King Salman appoints Ibrahim al Assaf in a cabinet reshuffle replacing Adel al Jubeir who played a key role in leading Riyadh’s response to writer Jamal Khashoggi's killing at its Istanbul consulate.

The Saudi king also ordered the creation of a national space agency to be led by one of his sons, Prince Sultan bin Salman, a former astronaut.
The Saudi king also ordered the creation of a national space agency to be led by one of his sons, Prince Sultan bin Salman, a former astronaut. (Reuters)

Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz on Thursday issued a wide-ranging overhaul of top government posts, including naming a new foreign minister, following international criticism of the killing of Saudi journalist and critic Jamal Khashoggi on October 2 by a hit squad sent from Riyadh.

Adel al Jubeir, the soft-spoken foreign minister since 2015 and face of the Saudi response to the crime in Istanbul, was replaced by Ibrahim al Assaf, who was formerly a finance minister. 

TRT World spoke to TRT Arabic's Director of News Resul Serdar Atas for his analysis. 

Riyadh's attempt to limit pressure?

Al Jubeir was appointed to the post of minister of state for foreign affairs.

Al Assaf had been serving as minister of state, and has held a seat on the boards of oil-giant Saudi Aramaco and the kingdom's sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund.

The changes impact several key ministries. 

They come as the king and his son Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the heir apparent and the man CIA believes ordered the hit on Khashoggi, are looking to limit the ongoing fallout from his murder.

The reshuffle would help the crown prince further "consolidate power" as many of those promoted were his "key allies", tweeted Ali Shihabi, head of the pro-Saudi think tank The Arabia Foundation.

Experts on Saudi politics said the move reflected a perception that Jubeir, a veteran diplomat, was tainted by having served as Riyadh's chief global defender during the Khashoggi affair.

"(Assaf) will basically follow orders, but is seen as key to rebuilding the kingdom's tarnished image given his own positive international image," said Neil Quilliam, a senior research fellow at Britain's Chatham House think tank. 

"So this rings in the new for the new year, but no real change."

Turkey has demanded the extradition of those responsible to stand trial in Istanbul, a request Riyadh has so far refused. 

Ankara is also seeking a UN investigation in the journalist's killing.

Other changes

In other moves, the Saudi king appointed Prince Abdullah bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz to replace Prince Miteb bin Abdullah as chief of the National Guard, and ordered a reshuffle of Saudi Arabia's Political and Security Council.

General Kalid bin Qirar al Harbi was named general security chief, while Musaed a Aiban was appointed national security adviser.

Turki al Sheikh, a close aide to the crown prince, was removed as the head of the kingdom's sports commission and appointed entertainment authority chief, while Ahmed al Khatib was named tourism authority chief.

Turki al Shabana, an executive at broadcaster Rotana, was appointed minister of information. Rotana is owned by billionaire investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, who was also detained at the Ritz last year and later released.

King Salman also ordered the creation of a Saudi Space Agency, chaired by his 62-year-old son Prince Sultan bin Salman, who heads the Saudi tourism agency and flew aboard the US Space Shuttle Discovery in the 1980s as the first Arab in space.

Source: AP