King Hamad of Bahrain, among the Gulf leaders skipping this week’s summit at Camp David, will be attending the United Kingdom’s Royal Windsor Horse Show.
The government-run Bahrain News Agency (BNA) reported in Arabic Wednesday the king would arrive Thursday at the annual celebration, “on an invitation that His Majesty received from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.”
BNA went on to explain the Bahraini royal court’s intentions, namely that Hamad would meet with the Queen to “highlight the exceptional historic relations between the two royal families” as well as the “bilateral relations between the two friendly countries in numerous areas.” Bahrain was a protectorate of the British Empire until 1971.
King Hamad is one of the four heads of state who declined invitations to the high-level White House meeting with six Gulf countries. Bahrain’s closest local ally, Saudi Arabia, made waves earlier in the week when King Salman announced he would not attend the summit. (RELATED: Saudi King Skips Gulf Leaders’ Big DC Meeting)
President Barack Obama announced the meeting in early April, as a step to reassure Sunni Arab states in the region that the United States’ draft deal with Iran over that country’s nuclear program would not threaten other Gulf nations’ security.
King Salman declined the invitation, citing Saudi Arabia’s ongoing military campaign in Yemen. The heads of Oman and the United Arab Emirates are in poor health. (RELATED: Saudi Royals’ Shake-Up Presents New Challenge To US)
King Hamad’s travel plans in the U.K. have made headlines before. He declined an invitation to Prince William’s wedding to Kate Middleton in 2011, under pressure by British human rights groups over Bahrain’s treatment of protesters that year. The incident did not keep him from attending the celebration of Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012.
Bahraini concerns regarding Iran are distinct from other Gulf Arab states’. While Bahrain’s ruling family is Sunni, over half the citizens of their small island nation are Shiites.
The Royal Windsor Horse Show features the U.K.’s only international competitions in show jumping, dressage and other equestrian events. The local Windsor Express lists “shopping” and admiring “the sheer volume of glittering silverwear” in the trophy tent among its “Eight things not to miss” at the show, which has run annually since 1943.
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