Under pressure over Khashoggi killing, MBS praises Qatar economy

Mohammed bin Salman offers rare praise of neighbour, which has been under Saudi-led blockade since 2017.

Mohammed Bin Salman
The Saudi crown prince is one of the key figures behind the more than a year long blockade of Qatar [Faisal al-Nasser/Reuters]

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has praised Qatar’s economy, a rare conciliatory remark about the Gulf state that his country has been blockading since June 2017.

Speaking at the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh on Wednesday, the de-facto Saudi leader said: “Qatar, despite the differences we have, has a great economy and they will be doing a lot in the next five years.”

The comments were made during a segment about economic potential in Saudi Arabia and neighbouring Middle Eastern countries.

He also claimed the “new Europe would be here in the Middle East”, alluding to the region’s economic promise.

Bin Salman is one of the key figures behind a land, sea, and air blockade of Qatar, along with the leaders of the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt.

The bloc accuses Qatar of supporting groups they have banned, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as supporting terrorism.

Qatar rejects any accusation that it supports terrorism as baseless.

As a result of the blockade, Qatar’s only land border with Saudi Arabia was closed off, and the blockading countries shut off airspace to traffic entering and leaving the country.

The Gulf state has largely weathered the embargo and established new trade relationships as a result, helped by vast foreign currency reserves and healthy demand for its liquified natural gas.

The Saudi crown prince has been under considerable pressure recently in light of the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul by an 18-man Saudi hit squad on October 2.

Saudi Arabia claims the killing was a kidnap operation gone wrong but suspicions linger around bin Salman’s possible role in the murder and whether the Washington Post columnist’s death was intentional.

At Wednesday’s forum, the crown prince said the Khashoggi case was “painful” and “justice will prevail”.

Calling Khashoggi’s murder a “heinous crime that cannot be justified”, he said all culprits will be punished, and promised Saudi Arabia and Turkey will work together “to reach results”.

He said the killing of the journalist will not “drive a wedge” between the kingdom and Turkey.

“We will cooperate with Turkey to discover the truth behind Khashoggi’s killing,” the Saudi crown prince said.

Source: Al Jazeera