Saudi Arabia’s 84-year-old ruler, King Salman bin Abdulaziz, is recovering after a successful operation to remove his gallbladder, state news agency SPA has reported, after he was admitted to hospital this week.
The king, who has ruled the world’s largest oil exporter and close United States ally since 2015, will stay in hospital for some time to receive treatment, SPA reported on Thursday.
King Salman, the custodian of Islam’s holiest sites, was admitted to hospital in the capital Riyadh on Monday after suffering from inflammation of the gallbladder.
He has since chaired a cabinet meeting via video call from his hospital room on Tuesday and could be seen in a video behind a desk, reading and leafing through documents.
King Salman was crown prince and deputy prime minister for more than two and a half years from June 2012 before becoming king. He also served as governor of the Riyadh region for more than 50 years.
Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler and next in line to the throne is the king’s son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), who has launched reforms to diversify its oil-dependent economy.
The 34-year-old prince, who is popular among many young Saudis, has won praise at home for easing social restrictions in the conservative Muslim kingdom, giving more rights to women and pledging to diversify the economy.
To the king’s supporters, this boldness at home and abroad was a welcome change after decades of caution, stagnation and dithering.
But state control of the media and a crackdown on dissent make it difficult to gauge the extent of domestic enthusiasm.
The crown prince’s reforms have been accompanied by a purge of top royals and businessmen on charges of corruption, and a costly war in Yemen, which have all unnerved some Western allies and investors.
He came under intense international criticism over the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate, which the CIA has reportedly said took place on the crown prince’s orders.
MBS has denied ordering Khashoggi’s killing but said he ultimately bears “full responsibility” as the kingdom’s de facto leader.