Paving the way for a meaningful strategic Indonesia-Saudi partnership

Time: August 17, 2019  

President Joko Widodo delivers his State of The Nation address in Jakarta. (AP)
  • For most Indonesians, Saudi Arabia is a spiritual home.

Long before the historical visit of King Salman, Saudi Arabia was among the first countries in the world that acknowledged the independence of Indonesia. The following visit of the first President of Indonesia to the Kingdom and of King Faizal bin Abdul Aziz to Indonesia in 1970 signified this long-established relationship.

For most Indonesians, Saudi Arabia is a spiritual home where the Ka’bah and the Masjid Nabawi are located. Roughly 100,000 Indonesians arrive in the Kingdom every month, roaming around Jeddah, Makkah and Madinah visiting holy sites, not to mention the 230,000 annual Hajj visitors.

It is an annual exchange dating well beyond the formation of the two modern nations.

For over a millennia, there have been ties between Arab traders and people in Nusantara, the archipelago now called Indonesia, with the flow of people as constant as the flow of trade and culture.

Indonesia has one of the 10 largest global diasporas. Out of approximately 23 million Indonesians living abroad, with 400,000 currently residing in the Kingdom. Many Indonesians living in the country have gone on to take Saudi citizenship, as characterized by various family names hinting at Indonesian origins, such as Al-Banten, Al-Palemban, Al-Manduri, and Al-Banjari.

The huge number of Indonesian citizens and descendants in Saudi Arabia have strengthened relations between the two countries. Language, another bridge to cooperation and progress, is also highly valued by the two states. Since 2006, the Consulate General of Indonesia in Jeddah has initiated the Bahasa Indonesia Untuk Penutur Asing program (BIPA – Indonesian Language for Foreigners). So far, over a thousand Saudis have participated in it.

In tourism, the visit of King Salman to Indonesia in March 2017 left a very important imprint.

The so-called “King Salman Route,” the places where King Salman visited in Indonesia, has entered the lexicon of tourist operators, such is its popularity with Saudi and other foreign guests.

Spreading the concept of moderate Islam, as coined by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and the ideas of Islam Wasatiyyah in Indonesia, is also an area of shared objectives. Indonesia believes in “the Middle Way of Islam” of moderation in the practice of the Islamic faith, as a response to the spread of extremism.

Considering the vital role of the media in selecting, organizing and emphasizing the news, and how the media influences what we think about ourselves and other nations, I would like to propose a reciprocal visit between Indonesian and Saudi media outlets. Both parties can learn extensively from each other, and hopefully can bring something positive to

By 2030, Indonesia could have the world’s 7th largest economy according to the McKinsey report, and the 4th  most powerful economy in the world by 2050, according to  PricewaterhouseCooper. The door is always open to the Saudi people to set their footprints down here, and seize the business opportunities offered by Indonesia.  The same invitation also goes to Indonesian entrepreneurs to take the opportunity provided by the Kingdom.

Along with the tremendous effort in diversifying its economy through Saudi Vision 2030, the Kingdom reinforces its activities to achieve a vibrant society, a thriving economy, and an ambitious nation.

I believe it now the time for us to cherish our strategic partnership.

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Envoy lauds Saudi-Indian ties on Independence Day

Time: August 16, 2019  

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Indian Ambassador Dr. Ausaf Sayeed at the Independence Day celebrations in Riyadh.
  • The envoy said Saudi Arabia and India enjoy friendly relations, reflecting centuries-old economic and sociocultural ties
  • Sayeed thanked the Saudi leadership for increasing India’s quota of Hajj pilgrims to 200,000 this year

RIYADH: Indian Ambassador Dr. Ausaf Sayeed thanked King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman for hosting 2.7 million Indian nationals in Saudi Arabia.

Speaking at India’s 73rd Independence Day celebrations in Riyadh on Thursday, Sayeed thanked the Saudi leadership for increasing India’s quota of Hajj pilgrims to 200,000 this year.

He said the crown prince and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi have met four times in the last two years, including the former’s state visit to India in February 2019.

“These high-profile visits have consolidated the domains of an existing partnership, which now spans diverse fields such as security and defense cooperation, energy security, food security, health care, infrastructure, entertainment, tourism and culture, besides trade, investment and economic cooperation,” Sayeed said.

He added that the two countries enjoy friendly relations, reflecting centuries-old economic and sociocultural ties underpinned by warmth and goodwill between their peoples.

He said Indian companies are keen to share their expertise in the execution of prestigious projects in the Kingdom such as NEOM city, the Red Sea Tourism Project and Al-Qiddiya Entertainment City, which are part of the crown prince’s Vision 2030 reform plan.

Sayeed said India has taken a major step in easing travel formalities for Saudis by introducing e-visas for the Kingdom since June 2019.

Such visas are issued within 48 hours and are valid for one year. “Saudi businessmen can also avail of the facility of five-year multiple visas,” he said.

Saudi Arabia, he added, plays a significant role in ensuring India’s energy security by meeting its burgeoning energy demand.

“The Kingdom is the second-largest supplier of crude oil to India, supplying … roughly 19 percent of India’s total requirement,” Sayeed said.

“Significantly, Indian companies have made investments to the tune of $1.5 billion in the Kingdom.”

Sayeed unfurled the national flag at the Indian Embassy. Cultural performances from the Indian diaspora celebrated the occasion.

“India’s multicultural, multilingual and multi-religious society offers a unique and incomparable model of peaceful coexistence,” he said.

“India continues to strengthen its democracy and the core principles of justice, liberty, equality and fraternity.”

He said India is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, with gross domestic product (GDP) growth exceeding 7 percent.

“India’s robust economic growth is a result of consistent economic reforms, tight fiscal policies, and measures undertaken by the government … toward ease of doing business and improving the investment climate,” Sayeed said.

“Significant thrust is being given to boost the manufacturing sector in India, enhance skills and put in place a better ecosystem for startups and disruptive technologies to … lead the country on a path of sustainable development.”

In Jeddah, Consul General Noor Rahman Sheikh unfurled the national flag which was followed by the singing of the national anthem.

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Qatari tycoon brothers and Doha Bank sued for funding Syrian militants Previous

Time: August 08, 2019  

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Moutaz (left) and Ramez Al-Khayyat are accused of using their accounts at Doha Bank to fund the Al-Qaeda-affiliated group. (Supplied)
  • The Times report says a group of Syrians have filed the claim at a London court against the bank and two brothers involved in transfers
  • The claim says the brothers used accounts at Doha Bank to send funds to the Al-Qaeda linked Al-Nusra Front

LONDON: Two billionaire Qatari brothers and a Doha-based bank are being sued in a British court for channeling cash to Al-Nusra Front militants in Syria.

Moutaz and Ramez Al-Khayyat are accused of using their accounts at Doha Bank to fund the Al-Qaeda-affiliated group. They are being sued at the High Court in London by eight Syrians who say they lost homes and businesses, and suffered physical and mental harm, because of Al-Nusra’s activities.

The Syrian claimants live in Europe, and have been granted anonymity by the court.

“The Khayyat brothers financed and/or assisted in financing Al-Nusra Front, including through accounts held by them and/or entities associated with them at Doha Bank,” the lawsuit alleges.

The claimants say funds were sent through the bank to accounts in Turkey and Lebanon, where cash was withdrawn and taken across the Syrian border to the militants. “As a result of the defendants’ actions, Al-Nusra Front was able to cause loss and damage to the claimants,” the lawsuit says.

The claimants say Doha Bank and the two businessmen “knew (or ought to have known) that the funds that passed from them or through their accounts were intended for Al-Nusra Front,” and that they had therefore “breached international and national laws.”

A spokesman for Doha Bank said they were taking legal advice but believed the claim to be “groundless and without merit.”

The Khayyat brothers run Power International Holding, one of Qatar’s largest conglomerates, with interests in construction, property and dairy farming. One of their property developments is next to the Iranian Embassy in London.

Doha Bank’s largest shareholder is the Qatar Investment Authority, the state’s sovereign wealth fund, and its chairman is Sheikh Fahad bin Mohammad bin Jabor Al-Thani, a member of the ruling family.

The Anti-Terror Quartet of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain imposed a trade, travel and diplomatic boycott on Qatar in June 2017 because of Doha’s support for extremist groups and funding of terrorism.

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Developing relations with Saudi Arabia Pakistan’s top priority, says PM Khan

Time: August 01, 2019  

Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan and Saudi Arabia’s prince Mohammed bin Salman in Islamabad, February 18th. Photograph. (Reuters/File Photo)
  • The two leaders reaffirmed the closeness of the Pak-Saudi ties
  • The prime minister also conveyed his gratitude to the crown prince for the Kingdom’s strong political and economic support to Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan told Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Wednesday that it was his country’s top priority to strengthen its relations with the Kingdom, reported Radio Pakistan on Thursday.

According to an official handout circulated by the Prime Minister House, Khan offered his sincere condolences to the Saudi crown prince on the sad demise of Prince Bandar bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud on telephone.

The eldest surviving son of the founder of Saudi Arabia, Prince Bandar’s funeral prayer was attended by thousands of people in Makkah’s Grand Mosque on Monday.

The prime minister also conveyed his gratitude to the crown prince for the Kingdom’s strong political and economic support to Pakistan.

The two leaders reaffirmed the closeness of the Pak-Saudi ties and reiterated their shared resolve to forge a stronger partnership covering all aspects of bilateral relations between their countries.

They also agreed to maintain close consultations on all issues of mutual interest.

The crown prince also invited the prime minister to visit Saudi Arabia after his visit to New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly session.

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Saudi Hajj minister receives Russian envoy

Time: July 26, 2019  

Hajj Minister Mohammed Salih Bentin, meeting Russian Ambassador Sergey Kozlov in Jeddah on Thursday. (SPA)

JEDDAH: Saudi Minister of Hajj and Umrah Dr. Mohammed Salih Bentin received Sergey Kozlov, the extraordinary and plenipotentiary ambassador of Russia to Saudi Arabia, at his office in Jeddah on Thursday.

During the meeting, they exchanged cordial talks and topics related to Hajj, the Saudi Press agency reported.

For his part, the ambassador praised the efforts and services provided by the Kingdom to the pilgrims.

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King Salman and Lebanese ex-PMs hold ‘positive and excellent’ talks over stalemate

Time: July 16, 2019  

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The king received former Lebanese Prime Ministers Najib Mikati, Fouad Siniora and Tammam Salam. (SPA)
  • The king received former Lebanese Prime Ministers Najib Mikati, Fouad Siniora and Tammam Salam
  • Saudi Arabia stresses ‘keenness on Lebanon’s security and stability’ during visit by three former premiers to Kingdom

BEIRUT/JEDDAH: A meeting on Monday between King Salman and three former Lebanese prime ministers to discuss the “political stalemate” in Beirut was described as “positive and excellent.”

During talks held at the Peace Palace, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia stressed its “keenness on Lebanon’s security and stability and the importance of preserving Lebanon within its Arab environment.”

King Salman met former premiers Najib Mikati, Fouad Siniora and Tammam Salam to discuss the latest developments in Lebanon and review relations between the two countries.

Also present at the gathering, which lasted for 35 minutes, were Saudi Minister of State Dr. Musaed Al-Aiban, Foreign Minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf, Assistant Special Secretary to King Salman Tamim bin Abdul Aziz Al-Salem, Royal Court Adviser Nizar bin Sulaiman Al-Alula, and Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Walid Al-Bukhari.

According to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), Lebanese delegation sources revealed that the talks had been “positive and excellent.”

Following the meeting, Mikati said on Twitter: “We have reviewed the fraternal relations between the two countries and His Highness stressed the Kingdom’s keenness on Lebanon’s security and stability.”

FAST FACTS

  • Top Saudi officials attended the meeting, which lasted for 35 minutes. Lebanese leaders stressed the need to return to the 1989 Taif Agreement.

The Lebanese delegation also met with Al-Assaf at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ premises in Jeddah.

Lebanese news websites quoted the delegation as saying that the Kingdom had stressed that “whatever affects Sunnis in Lebanon affects us in the Kingdom.”

Arriving in Jeddah on Monday for their one-day visit, the former PMs conveyed to King Salman a message from Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri on “strengthening the relationship between Lebanon and the Kingdom — a relationship that reflects respect for Lebanon and its independence and sovereignty.”

Speaking at Jeddah airport, Siniora said: “We have always had excellent and honest fraternal relations with Saudi Arabia, and this visit emphasizes the importance of this relationship.

“No doubt Lebanon and the region are going through a difficult period, and due to these major developments, it is important and necessary to return to the fundamentals that unite the Lebanese people.

“It is also important to return to the Taif Agreement (the 1989 accord to provide the basis for the ending of the civil war and return to political normality in Lebanon) and to commit more to it and to the constitution that emerged from it and extended state authority over all of the Lebanese territory,” added Siniora.

“It is unacceptable to listen to rumors that say we want to change the law by practice or refrain from applying the law because we do not want it.

“We must also emphasize the importance of respecting Arab legitimacy and the Arab consensus. This is how Lebanon should face the challenges, because we are exposed to this difficult situation and because there are those who are trying to divide a bag of sand from Lebanon to use it to defend themselves.”

Ex-premier Siniora noted: “We do not wish for our country to become a battleground for major powers. Lebanon must unify its stance to face the challenges and, most importantly, it must commit to its policy of disassociation in words as well as actions.”

Describing their Saudi visit as “important and natural,” Salam said: “We enjoy a close, historical and continuous relationship with Saudi Arabia, and we expect more communication, especially under these difficult circumstances. We have been witnessing significant Saudi moves toward Lebanon, and the government is the one sponsoring these agreements.”

A source close to the former PMs told Arab News that the visit had been previously planned and had not been arranged in response to recent statements by secretary general of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah. The source said the visit was “to discuss the current situation in Lebanon. There is a political stalemate and an attempt from those who oppose Saudi Arabia to control the political decision in Lebanon.”

The ex-PMs had met with Hariri the evening before their visit to Jeddah, and the current Lebanese leader’s Future TV channel said that the delegation would “stress from Saudi Arabia Lebanon’s support for its Arab family and Saudi Arabia’s presence in Lebanon.”

Following an extraordinary meeting last month on Lebanon’s political crisis Mikati, Siniora and Salam said they rejected “prejudice to the powers of PM Hariri by anyone.”

They also refused “to compromise the delicate internal balances in light of some stances and practices aimed at starting arguments and opening controversial files, which had been launched by ministers and politicians, and especially that these had been resolved in the Taif Agreement and the constitution. The re-stirring of these files will lead to serious repercussions for national reconciliation and civil peace.”

In their statement, the trio had called on Lebanese President Michel Aoun to “put a definitive end to the provocative stances and practices that undermine the prestige of the covenant.”

Lebanese Cabinet sessions have been stalled since the end of June due to political tensions over the referral to the judicial council of an attack in Mount Lebanon by supporters of the Progressive Socialist Party against Minister Saleh Al-Gharib, who is close to the pro-Hezbollah minister, Talal Arslan.

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Saudi Arabia hailed for unifying Muslim world in maintaining security, stability of Arab region

Time: July 15, 2019  

Showkutally Soodhun during the interview with Arab News. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
  • The Kingdom plays an important role in enhancing international cooperation and increasing coordination in dealing with global challenges

JEDDAH: A leading African politician has hailed Saudi Arabia for its vital unifying role in the Muslim world toward maintaining the security and stability of the Arab region.

Showkutally Soodhun, president of Mauritius’ ruling MSM (Militant Socialist Movement) party and the island nation’s former vice president, also praised the Kingdom for taking the lead in the global fight against terrorism.

During an exclusive interview with Arab News while visiting the Kingdom, Soodhun highlighted the huge changes he had witnessed taking place in Saudi Arabia since he first set foot in the country in 1987,  and how its leadership has become a shining example to the world.

Speaking on a wide range of subjects, including the recent rise in tensions with Iran, Soodhun pointed to the Kingdom’s key influence on the world economic stage and its generous humanitarian relief work, which included a $10 million donation to Mauritius in the wake of a devastating cyclone earlier this year.

“The Kingdom plays an important role in enhancing international cooperation and increasing coordination in dealing with global challenges that impact on international stability, especially the stability of the global economy.

“Mauritius is closely watching how the situation is evolving regarding Iran’s nuclear force, with great apprehension. Iran wants to be a leader in the Arab region amidst the current divisions in the Arab world,” he said, addding that “The division of the Arab region is not in the interests of Muslims, and the Kingdom is exerting its efforts to keep the region united.

Soodhun said that “The problem in the region is with leadership, not the people, and the Kingdom is not against Iranian or Qatari people, but against their leadership,” added Soodhun.

He noted Saudi efforts to combat Iran’s support for terror groups by putting a squeeze on their finances while continuing to provide assistance and help through humanitarian and relief funding.

“Extremism and terrorism are among the most serious issues the world is currently facing. The Kingdom is making great efforts to combat that and we (Mauritius) will always stand in support.”

On recent Iranian-backed Houthi drone attacks on civilian targets, Soodhun said: “They are considered as war crimes, according to the provisions of international humanitarian law, and these are clear violations of UN Security Council resolutions.”

‘Extremism and terrorism are among the most serious issues the world is currently facing. The Kingdom is making great efforts to combat that and we (Mauritius) will always stand in support.’

Showkutally Soodhun, President of Mauritius’ ruling MSM party

Saudi Arabia and Mauritius had built strong relations over the years, and Soodhun was hoping to further strengthen the links during his latest visit to the Kingdom.

He has so far met with the Saudi ministers responsible for foreign affairs and Hajj and was due to sign agreements of cooperation with Ahmad Al-Khateeb, president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage, and Saleh Al-Jasser, director general of Saudi Arabian Airlines.

The Mauritian political leader told Arab News that his country had seen a 400 percent increase in the number of Saudi tourists visiting Mauritius in the last couple of years after the opening of direct flights.

Soodhun went on to describe Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as having “a human-lion heart” in respect of tackling crises in Egypt, Palestine, Yemen and Mauritius, and also for his work to transform the Kingdom.

He thanked Saudi Arabia for its $10 million support to Mauritius after the island was recently hit by a cyclone that destroyed 3,000 houses. “I have been in politics and power for 35 years, and I know what it takes to manage a country. Saudi Arabia is becoming an example in the world, not just the region.”

“The crown prince has a plan; he is a man of vision. He is looking forward and for progress not just for Saudi Arabia but also for the Gulf,” he said.

Bringing unity to the region was not impossible but the crown prince would need the help of “the royal family, the government, businessmen, and the support of every Muslim in the world” to carry out the mission, added Soodhun.

Comparing 1987 with 2019, Soodhun said the Kingdom had changed tremendously but the “best changes” had taken place since 2015. “There is more justice, liberty, and discipline, and a more responsible population is evolving as more Saudi youth are joining the labor market, occupying different jobs, and standing on their own feet.”

The new leadership of the Kingdom had encouraged an “active participation of the whole population in the brilliant future of the country,” Soodhun added.

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Saudi Arabia does not want war with Iran: Al-Jubeir

Time: July 01, 2019  

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, second from left, told leaders at the G20 in Osaka that they need to take a strong stance toward Iran.
  • Saudi Arabia has called on world leaders to form a united front against Iran’s aggression in the region
  • The Kingdom plays a significant role in the G20

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told leaders of the G20 countries that the Kingdom does not want a war with Iran, said a senior official.
The crown prince is currently touring Japan, after heading the Kingdom’s delegation at the 14th G20 summit in Osaka.
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir said the crown prince told the leaders of the summit they need to take a strong attitude toward Iran, reported Al Arabiya.
Shedding light on the crown prince’s visit, Al-Jubeir said Mohammed bin Salman stressed that Iran must not be allowed to continue its aggressive policy and that an international position must be taken to halt Tehran’s practices.
“The Iranian regime should not be allowed to continue its aggressive policies, such as targeting ships carrying oil and oil pipelines,” pointing out that this is a target against energy security and the global economy.
Al-Jubeir was speaking in Tokyo during a joint meeting with the Saudi Minister of Trade and Investment, Dr. Majid Al-Qasabi, and Minister of Information, Turki Al-Shabana, and their Japanese counterparts, as part of the crown prince’s accompanying delegation during his Asia tour.
“The Kingdom should not allow the Iranian regime to continue its aggressive policies, such as targeting ships carrying oil and targeting oil pipelines,” he said. “This is a target for energy security and the global economy,” he said.

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Trump says Saudi crown prince doing ‘spectacular job,’ as they hold talks in Osaka

Time: June 29, 2019  

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman held talks with US President Donald Trump on Saturday. (SPA)
  • Trump praised the Saudi crown prince for his reforms, especially efforts to empower women in the Kingdom

JEDDAH: The US president on Saturday lavished praise on Saudi Arabia’s crown prince for his transformative reforms in the Kingdom.

“I want to congratulate you,” President Donald Trump told Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, as they met for talks in Osaka, on the sidelines of the G20 Summit, “you have done a really spectacular job.”

Trump, referring to the crown prince as a friend, talked of the opening up of Saudi Arabia, “especially what you have done for women,” he told Prince Mohammed, “I think what’s happening is like a revolution in a very positive way.”

Trump praised the crown prince’s reform efforts. (Reuters)

The crown prince said the Saudi people have achieved a lot in the past few years. “We are trying to do the best for our country,” and we need to do more.

The crown prince said that with the president’s support Saudi Arabia has been able to realize a number of political, security, economic and military achievements, which he said also contributed to US economic growth and safety.

Trump also highlighted the significant business dealings between the two countries and the impact on US jobs, “at least a million jobs are created by purchases made by Saudi Arabia,” he said.

“We have had meetings on trade and economic development and on the military, of course, and the meetings have been really terrific.”

“One thing that you are doing, which is almost at the top of the list and probably is at the top of the list is your fight on terror,” Trump said, addressing the Kingdom’s efforts to combat the evils of terrorism and extremism.

The remarks were made ahead of a closed-door meeting between Trump, the crown prince and prominent ministers and advisers from both countries.

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Crown Prince arrives in Osaka ahead of G20 summit

Time: June 27, 2019

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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is greeted by Japanese officials upon his arrival in Osaka, Japan for the G20 summit. (SPA)
  • The summit will be held at the International Exhibition Center in Osaka
  • Leaders of the world’s biggest economies are expected to focus their discussions on global economy, trade and investment as well as innovation

DUBAI: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrived in Osaka, Japan on Thursday amid a stormy weather, ahead of this year’s G20 summit that will take place in the city.

The summit will take place at the International Exhibition Center in Osaka between June 28 and June 29. Leaders of the world’s biggest economies are expected to focus their discussions on global economy, trade and investment as well as innovation.

Air Force One likewise touched down after the Crown Prince’s arrival, with US President Donald Trump and his entourage aboard for the G20 meeting.

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There have been reports that the US and China have agreed to a tentative truce in their trade dispute, ahead of a supposd meeting between leaders of the two nations at the G20 summit. Chinese President Xi Jinping has already arrived in Osaka.

Trump on May 10 slapped higher tariffs of up to 25 percent on $200 billion of Chinese goods and then took steps to levy duties on all remaining $300 billion Chinese imports. Beijing retaliated with tariff hikes on US goods.

South Korean president Moon Jae-in, who hosted Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the Saudi delegation in Seoul for bilaterals talks, arrived earlier Thursday.

Other world leaders including Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau,  British Prime Minister Theresa May, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have also flown in for the two-day event.

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