DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Saudi Arabia’s powerful 37-year-old crown prince will not attend a summit in Algeria after his doctors advised him not to travel, he said royal court on sunday.
The acknowledgment by the state-run Saudi Press Agency came hours after Algeria’s presidency said Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman would not attend for health reasons, sparking speculation about his condition.
Royal doctors have advised Prince Mohammed not to fly long-haul to avoid “trauma” to his middle ear, the statement said, without elaborating. The nature of Prince Mohammed’s condition remained unclear, but ruptured eardrums can result from middle ear infections and trauma, such as excessive pressure from long-haul flying.
Prince Mohammed quickly rose to power under his 86-year-old father, King Salman. Much of the attention paid to the Al Saud royal family in recent years has focused on King Salman’s healthanalysts suggesting Prince Mohammed could lead the OPEC-leading nation for decades after ascending the throne.
Early Sunday, Algeria’s press service broke the news that Prince Mohammed had skipped the summit for unexplained health reasons. The statements in Arabic and French referred to a statement from President Abdelmadjid Tebboune’s office about a phone call between him and Prince Mohammed.
In the call, Prince Mohammed “apologized for not being able to attend the Arab Summit to be held on November 1 in Algiers, in accordance with the recommendations of doctors who advise him not to travel,” the statement said.
“For his part, Mr. President said he understood the situation and regretted the impediment of the Crown Prince, His Highness the Emir Mohammed Bin Salman, expressing his wishes for his health and well-being.”
The state-run Saudi Press Agency reported the call between Tebboune and the prince early Sunday, but omitted discussion of the prince’s health. It said only that the call focused on “aspects of bilateral relations between the two brotherly countries” and possible joint cooperation.
The Arab League summit in Algeria is the first time the regional body has met since the coronavirus pandemic took hold around the world.
The Arab League, founded in 1945, represents 22 nations from the Middle East and North Africa, although Syria has been suspended amid its long-running war. Although unified in calling for an independent state for the Palestinians, the body has been largely absent and unable to implement its mandates.
Prince Mohammed came to power in 2015 as deputy crown prince, then quickly became crown prince a couple of years later after King Salman ousted Prince Mohammed bin Nayef.a once powerful figure as head of Saudi counterterrorism efforts and a close American ally.
However, his rise to power saw the kingdom undergo rapid changes, such as allowing women to rule and the opening of cinemas while loosening the grip of the ultraconservatives in the kingdom. However, the prince also engaged in a crackdown on corruption who turned a luxury hotel in Riyadh into a prison for power brokers in the kingdom who might have challenged his rule. He also led an internationally criticized Saudi military campaign in a ruinous war in Yemen that is still raging today in the Arab world’s poorest country..
US intelligence has linked Prince Mohammed to the 2018 killing and dismemberment of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, a critic of his reign. The kingdom has denied the prince was involved, although the prosecution of the government team behind Khashoggi’s killing has been held behind closed doors.
Recently, the prince has come under intense American criticism of Saudi Arabia, leading OPEC and allied nations to agree on a cut in oil production of 2 million barrels per day..
The Future Investment Initiative, the crown prince’s annual summit that draws global investors to the kingdom, begins on Tuesday amid US pressure. Prince Mohammed has attended the sessions in previous years.
Follow Jon Gambrell on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP.
Associated Press writer Isabel DeBre in Jerusalem contributed to this report.