(Adds detail on Amazon's expansion in Saudi Arabia, quote)
By Jeffrey Dastin
June 17 (Reuters) - Amazon.com Inc on Wednesday launched a website for shoppers in Saudi Arabia, showing its continued business interests there despite a public dispute between Riyadh and the company's chief executive, Jeff Bezos.
The website is a re-branding for Saudi customers of Souq.com, a Middle East e-commerce platform that Amazon acquired in 2017. Shoppers' account information with Souq automatically transferred to the new address, amazon.sa, Amazon said on the site. The company similarly converted Souq's website in the United Arab Emirates to a re-branded portal, amazon.ae, last year.
The news indicates that a conflict involving Bezos and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has not derailed Amazon's investment plans for the kingdom. In a press release, Amazon said it is building an operations network that will span the country, and its footprint already includes 14 warehouses, a workforce of more than 1,400 and a strategic delivery partnership with Saudi Post.
The publication of leaked text messages between Bezos and his girlfriend in early 2019 kicked off a dispute between the world's richest man and Saudi Arabia. Bezos' security chief last year said the kingdom was the source of the messages, and in January, United Nations experts said they had information pointing to the "possible involvement" of Crown Prince Mohammed in an alleged plot to hack Bezos' phone. Saudi Arabia called the suggestion "absurd."
Bezos privately owns the Washington Post, which employed Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi columnist and critic of the crown prince who was murdered in October 2018. The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency believes Crown Prince Mohammed ordered the killing, sources previously told Reuters, while the crown prince last year denied the claim and said rogue operatives carried out the act.
The saga had fueled speculation that Amazon would pull back from doing business in the country. (Reporting By Jeffrey Dastin in San Francisco; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)