Saudi Crown Prince Kickstarts PR Tour amid Khashoggi Scandal

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is visiting Egypt after stops in the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain
Saudi Royal Palace/AFP/File Bandar AL-JALOUD

Public anger has reportedly greeted Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) during his tour of several Arab countries launched over the weekend, marking his first foreign visits since the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul last month.

Contradicting the Sunni kingdom’s claims exonerating MBS of any involvement in the killing of the prominent Saudi critic Khashoggi, U.S. intelligence officials have allegedly determined that crown prince ordered the assassination, a finding rejected by Riyadh.

The alleged murder of Khashoggi has triggered a diplomatic crisis for Saudi Arabia.

Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency (AA) reports:

An Arab tour by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been greeted with public protests, with many see the tour as an attempt to clear image after the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Bin Salman arrived in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Thursday for a three-day visit, during which he met with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed. The Saudi crown prince also attended the final round of the Formula One World Championships in Abu Dhabi and met with Chechen leader Ramzan Kadirov.

On Sunday, MBS visited Bahrain, where the Saudi’s close ally King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and top officials of the Gulf island-kingdom received the crown prince at the airport.

Although the Sunni kingdom did not publicly identify the countries that MBS is scheduled to visit, AA reports that the crown prince is also expected to visit Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, and Mauritania during his tour.

Some Tunisians, including a group of 50 lawyers, have reportedly protested MBS’s visit to their country.

The crown prince’s visit to Tunisia “aims to beautify his bloody record,” declared the country’s Journalist Syndicate in a statement, citing Khashoggi’s killing and alleged human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia.

“We will also take other measures to prevent bin Salman’s visit,” Nizar Boujalal, a spokesman for the lawyers, told AA.

Echoing some Tunisian activists, the spokesman noted that the lawyers might stage a protest at the airport expected to receive MBS.

In Egypt, the Civil Democratic Movement, an umbrella coalition of nine opposition groups, also protested MBS scheduled visit to the predominantly Muslim African country.

Consistent with the position of some neighboring Tunisians, the movement, in a statement, said MBS’s was “an attempt to beautify his image as a result of Khashoggi’s killing.”

“Dozens of Egyptian journalists also issued a statement rejecting bin Salman’s visit due to the current deteriorating situation in Yemen and alleged normalized ties with Israel,” AA points out.

Nevertheless, Reuters reports:

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrived in Egypt on Monday, continuing his first trip abroad since the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul drew global condemnation. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi received Prince Mohammed at Cairo airport on what was the third leg of a tour through the Arab world by the prince after visits to Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, Egyptian state news agency MENA said.

After initially denying Khashoggi’s murderer carried out the heinous crime inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, the Saudi government admitted weeks later that he was killed there, blaming rogue Saudi operatives.

The U.S. Treasury Department announced economic sanctions on 17 Saudi officials suspected of being responsible for or complicit in Khashoggi’s murder.

“Among those targeted for sanctions were Mohammed al-Otaibi, the diplomat in charge of the consulate, and Maher Mutreb, who was part of the crown prince’s entourage on trips abroad,” according to the Associated Press (AP). “The sanctions freeze any assets the 17 may have in the U.S. and prohibit any Americans from doing business with them.”

U.S. President Donald Trump has resisted calls to halt arms sales to Saudi Arabia, which the commander-in-chief considers a top American ally in the Middle East.

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