Saudi Arabia taps princess as new envoy to US amid Khashoggi fallout

Saudi Arabia taps princess as new envoy to US amid Khashoggi fallout

Reema bint Bandar is first-ever female ambassador from kingdom to Washington, replacing Prince Khalid bin Salman, who will become vice defense minister

Reema Bint Bandar (screen capture: Arab News/YouTube)
Reema Bint Bandar (screen capture: Arab News/YouTube)

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Saudi Arabia has replaced its ambassador to the United States, a royal decree announced Saturday, as the fallout over journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder tests relations between the two allies.

Princess Reema bint Bandar was appointed the kingdom’s first woman envoy to Washington, replacing Prince Khalid bin Salman, who was named vice defense minister.

Prince Khalid is the younger brother of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the country’s de facto ruler who also serves as the defense minister.

The reshuffle comes as ties with Washington are under strain following Khashoggi’s murder last October in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, right, attends a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping (not pictured) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on February 22, 2019. (HOW HWEE YOUNG / POOL / AFP)

After initially denying they knew anything of Khashoggi’s disappearance, the Saudis finally acknowledged that a team killed him inside the consulate, but described it as a rogue operation.

US lawmakers have threatened to take tougher action against Saudi Arabia over the brutal killing amid claims that the crown prince was personally responsible.

The Saudi government has strongly denied he had anything to do with the murder of Khashoggi who was a columnist with the Washington Post.

The killing refocused attention on a Saudi-led military coalition’s bombing campaign in Yemen, which is gripped by what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

A Yemeni man carries a rocket launcher as he takes part in a gathering near the capital Sanaa to show support to the Shiite Huthi movement against the Saudi-led intervention on February 21, 2019. (Mohammed HUWAIS / AFP)

Earlier this month, the US House voted overwhelmingly to end American involvement in Saudi Arabia’s war effort in neighboring Yemen, dealing a rebuke to President Donald Trump who has publicly thrown his support behind the crown prince.

US lawmakers this month also said they were probing whether Trump was rushing to sell sensitive nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia to please corporate supporters who stand to profit handsomely.

The House of Representatives committee has voiced fears that Saudi Arabia could convert US expertise into making a nuclear bomb, heightening already severe tensions with regional rival Iran.

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