Saudi King Salman's brother is returning back to the Kingdom despite having made controversial remarks to anti-Saudi protesters in London that sparked furious speculation about possible discord within the royal family.
A senior member of the Saudi royal family is reported to have returned to Riyadh from London in what The New York Times is calling the "most significant move in the royal family since the killing of the dissident Jamal Khashoggi."
Three Saudis close to Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz confirmed his return to the US newspaper.
The paper reported that Prince Ahmed, the younger brother of King Salman, had earlier been afraid to return after he appeared to criticise Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman last month.
The 33-year-old Crown Prince bin Salman is the presumed heir apparent to King Salman.
Prince Ahmed, in his 70s, is considered one of the most senior figures in the Saudi royal family. It's unclear how his return will play – to the crown prince's detriment or advantage.
“His return is a significant indication of manoeuvring within the royal family,” Gregory Gause, an expert on Saudi politics, told the New York Times. “Something is up.”
Director of The Institute for Gulf Affairs, Ali Al Ahmed explains why he believes the prince's return is a distraction.
Involvement in Yemen
Prince Ahmed apparently told a crowd in London to stop chanting slogans against the Saudi royal family over the kingdom's involvement in the three-year conflict in Yemen.
"What does the family have to do with it? Certain individuals are responsible ... the king and the crown prince," he said, according to a widely-circulated online video of the incident in London.
The comment was seen by many on social media as rare criticism from a royal family member of the kingdom's leadership as well as its role in the Yemen conflict, dubbed by the UN as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.
But in a statement, the prince dismissed that interpretation as "inaccurate."
"I have made it clear that the king and the crown prince are responsible for the state and its decisions," the prince said in the statement released by the official Saudi Press Agency.