Saudi Arabia appoints new foreign minister in Cabinet reshuffle

Prince Faisal bin Farhan previously served as the kingdom’s ambassador to Germany and as a political adviser in Washington

FILE PHOTO: New ambassador of Saudi Arabia to Germany Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud poses for the media after his diplomatic accreditation at Bellevue Palace in Berlin, Germany, March 27, 2019.   REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch/File Photo
Powered by automated translation

Saudi Arabia's King Salman  appointed a prince with extensive diplomatic experience as the kingdom's new foreign minister during a Cabinet reshuffle on Wednesday.

Prince Faisal bin Farhan replaced Ibrahim Al Assaf, who took up the post last year and is now a minister of state.

The prince served as the kingdom's ambassador to Germany over  the past seven months, having moved from the Washington embassy where he was a political adviser.

Before that, he worked in the defence industry, including a stint as chairman of a joint venture with aircraft-maker Boeing.

Prince Faisal thanked the leadership on his appointment and hailed his predecessor, the state-run news agency Spa reported.

Under King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 34, younger royals have taken up key positions as the kingdom seeks to reduce its dependence on  oil and open up to the world.

Prince Faisal is part of a new generation of Saudi diplomats in their 40s.

Princess Reema bint Bandar, the kingdom's first female ambassador, took up her post in Washington in February this year.

Prince Khalid bin Bandar, Princess Reema's brother, is ambassador to the UK.

"Look at the team being put together in DC, London and now with the new foreign minister ... Consolidation deepens and a pro-western crew is in place," said Neil Quilliam, a senior research fellow at Britain's Chatham House think tank.

"It is a move to outsmart Iran in all the capitals and at the UN. This is a new form of push-back."

Prince Faisal has "strong ties with the West", said Cinzia Bianco, a Middle East analyst at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

"He is dynamic and proactive," Ms Bianco said in a tweet. "The ministry will likely be different to what we saw with [Minister of State for Foreign Affairs] Adel Al Jubeir and Ibrahim Al Assaf."

She said on Wednesday that Prince Faisal had "really strong ties with traditional Saudi allies, [the] US and even a more European outlook than would be traditionally the case".

The royal decree also appointed Saleh Al Jasser, the director-general of Saudi Arabian Airlines, as transport minister. He took over from Nabil Al Amoudi, who was last month appointed to the board of state oil company Saudi Aramco as it prepares for a partial share offering.

It is unclear if he Mr Al Amoudi will retain a government position or focus solely on his role at Aramco.

In other appointments, King Salman named Dr Abdullah Al Ghamdi chairman of the Saudi Authority for Data and Artificial intelligence, with Saleh Al Othaim as his deputy.

Dr Essam Al Waqit was appointed as director of the National Information Centre.