Tag Archive: Arabian Peninsula


August 19, 2020

BERLIN (AP) — Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister on Wednesday cautiously welcomed an agreement between its close ally the United Arab Emirates and Israel to establish full diplomatic ties and exchange embassies.

Prince Faisal bin Farhan said the deal, which also halted unilateral annexation by Israel of West Bank territory sought by the Palestinians, “could be viewed as positive.” But he refrained from outright backing the move, while saying that Saudi Arabia was open to establishing similar relations on condition that a peace agreement is reached between Israel and the Palestinians.

Prince Faisal’s remarks during a news conference with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas were the first public comment by Saudi Arabia on Thursday’s surprise announcement by U.S. President Donald Trump that his administration helped broker the UAE-Israel agreement.

While Bahrain, Oman and Egypt issued official statements welcoming the agreement, the kingdom did not at the time and did not respond to requests for comment until Wednesday’s news conference in Berlin.

The UAE framed its agreement as a successful measure that halted Israeli plans to annex West Bank territory. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, has said the suspension is only temporary.

The Palestinians have issued scathing statements saying the UAE undermined Arab consensus and described the move as a “betrayal of Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Palestinian cause.” Saudi Arabia, like other Arab Gulf states, has built quiet ties with Israel over the years, in part because of shared concerns over Iran and its policies in the region.

The kingdom, however, is home to Islam’s holiest site and has historically positioned itself as a defender of Islam and Muslims, a title that foes Turkey and Iran have also tried to claim. King Salman is also seen as a steadfast supporter of the Palestinians, but his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has expressed more willingness for the kingdom to engage with Israel.

“We are committed to the Arab Peace Plan and that is the best way forward to a settlement of the conflict and to normalization with Israel with all states,” the Saudi foreign minister told reporters in Berlin. “That said, any efforts that could promote peace in the region and that result in holding back the threat of annexation could be viewed as positive.”

Prince Faisal noted that the Arab Peace Initiative — sponsored by Saudi Arabia in 2002 — promises Israel full ties with Arab states if a peace settlement is reached with the Palestinians. Conditions for that, however, must be based on internationally recognized parameters, he said.

“Once that is achieved, then all things are possible,” Prince Faisal said. He reiterated the kingdom’s long-held public stance that a future Palestinian state should include east Jerusalem as its capital.

Batrawy reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

September 08, 2020

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A Saudi court issued final verdicts on Monday in the case of slain Washington Post columnist and Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi after his son, who still resides in the kingdom, announced pardons that spared five of the convicted individuals from execution.

While the trial draws to its conclusion in Saudi Arabia, the case continues to cast a shadow over the international standing of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whose associates have been sanctioned by the U.S. and the U.K. for their alleged involvement in the brutal killing, which took place inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

The Riyadh Criminal Court’s final verdicts were announced by Saudi Arabia’s state television, which aired few details about the eight Saudi nationals and did not name them. The court ordered a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for the five. Another individual received a 10-year sentence, and two others were ordered to serve seven years in prison.

A team of 15 Saudi agents had flown to Turkey to meet Khashoggi inside the consulate for his appointment on Oct. 2, 2018 to pick up documents that would allow him to marry his Turkish fiance, who waited outside. The team included a forensic doctor, intelligence and security officers, and individuals who worked directly for the crown prince’s office, according to Agnes Callamard, who investigated the killing for the United Nations.

Turkish officials allege Khashoggi was killed and then dismembered with a bone saw inside the consulate. His body has not been found. Turkey apparently had the consulate bugged and shared audio of the killing with the C.I.A., among others.

Western intelligence agencies, as well as the U.S. Congress, have said the crown prince bears ultimate responsibility for the killing and that an operation of this magnitude could not have happened without his knowledge.

The 35-year-old prince denies any knowledge of the operation and has condemned the killing. He continues to have the support of his father, King Salman, and remains popular among Saudi youth at home. He also maintains the support of President Donald Trump, who has defended U.S.-Saudi ties in the face of the international outcry over the slaying.

Saudi Arabia’s trial of the suspects has been widely criticized by rights groups and observers, who note that no senior officials nor anyone suspected of ordering the killing has been found guilty. The independence of the Riyadh Criminal Court has also been questioned.

Callamard, the U.N. special rapporteur who investigated Khashoggi’s killing, told The Associated Press in a statement that the crown prince has remained “well protected against any kind of meaningful scrutiny in his country” and the high-level officials who organized the killing have walked free from the start.

“These verdicts cannot be allowed to whitewash what happened,” she said, calling on U.S. intelligence services to publicly release their assessments of the crown prince’s responsibility. “While formal justice in Saudi Arabia cannot be achieved, truth telling can.”

A small number of diplomats, including from Turkey, as well as members of Khashoggi’s family, were allowed to attend the initial trial. Independent media and the public were barred. Yasin Aktay, a senior member of Turkey’s ruling party and a friend of Khashoggi, criticized the final court rulings, saying those who ordered the killing remain free while several questions concerning the journalist’s death remain unanswered.

He also said there were questions as to whether those convicted in the killing are imprisoned. “According to what we have heard, those who were convicted are roaming freely and living in luxury,” he said. “The truth of the matter is this case should be tried in Turkey, not in Saudi Arabia.”

Saudi Arabia has tried 11 people in total, sentencing five to death in December and ordering three others to prison for covering up the crime. The crown prince’s senior advisors at the time of the killing, namely Saud al-Qahtani and intelligence officer Ahmed al-Asiri, were not found guilty.

The trial also concluded the killing was not premeditated. That paved the way for Salah Khashoggi, one of the slain writer’s sons, to months later announce that the family had forgiven the killers, which essentially allowed the five to be pardoned from execution in accordance with Islamic law.

Salah Khashoggi lives in Saudi Arabia and has received financial compensation from the royal court for his father’s killing. Saudi Arabia initially offered shifting accounts about Khashoggi’s disappearance, including claiming to have surveillance video showing him walking out of the consulate alive. As international pressure mounted because of Turkish leaks, the kingdom eventually settled on the explanation that he was killed by rogue officials in a brawl inside the consulate.

Prior to his killing, Khashoggi had been writing critically of Prince Mohammed in columns for the Washington Post at a time when the young heir to the throne was being widely hailed in the U.S. for pushing through social reforms and curtailing the power of religious conservatives.

Dozens of perceived critics of the prince remain in prison, including women’s rights activists, and face trial on national security charges. Khashoggi left Saudi Arabia for the U.S. just as Prince Mohammed was beginning to detain writers and critics in late 2017.

Other critics of the crown prince have said their security has been threatened following Khashoggi’s killing. In one instance, a former senior intelligence official who now resides in Canada claims in a U.S. lawsuit that Prince Mohammed sent a similar hit squad to track him down and kill him, but that they were stopped by Canadian border guards.

Associated Press writer Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey contributed.

August 24, 2020

The United Arab Emirates and Israel on Monday agreed to enhance bilateral cooperation in the health sector following an accord between the countries to normalize relations 10 days ago, UAE state news agency WAM said.

The health ministers of the two countries discussed cooperation on pharmaceuticals, medical research, and COVID-19 in a telephone call. A statement from Israel’s Health Ministry added that they agreed on “initial and immediate cooperation” in the health sector.

Israel and the UAE have agreed to normalize diplomatic ties and forge a broad new relationship under a US-sponsored deal, making the UAE the third Arab country to have formal diplomatic ties with Israel after Egypt and Jordan.

The two countries will each appoint representatives and set up business delegations, the Israeli health ministry said.

The countries will also work to create a student exchange program once the coronavirus pandemic conditions allow, it added.

Since the deal, the countries have signed a few agreements on technologies to fight the coronavirus. Several small-scale medical and defense collaborations were announced in the weeks preceding the normalization agreement.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20200824-uae-israel-health-ministers-agree-to-enhance-cooperation-on-health/.

August 19, 2020

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Dubai again has loosened laws governing alcohol sales and possession of liquor as the sheikhdom tries to claw its way out of an economic depression worsened by the coronavirus pandemic.

The outbreak of the virus exacerbated the already-gathering economic storm engulfing the emirate, which has seen mass layoffs thin the ranks of its foreign workforce and empty homes even amid slight signs of recovery. Even now, experts warn the sheikhdom’s crucial real-estate market is on track to hit record lows seen in the 2009 Great Recession.

“It’s been a challenging year and there’s no hiding from that for any business — particularly those in the hospitality industry,” Mike Glen, managing director for the United Arab Emirates and Oman for alcohol distributor Maritime and Mercantile International, told The Associated Press in an emailed statement.

Alcohol sales have long served as a major barometer of the economy of Dubai, a top travel destination in the UAE, home to the long-haul carrier Emirates. Ice-cold bottles of beer tempt tourists on hotel beaches, while decadent Champagne-soaked brunches draw well-to-do crowds of expatriate residents.

The sales also serve as a major tax revenue source for Dubai’s Al Maktoum ruling family. In Dubai, alcohol sales in general reflect the confidence of buyers in their own finances and in turn, the economy. Pre-pandemic, those sales already showed the trouble Dubai faced amid falling global energy prices and a weakening real estate market. Dubai also postponed its Expo 2020, or world’s fair, to next year, another major blow.

Overall sales of alcohol by volume fell sharply in 2019 to 128.79 million liters (34 million gallons), down some 3.5% from 133.42 million liters (35.2 million gallons) sold the year before, according to statistics from Euromonitor. The 2019 sales are down nearly 9% from 2017, which saw 141.51 million liters (37.3 million gallons) sold.

Amid the lockdown, Dubai’s two major alcohol distributors began legal home deliveries of alcohol for the first time in hopes of boosting the sales. Now, the city-state has changed the very system granting permission to residents to legally purchase alcohol.

By law, non-Muslim residents are supposed to carry red plastic cards issued by the Dubai police that permit them to purchase, transport and consume beer, wine and liquor. Otherwise, they can face fines and arrest — even though the sheikhdom’s vast network of bars, nightclubs and lounges never ask to see the permit.

Those red cards now have been replaced with a black card and a simplified application process only requiring an Emirati national ID card. An application no longer requires an employer’s permission. Previously, employers could block non-Muslims from obtaining a card even if an employee qualified for it — which happened for some expats working for Emirati companies whose owners had religious objections to alcohol.

Purchase restrictions based on salaries also have been eased. Previously, residents would get around those restrictions by traveling to five of the other seven sheikhdoms that make up the UAE. Sharjah, the UAE’s seventh emirate that borders Dubai to the north, outlaws alcohol, as do the nearby nations of Iran, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

The new card system comes as Dubai also now allows tourists and visitors to buy alcohol from distributors simply by using their passports, closing a loophole that made visiting imbibers unable to get a permit subject to arrest for possessing alcohol.

The UAE as a whole still faces the challenge of the coronavirus — with some 64,000 confirmed cases and 360 deaths. But Dubai has been aggressively advertising itself as reopened to tourism and now appears set to host Indian Premier League cricket, beginning in September.

There have been signs of a tentative and slight recovery starting to take hold. In July, Dubai’s non-oil sector saw its first improvement in five months, according to a monthly survey by IHS Markit and Emirates NBD bank. But that appeared driven by deep cuts in price discounts, particularly in travel and tourism, the report said.

“The recovery in activity has not been sufficient to prevent firms continuing to lay off workers as they seek to reduce costs,” wrote Khatija Haque, the head of research and chief economist at Emirates NBD.

Those layoffs struck Emirates, the flagship of Dubai’s state investment firm, particularly hard with thousands of employees fired. That’s not counting all the other businesses large and small through the city similarly hurt by the virus — particularly in its bubble-or-bust real estate market.

Dubai’s biggest private real estate company, DAMAC, which operates President Donald Trump’s eponymous golf club in the UAE, just reported a net loss of $105 million for the first half of 2020. The company’s chairman, Hussain Sajwani, blamed the pandemic for the poor results.

“Resulting travel restrictions impacted the economy and the real estate sector, and we will see a difficult market for the coming 18 to 24 months,” Sajwani said. Meanwhile, the mass layoffs have seen a noticeable number of for-rent and sales signs in front of homes and apartments across the city. The Dubai firm Property Monitor said in a report this week that real estate prices likely will set new record lows by the end of the third quarter of this year.

Rental listings have risen by 11% in Dubai as over 45,000 new residential units have entered the already soft market, according to REIDIN Data and Analytics, which tracks the market. Another 120,000 units are expected to come into the market in the next two years, further pushing down prices, REIDIN said.

Both sales and rental prices have dropped about a third since a market high in 2014, when Dubai announced it would be hosting the Expo. The “current pandemic, coupled with oversupply in the market and reduced occupancy levels, caused and increase in the rate of decline of prices for both apartment and villas especially in the second quarter,” said Ozan Demir, the director of operations and research at REIDIN.

August 14, 2020

JERUSALEM (AP) — Iran and Turkey lashed out at their regional rival the United Arab Emirates on Friday over its decision to normalize diplomatic relations with Israel in a U.S.-brokered deal, accusing it of betraying the Palestinian cause.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry called the deal a “dagger that was unjustly struck by the UAE in the backs of the Palestinian people and all Muslims.” Turkey said the peoples of the region “will never forget and will never forgive this hypocritical behavior” by the UAE.

The UAE, which has never fought Israel and has quietly been improving ties for years, said the agreement put a hold on Israel’s plans to unilaterally annex parts of the occupied West Bank, which the Palestinians view as the heartland of their future state.

But the Turkish Foreign Ministry said the UAE had no authority to negotiate with Israel on behalf of the Palestinians or “to make concessions on matters vital to Palestine.” The agreement would make the UAE the first Gulf Arab state — and the third Arab country, after Egypt and Jordan — to have full diplomatic ties with Israel. The Palestinians say the deal amounts to “treason” and have called on Arab and Muslim countries to oppose it.

The historic deal delivered a key foreign policy victory for U.S. President Donald Trump as he seeks re-election and reflected a changing Middle East in which shared concerns about archenemy Iran have largely overtaken traditional Arab support for the Palestinians. Trump has predicted that other countries in the region will follow the UAE’s lead.

Israel, the UAE and other Gulf countries that view Iran as a regional menace have been cultivating closer ties in recent years. Turkey has had diplomatic relations with Israel for decades, but under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has positioned itself as a champion of the Palestinians. Turkey and the UAE support rival camps in the conflict in Libya.

Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas welcomed both the agreement and the decision to suspend annexation and called to congratulate his Israeli counterpart Gabi Ashkenazi on “this historic step.” “We stand by our position that only a negotiated two-state solution can bring lasting peace to the Middle East,” Maas said in a statement. “Together with our European partners and the region we have campaigned intensively in past months against an annexation and for the resumption of direct negotiations. We are also ready to actively support such a process.”

Associated Press writers Amir Vahdat in Tehran, Iran; Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey, and David Rising in Berlin contributed.

August 14, 2020

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s Foreign Ministry strongly condemned a historic deal establishing full diplomatic relations between the United Arab Emirates and Israel, calling it a stab in the back to all Muslims, state TV reported Friday.

Iran, in the ministry statement, called the normalizing of ties between the two countries a dangerous, “shameful” measure and warned the UAE against Israel interfering in the “political equations” of the Persian Gulf region.

“The UAE government and other accompanying governments must accept responsibility for all the consequences of this action,” the statement said. In a deal brokered by the U.S., the UAE and Israel announced Thursday they agreed to establish full diplomatic ties and Israel will halt plans for annexation of occupied land sought by the Palestinians for their future state.

The agreement makes the UAE the first Gulf Arab state — and the third Arab country, after Egypt and Jordan — to have full diplomatic ties with Israel. They announced it in a joint statement, saying deals between Israel and the UAE were expected in the coming weeks in such areas as tourism, direct flights and embassies.

Iran said in the state TV report the establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and the UAE revealed the “strategic stupidity” of the two countries and said it “will undoubtedly strengthen the axis of resistance in the region.”

The ministry statement called the deal a “dagger that was unjustly struck by the UAE in the backs of the Palestinian people and all Muslims.” The historic deal delivered a key foreign policy victory for U.S. President Donald Trump as he seeks re-election and reflected a changing Middle East in which shared concerns about archenemy Iran have largely overtaken traditional Arab support for the Palestinians.

A spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the deal amounts to “treason,” and should be reversed. Hossein Amirabdollahian, advisor to Iran’s Parliament speaker, criticized the deal on his Twitter account on Friday.

“UAE’s new approach for normalizing ties w/fake, criminal #Israel doesn’t maintain peace & security, but serves ongoing Zionists’ crimes,” he said. Iran’s former chief of the powerful Revolutionary Guard, Mohsen Rezaei, said in a tweet the UAE has been making itself “the paradise of Israel” for the last 10 years.

“No Muslim zealous warriors and no Arabs betray Palestine, only nerveless stabs from behind,” he said.

July 27, 2020

Qatar, the host of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, announced on Monday it would also like to stage the Olympics, possibly in 2032.

The Gulf Arab state’s Olympic committee said it submitted a request to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to join the phase of “continuous dialogue” about hosting a future Games.

Oil-rich Qatar is increasingly keen to host major sporting events and has already welcomed world athletics championships, though scorching desert temperatures during parts of the year have caused some anxiety in the sports world.

“It is this proven track-record and wealth of experience, along with our desire to use sport to promote peace and cultural exchange, that will form the basis of our discussions with the Commission,” Qatar Olympic Committee President Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani said in a statement.

The Olympics have never been hosted in the Middle East, and Qatar will be the first nation in the region to host soccer’s biggest showpiece.

It has invested billions of dollars in preparing for the 2022 soccer World Cup. However, human rights groups have criticized the treatment of migrant workers.

The Qatari government has said it does not tolerate unscrupulous treatment of workers.

Qatar’s Doha had also unsuccessfully bid for the 2016 and 2020 Olympics.

“The IOC… welcomes the interest recently expressed by Qatar, which is the latest country to enter the new dialogue phase,” the International Olympic Committee said in a statement.

The IOC has changed the bidding process in recent years to reduce costs and make it more attractive to interested cities, who now enter into an initial discussion with the IOC to see whether the Olympics would be a fit for them.

“These are ongoing, non-committal discussions that are not necessarily related to a specific edition of the Olympic Games or the Youth Olympic Games, and are an opportunity to explore a project without committing extensive time and resources,” the IOC said.

There is no deadline for a decision to be made, though usually cities are given at least seven years in advance to prepare for hosting the Games.

Several other countries have expressed an interest in the 2032 summer Olympics including Indonesia, Australia, India, and Germany, among others.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20200727-qatar-interested-in-hosting-olympics-possibly-in-2032/.

July 14, 2020

In a humiliating defeat for Saudi Arabia and its allies, the top UN court has ruled in a 16-1 decision in favor of Qatar over the ongoing dispute between Doha and its Gulf neighbors.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) dismissed, today, the appeal lodged by Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt and Bahrain against the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The aviation body had ruled two years ago that the air blockade imposed by the four countries was illegal.

The top UN court backed Qatar and unanimously “rejects the appeal” by the four blockading states against the decision by the world civil aviation body who ruled in favor of Doha over sovereign airspace, ICJ President Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf said.

ICAO ruled in 2018 that it had the jurisdiction to handle a dispute brought by Qatar, which accused its neighbors of violating international conventions that regulate the free passage of its passenger planes through foreign airspace.

Saudi and its allies rejected the verdict insisting that ICAO was not the right body to judge in the dispute and that its decision to do so was “manifestly flawed and in violation of fundamental principles of due process and the right to be heard.” They had asked the ICJ to declare the aviation body’s ruling “null and void and without effect”.

Welcoming the verdict an official Qatari press release said: “Since June 2017, the Blockading States have prohibited Qatar-registered aircraft from flying to or from their airports and overflying their national airspaces, in flagrant violation of international law. In two judgments released today, the ICJ rejected all three grounds of appeal raised by the Blockading States, finding that the ICAO has jurisdiction to hear Qatar’s claims. The ICAO Council will now resume its proceedings.”

Qatar’s Communication and Transport Minister added: “We welcome today’s decision by the ICJ that will see the Blockading States finally face justice for violating international aviation rules. We are confident that the ICAO will ultimately find these actions unlawful. This is the latest in a series of rulings that expose the Blockading Countries’ continued disregard for international law and due process. Step by step their arguments are being dismantled, and Qatar’s position vindicated.”

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20200714-un-top-court-rules-qatar-blockade-is-illegal/.

July 30, 2019

LONDON (AP) — A dispute between the ruler of Dubai and his estranged wife over the welfare of their two young children will play out over the next two days in a London courtroom amid reports the princess has fled the Gulf emirate.

The case beginning Tuesday in Britain’s High Court pits Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum against Princess Haya, daughter of the late King Hussein of Jordan. The princess is believed to be in Britain, where she owns a gated mansion.

The clash between Sheikh Mohammed and Princess Haya is the latest sign of trouble in Dubai’s ruling family. Last year, a daughter of Sheikh Mohammed tried to flee Dubai after appearing in a 40-minute video saying she had been imprisoned.

July 04, 2019

LONDON (AP) — A legal battle between the powerful, poetry-writing ruler of Dubai and his wealthy estranged wife is leading toward a showdown in a London courtroom later this month. The family division court case scheduled on July 30 pits Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum against Princess Haya, daughter of the late King Hussein of Jordan and an accomplished Olympic equestrian on friendly terms with horse aficionado Queen Elizabeth II.

The hearing is expected to focus on who will have custody of their two young children now that the princess has left Dubai. She is believed to be in Britain, where she owns a gated mansion on Kensington Palace Gardens, a private street lined with some of the world’s most expensive homes and cars.

When The Associated Press asked via intercom for an interview with Princess Haya or one of her representatives, a man emerged to say there would be no comments made on her behalf. He didn’t indicate whether she was in the residence.

The clash between Sheikh Mohammed and Princess Haya is the latest sign of trouble in his extended family. Last year, a daughter of Sheikh Mohammed tried to flee Dubai after appearing in a 40-minute video saying she had been imprisoned on and off for several years and had been abused. Her friends say she was forcibly returned after commandos stormed a boat carrying her off the coast of India when she tried to flee the Emirates.

The sheikh, who is the vice president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates in addition to being the ruler of Dubai, is among the most influential figures in the Middle East. He also composes poetry, a long tradition among Gulf Arabs, and it was his own words that sparked the initial rumors that Haya had fled Dubai.

The talk started after a verified Emirati Instagram account followed by the Dubai ruler’s son posted a poem last week attributed to Sheikh Mohammed. The poem, titled “You Lived and You Died,” is about disloyalty, leading to speculation it is about Princess Haya.

“You betrayed the most precious trust, and your game has been revealed,” the poem says. “Your time of lying is over and it doesn’t matter what we were nor what you are.” The harsh words caused reverberations and speculation throughout royal circles in the Middle East and beyond.

The princess, 45, and Sheikh Mohammed, 69, were married in 2004 and have a daughter, 11, and son, 7, together. Both were educated at elite English universities and they share a love for horses. Media reports indicate she took the children with her when she left Dubai. Under Islamic law, a woman can at least nominally retain custody of her children in a divorce. Nonetheless, decisions about schooling, travel and lifestyles of the children often remain with the father in the Middle East. Given the Dubai ruler’s power, it is unlikely Princess Haya would have had a say in her children’s ability to leave the UAE had she not reportedly fled with them.

Haya’s half-brother is Jordan’s current monarch, King Abdullah, who was pictured at her side when she wed Dubai’s ruler, reportedly becoming his sixth wife. She is a former Olympic athlete who competed in equestrian show jumping in the 2000 Sydney Games, a taboo-breaking feat for women from traditional Muslim countries. Her love of sports and horse riding began early — she was just 13 when she became the first female to represent Jordan internationally in equestrian show jumping.

Haya has long stood out from other wives of Gulf Arab rulers not only because of her Jordanian royal background and Olympic ambitions, but because she was seen and photographed in public. Most rulers’ wives in the Gulf are never photographed and their faces and names aren’t known to the public. But Princess Haya wasn’t only visible at humanitarian events, often seated front row in Dubai by her husband’s side, but was a stylish fixture in glossy magazines and at prestigious equestrian events in the U.K,, like the Royal Ascot and Epsom Derby.

In a 2009 Daily Mail interview, the princess said she deliberately postponed marriage until she could meet a man “who doesn’t feel he has to mold me.” She was quoted as saying, “You have to accept that you’re in control of yourself but not your destiny.”

The government of Dubai hasn’t commented on the media reports about Princess Haya fleeing with her children to Europe.