EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman’s experience at the G20 summit suggests that he will be able to put the Khashoggi scandal behind him and maintain his position. While Western leaders largely kept their distance, other world leaders, including Vladimir Putin, greeted the prince with great warmth. Muhammad is not completely out of the woods, but he was able to leave the G20 confident that he is not a global pariah.
There was a high-five from Vladimir Putin. And for Xi Jinping and Narendra Modi it was business as usual.
At home, Saudi Arabia’s media trumpeted Muhammad bin Salman’s meetings with world leaders, tweeting pictures of his encounters, which also included the presidents of South Korea, Mexico, and South Africa.
However, Western leaders appeared to avoid the crown prince during the family photo at the Group of 20 summit in Buenos Aires – after almost two months of global outrage at the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The only Arab leader there, the prince stood rather isolated at the end of the line, at times looking uncertain and nervous.
US President Donald Trump, Prince Muhammad’s most vocal backer, did not have time for a one-on-one meeting.