Meanwhile, Algerian presidential elections set to proceed as planned, while Saudi Shura Council restricts child marriage
What's the story behind the new Saudi ambassador to Germany?
With a new Saudi ambassador, Prince Faisal Farhan al-Saud, set to assume his duties in Berlin starting from 15 January, a report by online news outlet Arabi21 raised several questions about his political and personal connections.
Faisal Farhan is currently a senior adviser at the Saudi embassy in Washington.
In its report, Arabi21 asked whether the new ambassador was involved in the operation to lure murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, as Khashoggi had visited the embassy in Washington before going to Istanbul to obtain personal documents.
However, a source who asked not to be named told Arabi21 that Faisal Farhan's transfer "is directly linked" to dissident Saudi Prince Khalid bin Farhan al-Saud, "who has been a refugee in Germany for years and whose opposition to the Saudi regime has become loud in the recent several months".
Arabi21’s source also posited whether Farhan’s appointment “will pave the way for an attempt to lure the dissident prince and kidnap him, as happened with Jamal Khashoggi and other princes - or will it be the new ambassador's mission to arrange a meeting with the oppositionist prince and try to persuade him to stop opposing to the ruling regime in Saudi Arabia?"
Algerian elections won't be postponed
The Algerian presidential elections will be held on 18 April, after discussions about postponing the vote were held at more than one level but ultimately failed, according to London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper, which cited informed sources.
President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, 81, has been in power since 1999 and is running for a fifth term in office this year. The Algerian constitution was controversially amended several times to allow him to run for a third, fourth, and now fifth term.
Bouteflika’s ill health has been a serious source of concern, as the head of state made very few public appearances in recent years.
Despite scepticism among many Algerians that candidates other than Bouteflika stand a chance in the elections, Al-Quds Al-Arabi’s anonymous sources said: "There is no consensus about an inclination towards a new presidential term for President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, because this would constitute a risk with unknown consequences.
“Other views even consider Bouteflika's running for a fifth term means handing over power to unconstitutional forces."
Saudi Arabia’s Shura Council recommends restricting underage marriages
The Saudi Shura Council - a body similar to parliament, but that can only issue non-binding decisions - has announced the approval of new regulations governing underage marriage.
The new regulations restrict the issuance of marriage contracts for boys and girls between the ages of 15 and 18, as well as impose a blanket ban prohibiting anyone under 15 years old from signing a marriage contract, according to Saudi newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat.
The newspaper called the new rules "a major breakthrough in the underage marriage issue".
The chairman of the Arab Human Rights Committee of the Shura Council, Hadi al-Yami, said marriage for individuals between 15 and 18 years of age will now only be arranged with special permission from the relevant court.
Yami said these regulations would protect the institution of the family and reduce high rates of divorce in the country.
"Early marriage sometimes results in health and family problems and a high divorce rate," he told Asharq al-Awsat.
* Arabic press review is a digest of reports that are not independently verified as accurate by Middle East Eye.