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Saudi Arabia

From pariah to peacemaker: the return of MBS

Bertrand Guay/AFP/Getty

Mohammed bin Salman is currently “dancing at all kinds of weddings”, says Daniel Böhm in Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Fresh from negotiations with top US officials about a potential mutual security pact, the Saudi crown prince invited high-ranking representatives from almost 40 countries to his Jeddah palace, where they discussed a “peaceful solution” for Ukraine. Joe Biden’s national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, attended talks with India and Brazil; even China, “Russia’s most important ally”, made an appearance. And while it didn’t produce “concrete results”, everyone left satisfied. The Ukrainians were glad their position was “finally being heard outside Europe and America”; countries of the Global South were pleased that their host had put them “on an equal footing with the West”.

The summit’s success shows that MBS is well on his way to establishing Saudi Arabia as an “international player of global standing”. No longer satisfied with using his “immeasurable” oil reserves as political fodder, he is now establishing himself as the master peacemaker. Last year, he negotiated a prisoner exchange between Kyiv and Moscow; in the spring, Volodymyr Zelensky was welcomed with “drums and trumpets” to the Arab summit in Jeddah. MBS has also been pivotal in negotiations between its “arch-enemy” Iran and China. A few years ago he was on a “confrontational course everywhere”, warring with Yemen and blackmailing both the West and Russia over oil prices. The war in Europe has offered him the chance to make amends, and position himself as a crucial diplomatic broker.