President Trump lavished praised on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and called him a "friend of mine" during a meeting between the two leaders Saturday at the Group of 20 summit in Osaka, Japan.
Trump declined to answer questions from reporters over whether he would confront the prince over the killing of writer Jamal Khashoggi, which has sparked backlash from human rights and free-press advocates, as well as U.S. lawmakers.
In a statement, the White House said the two leaders discussed a variety of issues, including oil markets, Saudi Arabia's role in ensuring stability in the Middle East and Iran, the Hill reported. Some lawmakers have called on Trump to disavow Saudi leadership since Khashoggi's death last year.
Many have accused the crown prince of directing the killing of the U.S.-based Saudi journalist over his criticisms of the kingdom. Khashoggi was killed and dismembered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, in October. He had gone to the building to building to obtain certification of his divorce so he could marry his girlfriend, Hatice Cengiz, who waited outside for him.
Saudi Arabia has denied involvement in the killing and many have accused the Middle Eastern kingdom of undermining Turkish investigative efforts.
A United Nations expert on extrajudicial killings called for an international investigation into the death Wednesday. Trump has cited strong economic ties between the two nations whenever asked to rebuke Saudi leadership.
In a rebuke of Trump, the Senate voted last week to block an $8 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia. Trump has said he will use his veto power to move the measure forward. In addition to praising the crown prince Friday, Trump also touted the country's recent moves in modernization, such as overturning a ban on women driving and reopening movie theaters after more than three decades.
The prince is "a man who has really done things in the last five years in terms of opening Saudi Arabia," he said as the meeting began, adding "It's like a revolution in a very positive way."