Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 20 August 2019

Saudi Arabia’s Prince Talal bin Abdulaziz dies aged 87

The brother of Saudi monarch King Salman had been ill for several years

Late Prince Talal bin Abdulaziz's coffin is carried by his son, Prince Walid, with the help of his brother Prince Khalid, in addition to other members of the royal family, including Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz and Prince Mohammed bin Nawwaf. Saudi Press Agency
Late Prince Talal bin Abdulaziz's coffin is carried by his son, Prince Walid, with the help of his brother Prince Khalid, in addition to other members of the royal family, including Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz and Prince Mohammed bin Nawwaf. Saudi Press Agency

Saudi Arabia’s Prince Talal bin Abdulaziz, brother of King Salman, has died at the age of 87.

Prince Talal, father of billionaire businessman Prince Alwaleed, was the leader of a progressive Saudi political movement in the 1960s and was known to be outspoken.

He held a number of posts in the 1950s and 1960s, including Riyadh’s ambassador to Paris and Minister of Finance.

Born in 1931 to the founder of Saudi Arabia, King Abdulaziz, by one of the monarch’s most beloved wives, Prince Talal gained prominence when he became the first minister of communications.

Mona Al Solh, Prince Talal’s wife and daughter of Lebanon’s first prime minister, gave birth to Prince Alwaleed during her husband’s tenure at the ministry.

Prince Talal was later appointed minister of finance and helped to lay the framework of what would become the Central Planning Organisation – a body responsible for domestic development projects.

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Shortly after his appointment to the Ministry of Finance, Prince Talal, along with several of his brothers, began a political movement in the early 1960s that called for the creation of a constitution – as opposed to Saudi Sharia.

Under the “Free Princes Movement”, the royal petitioned Saudi Arabia to change to a constitutional monarchy and championed women’s rights.

The movement’s creation was announced at a time when palace coups spread throughout the Arab world. Iraq, Yemen, Algeria and Syria all had revolutions that toppled long-standing monarchies between 1962 and 1963.

Prince Talal’s close relationship with Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser in tandem with his increasingly bold stance on social issues prompted Saudi authorities to grow increasingly suspicious of the Free Princes Movement’s motives, leading to his exile in 1962.

Living between Beirut and Cairo, Prince Talal maintained a relationship with Nasser even after the Egyptian revolutionary’s relationship with the kingdom began to sour as a result his support for revolutionaries hostile to Saudi Arabia in the North Yemen Civil War.

Prince Talal later claimed he had cut ties with Nasser, who had by the early 1960s become the arch-foe of Arab monarchies, over his objection to the Egyptian president’s direct involvement in an air strike on the Saudi city of Jizan in 1962.

The Saudi prince said he rejected an invitation to meet the leader after discovering the Egyptian-supported Yemeni attack on the Saudi city.

Prince Talal eventually returned to the kingdom after he toned down his rhetoric and King Faisal rose to the throne.

In later years, he said that he regretted forming a political movement that was perceived as threatening to the monarchy and resigned himself to a life away from politics.

He spent his time in Saudi Arabia, Cairo and Paris, but had been unwell for several years. He was welcomed back by the royal family and spent much of his time working towards humanitarian projects.

Prince Alwaleed has close connections with Saudi’s King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, his cousin, and holds a powerful position in the royal family, which he has used to build a business empire in construction and real estate.

The billionaire, who has stakes in 21st Century Fox, Citigroup and Euro Disney was held in a crackdown on corruption by Prince Mohammed last year but has since been released.

Prince Alwaleed admitted there were issues with corruption in the kingdom and hailed Prince Mohammed’s “revolutionary” changes on social and economic issues in the country.

“Prince Talal was called by God on Saturday,” he wrote on Twitter.

Prayers for the prince were held at Imam Turki bin Abdullah Mosque yesterday.

In 2011 he resigned from the Allegiance Council, the body that oversees the royal succession. He continued to support moves to give Saudi women greater rights to work and allow them to drive.

Prince Talal had been in hospital in Riyadh although it was not clear where he died.

The official Saudi Press Agency posted images from the funeral, showing Prince Alwaleed, carrying his father's coffin, with the help of his brother Prince Khalid, in addition to other members of the royal family, including Prince Mohammed bin Nawwaf, the kingdom's ambassador to the UK and Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz.

Images published by the SPA also showed King Salman presiding over funeral prayers, surrounded by relatives of the deceased and members of the ruling family, including Prince Turki bin Faisal, the former Saudi ambassador to Washington and London.

Updated: December 24, 2018 01:08 PM

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