BUENOS AIRES – US President Donald Trump extended a brief greeting to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman this Friday in Buenos Aires, a week after Washington considered the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Riyadh agents to be a case closed.
Trump’s short conversation with Bin Salman came while the plenary session of the G20 Summit, which has brought together in Buenos Aires the leaders of the world’s 20 major economies, was closed to the press.
The two men “exchanged pleasantries,” a senior White House official told reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Asked about the encounter, Trump said they hadn’t talked about anything important.
“We had no discussion. We might, but we had none,” Trump said during a trilateral meeting with the prime ministers of Japan, Shinzo Abe, and of India, Narenda Modi.
The US president said last week that he would have a bilateral meeting with Bin Salman if both attended the G20 Summit, but the White House decided not to program that meeting due to ostensible scheduling conflicts.
That meeting would undoubtedly have raised hackles in the US Congress, where the controversy continues about the Oct. 2 murder of Khashoggi inside the Saudi Consulate in Turkey by a group of Saudi agents, including some known to be close to the crown prince.
Trump issued a long statement last week saying that Bin Salman’s possible implication in the journalist’s death was of little importance and that he had no plans to take punitive action against Riyadh because of the slaying.
The CIA has “nothing definitive” on the crown prince’s involvement in the killing, Trump said, adding that “It could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t! That being said, we may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi.”
The president went on to say that the United States “intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia to ensure the interests of our country, Israel and all other partners in the region.”