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Over Breakfast, Trump And Saudi Prince Ignore The One Question Everyone's Asking

The U.S. President and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had already raised eyebrows after being friendly and side-by-side at Friday's G20 'family photo'

At breakfast the next day, the duo ignored repeated questions about Jamal Khashoggi.

Human rights and journalism advocacy groups said Trump’s breakfast with bin Salman has sent a message to autocrats around the world that they could repress and even kill journalists and not be accountable by the U.S.

The G20 breakfast meeting is Trump and bin Salman's first formal meeting since the bloody death of Washington Post reporter Khashoggi on October 2, 2018 at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

'When a reporter asks Trump if he will address the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi with the Saudi crown prince -- who the CIA concluded ordered his killing -- Trump says, "Uh...thank you very much," CNN's White House reporter Kaitlin Collins said in a tweet.

READ MORE: Trump Releases Extraordinary Statement On Khashoggi Murder, Will Stand By Saudi Arabia

Similar sentiments were expressed by others in the meeting room or at the summit.

"Multiple reporters in our WH press pool asked Trump and MBS about the death of columnist Jamaal Khashoggi, an international outrage.

Neither answered," Bloomberg political reporter Jennifer Jacobs said in a tweet.

Chief White House Correspondent for The New York Times, Peter Baker, said multiple lines of questions about Khashoggi were ignored.

Instead, Trump applauded the Saudi crown prince's work on women's rights.

"A friend of mine, a man who has really done things in the last five years, in terms of opening up Saudi Arabia and I think especially what you've done for women," Trump told bin Salman in front of reporters.

"It's like a revolution in a very positive way... you've done a spectacular job".

On Friday, the 'family photo' (which is a traditional fixture of the G20 summit) showed Trump and bin Salman in the front row, shaking hands and conversing.

Image: Getty Images

READ MORE: Trump Releases Extraordinary Statement On Khashoggi Murder, Will Stand By Saudi Arabia

Yet less than a week ago, the United Nations reported bin Salman was the likely mastermind behind one of the most brutal and sensational murders in recent political history. 

At the summit in Osaka, the crown prince -- seemingly undeterred by the UN's findings --  has been working the world stage and interacting with global leaders as though the grisly murder never occurred.

At November 2018's G20 summit, bin Salman stood at the very edge of the traditional photo of world leaders.

At the time, there was international outrage over the recent killing of  Khashoggi and Saudi Arabia’s ongoing military campaign in Yemen.

READ MORE: CIA Says Saudi Crown Prince Ordered Khashoggi's Murder: Reports

The 33-year-old crown prince had initially been celebrated on the world stage for spearheading an ambitious domestic reform strategy that sought to not only remake Saudi Arabia’s oil-dependent economy, but also loosen conservative religious social conventions.

READ MORE: Creepy Handshakes And The Ghost Of Khashoggi: Welcome To The G20 Summit In Argentina

Last year, the CIA concluded the crown prince ordered the murder of Khashoggi and a United Nations human rights investigator last week reported that the destruction of evidence after the crime “could not have taken place without the crown prince’s awareness”, suggesting his pivotal role.

Jamal Khashoggi

But Trump told NBC News last week that he did not want to jeopardise profitable arms sales to Saudi Arabia by speaking out on Khashoggi’s death.

READ MORE: Creepy Handshakes And The Ghost Of Khashoggi: Welcome To The G20 Summit In Argentina

The Saudi government initially lied about the murder, insisting that Khashoggi had left the consulate alive. Only after Turkey produced evidence to the contrary did they admit to his death and arrested suspects.

Contact the author alattouf@networkten.com.au