King Salman bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia has been admitted to a hospital in Riyadh early Monday for medical tests, the second elderly ruler of an oil-rich Gulf Arab nation to be hospitalized in less than a week.
The 84-year-old monarch was undergoing medical tests at King Faisal Specialist Hospital after being diagnosed with an inflamed gallbladder, state-run Saudi Press Agency reported, citing a statement from the royal court. There were no further details about his condition.
On Sunday, Kuwait abruptly announced that its 91-year-old emir, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah, was admitted to hospital the previous day for checkups and underwent a “successful surgery.” Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah temporarily assumed some of his functions and duties.
The hospitalizations of these elderly rulers add to the uncertainty that’s beset these leading oil producers as they try to battle the twin crises of crude market turmoil and the coronavirus pandemic.
Saudi officials have previously said King Salman is in good physical health and have dismissed speculation that he will abdicate in favor of his son Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. But in practice, it’s the crown prince who has been the country’s de facto ruler since 2017, when he pushed aside an older cousin in a seismic shift in the historic practice of sharing power between different branches of the family.
Under Prince Mohammed’s direction, the world’s biggest crude exporter has, along with Russia, pushed members of OPEC and its allies to reduce production and prop up prices in the face of the pandemic. Those cuts, which have resulted in Brent crude prices more than doubling since mid-April to $43 a barrel, are set to be eased next month.
Saudi Arabia pumped 10.1 million barrels of crude a day last year, 12% of the world’s total, according to BP Plc. Kuwait, OPEC’s fourth-biggest producer, pumped about 2.7 million barrels daily.
Salman’s hospitalization forced the postponement of Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s visit on Monday. The visit, which was to have been Kadhimi’s first foreign trip since his appointment in May, will be put off “until the King is discharged from the hospital,” the Saudi foreign minister said on Twitter.
An advance delegation from Iraq had already arrived in the capital on Sunday.