Saudi Arabia’s triumphant week reclaims the West’s embrace

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NEW YORK (AP) — Saudi Arabia appears to be putting behind it the flood of negative coverage that sparked the killing of Jamal Khashoggi since 2018. The kingdom is being enthusiastically welcomed back into an educated and powerful society, and it’s not so ruined anymore. to seek Saudi investments or accept their favor.

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Saudi Arabia’s busy week of triumphs included brokering a prisoner exchange between Ukraine and Russia, holding a high-level summit on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, holding the the country’s national day with pomp and splendour, the reception of the German chancellor and the discussion of energy supply with the leading whites. House officials.

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The kingdom is able to refocus on Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s ambitious rebranding of Saudi Arabia and his goals of building the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund and taking the kingdom out of the G-20 in the most exclusive G-7 nations they represent. the largest economies.

It’s a mission that is often characterized by awakening a sleeping giant. Except it’s happening even as human rights reforms are off the agenda.

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As the crown prince embarks on sensitive social and economic reforms, he has simultaneously overseen a far-reaching crackdown on dissent that his supporters say is necessary to ensure stability during this period. Among those detained or banned from leaving the country are women’s rights activists, moderate preachers, conservative clergy, economists and progressive writers. Even top Saudi princes and billionaires have not been spared. Many were rounded up and held at the capital’s Ritz-Carlton in an alleged anti-corruption sweep that netted more than $100 billion in assets.

The crackdown, however, drew its strongest international condemnation since the killing of Khashoggi by Saudi agents in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul four years ago.

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And just last month, two women were given surprisingly long prison terms for their Twitter and social media activity. A Saudi court sentenced a woman to 45 years in prison in August for allegedly damaging the country through her social media activity. It came after a 34-year prison sentence for 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 the rulings. “These cases are still pending. They are not yet in final appeal,” he said, adding that the cases belong to the judiciary, which he said operates independently. He spoke at the exclusive Yale Club during a event in New York this week.He would not discuss the cases further.

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Saudi Arabia’s strength lies not only in its top position as the world’s top oil exporter, but also as the home of Islam’s holiest site and its birthplace.

The prince’s efforts to shake off the yoke of decades of ultraconservative Wahhabi control over all aspects of life are popular among young Saudis. From movie theaters and concerts, to women driving and reducing morality police authority, the face of Saudi Arabia is changing. The latter contrasts sharply with protests in rival cities in Iran 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 primarily religious focus to one of cultural and national pride.

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At a posh one-day forum this week at a prime address on New York’s Upper East Side, the $620 billion sovereign wealth fund drew some of the city’s who’s who for mingle and network on the sidelines of the United Nations annual meeting of world leaders. While the kingdom never stopped attracting investors or forging partnerships in the years after Khashoggi’s death, or amid its ongoing war in Yemen, those ties were less forward-looking among American elites.

The Public Investment Fund has major stakes in Uber, Lucid Motors, cruise operator Carnival, Live Nation, Nintendo, Microsoft and a host of other companies. The goal of these investments is to grow Saudi Arabia’s oil wealth and use it to establish world-class tourism, entertainment and luxury industries in the country. In doing so, the kingdom creates a resilient economy as the world looks to a future powered by green energy rather than fossil fuels.

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PIF’s biggest venture is Neom, a futuristic megaproject along the kingdom’s northwest Red Sea coast that envisions flying cars and a 105-mile-long (170-kilometer) zero-carbon city that is fully enclosed and powered by artificial intelligence.

The crown prince oversees the PIF, but the man who manages its day-to-day investments is Yasir al-Rumayyan. He spoke at the so-called “Priorities Summit” to a monetary elite that included Jared Kushner, a former White House adviser and Donald Trump’s son-in-law. Kushner recently secured a $2 billion investment from PIF to launch 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 workforce.

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“We’re not just looking at the numbers, but the quality of these jobs, the quality of our offering to our society, and at the same time making money while doing it,” al-Rumayyan said.

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

The summit, organized by PIF’s Foreign Investment Initiative Institute, which hosts the annual “Davos in the Desert” in Riyadh, attracted more than just people looking for opportunities and a taste of what Saudi Arabia has to offer . It also attracted intellectuals and artists, the kind of soft power that money can’t always buy.

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Despite a change in tone in the West, the shadow of Khashoggi’s murder still looms large.

The crown prince was notably absent from Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral, which drew royals from around the world to London this month. Sources close to Prince Mohammed said he would not attend the funeral, the optics of which would have been a distraction. But they did say he would fly to London to pay his respects to the new King Charles III. This never happened.

And after the crown prince helped broker a prisoner swap between Russia and Ukraine, a move that drew international praise, the New York Post headline read: “White House thanks murderous crown prince.”

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

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“Instead of being cynical and just reading the papers, it’s like, what’s going on in the world?” he said, adding that none of the sessions and discussions “are edited by any editorial board.” He compared it to getting water from the river instead of the tap.

No longer pulled by the tide, the kingdom is riding its own wave.


Aya Batrawy, an AP reporter based in Dubai, is working to cover the UN General Assembly. Follow her on Twitter at and for more AP coverage of the UN General Assembly, visit



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