US President Donald Trump will host Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on March 20, the White House said today. “The president looks forward to discussing ways to strengthen ties between the United States and Saudi Arabia,” spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in announcing the meeting.
The hugely influential Saudi prince is visiting Egypt, Britain and the United States as part of a long foreign trip, his first as crown prince. He has a close relationship with Trump and his son-in-law aide Jared Kushner, who is seen as having given the green light for Prince Mohammed’s rush to consolidate power in recent months. Critics have labelled the crown prince’s campaign a shakedown and power grab, although authorities insist the purge targeted endemic corruption as the country prepares for a post-oil era.
According to a New York Times investigation published yesterday, prominent Saudis held as part of the crackdown were subjected to coercion and physical abuse — allegations rejected by the Saudi government as “completely untrue.” The crown prince has wooed the West by promising a more open society, one which allows women to drive and relaxes rules on music.