Saudi Arabia held discussions with Argentina on nuclear energy development Wednesday, a sign the kingdom is moving closer to other countries on energy cooperation as ties with the U.S. grow strained over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The president of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy, Dr. Khalid bin Saleh Al-Sultan, met in Saudi Arabia with Argentina’s ambassador, Marcelo Gilardoni, to review “joint cooperation between the two countries in the field of peaceful uses of atomic energy,” the government-run Saudi Press Agency reported on Wednesday. The meeting took place just days after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was in Buenos Aires for the G-20 meeting.
“They also discussed the National Atomic Energy Project in Saudi Arabia,” the Saudi agency reported. Argentina, which generates one-tenth of its energy from nuclear power, has a cooperation agreement with the oil-rich country and established a joint venture with Saudi Arabia in 2015 to leverage the South American country’s expertise.
The U.S. administration has been pressing hard for Saudi Arabia to choose U.S. firms to build the first nuclear power plant in the country, but experts in recent months have said those talks are likely on hold amid the controversy surrounding the murder of Khashoggi.
CIA Director Gina Haspel gave a closed briefing to senators on the killing on Tuesday, where it was conveyed to U.S. lawmakers that the crown prince was behind Khashoggi’s October murder in Turkey.
Argentina’s legal authorities also requested more information on a complaint filed ahead of the G-20 meeting by Human Rights Watch, asking that the country look into possible war crimes by the crown prince in the war in Yemen.
Meanwhile, Argentina moved closer to Russia on nuclear energy development during the meeting.
Argentina entered into a joint agreement with Russia to work on nuclear power projects. The signing of the agreement was witnessed by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Argentine President Mauricio Macri, according to news reports.
While on the sidelines of the meeting, a bold handshake between Crown Prince Mohammed and Putin at the meeting went viral on social media, while public displays between the crown prince and President Trump were not readily apparent.