Mohammed bin Salman will deliver his country’s condolences to the royal family after the queen’s death, a source has told the Guardian, but there has been no confirmation as to whether he will attend the funeral at Westminster Abbey.
It will be the Saudi crown prince’s first visit to Britain since the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018 and the subsequent British imposition of sanctions. These included a travel ban on a group of courtiers close to the crown prince because of their alleged involvement in the killing inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Since Khashoggi’s death, US President Joe Biden, EU Council President Charles Michel and former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson have all met Prince Mohammed in Riyadh, often to urge the Saudis to increase oil production to help with energy prices. Johnson met the crown prince in March, but there has been no sign of the Saudi regime’s willingness to cut production, or to make major domestic reforms in how it treats dissidents or punishes human rights defenders.
There was no explanation from British or Saudi sources about Prince Mohammed’s detailed weekend plans, but sensitive assessments are still being made about whether his attendance at the funeral would represent an unacceptable security threat or a distraction from the commemoration of the Queen due to his protests. presence can provoke.
In 2020, Britain sanctioned six named Saudis for their alleged murder of Khashoggi. Some of them were senior advisers to the crown prince, including Ahmed al-Asiri, deputy head of the Saudi intelligence service; Saud bin Abdullah al-Qahtani, adviser to the crown prince in the royal court; Salah Muhammed al-Tubaigy, forensic scientist in the Saudi Ministry of Interior; Mustafa al-Madani, brigadier general and intelligence officer in Saudi Arabia; Naif Hassan al-Arifi, First Lieutenant of External Intelligence; and Major General Mansour Othman Abahussain.
Prince Mohammed has always denied prior knowledge of the attack. In 2020, a Saudi court overturned five death sentences for Khashoggi’s murder, in a ruling that jailed eight defendants for between seven and 20 years.
The Crown Prince last visited the UK in June 2018, when the UK praised Saudi Arabia for starting a major program of domestic reforms.
As part of a deep connection between the royal family and the Gulf monarchies, King Charles III has been a frequent visitor to Saudi Arabia. It is the country he has visited most often in the Middle East, having made as many as 12 official visits since he was installed as Prince Charles in 1967.
At one point he learned Arabic because of his interest in Islam, while the Prince’s Foundation – dedicated to “realising the Prince of Wales’ vision of creating societies for a more sustainable world” – has had satellite operations in Riyadh.