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Arabic press review: Saudi deputy defence minister secretly visits Khartoum

Meanwhile, Ethiopian officials sense a shift in ties with Sudan, and Saudi Arabia launches a new 'special' visa for expatriates
Sudanese opposition have rallied against Arab states' meddling in the post-Omar Bashir political transformation, as Saudi, UAE and Egypt are seen to back the military junta (AFP)

Saudi prince sneaks a visit to Sudan

Saudi Deputy Defence Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman has recently visited Sudan's capital and secretly met with members of the military council in charge of the country since longtime leader Omar al-Bashir was ousted from power, online news outlet Arabi21 reported.

Neither Saudi Arabia nor Sudan have issued official statements about the visit nor provided any details.

Quoting Sudanese sources, Arabi21 said the prince's visit to Khartoum accompanied by a delegation of high-ranking officials was kept confidential, with the identities of the Sudanese officials whom Khalid bin Salman met remaining a secret, along with whether the delegation met any other Sudanese parties besides the Transitional Military Council.

The visit occurred amid growing speculation about the role both Saudi Arabia and the UAE are playing in Sudan - as protesters have become increasingly concerned by the two monarchies' meddling in the country's affairs.

A joint Saudi-Emirati delegation has recently visited Khartoum, but the identity of its members remaining unknown. Another delegation headed by former Palestinian Fatah leader Mohammad Dahlan, the current security adviser to the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammed bin Zayed, has also visited Khartoum, according to Arabi21.

Ethiopian delegation leaves Sudan outraged

Meanwhile, a meeting between an Ethiopian delegation of top-ranking officials and Sudanese counterparts in Khartoum to discuss relations between the two countries did not go as well as the visitors had planned, Arabi21 reported.

An unnamed Sudanese source told Arabi21 that the Ethiopian officials were ignored and marginalised, and that the receiving Sudanese officials "were not as friendly as expected".

The source blamed this frosty reception on "political pressure exerted by Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE".

"The UAE may have exploited the current circumstances in Sudan to indirectly address Ethiopia," they added. "This may have something to do with the Renaissance Dam and the problems between Egypt and Ethiopia."

The source hypothesised that recent UAE efforts to improve relations with Ethiopia - against escalating tensions between Addis Ababa and Cairo over Ethiopia's Renaissance Dam project on the Nile - have not succeeded, and as a result Abu Dhabi may have shifted to trying to block Ethiopian interests in Sudan, according to Arabi21.

'Special' Saudi visa comes into effect

A new "special" residency visa strengthening foreigners' ownership rights is now being offered to expatriates in Saudi Arabia, local newspaper Al-Sabq reported.

As per the official gazette's publication regarding the new visa scheme that came into effect on Monday, holders of the special residency visa will be allowed to own property for residential and commercial purposes, except in Mecca, Medina and other territorial regions. Expatriates would also be allowed to invest in units in Mecca and Medina for up to 99 years, Sabq said. 

Bearers of this visa would also be allowed to enter or leave the country without prior notice, and can use passport desks allocated for Saudi citizens, the newspaper said. The validity of this visa would either be unlimited, or year-long with the option of extension.

* Arabic press review is a digest of reports that are not independently verified as accurate by Middle East Eye.