Saudi Arabia shakeup brings in new oil minister and royal court chief

Saudi Arabia has announced the creation of a new natural resources ministry, separating it from the energy ministry, while replacing the head of the royal court in a wide-ranging shakeup of the government.

As plans for the massive $2 trillion stock market listing of the state-owned oil company Aramco are stepped up, the kingdom’s de facto ruler and crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, has brought in a prominent businessman to head the new ministry of industry and mineral resources.

The appointment of Bandar al-Khorayef, who comes into government from the Saudi industrial conglomerate Al-Khorayef Group, was seen as a reduction in influence for the energy minister, Khalid al-Falih. The minister was one of the architects of attempts by the world’s top crude exporter to diversify its oil-reliant economy.

Other royal decrees published in state media on Friday named Fahd al-Essa as head of the royal court, the centre of power and politics in the absolute monarchy. The head of the royal court is a powerful gatekeeper position in the absolute monarchy.

Essa is a royal insider and is said to be close to the crown prince, who is the kingdom’s de facto ruler and heir apparent. Essa was formerly the head of Bin Salman’s office at the defense ministry.

A former information minister, Awwad al-Awwad, was appointed head of the human rights commission, while Mazen al-Kahmous was named new chairman of the national anti-corruption commission.

The shakeup comes ahead of the first anniversary in October of the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

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The fallout over the insider-turned-critic’s murder was widely seen as the kingdom’s worst diplomatic crisis since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, in which most of the hijackers were identified as Saudi nationals.

The killing tainted the image of Mohammed bin Salman even though the kingdom strongly denies he was involved.


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