Mohammed bin Salman will offer his country’s condolences to the royal family following 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 the Abbey of Westminster.
It will be the Saudi crown prince’s first visit to the UK since the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018 and the subsequent imposition of UK sanctions. These included travel bans for a group of courtiers close to the crown prince over their alleged involvement in the murder 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 lower energy prices. Johnson met the crown prince in March, but there was no sign of the Saudi regime’s willingness to cut production or make major domestic reforms in the way it treats dissidents or punishes rights defenders of man.
No explanation has been given by British or Saudi sources on Prince Mohammed’s detailed weekend plans, but sensitive judgments are still being made over whether his attendance at the funeral would pose an unacceptable security threat or distraction. of the Queen’s Commemoration because of the protests her presence may cause.
In 2020, the UK sanctioned six Saudis named for their alleged murder of Khashoggi. Some of them were senior advisers to the crown prince, including Ahmed al-Asiri, deputy head of Saudi intelligence; Saud bin Abdullah al-Qahtani, adviser to the crown prince at the royal court; Salah Muhammed al-Tubaigy, forensic pathologist at the Saudi Ministry of Interior; Mustafa al-Madani, brigadier general and intelligence officer in Saudi Arabia; Naif Hassan al-Arifi, first lieutenant for foreign intelligence; and Major General Mansour Othman Abahussein.
Prince Mohammed has always denied knowledge of the attack. In 2020, a Saudi court overturned five death sentences for Khashoggi’s murder, in a decision that jailed eight defendants between seven and 20 years.
The crown prince last visited the UK in June 2018, when the UK hailed Saudi Arabia for launching a major domestic reform agenda.
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 frequently in the Middle East, having made up to 12 official visits since his inauguration as Prince Charles in 1967.
At one point he was learning Arabic because of his interest in Islam, while the Prince’s Foundation – dedicated to ‘delivering on the Prince of Wales’ vision of building communities for a more sustainable world’ – had operations satellites in Riyadh.