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G20 summit to be held virtually: Saudi hosts

In March Saudi Arabia's King Salman chaired an emergency virtual summit of leaders to discuss the global response to the coronavirus
In March Saudi Arabia's King Salman chaired an emergency virtual summit of leaders to discuss the global response to the coronavirus FAYEZ NURELDINE AFP
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Riyadh (AFP)

Saudi Arabia said Monday it will hold the G20 summit virtually in November, instead of having leaders of the world's richest nations converge on Riyadh as planned before the coronavirus crisis.

The pandemic has forced all of the group's meetings to be held by videoconference since March.

In that month, Saudi Arabia's King Salman chaired an emergency virtual summit of leaders to discuss a global response to the crisis which has ravaged global economies.

"The 2020 G20 Leaders' Summit will be held virtually on November 21-22 and will be chaired by His Majesty King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud," the kingdom said in a statement.

"The upcoming G20 Leaders' Summit will focus on protecting lives and restoring growth, by addressing vulnerabilities uncovered during the pandemic and by laying down the foundations for a better future."

Saudi Arabia had been attempting to repair its frayed global image ahead of its hosting of the summit.

The conservative kingdom, under fire over human rights abuses, has accelerated investment in glitzy sports and entertainment events in a bid to soften its profile and boost jobs and investment.

However, human rights groups have urged G20 member states to exert pressure on the kingdom over its intensifying crackdown on dissent, which has seen women activists, journalists and political dissidents jailed.

New York city's mayor Bill de Blasio recently pulled out of a Saudi-hosted Urban 20 mayors' conference, amid calls for a boycott of the event that coincides with the anniversary of journalist Jamal Khashoggi's murder.

Khashoggi's 2018 killing, in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, battered the reputation of the kingdom and of 33-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who controls all major levers of power.

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