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Saudi crown prince arrives in Algeria, denounced by scholars, journalists

Tour of other countries by MBS overshadowed by murder of Jamal Khashoggi, war in Yemen
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, left, and Algerian Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia at Algiers airport on Sunday (AFP)

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) arrived in the Algerian capital on Sunday night as part of a tour overshadowed by the murder of a dissident journalist.

The powerful prince and his large delegation were seen being greeted on a red carpet at Algiers airport by Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia and members of his government, AFP reported.

The aim of the trip was to give "new impetus to bilateral cooperation and the realisation of partnerships and investment projects," the Algerian presidency said ahead of the visit.

MBS set off last week on his first foreign tour since the grisly murder of Washington Post and MEE columnist Jamal Khashoggi in Saudi Arabia's Istanbul consulate on 2 October. Before participating in the G20 summit in Argentina, the heir to the throne of the world's top oil exporter had visited the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt and Tunisia, Reuters said.

Khashoggi's killing has put mounting pressure on Riyadh and MBS, who Turkish officials - and reportedly the CIA - have concluded was behind Khashoggi’s death. Saudi authorities have vehemently denied the crown prince was involved in the murder, although Riyadh has admitted Khashoggi was killed at the Istanbul consulate. 

Still, MBS sent at least 11 messages to his closest adviser - who oversaw the team that killed Khashoggi - in the hours before and after the journalist's death, according to a classified CIA assessment seen by the Wall Street Journal.

The Journal also reported on Friday that in August 2017 MBS had told associates if his efforts to persuade Khashoggi to return to Saudi Arabia were unsuccessful "we could possibly lure him outside Saudi Arabia and make arrangements".

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Middle East Eye previously reported that Khashoggi was dragged from the consul general's office in the consulate onto the table of his study next door where it took seven minutes for him to be killed.

The Saudi crown prince's visit to Algeria has drawn criticism from political and academic circles in the North African country. It was jointly denounced by 17 intellectuals, journalists, Muslim scholars and other figures in Algeria in a statement obtained by AFP.

In the statement, they said the "whole world is certain that he ordered a terrible crime against the journalist Jamal Khashoggi".

Political parties also expressed opposition to the visit, among them the Movement for the Society of Peace opposition party.

It said Prince Mohammed was "responsible for the death of a large number of children and civilians in Yemen" as well as that of Khashoggi.

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Louisa Hanoune, head of the opposition Workers' Party, described his visit as a "provocation".

Algerian-Saudi investments and trade relations, especially in the oil and petrochemical sectors, will be discussed during the two-day visit, APS said on Saturday.

Algeria is one of the few Arab countries that has good relations with Saudi Arabia and its arch-rival Iran, both fellow OPEC members.

Algiers also has strong ties with Qatar, with which Saudi Arabia and three other Arab states severed trade and transport ties in June 2017, accusing it of supporting terrorism and Iran. Qatar denies the allegations.

Algeria is also on good terms with Turkey, whose relations with Saudi Arabia have been strained by the Khashoggi killing.

Earlier in the day, MBS made a brief visit to Mauritania where he signed a series of agreements with President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz.

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