Saudi Arabia appoints first female ambassdor to US amid growing pressure over Jamal Khashoggi murder; seeks to better ties with West

  • Reema has been an advocate for women's rights in the kingdom and is widely seen as a rising political star in the country

  • She will replace Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's younger brother, Prince Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, who has been the US ambassador since 2017

  • At a time when Saudi Arabia is facing flak for the murder of Washington Post journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, Reema's job would be cut-out to smoothen relations with US

Saudi Arabia has appointed its first female ambassador to the United States, Princess Reema bint Bandar al-Saud, who belongs to the ruling royal family of the western Asian country.

Reema has been an advocate for women's rights and is widely seen as a rising political star in the country. She will replace Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's younger brother, Prince Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, who has been the US ambassador since 2017.

At a time when Saudi Arabia is facing flak for the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Reema's job would be cut-out to smoothen relations with the US and get in more commitment from Donald Trump.

 Saudi Arabia appoints first female ambassdor to US amid growing pressure over Jamal Khashoggi murder; seeks to better ties with West

File image of princess Rima Bint Bandar al-Saud. Reuters

Recently, Mohammed bin Salman was on a tour of Asia — Pakistan, India and China — where he received a warm welcome as opposed to the cold treatment European countries have been giving him ever since the news of Saudi government's role in Khashoggi's death was revealed.

The main purpose of his trip was to step up the country's diplomatic outreach by boosting relations with the Asian countries. His trip came at a time when the country has realised its increased dependence on the US and is exercising caution and restraint in dealing with the declining western power amid a polarising shift in the global power play. That is, the Saudi prince is banking on the "Look East" policy propounded by the former leader of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.

The policy, however, does not mean that Riyadh will cut all ties with the West, in fact, it would rather seek balanced diplomacy to maintain its equilibrium with both developed nations and emerging economies like India.

India and China, for instance, are important oil customers and as an oil exporting country, Saudi Arabia finds it significant to seek stable markets that can assure it returns. Both India and China are key markets for the Gulf country in such a scenario and feed into its oil-based economy by providing its regular income as well as foreign investment.

Meanwhile, this trip was also important keeping in view Mohammed bin Salman's 'Vision 2030' and factoring in Saudi Arabia's need to establish itself as a major Muslim player in the region amid growing tensions with Iran and its participation in the ongoing civil war in Yemen. In such a scenario, the crown prince would need to cobble-up as many 'good friends' it can while it slowly withdraws its dependence on the West.

However, having said that, US still remains a major trade partner for Saudi Arabia with the latter drawing eight percent of imports from the former and around 10 percent of its exports going to America, CNN reported. In the light of this strategic trade relation, Reema's appointment would serve a twin purpose and as Saudi Arabia may like it, would possibly improve the strained ties with the western power.

Reema currently works with the Saudi General Sports Authority and has worked to promote women in sports through initiatives focused on inclusion. She has also worked in the private sector —as CEO at Harvey Nichols Riyad and the co-founder of Yibreen, a series of day spas in Riyadh.

Updated Date: Feb 25, 2019 19:30:49 IST