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Saudi crown prince arrives in Argentina to attend G-20 summit

MBS touches down in Buenos Aires following trip to Tunisia where hundreds of protesters marched through capital in opposition to his visit
Attention is now turning to the G20 summit to see the reaction given to MBS by world leaders in his first international summit since the murder of Khashoggi (AFP)

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman touched down in Argentina on Wednesday ahead of a G-20 summit in the capital Buenos Aires.

His visit has been preceded by a request filed with the Argentinian prosecutor by Human Rights Watch to investigate the Saudi leader over the war in Yemen, accusing him of war crimes.

According to the Reuters news agency, the prosecutor was still reviewing the request and had not made a decision whether to investigate or not. 

Mohammed bin Salman travelled from Tunisia, marking the end of a tour of the region, with previous stops in the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt.

Hundreds of Tunisian protesters marched through the capital Tunis on Tuesday in opposition to the Saudi leader's visit, urging justice over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last month and the war in Yemen.

Mohammed bin Salman's tour did not include Morocco, after its king reportedly snubbed him.

The crown prince has faced a global backlash since Khashoggi's murder, which the CIA reportedly concluded he was responsible for.

In Tunis, demonstrators shouted "Go away assassin!" and held placards with slogans including "The people want bin Salman to be judged"; "No to the killer of Yemeni children" and "You're not welcome."

It was the second protest in as many days against the de facto Saudi ruler, who flew into Tunis from Egypt on Tuesday for talks with President Beji Caid Essebsi.

Attention is now turning to the G-20 meeting to see the reception Mohammed bin Salman, popularly known as MBS, receives from world leaders in his first international summit since the murder.

A Kremlin aide said on Wednesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin intends on talking to the crown prince about the Khashoggi case when they meet in Argentina.

A woman takes part in a protest, opposing the visit of Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Tunis (Reuters)

On Tuesday, a global network of Khashoggi's friends, made up mainly of his fellow journalists, called on the G-20 hosts to reject MBS's participation in the summit.

In a statement, the charity Jamal Khashoggi Friends around the World, said MBS's "participation in your summit is a major step-back and an incredibly disrespectful move to not only you, but also to all the free people that you represent.

We believe that the crown prince would be using his participation in the summit as a way to direct the attention away from the murder, all whilst under the G-20 summit's care

- Jamal Khashoggi Friends around the World

"... we do not reject Saudi Arabia's participation in the summit, but we certainly refuse the fact that it would be represented by the accused crown prince of the murder of our friend Khashoggi.

"We believe that the crown prince would be using his participation in the summit as a way to direct the attention away from the murder, all whilst under the G-20 summit's care."

Describing MBS as an "accused murderer," the charity said: "We also condemn bin Salman's tour in various Arab countries, prior to his arrival to the G-20 summit, and a journey through which he sought to veer the attention away that surrounded him after Khashoggi's murder.

"In conclusion, we are asking you to reject bin Salman's participation in the G-20 summit and to clearly demonstrate your stance of his crime by bringing him to justice."

Erdogan G-20 meeting

Turkey's foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, said in an interview published on Tuesday that MBS had asked for a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the G-20 summit, and that there was currently no reason not to meet him.

"Yes, he has asked Erdogan on the phone, whether they could meet in Buenos Aires. Erdogan's answer was 'Let's see'," Cavusoglu told Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.

"At the moment there is no reason not to meet with the crown prince," Cavusoglu said.

Saudi-Turkish relations have been strained by the killing last month of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul.

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After offering numerous contradictory explanations, Riyadh said Khashoggi had been killed and his body dismembered when negotiations to persuade him to return to Saudi Arabia failed.

Saudi Arabia has repeatedly said the prince had no knowledge of the killing, which Turkey says was carried out at the Saudi consulate by a squad of 15 Saudi agents which included a member of Prince Mohammed's security team.

Erdogan has said the killing was ordered by the highest level of Saudi leadership but ruled out that it had come from King Salman, putting the spotlight instead on the 33-year-old crown prince.

Asked if he knew for sure who in Riyadh gave the order to kill Khashoggi, Cavusoglu said that the team would not have acted on its own, but could not say anything else without proof.

Cavusoglu said Riyadh had offered to send identikit photos of local helpers who assisted in the cover-up. "Why identikit pictures? The Saudis know the names," he said.

Turkey says it has recordings related to the killing which it shared with Western allies.

Cavusoglu said he had listened to the recordings and that Khashoggi was killed within seven minutes.

A Saudi forensics doctor involved in the murder is "instructing the others they should listen to music while he dismembers the body," Cavusoglu said.

"You can tell he is enjoying it," he said. "He likes to cut up people. It is disgusting."

Middle East Eye reported the same details of the murder last month.

US President Donald Trump said last week Washington would remain a "steadfast partner" of Saudi Arabia despite saying that MBS may have known about the plan to murder Khashoggi.

Argentina inquiry

Meanwhile, Argentina has opened an inquiry on whether to press criminal charges against MBS for his role in leading the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen, HRW said on Monday.

The inquiry was opened after HRW and an Argentinian federal prosecutor lodged a complaint against the kingdom for violating international war crimes laws, according to a New York Times report.

"Mohammed bin Salman should know that he may face a criminal probe if he ventures to Argentina," HRW executive director Kenneth Roth said in a statement.

However, officials in the South American country have said MBS's arrest in Buenos Aires is “extremely unlikely,” the New York Times report said.

Argentina's laws promote the idea of universal jurisdiction, where severe human rights violations are subject to prosecution regardless of sovereign boundaries.

Tunisia's prosecutor has also launched preliminary research into a complaint against MBS over human rights abuses in Yemen, Tunisian news outlets have reported.

The National Syndicate of Tunisian Journalists (NSTJ) filed the complaint against the crown prince on Monday, on the eve of MBS's visit.

"Another victory for the Tunisian judiciary," the NSTJ said in a Facebook post on Tuesday, as it announced that the prosecutor would look into the complaint.