Turkish, Saudi leaders speak by phone ahead of G20 summit

Elias Hubbard
November 22, 2020

The gathering brought backlash from Saudi and global human rights groups - as well as some US and European lawmakers - calling on world leaders to boycott or downgrade their representation over the kingdom's abuses, including jailings of women activists and the killing of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in 2018.

Meanwhile, although not "officially" said to be on the agenda, campaigners and families of jailed activists have staged a "counter-summit" in hopes of throwing a spotlight on the ultra-conservative kingdom's human rights record. The United States tops the list, followed by India, Brazil, France, Russia, Spain, the U.K., Argentina and Italy, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

Saudi Arabia had hoped for an in-person Riyadh summit, but in September announced it would be held virtually because of the coronavirus. Another sign: President Trump, Need a Fourth? The World Health Organization says more cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the past four weeks than in the first six months of the pandemic.

He called on more G-20 nations to join COVAX, an global initiative to distribute COVID-19 vaccines to countries worldwide.

The gathering also comes at a time of deep political tension within the United States, with a doubt over whether or not Trump will address the attendees. G-20 member-countries represent around 85% of the world's economic output and three-quarters of worldwide trade.

As part of the summit, seven leaders released video messages on "Pandemic Preparedness and Response".

As the trailblazing event got under way, there were some early quirks, with someone heard telling the king that "the whole world is watching" before the event started, Chinese President Xi Jinping apparently having to call for technical help, and French President Emmanuel Macron chatting to an aide off camera. German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for strengthening the World Health Organization and stressed the pandemic can only be overcome if an affordable vaccine is available to all nations.

Boris Johnson will urge G20 leaders to take more ambitious action to defeat the Covid pandemic and address climate change, saying: "Our fates are in each other's hands".

G20 nations have contributed more than $21 billion to combat the pandemic, which has infected 56 million people globally and left 1.3 million dead, and injected $11 trillion to "safeguard" the virus-battered world economy, organisers said.

"I'm confident that a Biden administration would continue to pursue policies that are in the interest of regional stability", Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud told Reuters in a virtual interview on the sidelines of the G20 leaders summit, which his country is hosting. At the time, they vowed "to do whatever it takes to overcome the pandemic".

The ministers had extended a debt suspension initiative for developing countries until June next year but UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has pushed for a commitment to extend it until the end of 2021.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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