King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia dies

30th Jan 2015

Elham Asaad Buaras

Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, 90, died on January 22, weeks after he was admitted to hospital. Abdullah, who had ruled since 2005 had been suffering from a lung infection. His 79-year-old half-brother, Salman, has been confirmed as the new king.

Within hours of his accession to the throne of the oil-rich kingdom, King Salman vowed to maintain the same policies as his predecessors. “We will continue adhering to the correct policies which Saudi Arabia has followed since its establishment,” he said in a speech.

UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, said Abdullah would be remembered for his “commitment to peace and for strengthening understanding between faiths”. Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, said the monarch had served his country with “great dignity and dedication”. US President, Barack Obama, who visited with the ailing king in his desert compound last March, praised Abdullah for taking “bold steps” in advancing the Arab Peace Initiative. “As a leader, he was always candid and had the courage of his convictions,” Obama said. “One of those convictions was his steadfast and passionate belief in the importance of the US-Saudi relationship as a force for stability and security in the Middle East and beyond.”

Abdullah pushed cautious changes in the conservative Islamic kingdom including superficial advances for women’s rights and economic deregulation, but made no moves towards democracy and was a hawk on policy towards Iran and even sent soldiers to Bahrain to crush that kingdom’s democratic protest movement in 2011.

He played a guiding role in Saudi Arabia’s support for Egypt’s Government after the military toppled the elected President Mohammed Mursi in 2012 after having initially supported dictator Hosni Mubarak, and drove his country’s support for the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

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