Mohammed bin Salman will deliver his country’s condolences to the royal family after the death of the Queen, a source has told the Guardian, but there has been no confirmation about whether he will attend the funeral service at Westminster Abbey.
It will be the Saudi crown prince’s first visit to the UK since the murder of the Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018 and the subsequent British imposition of sanctions. These included travel bans on a group of courtiers close to the crown prince due to their alleged involvement in the killing inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Since Khashoggi’s death, the US President, Joe Biden, the EU council president, Charles Michel, and former UK prime minister Boris Johnson have all met Prince Mohammed, often to urge the Saudis to increase oil production to help with energy prices. Johnson met the crown prince in March but there has been no sign of the Saudi regime’s willingness to increase production, or to make major domestic reforms in how it treats dissidents or punishes human rights advocates.
No explanation was given by UK or Saudi sources over Prince Mohammed’s detailed weekend plans, but sensitive judgments are still being made on whether his attendance at the funeral would represent an unacceptable security threat or a distraction from the commemoration of the Queen due to the protests his presence may provoke.
The UK in 2020 sanctioned six named Saudis for their alleged killing of Khashoggi. Some of them were senior advisers to the crown prince, including Ahmed al-Asiri, deputy head of the Saudi Intelligence services; Saud bin Abdullah al-Qahtani, adviser to the crown prince in the royal court; Salah Muhammed al-Tubaigy, forensic doctor with the Saudi interior ministry; Mustafa al-Madani, brigadier general and intelligence officer in Saudi Arabia; Naif Hassan al-Arifi, first lieutenant for external intelligence; and major general Mansour Othman Abahussain.
Prince Mohammed has always denied prior knowledge of the attack. In 2020 a Saudi court overturned five death sentences over the murder of Khashoggi, in a ruling that jailed eight defendants for between seven and 20 years.
The crown prince last visited the UK in June 2018, when the UK hailed Saudi Arabia for starting a major programme of domestic reforms.
As part of a deep connection between the royal family and the Gulf monarchies, King Charles III has been a frequent visitor to Saudi Arabia. It is the country he has most frequently visited in the Middle East, having made as many as 12 official visits since his investiture as Prince Charles in 1967.
At one point he was learning Arabic due to his interest in Islam, while the Prince’s Foundation – dedicated to “realising the Prince of Wales’ vision of creating communities for a more sustainable world” – has had satellite operations in Riyadh.