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27 Dec, 2018 15:00

Saudi Arabia replaces FM, sacks envoy to UK in major govt reshuffle following Khashoggi killing

Saudi Arabia replaces FM, sacks envoy to UK in major govt reshuffle following Khashoggi killing

Riyadh has announced a large-scale cabinet reshuffle, which involved appointing a new head of the foreign ministry as well as major changes to the national security posts.

Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir has been relieved from his position and moved to a post of a minister of state for foreign affairs, the Saudi Press Agency said on Thursday, citing a royal decree. The change, which looks like a clear demotion for al-Jubeir, comes following pressure being put on Riyadh over its military campaign in Yemen and the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Also on rt.com Saudi Arabia slams US Senate for naming Prince MBS as ‘responsible’ for Khashoggi murder

In November, the US senators passed two resolutions blaming Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for Khashoggi’s killing and calling on Washington to stop any aid to the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen. The moves came despite Washington’s “strong opposition” to the idea of halting support to the Saudis.

Al-Jubeir was an adamant champion of the Saudi campaign in Yemen as he repeatedly defended Riyadh’s actions as well as the blockade of the country ravaged by conflict and plagued by famine and cholera epidemic. He also once claimed that “no country has provided more aid to Yemen than Saudi Arabia.”

Al-Jubeir’s post was taken by Ibrahim al-Assaf, a long-time finance minister of the Kingdom. Al-Assaf became only the second non-royal family member to take the post of the foreign minister in Saudi Arabia. He had served as the finance minister since January 1996. He was also briefly detained during an anti-corruption purge in 2017 but was cleared of any charges.

In a separate move, Riyadh also removed its ambassador to the UK from office. It is yet unclear, who will replace him. The reshuffle also involves appointing a new chief of the National Guard, new general security chief, and a new national security advisor as well as changes in Saudi Arabia’s Political and Security Council.

The reshuffle, which has become one of the “most profound changes” in the upper echelons of government in the Saudi Arabia, was aimed at mending Riyadh’s image that suffered in the wake of the recent developments as well as correcting the political course of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman while still consolidating the power of the ruling elite, analysts told RT.

The changes were mostly sparked by a prolonged Yemeni campaign as well as Khashoggi’s murder, which became a major blow to Riyadh’s image, Dmitry Frolovsky, a Middle East expert said, adding that Riyadh apparently wants to show that plans to pursue a “less aggressive” foreign policy.

“The new foreign minister is considered to be a more discreet and pragmatic person than the previous one. Still, it remains to be seen whether he will be allowed to exercise his talents,” Dolgov said. However, that does not mean that Riyadh plans to end its Yemeni campaign any time soon, he added.

Also on rt.com Saudi Arabia slams US Senate for naming Prince MBS as ‘responsible’ for Khashoggi murder

The effect of Khashoggi’s murder moved beyond just some international criticism and fueled opposition to the crown prince in Saudi Arabia itself, Boris Dolgov, a senior research fellow at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said. Now, Mohammed bin Salman seeks to win back power as he de-facto controls all the government changes anyway, he added.

Sacking the Saudi ambassador to the UK also indicates that Riyadh apparently intends to make a fresh start in relations with one of its key Western backers as the UK was one of those nations that criticized Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi’s murder. Appointing a new envoy might, in fact, be an attempt to ease tensions between London and Riyadh, Dolgov said.

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