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Archive for Saudi Arabia

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.

Newsline: Jamal Khashoggi’s body likely burned in large oven at Saudi consulate residence in Istanbul

The body of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was likely burned in a large oven at the Saudi consul general’s residence in Istanbul, an Al Jazeera investigation revealed. New details of the writer’s murder by a Saudi assassination team were reported in a documentary by Al Jazeera Arabic that aired on Mar. 10. (https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/03/jamal-khashoggi-body-burned-large-oven-saudi-home-190304011823218.html) Turkish authorities monitored the burning of the outdoor furnace from outside the premises as bags believed to be containing Khashoggi’s body parts were transferred to the Saudi consul’s home after he was killed inside the consulate a few hundred metres away. Al Jazeera interviewed a worker who constructed the furnace who stated it was built according to specifications from the Saudi consul. It had to be deep and withstand temperatures above 1,000 degrees Celsius – hot enough to melt metal. Large quantities of barbeque meat were grilled in the oven after the killing in order to cover up the cremation of the Saudi writer’s body, Turkish authorities reported. The burning of Khashoggi’s body took place over a period of three days, Turkish officials said. Turkish investigators also found traces of Khashoggi’s blood on the walls of the Saudi consul’s office after removing paint that the assassination team applied after killing the Washington Post columnist on October 2.

Newsline: US Embassy Staffers Shut Them Out of Saudi Meetings

Officials and staffers in the U.S. embassy in Riyadh said they were not read in on the details of Jared Kushner’s trip to Saudi Arabia or the meetings he held with members of the country’s royal court last week, according to three sources with knowledge of the trip. And that’s causing concern not only in the embassy but also among members of Congress. (https://www.thedailybeast.com/embassy-staffers-say-jared-kushner-shut-them-out-of-saudi-meetings) On his trip to the Middle East, Kushner stopped in Riyadh. While there, he met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and King Salman to discuss U.S.-Saudi cooperation, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and economic investment in the region, according to the White House. But no one from the embassy in Riyadh was in the meetings, according to those same sources. The State Department did have a senior official in attendance, but he was not part of the State Department team in Saudi. He is a senior member of the department focused on Iran, according to a source with direct knowledge of the official’s presence in Riyadh.

Newsline: Saudi’s top diplomat says ‘too early’ to reopen Syria embassy

Saudi Arabia has ruled out reopening the kingdom’s embassy in Syria, saying it is “too early” to restore diplomatic ties with President Bashar al-Assad’s government. The comments were made on Mar. 4 by Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir, who also said Saudi authorities would not take part in any reconstruction efforts in Syria without progress on a political process to end the country’s eight-year-old war. (https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/03/saudi-foreign-minister-early-reopen-syria-embassy-190304184023059.html) “The kingdom has always been keen on the integrity of the Syrian territory and the political solution,” al-Jubeir told a joint press conference with Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in the Saudi capital, Riyadh.

Newsline: Saudi Arabia appoints first female ambassador to the US

Saudi Arabia appointed its first female to serve as an ambassador for the kingdom, naming Princess Reema bint Bandar Al Saud to be ambassador to the United States. The princess, a member of the Saudi royal family, has been an advocate for women’s rights in the kingdom and widely seen as a rising political star in the country. She will replace Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s younger brother, Prince Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz. (https://edition.cnn.com/2019/02/24/politics/saudi-appoints-us-ambassador/index.html) Princess Reema lived in Washington from roughly 1975 to 2005, according to a person close to her, while her father, Bandar bin Sultan al Saud, was Saudi’s ambassador to the US and as she attended George Washington University. Princess Reema has two teenaged children.

Newsline: Saudi ambassador to Germany worries dissidents in exile

Saudi Arabia has appointed a new ambassador to Germany. There are hopes he will help improve ties between the countries, but Saudi dissidents view his appointment with great concern following the Khashoggi murder. Saudi Arabia’s leader, King Salman, has appointed Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud as the monarchy’s new ambassador to Germany. While official channels at the Saudi and German foreign ministries have remained mute on the matter, Germany’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Jörg Ranau, used the embassy’s official Twitter account to congratulate the new ambassador in fluent Arabic: “We congratulate the newly nominated ambassador to Germany, Prince Faisal bin Farhan.” Faisal, who was born in Germany, in turn, thanked Ranau for his support — in perfect German. Before embarking on his diplomatic career, Faisal held high-ranking positions in Saudi and international companies, predominantly in the aviation and arms industry. He remains on the board of Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI). Most recently, Faisal served as an adviser to Saudi King Salman and as an assistant to the Saudi ambassador to the United States. Saudi critics of the Gulf monarchy living in exile in Germany, however, see Faisal’s appointment with great concern. Saudi dissident Prince Khalid bin Farhan al-Saud, a distant relative of Faisal, lives under police protection in Germany and said he fears the new ambassador could have been sent to Germany to persecute Saudi opposition figures such as himself (https://www.dw.com/en/saudi-ambassador-to-germany-worries-dissidents-in-exile/a-47505837). Khalid told DW he feels threatened and is extremely concerned about Faisal’s close relationship with powerful Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is suspected of having a role in planning or at least condoning the assassination of Saudi dissent journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul last October.

Newsline: Morocco pulls out of Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, recalls ambassador to Riyadh

Move comes after a year of slow diplomatic breakdown concurrent with rise to power of Saudi crown prince. Morocco’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia has been told to remain in home capital Rabat for ‘consultations.’ Mustapha Mansouri was told by his superiors that he should not go back to Riyadh following a week-long visit back home, a move that is seen by observers as a way to express the North African kingdom’s dissatisfaction with the Saudi regime. Moroccan officials also confirmed the country was pulling its troops out of a Saudi-led coalition supporting Yemen’s government in a civil war that has become a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, throwing the country into the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. The decision seemed to have been sparked by the broadcast last week of a documentary doubting Morocco’s claims over the disputed Western Sahara region on the Saudi government-owned Al Arabiya. The documentary came just a month after Morocco’s foreign minister Nasser Bourita expressed concerns over the humanitarian situation in Yemen in an interview with Qatari channel Al Jazeera.