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Amid international outrage over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and Saudi Arabia ’ s ongoing military campaign in Yemen last year, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was positioned at the very edge of the traditional “family photo” of world leaders at the Group of 20 summit in November.

A Saudi court' s announcement that five people have been sentenced to death for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi leaves more unanswered questions than it resolves.

Saudi Arabia’s MBS is center stage at G-20, only nine months after Khashoggi killing© Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images President Donald Trump and Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman shake hands during a group photo of members during the G-20 Summit at the INTEX Osaka in Osaka on June 28, 2019. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images_

Amid international outrage over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and Saudi Arabia’s ongoing military campaign in Yemen last year, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was positioned at the very edge of the traditional “family photo” of world leaders at the G-20 summit last November.

Looking every bit a pariah, Mohammed walked away alone after the group photo was taken as other leaders of the world’s wealthiest nations mingled — while protesters outside the venue demanded his arrest.

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Only half a year later, however, the Crown Prince is no longer isolated at the G-20. In the photograph of world leaders taken on Friday at this year’s event in Osaka, Mohammed was front and center — standing between President Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the event’s host.

For his supporters, it is yet another sign that Mohammed survived the questions over his mercurial de facto rule of the kingdom and has been welcomed back by the global political establishment with open arms.

“Clearly he has retained a lot of his stature,” said Ali Shihabi, the founder of the pro-Riyadh Arabia Foundation in Washington, noting that the Crown Prince had been well received by the leaders of India, China, Japan and South Korea in the last six months.

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The murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi has overshadowed much of the G 20 Summit. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, also known as MBS , appeared Pressure has been mounting on the United States to take a firm action against Saudi Arabia amid reports of MBS ’ s role in the case.

“It’ s time for Saudi Arabia to tell the truth on Jamal Khashoggi ,” the Washington Post’ s Editorial Board argued. The only person who appeared to continue to uphold America’ s unfaltering support for MBS , even after all the publicly made evidence against MBS , was the US president himself.

“If anything, his high visibility at G-20 is only enhancing” his reputation, Shihabi said. “His robes also help.”

The Crown Prince’s traditional attire may not be the only thing that made him more visible in this year’s photograph. Official protocol dictates where world leaders stand in the family photo, with the general rules being that heads of state, rather than heads of government or international organizations, are at the front and those who’ve spent more time in office closer toward the center.

Though Mohammed is not technically a head of state yet and is less senior than some others, Saudi Arabia is also scheduled to host next year’s G-20 summit, which will begin on November 21 in Riyadh.

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Mohammed Bin Salman, Saudi Arabia ' s Crown Prince, or MBS as he is known, is widely believed to own a 0M mega-yacht, one of the world's most expensive houses, a sumptuous chateau outside Paris and last year to have set a new art world record for the most expensive painting, Leonardo da

David Miliband, former British foreign secretary and current CEO of humanitarian organization International Rescue Committee, said that the largely warm welcome of Mohammed and other supposed pariahs like Russia’s Vladimir Putin at this year’s G-20 reflected an age of impunity in global politics.

“All those countries that have a relationship with Saudi Arabia need to use those relationships in a way that curbs the failed war strategy in Yemen,” Miliband said of the Riyadh G-20.

Mohammed, still only 33-years-old, had initially been celebrated on the world stage for spearheading an ambitious domestic reform strategy that sought to not only remake Saudi Arabia’s oil-dependent economy but also loosen conservative religious social conventions.

But the Crown Prince’s role in launching Saudi Arabia’s conflict in Yemen, which came as Riyadh took aggressive positions against Qatar and Iran, called into doubt the wisdom of his foreign policy. The killing of Khashoggi at Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul last October reinforced the notion that his government cared little about human rights and drew a global backlash.

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Last year, some world leaders had avoided the young Saudi royal, while others had criticized him to his face. An overheard conversation between Mohammed and Emmanuel Macron suggested that the French president was privately upset with him. “You never listen to me,” Macron said.

But other world leaders still greeted him enthusiastically. Russia’s Putin laughed as he slapped hands with Mohammed as they met — an image that Miliband said epitomized the “new arrogance of power” among those who act with perceived impunity.

Despite congressional efforts to cut off weapons sales to the Saudi kingdom and U.N. calls for an investigation of his alleged role in the killing of a Khashoggi, there was little sign of trouble when Mohammed met Trump at the family photo on Friday, where the two leaders shook hands and smiled.

The U.S. president is due to have breakfast with the Saudi royal on Saturday morning, Bloomberg News reported.

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