November 29, 2018 / 10:42 PM / 12 days ago

UK PM May open to meeting with Saudi Arabia's crown prince at G20: UK official

LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Theresa May will be ready to meet Saudi Arabia’s crown prince at the G20 summit starting on Friday to press calls for a transparent investigation into the murder of a Saudi journalist, a senior British official said.

FILE PHOTO: Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrives at Ministro Pistarini in Buenos Aires, Argentina, November 28, 2018. Argentine G20/Handout via REUTERS

May and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will both be in Argentina for the two-day meeting of the most industrialized nations but are not yet scheduled to meet one-on-one.

She is keen not to alienate allies around the world as Britain prepares to leaves the European Union next year in its biggest foreign and trade policy shift in more than 40 years.

But the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a critic of the Crown Prince, in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October has put a spotlight on London’s ties with Riyadh.

Britain has come under pressure to cease arms sales to Saudi Arabia because of the high death toll in air raids by the Western-backed Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.

The G20 summit in Buenos Aires will be the first major international event Prince Mohammed has attended since Khashoggi’s murder.

“We have been engaging with the Saudi government in recent weeks in the wake of the murder of Mr Khashoggi and we have been doing so in order to deliver a message that we want full accountability and full transparency,” the senior British official said, when asked if May would shake the crown prince’s hand.

“If that opportunity arises for the prime minister to repeat that message and also to deliver important messages, in relation to Yemen for instance, then I’m sure she will take the opportunity to do so ... Engagement is important if we are to address these issues.”

The killing of Khashoggi has strained Saudi Arabia’s ties with the West and battered Prince Mohammed’s image abroad. Saudi Arabia has said he had no prior knowledge of the murder.

Western nations are calling for an end to the Saudi-led military campaign in neighboring Yemen, which was launched by Prince Mohammed, as a humanitarian crisis there worsens.

Reporting by Kylie MacLellan; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg

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