Saudi Arabia assumes the presidency of the G20 of Japan

RIAD: Saudi Arabia He became the first Arab nation on Sunday to take over, as he seeks to recover on the world stage following the global uproar over his human rights record.

The oil-rich kingdom has promoted a liberalization campaign, which includes granting greater rights to women, but faced strong criticism for repression of dissent and the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year.

The presidency, which Saudi Arabia takes over from Japan, will see it host world leaders for a global summit in its capital next November 21-22.

"The kingdom of Saudi Arabia assumes the G20 Presidency today, leading up to the summit in Riyadh" in 2020, the official Saudi Press Agency said.

The Saudi presidency of the G20 is committed to continuing Osaka's work and promoting multilateral consensus. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto ruler of the kingdom, hailed it as a unique opportunity to shape the international consensus, SPA added.

Saudi Arabia will host more than 100 events and conferences in the run-up to the summit, including ministerial meetings, the agency said.

"When Saudi Arabia assumes the G20 presidency, it will become the first (Arab) nation to lead this intergovernmental body," Dennis Snower, president of the think-tank Global Solutions Initiative, said in a statement.

This presidency ... will be challenged by a central paradox: global risks such as climate change, demographic developments, such as low birth rates, rising life expectancy and aging societies ... but the growing Populism and nationalism impede progress at the multilateral level.

Human rights groups have urged the G20 member states to put pressure on the kingdom for their intensification of repression against dissent, which has seen several activists, journalists and political dissidents imprisoned.

Campaigners reported on Monday that Saudi Arabia had detained at least nine academics, writers and activists, the latest in a series of crackdowns on intellectuals over the past two years.

Activists say some were subsequently released, but the detention of liberals, amid the much publicized liberalization campaign, underlines what observers call a growing repression and authoritarianism.

" Saudi Arabia steps up to the G20 presidency amid a new wave of arbitrary arrests of peaceful critics, with many human rights defenders still languishing behind bars, and just over a year since the horrifying killing of Jamal Khashoggi," Heba Morayef, Amnesty International's director for the Middle East and North Africa, said in a statement.

World leaders in the G20 must pressure Prince Mohammed to ensure the enjoyment of all human rights, including freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.