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Saudi Arabia & The G-20

Al-Sharq al-Awsat, London, December 1

Although the G-20 Summit held in Buenos Aires was framed as an “economic” conference, it is a political one par excellence. One of the themes of this year’s conference was none other than the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which found itself under the spotlight as a result of the war in Yemen and the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. There have been widespread attempts to prevent the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman from attending the conference. Riyadh was repeatedly pressured to send a lower ranking official to Argentina. But Bin Salman did not waiver and insisted on participating. He visited no less than four countries en route to Argentina, making his trip a public campaign to defend his country. Most political pundits claimed that he would avoid confrontation in Buenos Aires, but he did the exact opposite. He showed up determined to engage with world leaders. Interestingly, his participation comes at interesting time for Riyadh. Saudi Arabia is one of the largest economies participating in the summit this year, after paradoxically taking over Turkey’s spot in the global ranking. More ironically, the kingdom’s request to host the next G-20 summit in Riyadh was approved, making its opponents even more furious than they had been before. The summit will be a stage to discuss the most burning issues on the international agenda, including the situation in Crimea, Brexit, and the trade war between the United States and China. In the wake of these burning topics, it is highly unlikely that Khashoggi’s death will assume the center of attention. Yemen will be yet another focus of the meetings, with the hope of finally bringing an end to the war there. Since none of the countries in the conference are interested in deploying troops to Yemen, the only viable alternative is to support Riyadh and the coalition forces in their campaign against the Houthis. This will mark yet another victory for Bin Salman, who will gain the international backing he needs for his military campaign. Indeed, the crown prince may have been asked to withdraw his participation in the summit, but so far he is emerging as one of its biggest stars. –Abd al-Rahman al-Rashed