Saudi Arabia appoints princess as US ambassador

Reema replaces younger brother of Mohammed bin Salman amid strained relations between two countries over killing of Jamal Khashoggi

Ben Hubbard
Sunday 24 February 2019 11:43
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Princess Reema is the daughter of a former US ambassador who was close to the Bush family
Princess Reema is the daughter of a former US ambassador who was close to the Bush family

Saudi Arabia has appointed Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan as its new ambassador to the US – the first woman ever to take on an envoy role for the kingdom.

The appointment of Princess Reema by royal decree came amid strained relations between Saudi Arabia and the US over the killing of Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents in Istanbul in October.

Members of congress have pursued measures to hold Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman responsible for the killing and to cut military aid to the Saudi war in Yemen.

But Donald Trump has stood by the kingdom, seeing it as a valuable Middle Eastern ally and reliable buyer of US weapons.

Princess Reema will replace Prince Khalid bin Salman, a son of King Salman and a younger brother of the crown prince, who took the post in 2017. Also in a royal decree on Saturday, Prince Khalid was named deputy defence minister under the crown prince, who heads the ministry.

Since his father ascended to the throne in 2015, Prince Mohammed has pushed for vast changes in Saudi Arabia.

He has called for a more diversified economy, granted women the right to drive, expanded entertainment options and moderated the kingdom’s official religious rhetoric. At the same time, he has spearheaded a disastrous military intervention in Yemen and other policies that have raised doubts about his judgement.

The appointment of Princess Reema to Washington appeared aimed at turning a new page after the killing of Mr Khashoggi, who lived in Virginia and was a columnist for the Washington Post, while also emphasising the kingdom’s social reforms in the capital of its most important ally.

In addition to representing the new possibilities now available for Saudi women, Princess Reema is the daughter of Prince Bandar bin Sultan, a towering figure in Saudi diplomacy who served as the kingdom’s ambassador to the US from 1983 to 2005. He was so close with the Bush family that he was often referred to as “Bandar Bush”.

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Princess Reema spent many years in Washington while her father was ambassador and graduated with a degree in museum studies from George Washington University. She has recently served in the kingdom’s sports commission.

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