Saudi Arabia’s National Day celebrations were more subdued than usual on Sunday,
after King Abdullah announced he was canceling several events to show his
nation’s solidarity with the Syrian people.
The Saudi king announced late
on Saturday night that opera singing performances scheduled to be held across
Saudi Arabia as part of the country’s 82nd National Day celebrations would be
called off “in solidarity with the brothers of the Syrian people,” the kingdom’s
state press agency reported.
Saudi Arabia has long voiced its support for
the Syrian opposition, largely in order to counter the influence of the oil-rich
kingdom’s major regional rival, and Assad’s chief ally, Shi’ite-led
The opposition Syrian National Council has said that both Saudi
Arabia and Qatar have supplied the mostly Sunni Syrian opposition with light
Abdullah’s decision to express Saudi Arabia’s support for the
regime in a national gesture comes after Assad slammed the kingdom as a “nouveau
riche Western surrogate” in an interview with Egyptian weekly Al- Ahram al-Arabi
last week. In that interview, Assad accused Saudi Arabia of arming Syrian
rebels, and said the oil-rich kingdom was “behind Israel’s 1967 war on Egypt and
does not appreciate the present Axis of Resistance against
Syria’s information minister, Omran al-Zohbi has since denied
Assad gave the interview, saying he instead held an informal conversation with
nine Egyptian journalists, which was then reported out of context.
move also comes after Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal,
chose not to attend a meeting of regional powers, including Iran and Egypt, on
the Syria crisis last week.This year’s celebrations are heavily focused on the
country’s younger population, with Saudi schools preparing dances and theatrical
events to mark the occasion, a phenomenon the Saudi press has attributed to a
growing sense of nationalism among young people.