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Saturday, February 16, 2019, 17:21
Saudi crown prince delays start to Asian trip
By Bloomberg
Saturday, February 16, 2019, 17:21 By Bloomberg

This handout photo provided by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) on Dec 18, 2018 shows Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attending the 2019 budget meeting in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (HANDOUT / SPA / AFP)

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman delayed the start of his visit to several Asian countries by a day and will postpone travel to two Southeast Asian nations.

Mohammed will arrive in Pakistan on Sunday, a day later than scheduled, the Pakistani foreign ministry said in a statement without giving a reason for the delay. He is expected to sign a number of memorandums of understanding for investments including the setting up a US$10 billion oil refinery.

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There are heightened tensions between India and Pakistan after an attack on a convoy in Kashmir this week left 40 Indian paramilitary personnel dead and many others injured. Jaish-e-Mohammad, a Pakistan-based terror group, claimed responsibility for the attack. Kashmir has been divided between nuclear-armed Indian and Pakistan since 1947 but is claimed in full by both.

It isn’t clear if the attack and tensions are behind the delay. The prince -- the kingdom’s de facto ruler -- is also scheduled to visit China and India as part of the Asian tour where he is expected to sign a slew of bilateral investment agreements. He is postponing his trips to Indonesia and Malaysia, according to the respective foreign ministries.

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Saudi Arabia is looking eastward after a troubled year for its relationships with the US and Europe as the alliances were shaken by the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents in Istanbul.

Saudi Arabia and Indonesia will continue to communicate on a new date for a visit and better outcomes, the Indonesian ministry said on its website. The crown prince was scheduled to sign several agreements in Indonesia.

In Malaysia, he was to jointly inaugurate the Pengerang Refining and Petrochemical complex, a venture between the state oil companies of the two countries. The event has been postponed, according to a company statement.

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