Saudi Arabia announces mega projects as it puts rumours about crown prince to rest
LONDON - In what was considered a sharp if indirect rebuttal by Saudi authorities regarding a perceived media campaign targeting Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz introduced four recreational projects worth billions to be overseen by the crown prince.
King Salman, on March 19, announced four mega-ventures worth an estimated $23 billion to be built in Riyadh. An official statement said the projects are designed to “significantly improve the lives of the city’s citizens” and transform Riyadh into an attractive global destination.
King Salman Park, Sports Boulevard, Green Riyadh and Riyadh Art will complement the Saudi Vision 2030’s “Quality of Life” programme, the statement said.
King Salman also ordered one of Riyadh’s main roads to be renamed after the crown prince. The Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Road will link the western side of Riyadh to the east over 30km, Saudi media reported.
The projects and the public vote of confidence from King Salman come while several global news outlets suggested that Crown Prince Mohammed had been stripped of some of his authority.
Reports in the Guardian newspaper in the United Kingdom said a rift between King Salman and the crown prince had widened, leading to the king curtailing some of Crown Prince Mohammed’s authority. The Guardian cited crown prince’s absence from high-profile meetings in recent weeks as evidence.
“The report published March 18 is nearly identical to a previous report published weeks ago and does not provide any concrete proof to back up its explosive claims,” said an analyst in London, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Part of the report that was quickly dismissed by the analyst involved the appointment of Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan as ambassador to the United States by Crown Prince Mohammed “without the king’s approval or knowledge.”
“The Saudi mission to the United States is the most important diplomatic mission as far as the Saudi leadership is concerned and the naming of the ambassador could not have taken place without the consent of the king,” the source said, adding that reports that Princess Reema would be named US ambassador had been floating around for months before the announcement.
Downplaying that Princess Reema’s appointment was made public while King Salman was visiting Egypt, the Saudi Embassy in Washington told the Guardian: “It is customary for the king of Saudi Arabia to issue a royal order delegating the power to administer the affairs of the state to his deputy, the crown prince, whenever he travels abroad. That was the case during King Salman’s recent visit to Egypt.”
Another publicised claim recently addressed involved allegations the Saudi government was involved in US tabloid reports that Amazon Jeff Bezos had been caught in a sexting scandal. Bezos and media organisations such as the Washington Post, which Bezos owns, the Daily Beast and CNN reported that.
In a blog post in February, Bezos said he was targeted because of the Post’s reporting about the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, whose work appeared in the Post, last October in Istanbul.
Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir in February told CBS News’ “Face the Nation” programme that the Arab kingdom had “nothing to do with” the episode.
“This sounds to me like a soap opera,” Jubeir said. “I’ve been watching it on television and reading about it in the paper. This is something between the two parties. We have nothing to do with it.”
A report March 18 in the Wall Street Journal stated the tabloid had acquired Bezos’ personal photographs and secrets through his mistress’s brother for $200,000.