BUENOS AIRES – If Saudi Arabia’s crown prince was worried about getting the cold shoulder from world leaders at the G-20 summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin gave him a warm welcome.
In a moment that quickly went viral, Putin approached Mohammed bin Salman with a huge grin and held his hand high in the air. The crown prince responded by giving Putin a high-five that morphed into a handshake.
The gregarious greeting between the Russian president and the Saudi crown prince was like a car alarm blaring in a library, in a setting where handshakes and subtle body language are closely parsed for meaning. It lasted only seconds but Putin and the crown prince – both known for ruthlessly repressing their critics – seemed almost gleeful at their encounter as they took seats next to each other at the meeting.
The Saudi ruler’s presence at the summit is seen as a test of his future status on the world stage in the wake of the Jamal Khashoggi murder. The Washington Post columnist, a critic of the Saudi regime, was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 by a team of Saudi operatives. The crown prince, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, has denied any involvement in the murder, but U.S. intelligence officials believe he directed the operation.
President Donald Trump could be seen briefly in the background the exchange, which played repeatedly on cable news, but it was unclear if he witnessed the greeting. He took his seat at another part of the large, circular table where world leaders are gathered.
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