DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – Saudi Arabia’s powerful 37-year-old crown prince will not attend an upcoming summit in Algeria after his doctors advised him not to travel, the Algerian presidency said early Sunday.
Saudi Arabia did not immediately take notice of Algeria’s comments on the condition of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who quickly rose to power under his 86-year-old father King Salman. Much of the focus on the Al Saud royal family in recent years has been on King Salman’s health, with analysts suggesting Prince Mohammed could rule the OPEC-leading nation for decades after assuming the throne.
The kingdom’s government did not respond to inquiries from The Associated Press about the prince, whose health had not previously prevented him from travelling.
Statements in Arabic and French in the Algerian press service referred to a statement by President Abdelmadjid Tebboune’s office about a telephone conversation between him and Prince Mohammed.
In the appeal, “Prince Mohammed apologized for not being able to attend the November 1 Arab summit in Algiers, in line with recommendations from doctors who advised him not to travel,” the statement said.
“For his part, Mr President said he understood the situation and regretted the disability of the Crown Prince, His Highness the Emir Mohammed Bin Salman, and expressed his wishes for his health and well-being.”
A statement from the Saudi state press agency confirmed a call between Tebboune and the prince, but said nothing about the doctors’ advice. It said only that the call focused on “the aspects of bilateral relations between the two brother countries” and possible joint cooperation.
The Arab League summit in Algeria is the first meeting of the regional body since the coronavirus pandemic hit the world.
The Arab League, formed in 1945, represents 22 nations in the Middle East and North Africa, although Syria has been suspended amid its long-running war. Although unanimous in calling for an independent state for the Palestinians, the body was otherwise largely unruly and unable to enforce its mandates.
Prince Mohammed came to power as deputy crown prince in 2015 and quickly became crown prince about two years later after King Salman deposed Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, a once-powerful figure as head of Saudi counterterrorism efforts and close American ally.
However, his rise to power has seen the kingdom undergo rapid change, allowing women to drive and opening cinemas while loosening the grip of the kingdom’s ultra-conservatives. However, the prince was also involved in an anti-corruption drive that turned a luxury hotel in Riyadh into a prison for those in power in the kingdom who could have challenged his rule. He has also spearheaded an internationally criticized Saudi military campaign in a ruinous war in Yemen that is still raging in the Arab world’s poorest country.
US intelligence agencies have linked Prince Mohammed to the 2018 assassination and dismemberment of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, a critic of his rule. The kingdom has denied the prince was involved, although prosecutions of the government squad behind Khashoggi’s killing have been taking place behind closed doors.
Recently, the prince has come under heavy American criticism after Saudi Arabia’s top OPEC and allied nations agreed to cut oil production by 2 million barrels a day.
The Future Investment Initiative, the crown prince’s annual summit that draws global investors to the kingdom, begins on Tuesday amid US pressure. Prince Mohammed has attended meetings in recent years.
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