London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani visited Saudi Arabia on Sunday, fulfilling a vow made during his presidential election campaign to make a religious pilgrimage to the country.
President Ghani was welcomed to Riyadh by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz, who also serves as deputy prime minister and minister of defense. According to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), the two men discussed “prospects for cooperation between the two brotherly countries, ways of enhancing them in all fields, and the latest developments at regional and international arenas.”
After Crown Prince Salman greeted President Ghani and his delegation, Deputy Crown Prince Muqrin Bin Abdulaziz held a luncheon in honor of the president on behalf of King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz, which was attended by a number of senior officials, the SPA reported.
Among those attending were Prince Faisal Bin Mohammed Bin Saud; Prince Khalid Bin Bandar Bin Abdulaziz, chief of General Intelligence; Prince Dr. Mansour Bin Miteb Bin Abdulaziz, minister of municipal and rural affairs; Prince Miteb Bin Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz, minister of the national guard; Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz, deputy minister of foreign affairs; Prince Dr. Bandar Bin Salman Bin Mohammed, special adviser to King Abdullah.
The visit is the Afghan president’s first trip abroad since being sworn into office at the end of September, following a disputed presidential election which led to a power-sharing agreement with his chief rival, Abdullah Abdullah, who now serves as his de facto prime minister.
Ghani, a former World Bank official, promised during his campaign for president to make the Umrah pilgrimage to Mecca, which unlike the Hajj can be performed at any time.
According to a statement released by Ghani’s office, he will meet with King Abdullah and other officials to discuss issues of mutual interest, before departing for China, where he is due to make an official visit between October 28–31.