World leaders welcome Saudi prince at G20, showing he’s not isolated

May and Macron vow to press MBS on killing of dissident journalist Khashoggi; Germany’s Merkel arrives to summit 12 hours late due to plane trouble

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — World leaders 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 kingdom killed a dissident journalist.

The 33-year-old heir apparent was seen chatting with US President Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka and shaking hands with French President Emmanuel Macron at the start of a two-day meeting of the world’s top economies in Buenos Aires.

Prince Mohammed and Russian President Vladimir Putin both grinned broadly and greeted each other with an enthusiastic, thumping handshake that resembled a high-five, and hearty laughter.

Several leaders including French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Theresa May said they would raise Khashoggi’s killing during talks with the crown prince on the sidelines of the summit.

May said she would also press bin Salman on 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.

“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 told Sky News.

Macron told reporters before meeting the prince that he will “no doubt” mention the death of Khashoggi, a US-based contributor to The Washington Post who was killed when he visited the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

The 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.

US President Donald Trump (R), Brazil’s President Michel Temer (L) and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman take their places for a family photo, during the G20 Leaders’ Summit in Buenos Aires, on November 30, 2018. (Saul Loeb/AFP)

Trump, in an exclamation-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.

Missing the summit’s opening and traditional G20 “family photo” of heads of state and government on Friday was German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was delayed by more than 12 hours due to technical problem on her plane.

Germany’s air force said Merkel’s plane had forced an emergency landing in Cologne after a malfunction knocked out the plane’s radio communications, including a backup system.

The latest embarrassing glitch for the German military forced Merkel to instead take a commercial flight from Madrid to Buenos Aires with a vastly reduced delegation and miss scheduled talks with several world leaders.

It was unclear whether she could reschedule planned talks with Trump and China’s Xi Jinping.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel steps down from Airbus ‘Konrad Adenauer’ on late November 29, 2018 on the tarmac of Cologne’s airport after an emergency landing. (Jörg Blank/dpa/AFP)

The German air force on Friday ruled out sabotage through hacking or other means, with a spokesman saying that “there is absolutely no indication of a criminal act”.

The cause of the troubles was “the failure of a single component”, an electronic distributor box, said Colonel Guido Henrich, commander of the government air fleet.

Merkel’s spokeswoman later stressed that there was never any “danger to life and limb” of those aboard.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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