Princess Reema bint Bandar assumes post as Saudi ambassador to US

She is the first female in the history of the kingdom to hold the role

(FILES) In this file photo taken on October 24, 2018 Saudi Princess Reema bint Bandar al-Saud speaks during the Future Investment Initiative (FII) conference in the capital Riyadh. Saudi Arabia on Saturday named a princess as its first woman ambassador to the United States, a key appointment as the fallout over journalist Jamal Khashoggi's murder tests relations between the allies. Princess Reema bint Bandar replaced Prince Khalid bin Salman, the younger brother of the powerful crown prince who was appointed vice defence minister in a flurry of late-night royal decrees announced on state media.
 / AFP / FAYEZ NURELDINE

Saudi Princess Reema bint Bandar began her duties as the kingdom’s first female ambassador to the US on Wednesday.

The princess became the 11th Saudi diplomatic representative to Washington since 1945, marking an opening that could grant women greater prominence in government positions.

She replaces Prince Khaled bin Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s younger brother, who is now the kingdom’s deputy defence minister.

“Princess Reema will immediately begin her mission to strengthen the historic partnership between Saudi Arabia and the United States,” said spokesperson for the Saudi embassy in Washington, Fahad Nazer.

“The Ambassador will bring a fresh perspective on a rapidly changing Saudi Arabia to Washington, continuing to build on key areas of cooperation between our two countries,” Mr Nazer said in a statement.

The royal presented her credentials on Wednesday to the State Department before starting the post.

“Honoured to present my credentials today to State Department. Looking forward to starting this chapter of my life in Washington DC,” Princess Reema said in a tweet.

The Saudi ambassador met with Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker on Wednesday and discussed “ways to strengthen relations and explored avenues for cooperation”.

The princess has extensive experience with US politics and diplomacy, having lived in Washington when her father, Prince Bandar, was ambassador.

Prince Bandar is one of the grandchildren of King Abdulaziz, the founder of Saudi Arabia.

The UAE's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr Anwar Gargash, congratulated Princess Reema for starting her new role.

The Princess's "presence, culture and reasoning are appreciated and praised, and the representation of the kingdom's policy in Washington is necessary for the kingdom and for the region," Dr Gargash said on Twitter.

Princess Reema attended Islamic Saudi Academy in Alexandria, Virginia and George Washington University, graduating with a degree in museum studies.

The Saudi ambassador is known to be an advocate of women's rights in the country, she was involved in the inclusion of physical education for girls in schools in 2017 as the Saudi General Sports Authority's Deputy of Planning and Development.

Princess Reema also worked in the private sector as co-founder of Yibreen, a women's day gym and spa, and is the founder and creative director of Baraboux, a luxury handbag brand.

She also played a vital role in establishing the kingdom’s first onsite nursery in a retail venue for employees.

Women across the kingdom have experienced many changes in recent years.

They can now drive, launch businesses without a guardian’s permission, attend sport matches and enroll in the military.

The shift towards women will transform the kingdom's employment market by enhancing women’s participation in the workforce, officials say.

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