Rai al-Youm — an online Arabic language newspaper that is critical of the Saudi government — reported from ‘well-informed sources’ that, despite multiple requests from Riyadh, the Moroccan government has refused to extradite Prince Mansour bin Abdullah al-Saud who is a son of the former King Abdullah al-Saud. Riyadh reportedly dropped its requests for his extradition after the murder of the Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, because of fear of a backlash. The report states that the government removed its guards from Prince Mansour’s residence because it no longer believed that Saudi Arabia, mired in the ongoing Khashoggi crisis, would attempt to forcibly deport the prince.
The story was not officially confirmed by either Rabat or Riyadh. Prince Mansour reportedly moved from France to Morocco because he was worried that he would be deported to Saudi Arabia if he remained in Europe. This was after European governments failed to defend the Saudi notables who were detained at the Ritz Carlton by the Saudi government in November 2017. Two of the latter were also sons of former King Abdullah and were part of a group of Saudi royals who tried to undermine Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s appointment as Crown Prince.
If the story is correct it would mark a noteworthy shift in Morocco’s relationship with Saudi Arabia. Rabat quietly deported a former police chief, Turki bin Bandar al-Saud, back to Saudi Arabia in 2015. Now, however, Rabat reportedly not only refused to deport Prince Mansour, but also refused to increase the surveillance of Saudi royals or even disclose details of their Moroccan bank accounts. It shows how hard it is for Morocco to remain neutral amid the multi-dimensional disputes of states in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). These include the high-profile ones between Qatar and both Saudi Arabia and the UAE, but also the internal disputes between prominent individuals within the GCC states themselves.