Meeting of G-20 world leaders to be held virtually this year

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This year’s Group of 20 summit will be held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic, host nation Saudi Arabia said Monday, according to The Associated Press.

The meeting had been scheduled to be held in Riyadh and was a potential PR opportunity for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman after the 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Numerous intelligence agencies have said the crown prince ordered the killing, which he has denied.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman will chair the Nov. 21-22 virtual summit, which will emphasize “protecting lives and restoring growth by addressing vulnerabilities uncovered during the pandemic and by laying down the foundations for a better future,” according to a statement from the kingdom.

The kingdom noted the billions the nations have spent on therapeutics and vaccine development since the beginning of the pandemic.

The Salman previously hosted a virtual meeting of the country’s leaders in March as the virus was beginning to spread worldwide.

When the meeting was set to occur in-person, human rights watchdogs had called on leaders to boycott, citing Khashoggi’s killing as well as human rights violations domestically and in Yemen, which is gripped in a years-long civil war. Western leaders such as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and German Chancellor Angela Merkel had not committed to an in-person meeting, according to The Associated Press.

In addition to Merkel, Salman and Trudeau, leaders in the group include President Trump, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Agnes Callamard, the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, had previously said that another country should host an in-person summit. If none were available, she said, it should hinge on the Saudis agreeing to release imprisoned journalists and women’s rights activists.

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