Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to US grabs attention in Gulf region

What makes Crown Prince Mohammed’s global tour unique is not foreign affairs but its promotion of investments.
Sunday 25/03/2018
Saudi artists paint a mural portrait of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz in Riyadh. (AFP)
High hopes. Saudi artists paint a mural portrait of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz in Riyadh. (AFP)

LONDON - All eyes in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, particularly Saudi Arabia, are fixed westward as Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz continues his global tour with a visit to the United States.

The crown prince’s trip, in which he seeks to present a modern Saudi Arabia, has received extensive coverage in the Gulf, with most news outlets carrying stories and photos of his meetings with high-level US officials, including US President Donald Trump and US Secretary of Defence James Mattis.

The Saudi owned Al-Arabiya TV carried interviews with Arab and Western commentators as well as graphics highlighting the prince’s agenda.

In a commentary published by the Abu Dhabi-based daily newspaper the National, Con Coughlin, the Daily Telegraph’s defence and foreign affairs editor, said Crown Prince Mohammed’s high-profile visit to the United States “could be a defining moment for the Middle East.”

UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash, before the crown prince left Riyadh, said the trip would help bring Arabs’ “political weight” back to the global stage.

“Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to Washington carries special significance to the Arab world. In an area that was torn by regional interferences, we see the political weight of Arabs making a strong comeback with the prince’s visit as well as the position of Saudi Arabia in general,” Gargash posted on Twitter.

“At a time in which Arabs are in need of regaining our position and role [in the world], Saudi Arabia fills the region with hope and dreams of a better Arab world,” he added in another tweet.

What makes Crown Prince Mohammed’s global tour unique is not foreign affairs but its promotion of investments.

Saudi Ambassador to the United States Prince Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, in an editorial in the London-based pan-Arab Asharq Al-Awsat, said the crown prince’s vision would go a long way in strengthening US-Saudi relations and driving reform at home.

“For decades, the kingdom lived according to social and cultural norms that went unchallenged, thus inhibiting our progress,” the Saudi ambassador wrote. “But our leaders have set a new course that aims to transform our economy and society and unlock our untapped potential.

“Saudi Arabia is reforming, and our dynamism will take the Saudi-US relationship to new heights. Both sides should seize the moment.”

The Saudi ambassador was referencing major reform measures introduced in the kingdom, including efforts to foster women’s rights, adopt moderate Islam and crackdown on corruption — all pillars of the new Saudi Arabia.

In stark but predictable contrast, GCC member Qatar’s Al-Jazeera network limited its coverage of Crown Prince Mohammed’s US visit to a report citing an unnamed senior US official stating that Trump would urge Crown Prince Mohammed to end the kingdom’s boycott of the tiny Gulf Arab state.

Last June, Saudi Arabia, along with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt, severed ties with Doha over what they described as Qatar’s interference in their internal affairs, support for radical Islamic groups, and, chiefly, ties with the kingdom’s main nemesis, Iran, another issue factoring heavily in the crown prince’s US visit.

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