Dubai, Nov 24 (UNB/AP) - Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was in the United Arab Emirates on Friday, on his first tour abroad since the killing of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi at the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul.
The prince, who arrived in Abu Dhabi late on Thursday, is also due to visit other Mideast countries, where he will be warmly received by Arab leaders who have stood firmly by his side amid international outrage over Khashoggi's horrific slaying.
The crown prince will round off his tour with a stop in Argentina where he'll come face-to-face with world leaders on Nov. 30 for the two-day Group of 20 summit. Among those expected to attend that summit are President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has kept international pressure mounting on the kingdom in the wake of Khashoggi's killing.
His tour abroad underscores the strong support the crown prince continues to have from his 82-year-old father, King Salman, and signals that he faces no immediate threats to his grip on power at home.
Upon arrival to the UAE, Prince Mohammed was warmly embraced by Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed. The two crown princes— who also command their countries' armed forces— are known to be close, with the more experienced Abu Dhabi crown prince reportedly offering his insights to the 33-year-old Saudi prince on past occasions.
The UAE's state-run news agency, WAM, reported Friday that the two discussed "brotherly and strategic ties" in their talks, which were attended by a wide-range of Emirati officials, as well as a number of senior Saudi officials, including the head of general intelligence, the interior minister and key advisers.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE, at war in Yemen against Shiite Houthi rebels there since 2015, are also expected to take part in U.N.-led peace talks in Sweden next month. The two sides likely discussed Yemen, with the WAM news agency reporting that among those present for the bilateral talks was an Emirati official in charge of liaising with families of UAE soldiers killed in battle.
Prince Mohammed is scheduled to visit Bahrain and Egypt next on his tour.
He has faced intense criticism since the Oct. 2 killing of Khashoggi by Saudi agents inside the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul. Khashoggi's body was dismembered, and his remains have yet to be found.
Intelligence officials and analysts say 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 denies the crown prince had any involvement.
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.
Saudi Arabia initially said Khashoggi had walked out of the consulate before shifting its account of what happened amid Turkish intelligence leaks. Saudi Arabia is now seeking the death penalty for five of those accused in the killing. The U.S. has sanctioned 17 Saudis involved in the incident, including one of the crown prince's closest advisers who was fired from his post after fallout from the killing.
On Friday, Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the Saudi crown prince has requested to meet Erdogan on the sidelines of the G-20 summit.
Turkey sees no "obstacle" for the meeting, Cavusoglu told Turkey's CNN-Turk television, but added that Erdogan would make the final decision. It would be the first meeting between the prince and Erdogan since the killing, though the two have spoken by phone once since then.
Cavusoglu also criticized Trump, saying the U.S. leader appears to want to turn a blind eye to the killing.
"Trump's statements amount to him saying 'I'll turn a blind eye no matter what,'" he said. "Money isn't everything. We must not move away from human values."
Sanaa, Nov 21 (AP/UNB) — An estimated 85,000 children under age 5 may have died of hunger and disease since the outbreak of Yemen's civil war in 2015, an international aid group said Wednesday.
Save the Children said the "conservative" estimate is based on average mortality rates for Severe Acute Malnutrition, which the U.N. says has afflicted more than 1.3 million children since a Saudi-led coalition went to war with Yemen's Houthi rebels in March 2015.
Tamer Kirolos, Save the Children's Yemen director, says: "For every child killed by bombs and bullets, dozens are starving to death and it's entirely preventable," adding that "children who die in this way suffer immensely."
The war and a Saudi-led blockade have created the world's worst humanitarian crisis, with more than 8 million people at risk of starvation.
United Nations, Nov 20 (AP/UNB) — The United Nations is still aiming to send invitations to 150 Syrians by mid-December to participate in a committee that would draft a new constitution for Syria, which is key to holding elections and ending the country's civil war, a U.N. envoy said Monday.
Staffan de Mistura, the U.N. special envoy for Syria, told the Security Council that the U.N. also aims to hold the committee's first meeting before Dec. 31.
But de Mistura said the Syrian government is objecting to 50 members of the committee representing civil society, experts, independents, tribal leaders and women that he was authorized to put together at a Russian-hosted Syrian peace conference in Sochi on Jan. 30.
Under the Sochi agreement, the committee is to comprise 150 members. There is already agreement on the 50-member delegation from the government and the 50-member delegation from the opposition.
But De Mistura warned that if there is no agreement on the remaining members, the U.N. may have to conclude that it's not possible to form a "credible and inclusive" constitutional committee at this stage.
He said the U.N. welcomes "constructive and moderate suggestions" to change the list of the disputed 50 members. But de Mistura said they must "maintain the same spirit of credibility, balance and international legitimacy," and he stressed that the list can't be filled with political leaders who are already represented.
The U.N. envoy said that at his last briefing to the Security Council in December "it will be my duty to explain where we are on the constitutional committee, and leave a clean and clear ground to my successor regarding it."
De Mistura was supposed to step down at the end of December but U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Monday he will be staying on "for a bit longer" to make sure there is no gap "at an extremely critical time in the Syria talks." He will be succeeded by veteran Norwegian ambassador Geir Pederson.
"The weeks to come will be of crucial importance" in attempts to form a constitution-drafting committee, de Mistura said.
U.S. deputy ambassador Jonathan Cohen urged the constitutional committee to be convened in December — "if not sooner."
He said de Mistura has been "more than patient and flexible" in accepting input on the list of committee members.
"Any further deliberation must be seen for what it is: an artificial delay, a transparent attempt to distract and delay progress toward a political solution in Syria," Cohen said.
He said the Syrian government and its allies Russia and Iran can't be allowed to veto de Mistura's decision on the committee's membership.
"The burden is on Russia to show that it wants its own diplomatic initiative to succeed," Cohen said. "Russia must bring the Syrian regime to the table. If it truly wants a political solution, Russia must end the obstruction of this process."
Dhaka, Nov 20 (UNB) - Two men lead a herd of camels through a brutal sandstorm and a haze of rain in a dramatic video that’s gone viral for both its drama, and its beauty.
The video looks like a scene from an apocalyptic movie. It shows two men leading a camel through a haze of rain and sandstorm and over flooded, sandy terrain. After a moment, the camera turns and reveals a row of about twenty camels following behind.
Saudi Arabia’s eastern region experienced “code red” weather over the weekend, with heavy rains, thunderstorms and strong winds turning the Saudi sands into a wet marshland by Monday.
The video was taken on a road near Tumair, north of Riyadh and filmed by photographer Fahad Al-Osaimi. The camels belong to Ayedh Al Massoud and the video was first shared by his son, Abd El-El Massoud.
المقطع أكثر تداولاً لإبل والدي : عايض بن سعد آل مسعود القحطاني ، في شرق تمير وشكراً لصاحب الموقف والمصور فهد بن سبلان العصيمي .. pic.twitter.com/63EWYN7VcM— عبدالاله آل مسعود (@boode_m) November 14, 2018
“I saw camels stranded and trapped by heavy rains and floods in the central region of Tamir,” Al-Osaimi told al Arabiya. The men led the camels more than 3 kilometers, trying to calm the scared animals as they went.
The video was widely shared on social media and was featured on local news channels, as many admired the dramatic footage. Unfortunately, Saudis are facing more miserable weather this week.
Washington, Nov 17 (AP/UNB) — U.S. intelligence officials have concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a U.S. official said. The Saudi government has denied the claim.
The conclusion will bolster efforts in Congress to further punish the close U.S. ally for the killing. The Trump administration this past week penalized 17 Saudi officials for their alleged role in the killing, but American lawmakers have called on the administration to curtail arms sales to Saudi Arabia or take other harsher punitive measures.
The U.S. official familiar with the intelligence agencies' conclusion was not authorized to discuss it publicly and spoke only condition of anonymity Friday. The conclusion was first reported by The Washington Post.
Saudi Arabia's top diplomat has said the crown prince had "absolutely" nothing to do with the killing.
Vice President Mike Pence told reporters traveling with him at a summit of Pacific Rim nations in Papua New Guinea that he could not comment on "classified information." He said Saturday "the murder of Jamal Khashoggi was an atrocity. It was also an affront to a free and independent press, and the United States is determined to hold all of those accountable who are responsible for that murder."
The United States will "follow the facts," Pence said, while trying to find a way of preserving a "strong and historic partnership" with Saudi Arabia.
Khashoggi, a Saudi who lived in the United States, was a columnist for the Post and often criticized the royal family. He was killed Oct. 2 at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Turkish and Saudi authorities say he was killed inside the consulate by a team from the kingdom after he went there to get marriage documents.
This past week, U.S. intelligence officials briefed members of the Senate and House intelligence committees and the Treasury Department announced economic sanctions on 17 Saudi officials suspected of being responsible for or complicit in the killing.
Among those targeted for sanctions were Mohammed al-Otaibi, the diplomat in charge of the consulate, and Maher Mutreb, who was part of the crown prince's entourage on trips abroad.
The sanctions freeze any assets the 17 may have in the U.S. and prohibit any Americans from doing business with them.
Also this past week, the top prosecutor in Saudi Arabia announced he will seek the death penalty against five men suspected in the killing. The prosecutor's announcement sought to quiet the global outcry over Khashoggi's death and distance the killers and their operation from the kingdom's leadership, primarily the crown prince.
President Donald Trump has called the killing a botched operation that was carried out very poorly and has said "the cover-up was one of the worst cover-ups in the history of cover-ups."
But he has resisted calls to cut off arms sales to the kingdom and has been reluctant to antagonize the Saudi rulers. Trump considers the Saudis vital allies in his Mideast agenda.
The Post, citing unnamed sources, also reported that U.S. intelligence agencies reviewed a phone call that the prince's brother, Khalid bin Salman, had with Khashoggi. The newspaper said the prince's brother, who is the current Saudi ambassador to the United States, told Khashoggi he would be safe in going to the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul to retrieve the documents he needed to get married.
The newspaper said it was not known whether the ambassador knew Khashoggi would be killed. But it said he made the call at the direction the crown prince, and the call was intercepted by U.S. intelligence.
Fatimah Baeshen, a spokesperson for the Saudi Embassy in Washington, said that claim was false.
She said in a statement issued to The Associated Press that the ambassador met Khashoggi in person once in late September 2017. After that, they communicated via text messages, she said. The last text message the ambassador sent to Khashoggi was on Oct. 26, 2017, she said.
Baeshen said the ambassador did not discuss with Khashoggi "anything related to going to Turkey."
"Ambassador Prince Khalid bin Salman has never had any phone conversations with him," she said.
"You are welcome to check the phone records and cell phone content to corroborate this — in which case, you would have to request it from Turkish authorities," Baeshen said, adding that Saudi prosecutors have checked the phone records numerous times to no avail.
The ambassador himself tweeted: "The last contact I had with Mr. Khashoggi was via text on Oct. 26, 2017. I never talked to him by phone and certainly never suggested he go to Turkey for any reason. I ask the U.S. government to release any information regarding this claim."