G20: new blow for Ryad after European resolution

Saudi Arabia suffered a further blow with the European Parliament resolution calling for a lowering of the level of representation at the G20 summit in Ryadh on 21 and 22 November due to โ€œhuman rights violationsโ€ in the kingdom.

Saudi authorities, which intended to use this rostrum to spotlight Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman‘s attempts to modernize the ultra-conservative country, had already been forced to hold the summit in a virtual way because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The European Parliament resolution was adopted on Thursday, a few days after the second anniversary of the assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi on 2 October 2018 in his country’s consulate in Istanbul, which had severely tainted the reputation of the rich Gulf Kingdom.

The Saudi Crown Prince had been accused by Turkish and American officials of being the sponsor of the assassination of this regime critic. Ryad claimed that the murder was committed by Saudi agents who acted alone.

In its press release, the European Parliament called on the EU and its Member States to lower their level of representation at the top of the leaders of major rich and emerging countries in order to โ€œavoid legitimizing impunity for human rights violations and constant illegal and arbitrary detentions in Saudi Arabiaโ€.

โ€œStrong Messageโ€

For a source in the European Parliament, the resolution sends a ‘strong political message’.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel are expected to attend the summit. If they take into account the resolution, they will not participate in it.

To increase pressure, Members of the European Parliament organised an internal signature campaign calling for โ€œlowering the level of EU participationโ€, according to a document read by AFP.

Saudi Arabia has a โ€œheavy passive voice muzzle… and it would be inappropriate for it to organize the G20 summit,โ€ they wrote in a document addressed to the two European leaders.

According to them, โ€œlegitimacy should not be given to a government that commits gross human rights violations by allowing it to host one of the most important summits in the world.โ€

The authorities of the Kingdom, the first Arab country to host the G20, did not react immediately to European initiatives.

As a member of the G20, the EU has a very important economic role at the summit with three member states: Germany, France and Italy.

Underrepresentation at the summit would embarrass the kingdom as it organizes โ€œthe most important event for Saudi diplomacy,โ€ says Yasmine Farouk of the Carnegie Foundation for International Peace.

Already, mayors of major cities like New York and Paris boycotted a G20-related virtual conference recently organized by Ryad for human rights reasons.

โ€œTerrible fateโ€

The health crisis has led to the virtual holding of the summit, and the Crown Prince will not be able to present his country‘s reform plans locally.

โ€œThe symbolic impact is undermined when Saudis cannot play the role of magnanimous hosts,โ€ says Kristin Diwan of the Institute of Arab States of the Gulf in Washington, D.C.

And โ€œa boycott or a lowering (the level of representation) bringing the human rights issue back to the forefront would be a further blow,โ€ she said.

Concerns raised by the European Parliament in this regard include the โ€œterrible fateโ€ of Ethiopian migrants detained in Saudi prisons and the incarceration of a women’s activist, Lujain al-Hathloul, or blogger Raif Badawi.

It also denounced the โ€œarbitraryโ€ detention of several members of the royal family, including Prince Salman bin Abdelaziz and Princess Basma bint Saud.

In a recent letter to the Saudi Crown Prince, Belgian MEP Marc Tarabella called for the release of Salmane bin Abdelaziz, who has been imprisoned with his old father since 2018.

According to the source to the European Parliament, Mr Tarabella has already sent several similar requests to Ryad, which have not been answered.

By CCeiT (AFP)