The Arab League Summit in Algeria gets off to a bad start. The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, will not attend the meeting for health reasons, according to a communiqué issued by the Algerian presidency and published by the state news agency ASP.
Mohamed bin Salman communicated his decision to Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune in a telephone conversation on Saturday night, according to ASP.
MBS conveyed to Tebboune the recommendation of his medical team, who had advised him to avoid travelling. The de facto ruler of the Wahhabi kingdom expressed "regret" that he could not be present. Tebboune's office said the Algerian president "understood the situation" and "regretted the impediment" of the crown prince, to whom he wished "health and well-being".
The Saudi government has so far not commented on the 37-year-old crown prince's state of health. A note issued by the Saudi state news agency SPA confirmed the telephone conversation, but did not mention MBS's absence from the summit.
The last public appearance of the new Saudi head of government was on 16 October, when he received South African President Cyril Ramaphosa in Jeddah.
The dialogue between MBS and Tebboune also reportedly served to discuss the state of relations "between the two brotherly countries", according to ASP. The leaders reportedly agreed to deepen bilateral cooperation in various sectors.
This is not the first time that the newly appointed Saudi prime minister has cancelled a visit to Algeria. He did so at the end of August for reasons that were not disclosed. In response, the Maghreb country's head of government, Aiman Benabderrahmane, dismissed the idea of visiting Riyadh again after last doing so in October 2021.
Bin Salman has been in the spotlight in recent weeks following the decision by OPEC+, the Saudi Arabia-led energy cartel, to cut production by 2 million barrels a day, a measure harshly criticised by the United States, which is pushing up the price of crude on a global scale.
One of the heavyweights of the Arab world will not be present at the annual meeting of the regional body. On 1 November, the Summit will hold its most important meeting in recent years given the current geopolitical context. It will also be the first face-to-face meeting since the beginning of the pandemic.
The King of Morocco, Mohammed VI, is expected to attend the meeting. According to the Algerian daily Al Chorouk, the Alaouite monarch is one of the leaders who have confirmed their attendance to the Algerian authorities in the midst of the bilateral crisis between Rabat and Algiers. The media outlet Jeune Afrique also pointed in this direction at the beginning of the week.
If confirmed, Mohammed VI will be joined in Algiers by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi, Qatar's Emir Tamim bin Hamad, Jordan's King Abdullah and Mauritania's President Ould Al Ghazouani, among a long list of Arab leaders.