French President Emmanuel Macron told Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Friday that Europe would insist on international experts being part of the investigation into the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
In a five-minute exchange on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Argentina, Macron conveyed "very firm" messages to the prince over the killing and the need to find a political solution for the situation in Yemen, an Elysee official also said.
The Saudi Gazette newspaper posted a video of the meeting online showing the two speaking in hushed tones with their heads close together, Macron looking the crown prince in the eye and Prince Mohammed nodding his head and at times smiling.
In the audio, it is possible to make out the prince saying "Don't worry," to which Macron responds "I am worried." Later in the one-minute clip Macron says: "You never listen to me" and the crown prince replies: "I will listen, of course." At the end Macron can be heard saying: "I am a man of my word."
The Elysee said it was the first time that Macron and the crown prince, known as MBS, had spoken since Khashoggi's murder at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.
Khashoggi, an opinion writer for the Washington Post who was at one time a Saudi royal insider before becoming a critic of the leadership, was killed by lethal injection and dismembered by a group of Saudi men sent from the kingdom.
Suspicions of Prince Mohammed's possible involvement in the killing were palpable as the heir to the Saudi thrown was sidelined during the official "family photo" of world leaders and was largely ignored.
Russian President Vladimir Putin's treatment of Prince Mohammed, however, was markedly different as the two exchanged a high-five and laughed heartily together while taking seats next to each other at a plenary session. Meanwhile, a White House official said that U.S. President Donald Trump "exchanged pleasantries" with the prince, "as he did with nearly every leader in attendance."
Both Putin and Trump have refrained from criticizing Saudi Arabia or the crown prince over the killing. Putin said in October he lacked information about the matter and said Russia would not tear up its relations with Saudi Arabia because of it. Putin and Prince Mohammed are due to hold bilateral talks on Saturday, according to Kremlin documents seen by Reuters.
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