Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, often referred to as MBS, recently embarked on a regional tour — his first after various intelligence services suggested he had a direct role in the “premeditated murder” of Saudi journalist and critic Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul.
En route to the G20 leaders’ summit in Buenos Aires, MBS visited several countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt and is expected to visit Tunisia today.
It would appear other stops were planned, but the crown prince of the powerful Saudi kingdom might not be welcome in every country amid reports that he ordered the hit on Khashoggi.
Persona non grata?
Morocco is said to have refused to host Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS). Independent local news outlet Lakome2 reported that the Kingdom of Morocco also requested to postpone the 13th meeting of the Moroccan-Saudi Joint Committee, which was meant to be held on Monday.
The bilateral committee is meant to focus on enhancing economic cooperation between the two kingdoms, according to a statement from a preparatory meeting held in February in Riyadh. The meeting which was postponed would have been chaired by the two foreign ministers.
A source quoted by Lakome2, who wished to remain anonymous, said, “MBS did not exclude Morocco from his visit, but Morocco is refusing to receive him in the current circumstances."
The absence of Morocco, a historic Saudi ally, from MBS’s itinerary, however, was reported by New York-headquartered Morocco World News as a decision driven by Riyadh, not Rabat.
Where does Morocco stand?
The two Sunni kingdoms have old ties and are known as long-standing allies in the Arab world. King Mohammed VI of Morocco sent MBS a congratulatory message on the Saudi kingdom’s national day.
However, in recent times, Morocco has not supported Saudi Arabia on several political fronts.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other Arab countries imposed sanctions and embargoes on Qatar in June 2017, accusing it of cosying up to their regional rival Iran and supporting terrorism.
Morocco chose to remain neutral on the issue, despite Saudi pressure to join the blockade.
In fact, Morocco said it would send plane-loads of food to Qatar to boost supplies after Gulf Arab states cut diplomatic and economic ties with Doha.
One year later, Saudi Arabia lobbied and voted for the joint candidacy of US, Canada and Mexico to host FIFA World Cup 2026. Morocco wanted to stage the cup but lost the bid to North America.
Morocco is also one of the few Arab countries that did not come out in support of Saudi Arabia over the assassination of Khashoggi. The kingdom instead chose to remain silent while other Arab countries offered early and public support to Saudi Arabia.
The two allies have not come out publicly against each other as yet; instead Saudi Arabia and Morocco have chosen to remain silent while reciprocally acting against the other’s interests.