Saudi Arabia’s Mohamed bin Salman has snubbed Morocco in his recently announced “world tour,” resurrecting old claims of unstable and cold diplomatic ties between the two kingdoms.
Rabat – On Thursday, appearing to have put behind him the tense backlash of the Jamal Khashoggi saga, the Saudi crown initiated a scheduled series of diplomatic trips which the Saudi royal court has called “a world tour to enhance diplomatic relations with Saudi partners.”
The United Arab’s Emirates (UAE), a staunch Saudi ally, was MBS’s first destination. Cheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nayhan, the UAE’s crown prince, warmly welcomed his Saudi counterpart in Abu Dhabi on Thursday.
The Emirati prince tweeted afterwards: “Delighted to welcome our state guest, brother Prince Mohammed bin Salman. We’re proud of our deep-rooted ties. Close cooperation and a fruitful partnership lies in store for our countries. The UAE will always be a loving and supportive home for our brothers in Saudi Arabia.”
According to Riyadh, MBS’s “world tour” testifies to the kingdom’s readiness to cooperate with “strategic partners” and “brotherly countries” to improve ties “in all areas.” As the tour comes just a week from the G20 summit to be held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, observers have been quick to suggest that MBS’s Arab tour is a pre-G20 summit exercise in high-profile public appearance.
Earlier this week, the Argentinian government said that it was highly probable that MBS would attend the summit. “The prince is on the list of attendees and so far we have no information saying he is not coming,” the Guardian quoted Argentina’s presidential press adviser Pablo Di Nanno as saying.
While Riyadh has not released details about MBS’s world tour itinerary, countries like Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Mauritania, and Tunisia have been said to be on the Saudi prince’s destination list following his Thursday premiere in Abu Dhabi.
Quoting Algerian diplomatic sources, Algiers-based outlet TSA reported yesterday that authorities in the North African country “are preparing to host the Saudi crown prince in December.” While nothing certain has been shared about the date and the agenda of MBS’ visit to Algiers, “there is one certainty: the Saudi prince will soon come to Algeria,” the newspaper wrote.
Meanwhile, Morocco, a traditionally strong Saudi ally, is conspicuous by its absence from the Saudi’s itinerary, leading to concerns over where the two kingdoms stand with each other in terms of strategic bilateral ties.
In the buildup to the 2026 World Cup bidding process in June, Saudi Arabia sparked uproar in Morocco.
In addition to voting for the US-led North American bid, the Saudi kingdom rallied a number of Arab countries in smashing Morocco’s World Cup aspirations. The Saudi move did not sit well with Moroccans, who, in great number on social media, called for a revision of Morocco’s diplomacy vis-à-vis Riyadh.
In the meantime, observers suggested that Riyadh’s anti-Moroccan sentiments at the time were meant to punish Rabat for failing to follow suit with other Arab countries in the latest Gulf crisis that saw Saudi Arabia set up a blockade against Qatar.
On November 18, Saudi Arabia appointed Abdullah bin Saad Al-Ghariri as the kingdom’s ambassador to Rabat. The move, coupled with a good personal relationship that Morocco’s Mohammed VI maintains with the Saudi king, was quickly seen as a further move to water don recent tensions between the two allies.
But MBS’s deliberate snub of Morocco signals that Riyadh is yet to make peace with Morocco’s “constructive neutrality” in the Gulf crisis. Saudi Arabia has still not swallowed Rabat’s refusal to diplomatically isolate Qatar, many sources—diplomatic and academic—have concurred.