Victorious Week in Saudi Arabia Reclaims the Embrace of the West

New York (AFP) – It seems that Saudi Arabia is leaving behind a torrent of negative coverage about the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. It has been snatched away since 2018. The kingdom is once again enthusiastically welcomed back into the polite and powerful community, and the pursuit of Saudi investments is no longer frowned upon. or accept their favour.

The busy Saudi week of victories included mediating a prisoner exchange between Ukraine and Russia, holding a high-profile summit on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, marking the country’s national day with pomp and fest, hosting the German chancellor and discussing energy supplies with senior whites. House officials.

The kingdom is able to refocus once again on Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s ambitious renaming of Saudi Arabia and construction goals The largest sovereign wealth fund in the world and the withdrawal of the Kingdom from the Group of Twenty to the most exclusive G7 countries that represent the largest economies.

It is a task often described as awakening a sleeping giant. Yet it happens even as human rights reforms remain off the agenda.

As the crown prince embarks on sensitive social and economic reformsAt the same time, he oversaw a far-reaching crackdown On the opposition, which his supporters say is necessary to ensure stability during this period. Among those detained or barred from leaving the country are women’s rights activists, moderate preachers, conservative clerics, economists, and progressive writers. Even senior Saudi princes and billionaires were not spared from this. Several have been arrested and detained at the capital’s Ritz-Carlton hotel in an alleged anti-corruption drive that has raised more than $100 billion in assets.

But the campaign drew its strongest international rebuke after Khashoggi was murdered by Saudi agents inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul four years ago.

And just last month, two women were handed astoundingly long prison terms for their activism on Twitter and social media. A Saudi court has sentenced a woman to 45 years in prison In August, she was accused of harming the country through her social media activism. This came on the heels of a 34-year prison sentence About another Saudi woman convicted of spreading “rumours” and retweeting dissidents. Both women received unusually long sentences on appeal.

The Associated Press asked Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Farhan bin Faisal about these sentences. These issues are still under consideration. He said they had not yet considered the final appeal. He spoke at the exclusive Yale Club during an event in New York this week. The issues will not be discussed further.

The strength of Saudi Arabia lies not only in its number one position as the world’s largest oil exporter, but also in being home to Islam’s holiest sites. And her hometown.

The prince’s efforts to get rid of the yoke For decades, extremist Wahhabi control over every aspect of life is popular among Saudi youth. from cinemas And concerts to drive women Reducing the moral police powerThe face of Saudi Arabia is changing. The latter stands in stark contrast to the protests In Iran’s rival cities this week over the death of a woman in the custody of that country’s morality police.

At the other end of these changes is a reorientation of Saudi Arabia’s identity from a major religious focus to a cultural and cultural one. the National pride.

In a luxurious day-long forum this week at one of New York’s Upper East Side headlines, the kingdom’s $620 billion wealth fund has attracted some of the city’s dignitaries to mingle and network on the sidelines of the United Nations’ annual meeting of world leaders. While the Kingdom has not stopped attracting investors or establishing partnerships In the years following Khashoggi’s murder, or amid its ongoing war in Yemen, those relationships have been less advanced among American elites.

The Public Investment Fund owns significant stakes in Uber, Lucid Motors, cruise operator Carnival, Live Nation, Nintendo, Microsoft and a host of other companies. These investments aim to develop the oil wealth of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and use it to establish world-class tourism, leisure and luxury industries in the country. In doing so, the Kingdom is creating a resilient economy as the world looks to a future powered by green energy instead of fossil fuels.

The PIF’s largest project is NEOM, a massive futuristic project along the northwest coast of the Kingdom’s Red Sea that envisions flying cars and a 105-mile (170-kilometre) carbon-neutral city entirely surrounded and powered by artificial intelligence.

The crown prince oversees the Public Investment Fund, but the man who manages its day-to-day investments is Yasir Al-Rumayyan. He spoke at the so-called “top priority” to the financial elite that includes Jared KushnerA former White House adviser and son-in-law of Donald Trump. Kushner recently Securing a $2 billion investment from the Public Investment Fund to start his new private equity firm.

The fund is key to the 37-year-old prince’s race against time to create at least 1.8 million jobs for young Saudis coming of age and entering the job market.

“It is not just the numbers that we are looking for, but the quality of these jobs, the quality of what we deliver to our community – and at the same time, making money while we do it,” Al-Rumayyan said.

The PIF’s wealth is fueled by the kingdom’s oil revenues. Al-Rumayyan is also the chairman of Saudi Aramco. The state-owned oil and gas company set a record in the second quarter of this year with profits of more than $48 billion – more than Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft, Meta and Amazon in the same quarter combined.

The summit, organized by the Public Investment Fund’s Foreign Investment Initiative Institute, and held at the annual “Davos in the Desert” in Riyadh, attracted more than just people looking for opportunities and a top of Saudi Arabia’s offerings. It also attracted intellectuals and artists – the kind of soft power that money can’t always buy.

Despite the shift in tone in the West, the specter of Khashoggi’s murder still looms large.

The heir was notably absent from the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II, which drew members of the royal family from around the world to London this month. Sources close to Prince Mohammed said he would not attend the funeral, whose visuals could have been a distraction. But they said he would travel to London to pay his respects to the new King Charles III. It never happened.

After helping the crown prince negotiate a prisoner exchange Between Russia and Ukraine, a move that won international acclaim, the New York Post headline read: “White House Thanks Murderous Crown Prince.”

Fernando Javier Solichin, an Argentine film producer who collaborated on projects with Oliver Stone, said he was drawn to the PIF event because he wanted to hear new ideas and brainstorm.

“Instead of being sarcastic and just reading the papers,” he said, “it’s like, ‘What in the world is going on?” , adding that none of the sessions and discussions were “edited by any editorial board”. He likened it to getting water from a river, not from a tap.

The kingdom is no longer driven by the tides, it is riding its own wave.

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Aya Elbatrawy, an Associated Press journalist based in Dubai, is on assignment covering the work of the United Nations General Assembly. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ayaelb For more AP coverage of the UN General Assembly, visit https://apnews.com/hub/united-nations-general-assembly

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