King Salman of Saudi Arabia failed to show at the Arab League summit this week in Mauritania, allegedly for health reasons. The king’s health has been a question since his accession to the throne last year.
The Saudi press and the Royal Court had promised the king would attend the summit as late as Sunday. He is currently on vacation in Tangiers, Morocco—a short plane ride from Nouakchott. He travels with his own medical facilities. But Nouakchott offers few additional medical facilities and no luxury hotels, the summit was held in a special large tent. No explanation has yet been officially provided for his absence.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi was also expected to attend the summit but did not show. Egyptian authorities say he was too occupied by business at home. Some press reports claim Sissi was afraid of a possible assassination plot.
Salman, 80, has suffered from pre-dementia for several years, according to some sources. He has taken on a full schedule as monarch, however, and traveled extensively. In his absence while in Morocco, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef is running the Kingdom’s business. Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visited Washington last week for the ministerial meeting on fighting the Islamic State. The king’s ill health will fuel the rumors of tension between the two princes.
The king was expected to stay in Tangiers through August and attend a wedding of one of his sons there. Long vacations are normal for Saudi monarchs.
Aside from the no-shows, the summit had no surprises on substance. It condemned terrorism and called for unity, as well as endorsed the Arab peace proposal originally drafted by Salman’s predecessor, King Abdullah.
Bruce – Riedel – Brookings