New Saudi ambassador to Palestine is ‘non-resident’. What does that mean?

Saudi envoy to Palestine Nayef bin Bandar al-Sudairi is visiting Ramallah for the first time. Here is what you need to know about his role.

Saudi ambassador Nayef al-Sudairi visits Palestine
Saudi ambassador Nayef bin Bandar al-Sudairi visits Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on September 26, 2023 [Mohammed Torokman/Reuters]

The first Saudi ambassador to Palestine, Nayef bin Bandar al-Sudairi, will be presenting his credentials to Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas.

Al-Sudairi and his delegation are in the PA’s capital, Ramallah, for a two-day visit on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The ambassador was appointed in August, the announcement saying that he would be a non-resident ambassador.

So what does that mean, and what will his role be as a “non-resident ambassador”?

First, what is an ambassador?

An ambassador is a diplomatic official of the highest rank accredited to a foreign nation or an international organisation as the accredited representative of their home country.

The primary duties of an ambassador are representing their native country in the country of accreditation and protecting their co-nationals residing there.

The ambassador seeks to maintain and improve strong diplomatic and economic ties with the receiving foreign country. He or she also oversees all affairs at the embassy.

What is a non-resident ambassador?

Non-resident envoys have the same powers as ambassadors, the only difference is that they do not reside in the country they are accredited as representatives to.

Usually, as will happen with al-Sudairi, non-resident ambassadors will visit the country of accreditation to present their credentials. In certain cases and countries – for example, where the security situation does not allow it – non-resident ambassadors are allowed to present their credentials remotely.

An example of a remote presentation of credentials would be if the envoy presents them in their own home capital at the embassy of the country of accreditation.

Non-resident envoys are also sometimes appointed for countries where the number of co-nationals is relatively small and can be served from an embassy in a nearby country.

Where will al-Sudairi live then?

Non-resident ambassadors usually reside in a neighbouring or nearby country because there is no embassy within the borders of the country of accreditation.

Since al-Sudairi is also Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Jordan, he will reside in the neighbouring country’s capital, Amman, and carry out most of his duties from there.

Does that mean he will never go to Ramallah again?

Business is done in a variety of ways in cases where diplomatic representation is in a nearby country.

Al-Sudairi will visit Ramallah whenever official business requires his presence there. Possible reasons to visit would be invitations from the PA for meetings or to attend a commemoration or to initiate talks.

It is also possible that al-Sudairi will meet with Palestinian officials in the Saudi embassy or Palestinian embassy in Jordan.

Why is the appointment important?

Al-Sudairi’s appointment is a landmark development because he is the first ambassador to ever be named by Saudi Arabia to Palestine.

To have direct Saudi representation for Palestine is a new situation and much welcomed by the PA.

The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has hailed al-Sudairi’s visit, calling it “a historic milestone for developing fraternal relations between the two sister countries”.

Source: Al Jazeera