Saudi king’s pilot son named US envoy
RIYADHSaudi Arabia has named an air force pilot son of King Salman as ambassador to its major ally Washington, with which ties are improving under President Donald Trump.
The change came among a series of orders issued by the king, who shuffled his cabinet, restored civil service benefits, and replaced the head of the army which for two years has been fighting rebels n neighboring Yemen.
“Prince Abdullah bin Faisal bin Turki removed as ambassador to the U.S. Prince Khaled bin Salman bin Abdulaziz appointed ambassador,” the official Saudi Press Agency reported, citing a royal order.
Prince Abdullah had served for just over a year, according to the website of the Saudi embassy in Washington.
The United States and Saudi Arabia have a decades-old relationship based on the exchange of American security for Saudi oil.
But ties between Riyadh and Washington became increasingly frayed during the administration of president Barack Obama.
Among other orders issued by King Salman, the head of the army Lieutenant General Eid al-Shalwi was removed. Fahad Bin Turki was promoted to replace him.
The army is helping to defend Saudi Arabia’s southern border from rebel incursions. Saudi military personnel in the Yemen operation will receive a salary bonus of two months, the king also ordered, despite a budget deficit forecast to be $53 billion this year following a collapse in global oil prices since 2014.
The salaries of other civil servants were frozen last year and benefits curbed, while the government cut subsidies and delayed major projects.
Salman on April 22 ended the restrictions on compensation for state workers because he is “keen to provide comfort to the Saudi citizens,” a decree said, as the kingdom prepares to increase electricity and other prices.
Salman fired Minister of Civil Service Khaled al-Araj, who will be investigated by a committee of the Royal Court.
The Arab News reported late last year that Araj was under investigation by the kingdom’s anti-corruption commission for the alleged “irregular hiring” of his son.
In other changes, Salman dismissed Minister of Information and Culture Adel al-Turaifi and replaced him with Awad al-Awad.
Minister of Communication and Information Technology Mohammed al-Suwaiyel also lost his job, replaced by Abdullah al-Swaha. The king changed some regional governors, along with numerous senior bureaucrats including the head of the General Authority of Sports.