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Mohammed bin Salman to begin tour of Arab states on Friday

Saudi crown prince's tour of Egypt, UAE, Bahrain and Tunisia comes as US senators demand probe into his alleged role in Jamal Khashoggi's killing
MBS will review the peace process in the region, and discuss ways to enhance bilateral ties, an Arab diplomatic source said (Reuters)

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is to begin a tour of Arab states, including Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Tunisia on Friday, according to a German news agency.

The tour comes as US President Donald Trump issued a statement on Tuesday saying that the United States intends to stand by Saudi Arabia, including bin Salman, despite the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October.

Earlier this week, MEE reported that during a visit to Riyadh last month US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave the Saudis a roadmap to shield themselves from the murder scandal. 

Last Friday, in contrast, several US news outlets reported that the CIA said it had concluded that the crown prince ordered the killing of Khashoggi, who was a critic of the Saudi leadership.

"Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!" Trump said in the written statement.

In the face of the pressure, MBS will launch his tour and then carry on to Argentina to attend the G20 summit, an Arab diplomatic source in Riyadh told the German news agency DPA on Tuesday.

The crown prince will discuss the latest developments in Yemen and ways to face terrorism and Iranian threats during his visit to the countries, the source said.

He will also review the peace process in the region, and discuss ways to enhance bilateral ties with the four countries, the source added.

A Saudi-led coalition launched a military offensive in Yemen in 2015 as part of a push to root out Houthi rebels who had taken over the capital, Sanaa.

'Extrajudicial killing'

Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih announced on Monday that MBS would travel to Argentina as part of a foreign tour, signalling that the crown prince can still carry out diplomatic duties despite the Khashoggi scandal.

On Tuesday, leaders of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee demanded that the Trump administration examine whether MBS was responsible for Khashoggi's murder.

Republican Senator Bob Corker and Democratic Senator Bob Menendez sent a letter to Trump on behalf of the committee to open a second investigation focused on the crown prince and on determining "whether a foreign person is responsible for an extrajudicial killing, torture or other gross violation" of human rights.

"'Maybe he did and maybe he didn't' won't cut it," Corker tweeted last night, referring to Trump's statement. The Republican senator from Tennessee also wrote on Twitter that he'd never thought he'd see the day "a White House would moonlight as a public relations firm for the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia".

The committee's letter triggers a provision of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act requiring the president to determine whether a foreign person was responsible for a human rights violation.

The request requires the president to "report to the committee within 120 days with a determination and a decision on the imposition of sanctions on that foreign person or persons".

The CIA said it had collected multiple sources of intelligence indicating that MBS issued the instructions for Khashoggi's killing, the Washington Post reported on Friday.

The New York Times said the CIA had come to the conclusion based on MBS's control of Saudi Arabia and had reinforced its assessment "with two sets of crucial communications: intercepts of the crown prince's calls in the days before the killing, and calls by the kill team to a senior aide to the crown prince".