By Arab News
By Frank Kane
The G20 summit of the most powerful countries in the world opened in the Argentine capital Buenos Aires with a call for dialogue and consensus from Mauricio Macri, the president of the country hosting the event.
“The essence of the G20 is to foster dialogue while respecting differences, and we hope to lay the foundations for consensus for the next 10 years,” Macri said.
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman was among the G20 leaders and was greeted especially warmly by President Vladimir Putin of Russia. Television pictures showed the two statesmen sharing a joke and a warm handshake.
But Macri underlined the challenges facing the gathering, which takes place at a time of increasing tension in political and economic relations between the leading powers.
“Many people look at us and have doubts regarding these summits and what they’re good for. It is our duty to show to the world that today global challenges require global responses,” he said.
He outlined the issues facing the assembled leaders as climate change, sustainable development, food security and international trade, which will be the subject of group and bilateral discussions.
Saudi Arabia shares many of the priorities of the G20 in terms of youth employment, female empowerment and technological transformation.
The 20 government leaders — as well as representatives of other invited nations and international institutions — were welcomed on stage at the Costa Salguero Center, the venue for the 13th G20 summit, on the shores of the Rio De La Plata.
The leaders — 35 men and two women — posed for the “family photograph” traditionally taken at G20 gatherings, before heading to the plenary chamber room for initial round-table discussions, to be followed by a series of one-to-one conversations between leaders in the center’s maze of meeting rooms.
The crown prince chatted with US President Donald Trump during the formalities, and had meetings with Narendra Modi, prime minister of India, where a number of commercial initiatives between the two countries were discussed. President Emmanuel Macron of France had a conversation with the crown prince, French officials said in media reports.
Theresa May, the British prime minister, told journalists that she was planning to meet with the crown prince while in Buenos Aires to discuss the military situation in Yemen as well as other issues.
Saudi Arabia is the only country from the Middle East represented at the G20 gathering, which includes 19 of the largest economies in the world and the EU. The G20 nations account for 85 percent of the world’s economic output and two thirds of its population.
Tough talking is expected at the summit, especially between Trump and Xi Jinping of China, over global trade. There could also be confrontation between the American and Putin over the escalating confrontation in Ukraine, which caused Trump to cancel a planned meeting with Putin.
On climate change, the American president holds different views from many of the other G20 leaders.
The summit was held in tight security conditions, following threats of violent disruption from some groups in Buenos Aires. Armed soldiers in military vehicles manned checkpoints leading to the summit venue and the media center some 5 kilometers away. But there were no serious disturbances reported on the opening day of the summit.