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Theresa May plans to speak to MBS about Khashoggi and Yemen at G20 summit

Theresa May says she will tell Saudi crown prince in Argentina that the UK wants a 'full and transparent investigation' into Jamal Khashoggi's murder
The CIA is reported to have collected multiple sources of intelligence indicating MBS issued the instructions for Khashoggi's killing (AFP)

British Prime Minister Theresa May has said she plans to raise the killing of Jamal Khashoggi and the situation in Yemen with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the G20 summit in Argentina.

Earlier on Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron also said he intended to meet with MBS, in what would be bin Salman's first meetings with Western leaders since the killing of Saudi journalist Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October.

The visit by the prince, also known as MBS, to the summit of industrialised nations has been fraught with controversy over the murder.

"I am intending to speak with the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. The message that I give will be very clear... on this issue of Jamal Khashoggi but also on the issue of Yemen,” May told reporters on a flight to Buenos Aires.

"We want to see a full and transparent investigation in relation to what happened and obviously those responsible being held to account," she said on Khashoggi's killing.

The killing of the Washington Post columnist, a critic of the crown prince, has strained Saudi Arabia's ties with the West and battered MBS's image abroad.

While Saudi officials have insisted the crown prince had no knowledge of the plan to kill Khashoggi, the CIA concluded this month that MBS ordered the murder.

Western nations are calling for an end to the Saudi-led military campaign in neighbouring Yemen, which was launched by MBS, as a humanitarian crisis there worsens.

"On the issue of Yemen, we continue to be deeply concerned about the humanitarian situation," May said.

"The long term solution for the Yemen is a political situation and we will be encouraging all parties actually to look for that and work for that."

Macron meeting

Speaking at a news conference on Thursday alongside his Argentine counterpart, Macron said: "I've always been very clear about the issue of Saudi Arabia and I will inevitably have the opportunity to discuss it with the Saudi crown prince on the sidelines of the G20." 

The G20 summit is set to begin on Friday, bringing together several world leaders, including US President Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin and others.

Last week, France announced it had imposed sanctions, including a travel ban, on 18 Saudi citizens it says were involved in the murder of Khashoggi, who had been living in exile in the United States.

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"The murder of Mr Khashoggi is a crime of extreme gravity, which moreover goes against freedom of the press and the most fundamental rights," the French foreign ministry said in a statement at the time.

Despite some European countries suspending future weapons sales to Riyadh in light of Khashoggi's murder, France hasn't said whether it plans to cancel its own arms deals with the Gulf kingdom.

Saudi Arabia was the second-largest purchaser of French arms between 2008 and 2017, with deals totalling more than $12.5bn.

Last month, a source in Macron's office said France would not make any decisions on its relationship with Saudi Arabia until the facts surrounding Khashoggi’s death are clear.

Pressure to shun MBS at G20

World leaders have been under pressure to shun the Saudi crown prince during the G20 summit, with some journalists, human rights groups and others calling for bin Salman, known as MBS, to be disallowed from attending the event.

Earlier this week, MBS was also met with widespread protests during a visit to Tunisia.

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

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MBS's stop in the North African country came during a tour of "brotherly Arab states," the first trip the Saudi crown prince has taken outside of Saudi Arabia since Khashoggi was murdered.

Karen Attiah, Khashoggi's editor at the Washington Post, criticised Macron on Thursday for his tepid response since Khashoggi's murder.

"Macron, who everyone claimed was a defender of progressive liberal values in Europe, said that calls to halt weapons sales to Saudi Arabia after Khashoggi's murder were 'pure demagoguery'... Saudi Arabia is the 2nd biggest purchaser of French weapons," she wrote on Twitter.

On Thursday, Macron said that European G20 participants will coordinate on the Khashoggi case on Friday morning. "Personally, I'm in favour of transparency and associating the international community in this affair, because the whole world is concerned," he said.

It was unclear whether the French president was calling for an international investigation beyond existing Turkish and Saudi probes.

Argentine President Mauricio Macri also said that accusations against the crown prince relating to war crimes and the murder of Khashoggi may be discussed during the G20 summit.

"Saudi Arabia is a permanent member of the G20 and, as such, he is attending. This issue, which has impacted the world, is on the table and it may come out in bilateral meetings or not, or in the G20 agenda," Macri told reporters on Thursday.

Earlier this week, Human Rights Watch asked Argentina to use a war crimes clause in its constitution to investigate any involvement by MBS in possible crimes against humanity in Yemen and Khashoggi’s murder.

On Wednesday, an Argentine judge reviewing the complaint called on the Argentine Foreign Ministry to seek information from Yemen, Turkey and the International Criminal Court in relation to the accusations against the Saudi crown prince.