Saudi Arabia demotes foreign minister in wake of Khashoggi case

AFP  John SAEKISaudi Arabia’s changing stance on the death of Jamal Khashoggi

AFP John SAEKISaudi Arabia’s changing stance on the death of Jamal Khashoggi

Saudi Arabia's King Salman has appointed a new foreign minister as part of a major cabinet reshuffle, according to Saudi state media.

As the crown prince struggles to convince many in Washington and other Western capitals that he had nothing to do with Khashoggi's killing, the soft-spoken Adel al-Jubeir was replaced as foreign minister by Ibrahim al-Assaf, a longtime former finance minister.

Jubeir, who sought to defend the tainted government internationally after Khashoggi's murder, was effectively demoted to minister of state for foreign affairs, the decree added without explaining the change.

New Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Assaf is a former long-serving finance minister and a board member of Saudi oil giant Aramco. Hamad al-Sheikh was appointed minister of education.

The reshuffle comes as Saudi Arabia seeks to fix its tarnished image after Khashoggi's murder, widely seen as its worst diplomatic crisis since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, in which most of the hijackers were identified as Saudi nationals.

The reshuffle would help the crown prince further "consolidate power" as many of those promoted were his "key allies", tweeted Ali Shihabi, head of the pro-Saudi think tank The Arabia Foundation.

Born in 1949, Al-Assaf completed his BA in economics and political science from King Saud University in Riyadh in 1971.

AFP  File  Fayez Nureldine Ibrahim al-Assaf a former finance minister is set to replace Adel al Jubeir as the foreign minister
AFP File Fayez Nureldine Ibrahim al-Assaf a former finance minister is set to replace Adel al Jubeir as the foreign minister

Assaf was released within weeks of his detention at Riyadh's Ritz-Carlton hotel past year after being cleared of wrongdoing and without making any payment to the state, as many others held in the crackdown had to do.

General Kalid bin Qirar al-Harbi was also named general security chief, while Musaed al-Aiban was appointed national security adviser. This means al-Sheikh no longer oversees a cybersecurity and programming body that was led by Saud al-Qahtani, a close aide to the crown prince who was sacked from his post and sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department for helping to mastermind the plot that led to Khashoggi's killing.

The CIA reportedly concluded that Prince Mohammed ordered Khashoggi's assassination.

He left in 1989 and became executive director for Saudi Arabia at the World Bank Group for six years before being briefly appointed vice governor of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency in 1995.

One significant change impacts a close aide of the crown prince, Turki al-Sheikh, who was named as head of the kingdom's General Entertainment Authority, a body created in recent years to help organize and promote concerts and other events that had always been banned in the conservative country.

Turki al-Sheikh, head of Saudi Arabia's sports committee and a close adviser to Crown Prince Mohammed, was replaced and named as new chief of the Entertainment Commission.

Turki Shabbaneh, a Saudi TV presenter, was named minister of media.

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