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Archive for Saudi Arabia

Newsline: Saudi Ambassador to UK Calls Donald Trump A “Tweet Monster”

Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the U.K. Prince Khalid Bin Bandar has described United States President Donald Trump as a “tweet monster” over his belligerent response to the attacks on Saudi oil facilities at Abqaiq last month. Speaking at defence think-tank the Royal United Services Institute in London on October 14, Prince Khalid was asked about Trump’s initial response that the U.S. was “locked and loaded” and ready to respond to the attacks. (https://www.forbes.com/sites/dominicdudley/2019/10/15/saudi-trump-tweet-monster/#3e1de14f7eed) “He is a tweet monster if you like. He loves engaging with people on social media,” said the ambassador, who was appointed to the role earlier this year. “He does so very quickly and sometimes it’s just his initial reaction.”

Newsline: Khashoggi remembered outside Saudi consulate where he died

Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos joined activists and friends of Jamal Khashoggi near Saudi Arabia’s Consulate in Istanbul on Wednesday on the first-year anniversary of his horrific death at the hands of Saudi agents. The memorial began just after 1:14 p.m. (1014 GMT) — the time that Khashoggi walked into the consulate a year ago, to collect documents required for him to marry his Turkish fiancee, who was waiting for him outside. He never emerged. (https://wtop.com/europe/2019/10/khashoggi-remembered-outside-saudi-consulate-where-he-died/) During the ceremony, activists called for a comprehensive United Nations investigation into the murder and action to ensure that the perpetrators of the killing don’t go unpunished.

Newsline: New Saudi ambassadors take up posts in Washington and London

Saudi Arabia’s new ambassadors to the United States and the United Kingdom have taken up their posts after several months’ vacancy amid tensions with Western allies over the Yemen war and the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan, the Gulf kingdom’s first female ambassador, presented her credentials in Washington while her brother, Prince Khalid bin Bandar bin Sultan, did so in London, state news agency SPA reported. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-saudi-diplomacy-usa-britain/new-saudi-ambassadors-take-up-posts-in-washington-and-london-idUSKCN1TZ0UF) They arrive at a fraught period in both bilateral relationships, with heightened criticism of Riyadh’s human rights record and calls to freeze arms sales amid a four-year-old war in Yemen where the Saudi-led coalition is fighting the Iran-aligned Houthis. Princess Reema was named in February to replace Prince Khalid bin Salman, who was heavily criticized for denying that Khashoggi had been killed last October inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul before the authorities ultimately acknowledged the murder of the Washington Post columnist.

Newsline: Saudi envoy blasts UN expert’s report on Khashoggi killing

A top Saudi diplomat lashed out at an independent U.N. expert’s searing report alleging that Saudi Arabia was responsible for the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, saying it was based on “prejudice and pre-fabricated ideas.” (https://www.yahoo.com/news/saudi-envoy-blasts-un-experts-150646625.html) In what amounted to a face-off at the U.N’s top human rights body, Ambassador Abdulaziz Alwasil insisted that special rapporteur Agnes Callamard had failed to follow proper procedures and used flawed sourcing in her 101-page report made public last week. “Accusations have been launched, and fingers have been pointed — (she is) supporting herself on non-credible articles or sources,” he told the Human Rights Council, in Arabic through a U.N. interpreter. Callamard, sitting at the council podium to present her report, retorted that her methodology had respected precedent and insisted her report wasn’t based on media reports. She also said she hadn’t received any responses in writing from Saudi authorities to her report. The report by Callamard, an independent expert on extrajudicial and arbitrary killings, alleged that Saudi Arabia bears responsibility for The Washington Post columnist’s grisly apparent dismemberment by Saudi agents at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul in October. It said Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s possible role in the killing should be examined, and Callamard used June 25 presentation to push for further investigation. Among diplomats speaking out, European Union ambassador Walter Stevens called on Saudi Arabia “to disclose all information available,” and “fully cooperate” with investigations into the killing, and Ralf Schroeder of Germany said “nothing can justify this killing, and we condemn it in the strongest possible terms.” Russia’s representative, Yaroslav Eremin, questioned the focus on journalists, dissenters and others, wondering aloud if the lives of regular citizens were “less valuable.” Yusuf Abdulkarim Bucheeri of Bahrain rallied to the defense of its big Arab neighbor, insisting Saudi Arabia had shown “full transparency from the outset.”

Newsline: Consulate recordings reveal Saudi plan for Khashoggi murder

The UN report into the murder of Jamal Khashoggi reveals disturbing new details about what happened in the hours before he died, and the conversations that were taking place between Saudi officials who were involved in his killing. Relying on the transcripts of recordings provided by the Turkish authorities, the report describes how Jamal Khashoggi went to the Saudi consulate in Turkey by appointment on 2 October last year, to obtain papers he needed to pave the way for his marriage to his fiancée, Hatice Cengiz. The report relies on recordings of conversations within the consulate in the days prior to his death, which show how a team of Saudi officials flew from Riyadh to Istanbul to kill him. Five came on a commercial flight, nine others on a private jet. One Saudi official asked whether it would “be possible to put the trunk in a bag”. Another replied: “No. Too heavy. It is not a problem. The body is heavy. First time I cut on the ground. If we take plastic bags and cut it into pieces, it will be finished. We will wrap each of them.” (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jun/19/consulate-recordings-reveal-saudi-plan-for-jamal-khashoggi) In the recordings, sounds of a struggle can be heard, the UN report says, and then voices saying: “Did he sleep? … Keep pushing … Push here. Don’t remove your hand. Push it.” The report adds: “The sound of plastic sheets (wrapping) could also be heard. Turkish intelligence concluded that these came after Mr Khashoggi’s death while the Saudi officials were dismembering his body.”

Newsline: Inside the 2014 hack of a Saudi embassy

The story began with a bizarre attempt to defraud a Saudi schoolmaster in the UK of a €200 visa fee and ended with a $50 million ransom demand and a manhunt by the Dutch diplomatic police as the clock ticked down to September 23, Saudi National Day. An attacker claiming to be ISIS took control of the official email account of the Saudi Embassy in the Netherlands in August, 2014 and sent emails to more than a dozen embassies at The Hague demanding $50 million for ISIS, or they would blow up a major diplomatic reception, documents seen by CSO reveal. The attack compromised the Saudi embassy’s non-classified computer network. They deployed a garden-variety rootkit on the workstation of the ambassador’s secretary and took over the embassy’s official email account. (https://www.csoonline.com/article/3386381/inside-the-2014-hack-of-a-saudi-embassy.html) No one was ever formally held accountable, despite an internal investigation. Given the low sophistication of the attack, experts tell CSO it’s impossible to say whether the attacker really was part of an organized effort by ISIS, a random supporter, or a nation-state intelligence agency masquerading as ISIS for motives unknown. Documents obtained by CSO provide details of the attack and the Saudi response. This provides an interesting window into how a government might react to a suspected nation-state attack and raises questions about the level of security deployed at embassies around the world.

Newsline: Saudi Arabia reopens consulate in Iraq

Saudi Arabia has reopened a consulate in Baghdad for the first time in nearly 30 years and announced a one billion dollars aid package for Iraq. The diplomatic mission in Iraqi capital’s heavily fortified Green Zone was inaugurated on Thursday at a ceremony, during which Iraq’s Foreign Minister Mohamed Alhakim raised a green Saudi flag over the building. The reopening of the consulate, which will issue visas to Iraqis, marked a “new phase” in relations between Riyadh and Baghdad, said Majid bin Abdullah al-Qasabi, Saudi Arabia’s trade minister. (https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/04/saudi-arabia-reopen-consulate-iraq-pledges-1bn-aid-190404180418791.html) Saudi Arabia would provide Iraq with one billion dollars in loans for development projects, said Qasabi, plus $500m to boost exports and a gift of a 100,000-seat sports stadium to be built on Baghdad’s outskirts. Saudi Arabia cut ties with Iraq when the latter invaded Kuwait in 1990. Diplomatic relations resumed in 2015 when Riyadh sent an ambassador to Baghdad, and improved with the then-Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir’s visit in 2017, the first by a Saudi foreign minister since 1990. But consular services remained suspended and Iraqis applying for visas had to go through the Saudi embassy in neighbouring Jordan.