Bahraini FM: We trust Saudi Arabia’s role in promoting Gulf dialogue

28/12/20

Bahrain’s foreign minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani attends the Gulf Arab foreign ministers meeting. (BNA)

  • Gulf countries aim to stand up to interference in their internal affairs: Al-Zayani
  • Foreign ministers meeting comes ahead of summit to discuss steps to end row between Gulf states and Qatar

LONDON: The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has confidence in Saudi Arabia’s role in promoting dialogue in the Gulf, Bahrain’s foreign minister said on Sunday.

Speaking during a virtual meeting of Gulf Arab foreign ministers, Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani said that the Kingdom played an “important role” in beginning a new phase to strengthen Gulf dialogue and bridge the rift in the region.

Gulf countries aim to stand up to interference in their internal affairs and stressed the need to end regional conflicts by peaceful means, Al-Zayani added.

The foreign ministers meeting comes ahead of a summit that will be hosted by Saudi Arabia to discuss steps to end a diplomatic row between Gulf states and Qatar.

The meeting hosted by Bahrain prepared the ground for the 41st session of the GCC Summit which will be held on Jan. 5 in Riyadh, Bahrain News Agency (BNA) reported.

Al-Zayani added that GCC countries aim to confront hate speech and violence, and to protect their security.

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King Salman invites Gulf leaders for Riyadh summit

26/12/20

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has formally invited leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council for the January summit. (AFP)
  • The invitation was sent through GCC Secretary-General Dr. Nayef Falah Al-Hajraf

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has formally invited leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) for the 41st group summit being held in Riyadh on January 5 next year.

The invitation was sent through GCC Secretary-General Dr. Nayef Falah Al-Hajraf, a statement from the group said. Among the first to receive the invite was UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, with the invitation received by the Dubai ruler and Vice-President Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum.

“The commitment by Gulf leaders to hold the summit on an annual basis, and especially in these exceptional times, is a testament to the strength of the GCC, to their belief in their duty to the people of the Gulf, and their devotion to increasing cooperation and integration among member countries,” Dr. Al-Hajraf said in the statement.

“Today, as the GCC enters its fifth decade with a global pandemic in the backdrop, the institution’s mission to facilitate trade and economic integration among member states is more relevant than at any time in its history.

“The GCC remains focused on meeting the ambitions of the Gulf people, increasing integration, interconnectedness, and trade among member states and the international community. I am grateful to their Majesties and Highnesses, the leaders of the GCC states, for their tireless efforts to further strengthen Gulf cooperation.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi wins best actor award at Cairo International Film Festival

12/12/20

  • In its first global screening, ‘The Tambour of Retribution,’ by Saudi director Abdulaziz Al-Shalahi, bags Special Jury Prize
  • More than 90 films from 40 countries, including 20 films in their international premieres, were featured at the festival.

JEDDAH: Faisal Al-Dokhei has been awarded the best acting performance prize at the 42nd Cairo International Film Festival for his role in the first Saudi film to enter the festival.

In its first international screening, “The Tambour of Retribution,” by Saudi director Abdulaziz Al-Shalahi, won the Special Jury Prize alongside the Best Acting Performance Award.

Al-Doukhei, who began his career in 2016 and features in a number of movies including the 2018 short film “Black Sand” and “Wasati” in 2016, was presented with the award during Thursday’s event.

The story takes place in the 1990s and revolves around the son of an executioner who falls in love with the daughter of a wedding singer. Between celebrating joy and marking death, the question arises of who will sacrifice their dream in exchange for making the world a better place.

Another Saudi movie that premiered at the event was “The Girls Who Burnt the Night” by filmmaker Sara Mesfer. The film follows two 13-year-old sisters preparing for a wedding party who experience a series of unexpected events after one decides to go on a shopping spree.

In a tweet, Saudi Ambassador to Egypt Osama Nugali said: “I congratulate Saudi arts and culture with the winning of the Saudi films at the CIFF: “The Tambour of Retribution” by Saudi director @EZ_ALSHLAHEI winning the Special Jury Prize and the best acting performance award to @Faiisall2, and the movie “The Girls Who Burnt the Night” by @Saramesfer. Congratulations to all members of the team.”

More than 90 films from 40 countries, including 20 films in their international premieres, were featured at the festival. The Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF) is one of only 15 festivals accorded category “A” status by the International Federation of Film Producers Associations (FIAPF).

It is the oldest and only internationally accredited cultural feature film festival in the Arab World, Africa and the Middle East.

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Emir of Kuwait thanks King Salman for efforts to resolve Gulf dispute

06/12/20

  • Progress made to end the dispute between Gulf countries is an achievement that will restore unity: Emir
  • Saudi FM said the Kingdom was committed to the “diplomatic resolution of regional tensions”

LONDON: The emir of Kuwait thanked King Salman on Saturday for his efforts to resolve regional tensions.
In a letter that he sent to the king, Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah said the Kingdom’s representation of the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt reflects its prestigious position and its pioneering role in seeking to support security and stability in the region.
The emir added that it also shows Saudi Arabia’s keenness on solidarity and unity in light of the delicate conditions that the world and the region face.
Saudi Arabia – along with the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt – severed diplomatic ties with Doha in June 2017. They accused Qatar of supporting regional extremist organizations and terrorist groups, and want the country to change its policies as a condition for dialogue.

Progress made to end the dispute between Gulf countries “is an achievement that will restore our Gulf entity and our joint Arab action, its unity and cohesion in facing the challenges that plague the whole world. It will also enable us to work together in order to achieve the legitimate hopes and aspirations of our peoples for security, stability, prosperity and well-being,” the emir said.
Sheikh Nawaf’s comments come as Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said the Kingdom was committed to the “diplomatic resolution of regional tensions,” during the IISS Manama Dialogue on Saturday.
“The Kingdom continues to demonstrate its commitment to the diplomatic resolution of regional tensions and maintaining multilateral frameworks to tackle the challenges we face today,” Prince Faisal said.

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Saudi Arabia ‘safest among G20 countries,’ indicators say

Time: 01 December 2020

Saudi Arabia’s progress has led to the Kingdom ranking first among G20 nations for safety, outperforming the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (UNSC), international safety indicators have shown. (Shutterstock/File Photo)

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia has topped the list as the most secure country according to international indicators related to security, outperforming the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

The results were revealed through five security indicators included in the Global Competitiveness Report 2019,and the Sustainable Development Goals Index 2020.

The Kingdom ranked first among the G20 countries, ahead of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, surpassing China and Canada among the G20, and surpassing China and the US in the “Feeling safe while walking alone at night” index for this year.

Saudi Arabia also came first in the citizens’ confidence in police services index, which measures confidence in security and effectiveness in enforcing law and order.

Saudi Arabia also ranked first in the reliability of police services index, an indicator which measures public confidence in law enforcement and its success in achieving order and safety. The Kingdom topped the G20, and surpassed the five permanent UN Security Council members in this index, too.

Saudi Arabia ranked third among the G20 countries, after Australia and Japan and ahead of Canada, South Korea, France and Germany in the Security Index for 2019 issued by the Global Competitiveness Report. The Kingdom also surpassed, in the same index, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

The Global Competitiveness Report, issued by the World Economic Forum, showed that the Kingdom advanced three places to rank 36th internationally in terms of international competitiveness. The report indicated that the Kingdom is making rapid steps to diversify its economy, with expectations of growth in the non-oil sector, and that more investments outside the mining sector will appear in succession in the public and private sectors in the coming years.

The report commended Saudi Arabia’s clear insistence on carrying out structural reforms and its widespread adoption of communication technology, with the high potential for innovation, especially in the field of patent registration.

The Global Competitiveness Report, published annually, is designed to support and help policymakers, business leaders and stakeholders identify policies and practices best suited for long-term measures to assess their progress.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Prominent communications executive hails Saudi Arabia’s ‘admirable’ Hajj and G20 amid COVID-19

Time: 01 November 2020

TAREK ALI AHMAD

LONDON: According to one of the UK’s most prominent communications executives, Muddassar Ahmed, Saudi Arabia has “not only done an admirable job but has set a precedent for other nations to follow” with regard to its handling of Hajj amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

“The Kingdom’s decision to suspend the Hajj pilgrimage during the pandemic was a brave one, all the more so because it is a religious occasion that hundreds of thousands of people spend their lives preparing for,” Ahmed, the founder of Unitas Communications, told Arab News.

“To tell people making a once-in-a-lifetime journey that their plans must be put on hold cannot have been easy. But it was without a doubt the right thing to do. In our religion, the protection and preservation of life are of paramount value,” he added.

Ahmed, one of the UK’s top 1000 most influential people, also praised the Kingdom’s handling of the G20 summit last month after deciding to go fully virtual, calling it “absolutely the correct course of action.”

“In both instances, Saudi Arabia has set a precedent for other countries to follow. We can contrast its proactive, forward-thinking and compassionate approach, as well as its own COVID-19 statistics, with other countries’ track records,” he said.

Countering extremism as a British Muslim

Ahmed is not only known for his role as a communications expert, but also as a leading figure in the Muslim community in the UK, countering hate speech and the rise of extremism as an advisor to the British government on anti-Muslim hatred.

“As a born-and-bred British Muslim, this is not just important to me on a policy level but on a deeply personal level. I have dedicated my life to improving relationships between Muslim and other communities and I believe that, through Unitas and other projects I have dedicated myself to, we have made tremendous progress in improving the image and position of Muslims in Britain and the West,” Ahmed, who was named one of the 500 Most Influential Muslims worldwide three times, said.

Before founding Unitas, Ahmed was an activist campaigning against the Iraq war and founder/host of East London’s Radio Ramadan shows.

“I soon realized that adversarial campaigning only went so far. I was concerned by the growing divide between Muslims and wider society, between the Islamic world and the West, and I wanted — I needed — to help heal these divides, to bridge these allegedly irreconcilable narratives,” he explained.

Soon after, he teamed up with fellow East Londoner and childhood classmate Shiraz Ahmad to give birth to the world’s first public relations agency dedicated to bridging the gap between the Islamic and Western worlds: Unitas Communications.

One of the group’s first clients was the National Health Service, which needed to access hard-to-reach minority communities in East London.

It was not long before their work earned the attention of people invested in efforts to do the same. A few years after the start of the Iraq War and after the 7/7 2005 London terrorist attacks, community cohesion in the UK was at an all-time low.

The UN’s Alliance of Civilizations then reached out to Unitas to “see minority and Muslim communities have the training and develop the skills necessary to engage effectively and constructively in wider British society.”

Ahmed and Unitas’s work is not restricted to the UK alone, with the group and its founder earning praise and recognition from former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and by the City of New York.

Brexit and what is to come

While many businesses have been critical of Brexit and its potential consequences, Ahmed looks to the bright side of matters and instead calls it “an opportunity for Britain to reset its narrative on the world stage.”

“I have every confidence in the ability of the British nation to reinvent itself,” he added, explaining that “Unitas operations extend across continents in order to connect people, cultures and ideas and to make communicating effective and impactful.”

With regard to what the future holds for Unitas in such uncertain times, Ahmed remains optimistic.

“The future will see Unitas continuing to work with leading international brands and expanding its presence across Europe and the Middle East and deeper into Southeast Asia. But I should also say that a major priority for us has always been the US. We’ve had major American clients, like the National Football League and the US State Department,” he said.

“We will continue to choose clients who contribute to making the world a more understanding place, and we will engage those relationships to improve the world, to leave things better off than where they were when we started.

Because this work isn’t just a business to me or my team. It’s a moral calling.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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MWL, UPEACE join hands to promote peace, civilized dialogue

Time: 26 November 2020

MWL Secretary-General Mohammed bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa (shown on screen) presides over a meeting on Thursday. (SPA)

RIYADH: The Muslim World League (MWL) and the UN-mandated University for Peace (UPEACE) have launched a book dedicated to the promotion of peace, human rights, and dialogue among civilizations.

The work, co-authored by 32 leading religious, international, political, intellectual, and media figures from around the world, was launched in Jeddah to mark the UN’s 75th anniversary and 100 years of multilateralism.

Dr. Mohammed bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa, secretary-general of the MWL, said: “I have always said that 10 percent of humans are capable of bringing peace and harmony to our world.

“Religious leaders and public and private institutions, including international institutions, have a responsibility to contribute effectively to achieving our common aspirations.

“A civilized alliance must be reached that represents the reality of understanding, tolerance, and cooperation of all, as well as promoting awareness of the fact that God has established the principles of difference, diversity, and pluralism.”

Al-Issa added: “History has given us lessons and sermons that prove that there is no victor in civilizational clashes and conflicts, which means that ideas can only be communicated through wisdom and mutual respect.”

Alvaro Iranzo Gutierrez, the Spanish ambassador to Saudi Arabia, said Spain had also tried to play a role in international efforts aimed at providing a structure for dialogue between communities and religions.

He pointed out that the book’s research, coordinated by UPEACE and the MWL, provided “the necessary and comprehensive intellectual refutation of all the negatives in order to rise above the perceptions of the past that highlights divisions.”

Francisco J. Chacon Hernandez, Costa Rica’s ambassador to the UAE and Jordan, congratulated the MWL and UPEACE on the “inspiring” work that he said would help pave the way for peace.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi Arabia to make coronavirus vaccine free for citizens and residents

Time: 24 November 2020

Muslim pilgrims wearing protective face masks arrive to circle the Kaaba at the Grand mosque during the annual Haj pilgrimage amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia July 29, 2020. (Reuters)
  • It hopes the vaccines would cover 70 percent of the Kingdom’s population by the end of 2021

JEDDAH: The Saudi Ministry of Health is aiming to offer free vaccines to 70 percent of citizens and expats in the Kingdom who have not yet contracted the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Officials are hoping to have met the target for inoculations by the end of next year.

“Those who have not tested positive for COVID-19 will be given priority in the vaccine campaign in the coming months,” said Dr. Abdullah Asiri, the ministry’s assistant undersecretary for preventive health.

However, under-16s are not to be vaccinated unless research or tests prove there to be a need, he added.

He noted that the Kingdom planned to announce a clear schedule of vaccinations arrival to the country in the coming weeks.

“The Kingdom worked on two paths to obtain the vaccine, through the COVAX organization, which the G20 had a role in creating and financing.

“Saudi Arabia will obtain a large amount of vaccines through this facility, while the second track is direct contracting with the big companies to cover the gap that cannot be covered through COVAX,” Asiri said.

COVAX is a global initiative aimed at working with vaccine manufacturers to provide countries around the world with equitable access to safe and effective vaccines once they are licensed and approved.

Asiri pointed out that obtaining effective vaccines required a long preparation plan and supply chain, and time for the vaccine to arrive in large enough quantities to the countries requiring it.

FASTFACT

The Kingdom plans to announce a clear schedule of vaccine arrival in the coming weeks.

“Therefore, what will be released this year is not expected to be in the large quantities that would affect the pandemic’s trajectory, which isn’t expected before mid-2021,” he added.

Assistant to the minister of health and official spokesman, Dr. Muhammad Al-Abd Al-Aly, said that the ministry would only provide COVID-19 vaccines that were effective against the virus, had no side effects, and were approved by the authorities concerned with granting licenses.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia recorded 19 new COVID-19-related deaths on Monday taking to 5,796 the total number of people in the country who had now died after contracting the virus.

There were 231 new cases reported in the Kingdom, putting the total so far at 355,489. Officials said 5,877 cases were still active, of which 765 patients were in a serious or critical condition.

According to the Ministry of Health, 46 of the newly recorded cases were in Riyadh, 18 in Makkah and Jeddah, and 11 in Madinah.

In addition, 445 patients had recovered from COVID-19, moving the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom up to 343,816.

Saudi Arabia has so far conducted 9,295,599 polymerase chain reaction tests, with 40,395 carried out in the last 24 hours.

This article was first published in Arab News

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G20 envoys laud Saudi presidency

Time: 23 November 2020

This handout photo provided by G20 Riyadh Summit, shows Saudi King Salman, center, and the rest of world leaders during a virtual G20 summit hosted by Saudi Arabia and held over video conference amid the Covid-19 pandemic, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020. (AP)
  • Ambassadors approve of proposal that the G20 hold two summits each year

RIYADH: The ambassadors from the G20 states on Monday praised the Saudi presidency for undertaking such a huge task under extraordinary circumstances and providing a clear direction for tackling the coronavirus crisis.

After the Riyadh Summit concluded on Sunday, King Salman formally handed over the rotating presidency to Italy, which will hold the 2021 summit.

Speaking ahead of the closing remarks Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman recommended holding two G20 summits — a virtual event in the middle of the year and a physical summit later.

Italian ambassador Roberto Cantone told Arab News: “The Kingdom has given proof of excellent organization. The Saudi presidency has worked since the beginning to adapt the original program to the challenges of the reality.”

“The Saudi president managed to catalyze G20 action to tackle one of the most pressing global emergencies of our time. This has been done in a very comprehensive manner, focusing both on the health emergency and on the socioeconomic impact of the pandemic,” he said.

He said the incoming Italian presidency will build on the legacy that Saudi Arabia has left.

South Korean ambassador Jo Byung-wook said: “The G20 Summit this year once again proved itself to be the premier forum for international economic cooperation. It would not have been possible without Saudi Arabia’s tremendous efforts leading all G20 member countries to invest their resources in responding to the global crisis.”

The Kingdom has given proof of excellent organization.

Roberto Cantone, Italian ambassador

“Saudi Arabia demonstrated its leadership and competence to the world by successfully hosting two summits this year,” he added. “In this respect, as suggested by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, holding two G20 summits annually would actively utilize this global forum with proven effectiveness.”

Japanese ambassador Tsukasa Uemura told Arab News: “The summit successfully provided a clear direction for the international community in the midst of the crisis, which is significantly meaningful in such a difficult year.”

“Saudi Arabia has demonstrated tremendous leadership in delivering clear and vital messages to the international community that the G20 would take the lead in creating an international order for the post-corona world,” he added.

EU ambassador Patrick Simonnet said: “We have very much appreciated the Saudi presidency for holding the Extraordinary Summit in March, where G20 leaders discussed the most urgent consequences of the pandemic on all aspects of our lives.”

Praising the Kingdom for the G20 Summit’s success Chinese ambassador to Saudi Arabia Chen Weiqing tweeted: “A friend sent me a message from China that amid the uncrecedented pandemic Saudi Arabia has achieved exceptional success in chairing the G20 over virtual conferences, and he was very impressed. I agree, as the Kingdom has won the respect and appreciation of the world.”

Mexican ambassador Anibal Gomez-Toledo noted: “The crown prince’s proposal to hold two G20 annual summits could have potential and should be further discussed by the group’s members.”

Indonesian ambassador Agus Maftuh Abegebriel told Arab News: “We acknowledge the recommendation made by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on holding two summits. It would surely be beneficial to the economic recovery.

He said the Saudi presidency has proven that the G20 Summit can also be held virtually and prove effective.

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Saudi crown prince, Brazil’s Bolsonaro discuss G20 coordination

21/11/20

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro (L) shakes hands with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as they attend a meeting on the digital economy at the G20 Summit in Osaka on June 28, 2019. (Photo by Jacques Witt / POOL / AFP)

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro (L) shakes hands with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as they attend a meeting on the digital economy at the G20 Summit in Osaka. (File/AFP)
  • They also discussed bilateral relations and ways to enhance them
  • Riyadh will host 15 G20 Summit on Nov. 21 and 22

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman telephoned Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Friday, Saudi Press Agency reported.

During the call, they discussed bilateral relations between the two countries and ways to enhance them, as well as ways to coordinate efforts made within the activities of the G20 leaders’ summit that the Kingdom will host from Saturday.

Saudi Arabia assumed presidency of the G20 on Dec 1, 2019 and is set to host the 15th two-day annual summit in the capital Riyadh on Nov. 21-22.

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