Kremlin defends Putin's 'high five' with Saudi crown prince

Kremlin defends Putin's 'high five' with Saudi crown prince
The enthusiastic gesture at the G20 summit was criticised globally as Prince Mohammed comes under scrutiny in the Khashoggi affair.
3 min read
03 December, 2018
MbS and Putin were seen "high-fiving" at the G20 summit [Getty]
Kremlin defended a "high-five" between President Vladimir Putin and the Saudi crown prince at the G20 summit in Argentina on Friday that was criticised globally amid reservations toward Mohammed bin Salman for his suspected involvement in the murder of a dissident journalist.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that "good personal relations are the basis for effective bilateral cooperation" when asked about the moment between the two world leaders.

The spokesman confirmed Russia maintains its interest in continuing relations with the OPEC and non-OPEC group of oil producers, noting Putin and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman discussed the issue at their meeting in Argentina. 

In an video that quickly went viral online, the Russian leader and the prince both beamed and clasped each other's hands like long-lost friends, an enthusiastic gesture labelled a "bro-five" on Twitter.

The embrace came amid reports that Russia and Saudi Arabia have reached a pact to cut oil production when the OPEC cartel meets on 6 December in Vienna, to help shore up collapsing crude prices.

The ambitious 33-year-old prince, known more commonly as MbS, was also seen chatting with US President Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka, and shaking hands with French President Emmanuel Macron, at the start of the two-day meeting of the world's top economies in Buenos Aires.

But later, MbS appeared to be sidelined during the official "family photo" of world leaders and other dignitaries, standing at the far edge of the group portrait and ignored, Reuters reported.

Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler, quickly exited the stage without shaking hands or talking with other leaders.

The meeting came amid an investigation into the murder of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi who was killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October.

Khashoggi's killing has put mounting pressure on Riyadh and MbS, who Turkish officials - and reportedly the CIA - have concluded ordered the critic's death.

Saudi authorities have vehemently denied the crown prince had knowledge of the operation, although Riyadh has admitted he was killed at the Istanbul consulate. 

Despite the global outrage, Western powers have pledged to maintain close relations with Saudi Arabia, a top oil producer and buyer of US weapons.

Trump, in an exclamation point-heavy statement before the summit, said it did not matter whether MbS knew about Khashoggi's death and that Saudi Arabia was important for business and for its hostility to Iran.

MbS has in recent days travelled to the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt and Tunisia, before heading to Buenos Aires last week for the G20 summit. On Sunday he landed in Algeria.

His visit to Tunis was greeted by demonstrations against Khashoggi's murder and the war in Yemen.

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