Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman gets warm welcome in UAE amid pressure over Khashoggi murder. Bin Salman visits ‘brotherly Arab countries’ on his first trip abroad since Jamal Khashoggi’s killing.
The powerful Saudi crown prince left the Gulf kingdom on Thursday to start “a tour of a number of brotherly Arab countries”, the state-run Saudi Press Agency said.
Bin Salman, also known as MBS, was welcomed in the United Arab Emirates by his close ally, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed.
“We’re proud of our deep-rooted ties. Close cooperation and a fruitful partnership lies in store for our countries. The UAE will always be a loving and supportive home for our brothers in Saudi Arabia,” bin Zayed said on Twitter Thursday.
The two leaders discussed “regional and international” developments and the “challenges and threats facing the Middle East region”, AFP reported, citing the UAE’s state-run news outlet, WAM.
MBS is also expected to visit Egypt and Bahrain on his tour abroad, a German news agency reported earlier this week, while AFP said he will be in the Tunisian capital, Tunis, on Tuesday.
The Saudi crown prince will then participate in a G20 meeting in Buenos Aires at the end of the month that will be attended by leaders from the United States, Turkey and European countries, AFP reported.
MBS-Erdogan meeting at G20 possible
The crown prince’s foreign tour comes amid ongoing pressure over the killing of Khashoggi, a Saudi government critic who was murdered inside the country’s Istanbul consulate on 2 October.
Saudi officials maintain that the crown prince had no knowledge of Khashoggi’s murder or its subsequent cover up. However, the CIA said last Friday that it believes bin Salman ordered the journalist’s killing.
MBS could have his first face-to-face meeting with Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of the G20 summit, the Turkish president’s spokesman said on Thursday.
Pressure has been growing between Riyadh and Ankara over Khashoggi’s murder, as Turkish officials have gradually leaked information in relation to the case.
“There could be” a meeting, Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said. “We’re looking at the programme,” Kalin said, according to state news agency Anadolu.
Earlier this week, Karen Attiah, Khashoggi’s editor at the Washington Post, said MBS should not be welcomed at the G20 summit, however.
“World leaders should not be gripping and grinning with tyrants who order the dismemberment of writers and the torture of women’s rights campaigners,” she tweeted, referring to a recent Amnesty International report on the alleged torture of several Saudi human rights activists inside a Jeddah prison.
Attiah also described reports that Donald Trump intends to meet with MBS during the summit as “disgraceful”.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman is expected to attend the G-20 summit in Argentina
— Karen Attiah (@KarenAttiah) November 21, 2018
Donald Trump pledges support for MBS
Indeed, the US president has sought to cast doubt on the US intelligence agency’s conclusion that MBS was responsible for Khashoggi’s murder and recently pledged to maintain Washington’s close ties to Riyadh.
In a long-winded and widely criticised written statement released by the White House on Tuesday, Trump said both MBS and his father, Saudi King Salman, “deny any knowledge of the planning or execution of the murder” of Khashoggi.
“Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the crown prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” he said.
“That being said, we may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr Jamal Khashoggi. In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
However, that hasn’t stopped other world leaders from continuing to demand answers over Khashoggi’s murder.
On Thursday, the Qatari foreign minister, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, said “whoever is responsible for Khashoggi’s death needs to be held accountable”.
The European Union’s foreign affairs chief, Federica Mogherini, said on Thursday that a transparent and credible investigation into Khashoggi’s killing has not yet been completed.
Saudi officials have arrested 21 people they say were involved in the murder and recently said they would seek the death penalty for five suspects in the case.
Speaking at a joint news conference with EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Ankara, Mogherini said she was against the use of the death penalty, AFP reported.
Earlier this week, Cavusoglu also said whoever ordered Khashoggi’s murder should be held accountable and be brought to justice.
On Wednesday, however, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said the kingdom would not tolerate any disparaging remarks against MBS, saying criticism of the crown prince constitutes “a red line”.