Saudi official distances government from controversial public figures

Saudi official distances government from controversial public figures
A Saudi Arabian official appeared to cut loose three of the kingdom's most well known political writers, prompting a flurry of speculation in Saudi social media circles.
2 min read
21 December, 2015
All three of the men have worked for government-funded publications [Getty]

A Saudi official has said that three of the Kingdom's most renowned political commentators do not represent the official policy of the country.

In a rare move, an unnamed Saudi Foreign Ministry official told the Kingdom's official news agency said on Sunday that Jamal Khashoggi, Anwar Eshqi and Nawaf Obaid "have no relationship to any government body".

"They do not reflect Saudi government policy. Their points of view are their own personal opinions," the Saudi Press Agency quoted the source as saying.

This unusual move on the part of the Saudis is a reflection perhaps of displeasure at some of the musings and statements. Anwar Eshqi, a retired general, had shared a platform with a senior Israeli official and made statements seen by some Saudis to have been pro-Israeli.

Jamal Khashoggi has spoken openly about positive aspects of the Arab Spring and more recently has been calling for a deeper relationship with Turkey. More recently, he has also been highly critical of the way Egyptian media has been portraying the Saudi Arabian government.

Last month, Nawaf Obaid, a prominent Saudi security expert and previous advisor to the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the UK, published a series of tweets about Riyadh's relationship with Cairo.

"Saudi Arabia is seriously considering re-evaluating its relations with the Sisi government in Egypt after recently finding out shocking news about Sisi," Obaid said.

The statement by the foreign ministry signalled the underlying debate which has gripped many Saudis over Saudi-Turkish and Saudi-Israeli relations.

Last week, Saudi Arabia promised eight billion dollars of dollars of petrol aid to the Egyptian government.

An Egyptian official told The New Arab that promised aid will depend on Egypt changing its tune towards Syria and ending its support for the Syrian government and Russian military intervention.