By Lamine Chikhi
ALGIERS (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will arrive on Sunday in Algeria for a two-day visit, Algerian state news agency APS said on Saturday, resuming a tour of Arab states after the G20 summit in Argentina.
The heir to the throne of the world’s top oil exporter had before the G20 summit visited the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt and Tunisia before joining other leaders in Argentina.
It is his first trip abroad since the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which has strained Saudi Arabia’s ties with the West and battered the prince’s image abroad.
Saudi Arabia has said the prince had no prior knowledge of the murder. After offering numerous contradictory explanations, Riyadh said last month that Khashoggi had been killed and his body dismembered when negotiations to persuade him to return to Saudi Arabia failed.
Algerian-Saudi investments and trade relations such as the oil and petrochemical sectors would be discussed, APS said.
Saudi exports to Algeria had risen by 29 percent compared with the same period last year to $571 million in the first 10 months of this year.
Algeria’s energy minister Mustapha Guitouni said last week global oil prices would not be on the agenda. Algeria is one of the few Arab countries which has good relations with Saudi Arabia as well as its arch rival Iran.
Algiers also has strong ties with Qatar, with which Saudi Arabia and three other Arab states severed trade and transport ties in June 2017. The four accused Doha of supporting terrorism and Iran — charges Doha denies.
The North African OPEC member is also on good terms with Turkey, whose relations with Saudi Arabia have been strained by the Khashoggi killing.
The Saudi heir is unlikely to face protests over the murder like he did in Tunisia, as demonstrations are banned in the Algerian capital Algiers.
But a group of prominent journalists and intellectuals has issued an open letter protesting against his visit, saying it was “unethical and politically inappropriate.”
(Reporting by Nayera Abdallah, Lamine Chikhi and Ulf Laessing)