Here to stay

Saudi royal: World lead­ers have to ac­cept crown prince.

Albany Times Union - Sunday - - FRONT PAGE - By Aya Ba­trawy As­so­ci­ated Press

A prom­i­nent Saudi royal said Satur­day that whether heads of state gath­ered in Ar­gentina next week for the Group of 20 sum­mit warmly en­gage with Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man, he is some­one “that they have to deal with.”

Prince Turki al-faisal told The As­so­ci­ated Press the killing of Saudi writer Ja­mal Khashoggi in the king­dom’s con­sulate in Is­tan­bul last month is “an un­ac­cept­able in­ci­dent that tars and mars the long record of Saudi Ara­bia’s own stand­ing in the world.”

“We will have to bear that. It’s not some­thing that should not be faced. And we do face it,” he said.

In­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials and an­a­lysts said the op­er­a­tion to kill Khashoggi, who wrote crit­i­cally of the crown prince for The Wash­ing­ton Post, could not have hap­pened with­out Prince Mo­hammed’s knowl­edge. The king­dom, which has of­fered sev­eral con­flict­ing ac­counts of the killing, de­nies the crown prince had any in­volve­ment.

The crown prince em­barked late Thurs­day on his first for­eign tour since the Oct. 2 killing with a visit to the United Arab Emi­rates. He’s ex­pected to visit other Mideast coun­tries be­fore go­ing to Buenos Aires on Fri­day for the start of the two­day G-20 sum­mit, where he’ll come face to face with world lead­ers.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan, who has kept in­ter­na­tional pres­sure mount­ing on the king­dom, are ex­pected to at­tend.

“Whether the lead­ers in that sum­mit will warmly en­gage with the crown prince or not, I think all of them rec­og­nize that the king­dom as a coun­try and King Sal­man and the crown prince are peo­ple that they have to deal with,” the prince said.

He said Saudi Ara­bia will con­tinue to play a role on the world stage and that Trump’s state­ment of sup­port for Saudi Ara­bia rec­og­nizes the im­por­tance of the king­dom.

Trump in­sists there’s not enough ev­i­dence to blame the crown prince for Khashoggi’s killing, de­spite a U.S. in­tel­li­gence re­port’s as­sess­ment to the con­trary. Trump says the king­dom is an im­por­tant ally that has helped to lower oil prices.

“I thought Pres­i­dent Trump was ex­press­ing what he felt was in the in­ter­est of the United States. He em­pha­sized the strate­gic re­la­tion­ship be­tween the two coun­tries in the same state­ment and how Saudi Ara­bia has been help­ful in many in­stances — not just oil,” said Prince Turki.

The prince also firmly dis­missed the U.S. in­tel­li­gence as­sess­ments that the crown prince had or­dered Khashoggi’s killing, say­ing these same in­tel­li­gence bod­ies had a “re­mark­ably flawed as­sess­ment” in 2003 in the lead up to the U.S. in­va­sion of Iraq.

Prince Turki, who led Saudi in­tel­li­gence for more than two decades and served as am­bas­sador to the U.S. and Bri­tain, worked closely for years with Khashoggi be­fore the writer be­came an out­spo­ken govern­ment critic.

The prince said Khashoggi worked un­der him as a spokesman for the Saudi Em­bassy in Lon­don and later in Wash­ing­ton, and that he last spoke to him three years ago.

The prince’s father is the late King Faisal and his brother is Prince Khalid al-faisal, gover­nor of Mecca.

Prince Turki said re­ports of dis­con­tent within the rul­ing Al Saud fam­ily over the crown prince’s rise to power do not re­flect the “ex­traor­di­nary sup­port” that King Sal­man and his son, the crown prince, en­joy.

“I see no signs of such dis­quiet or un­cer­tainty vis-a-vi the king and the crown prince,” he said.

The prince spoke Satur­day dur­ing a pol­icy brief­ing by the Beirut In­sti­tute Sum­mit . The prince is a board mem­ber and sup­porter of the sum­mit, which draws upon rec­om­men­da­tions of its par­tic­i­pants to put forth pol­icy ideas for the Mid­dle East.

Among its rec­om­men­da­tions is sup­port for the Arab Peace Ini­tia­tive, a Saudi ini­tia­tive dat­ing back to the early 2000s that calls for east Jerusalem as the cap­i­tal of a fu­ture Pales­tinian state in­clud­ing the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in ex­change for Arab state recog­ni­tion of Is­rael and nor­mal­ized re­la­tions.

BIN Sal­man

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