Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince arrives in Washington on official visit

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman arrived at Washington to begin the third leg of his foreign tour. (SPA)
Updated 20 March 2018
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Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince arrives in Washington on official visit

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman arrived in Washington on Tuesday morning to start his first official visit to the country as heir to the throne, Saudi state-news channel Al-Ekhbariya reported.
The Crown Prince was received by Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to the US, Prince Khalid bin Salman and the US State Department's Ambassador to the US, Sean Oler, as well as several other high-level delegates.
The trip follows visits to both Egypt and the UK earlier this month, which led to a string of political and economic agreements signed between the kingdom and two of its key allies.
But the visit to the US aims to build on what is possibly Saudi Arabia’s most important relationship, one which has been strengthened with the arrival of Donald Trump in the White House.
The Royal Court said the crown prince had left Saudi Arabia and that during the visit he will meet Trump and a number of officials “to discuss bilateral relations and issues of common interest,” Saudi Press Agency reported.
The meeing with the US president will take place on Tuesday for talks, the White House, said.
Christopher Henzel, the Charge d’Affaires at the US embassy in Riyadh said he was confident Trump and the crown prince would “enjoy open and candid discussions on a variety of issues.”
High on the agenda is Iran, and how to rein in its influence in the Middle East - something both men believe is one of the biggest threats to the region.
Trump has threatened to scrap the 2015 deal between Iran and international powers intended to curb its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.
“The United States is focused on neutralizing Iran’s destabilizing influence and constraining its aggression,” Henzel added, in an opinion article in Monday’s Arab news.
The Crown Prince warned in an interview with CBS’s 60 Minutes program aired on Sunday that if Iran was able to develop a nuclear weapon, Saudi Arabia would “follow suit”.
Norah O’Donnell, who conducted the interview, the first by the crown prince with an American broadcaster, told Arab News that no subjects were off topic - perhaps a precursor to the frank conversations that will take place between the Saudi delegation and US leaders and business people in the coming days.
“It seemed to me that there was a desire to show the American public what he believes, to show that Saudi Arabia is changing. The crown prince wants the US audience to understand him,” O’Donnell said. 
The crown prince’s sweeping social and economic reform program has been met with a groundswell of optimism in Washington. Many in the foreign policy establishment are keen to find out more about the heir to the throne and details about his domestic and foreign agenda.
“Mohammad bin Salman has started a hugely positive cultural reform program in Saudi Arabia, particularly the theological struggle to return the Kingdom to its roots in moderate Islam,” Jim Smith, who served as the US ambassador to Saudi Arabia between 2009 and 2013, told Arab News.
“Winning that war of ideas, and succeeding in the other major policy challenges, depends not only on the crown prince’s leadership but also on how good the team that he has assembled around him is, and how strong the institutions they build together are.”


Christchurch Muslims praise King Salman’s Hajj offer

Updated 38 min 25 sec ago
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Christchurch Muslims praise King Salman’s Hajj offer

  • The president of the Muslim Association of Canterbury Shagaf Khan said people will be both financially and spiritually supported during the journey
  • Khan said a trip to Makkah would normally cost around 10,000 New Zealand dollars ($6,769), but King Salman’s offer would cover pilgrims “from the time they leave their house and come back”

CHRISTCHURCH: King Salman’s Hajj offer to host families of those affected by March’s Christchurch terror attacks is “something really special,” said the president of the Muslim Association of Canterbury, Shagaf Khan.
The Saudi king has offered to host and cover the expenses of 200 Hajj pilgrims when they journey to Makkah this year.
Khan said people will be both financially and spiritually supported during the journey. “For some of them, it’ll be a great comfort feeling like they’ve fulfilled the obligations of being a Muslim,” he added.
Khan said a trip to Makkah would normally cost around 10,000 New Zealand dollars ($6,769), but King Salman’s offer would cover pilgrims “from the time they leave their house and come back.”
When asked what the offer would mean for Canterbury’s Muslim community, Khan said it is part of the solidarity and support that has been shown to them since the Christchurch terror attacks, which claimed the lives of 51 people.
“Four months on … people still feel supported and they feel they’re still being remembered,” he added.
Sheikh Mohammed Amir, who is working closely with the local community, Saudi Arabia’s Embassy and its Ministry of Islamic Affairs to implement King Salman’s offer, said it will be available for those who had lost family members or been injured in the mosque attacks.
Canterbury’s Muslims are “very appreciative” of the offer, added Amir, who is chairman of the Islamic Scholars Board of New Zealand.
“I’ll say with full confidence that this will be a big relief for the deceased’s families, for the victims, for all those who’ve been injured and affected,” he said.
When asked how the organization of the pilgrimage is going, Amir said “so far, so good,” but added that it has been challenging without official records to track everyone down.
He said it is an honor and a responsibility to help organize the pilgrimage, which he has been helping to plan since the end of Ramadan. “People are very excited about it,” he added.
He said he believed that the king’s offer had been made to help people’s rehabilitation after the terror attacks.
“The community believes he’s going to contribute in building Christchurch and bringing people to a normal life,” Amir added.