First female ambassador as Saudis seek to soften image

Riyadh:  Saudi Arabia has appointed the full younger brother of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as its deputy defence minister and named a princess as the kingdom's first woman ambassador to the United States.

The appointments follow Riyadh's efforts to overcome an international outcry over last year’s murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents, which damaged relations with Western allies including the United States.

Prince Khalid bin Salman, a son of the king, had been ambassador to Washington since 2017. Prince Mohammed, who controls most levels of power in the country, has been defence minister since 2015 when his father ascended the throne.

Prince Khaled bin Salman, right, the brother of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Saudi Ambassador to the United States, and Ibrahim al-Assaf, the new Saudi foreign minister, are pictured at the Royal Court in Riyadh on January 14.Credit:AP

The crown prince led Saudi Arabia into a war in Yemen that has killed tens of thousands of civilians and pushed the country to the brink of famine, sparking widespread criticism especially after the Khashoggi murder.

The new envoy to Washington, Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan, is the daughter of a former long-time ambassador to the United States.

She is a graduate in museology from an American university and had a career in the private sector before joining the kingdom's General Sports Authority where she has championed women's participation in sports and focused on increasing women's empowerment.

Prince Khalid graduated from the King Faisal Air Academy in Riyadh and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Royal Saudi Air Force.

He received his initial pilot training at Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, and advanced training at Columbus Air Force Base in Columbus, Mississippi. He also studied advanced electronic warfare in France.

Before a back injury ended his flying career, Prince Khalid flew more than 50 combat missions as part of the international coalition campaign against Daesh in Syria and as part of Operations Decisive Storm and Renewal of Hope in Yemen.

Reuters, wires

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