1117 GMT December 04, 2020
The European Parliament passed a wide-ranging resolution on Thursday calling for the EU and its member states to downgrade their representation at the virtual summit in order to "avoid legitimizing impunity for human rights violations and ongoing illegal and arbitrary detentions in Saudi Arabia", AFP wrote.
The resolution, which coincides with the two-year anniversary of the brutal murder in Istanbul of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents, sends what a source at the Parliament called a "strong political message" to the kingdom.
The resolution implies European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel will not attend the summit if they heed the call of lawmakers, the source said.
Further piling pressure on them, members of the European Parliament are carrying out an internal signature campaign calling for "downgrading the level of the EU participation to a senior official level", according to a document seen by AFP.
"The Saudi government has a long record of silencing the very voices that are necessary for a meaningful global conversation regarding the challenges we collectively face, which challenges the appropriateness of their hosting the 2020 G20 summit," said the document addressed to Michel and von der Leyen.
"We should not legitimize a government committing egregious human rights violations as host of one of the most important summit meetings in the world."
Saudi authorities did not immediately respond to AFP's request for comment.
As a full member of the G20, the EU is a major economic power at the table along with three of its member states – Germany, France and Italy.
A decision to downgrade their representation would be an embarrassment for Riyadh "at the most important event for Saudi international diplomacy", said Yasmine Farouk from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
The development follows a move by the mayors of major world cities, including New York, to boycott a G20-related virtual conference hosted by Riyadh last month also over human rights concerns.
Saudi Arabia, the first Arab nation to host the G20, had planned for a grand summit that would showcase the ambitious modernization drive of de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whose international reputation was tarnished by Khashoggi's murder.
The summit is set for November 21 and 22. The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic has made a physical summit impossible.
The human rights issues listed in Thursday's Parliament resolution included the "horrific plight" of Ethiopian migrants detained in Saudi prisons and the ongoing incarceration of dissident blogger Raif Badawi and women's rights campaigners including Loujain al-Hathloul.
It also highlighted the "arbitrary" detention of multiple Saudi royal family members, including Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz and Princess Basmah bint Saud.