Kingdom seeks political solution for Syria and Yemen

Updated 10 December 2015

Kingdom seeks political solution for Syria and Yemen

RIYADH: Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman called on Wednesday for a political solution to end Syria’s bitter five-year civil war that has fueled the rise of terror outfits and killed hundreds of thousands of men, women and children.
“The Kingdom is currently hosting Syrian opposition groups at the moment in an effort to find a political solution,” said the king in remarks at the opening session of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit here.
King Salman also touched on key regional issues including Palestine, Yemen and the need to intensify efforts to fight terrorism. The king stressed the need for Gulf unity amid turbulence in the region. According to reports, the leaders of the GCC countries also discussed relations with neighboring Iran, economic integration and the situation in Syria, Iraq and Yemen after the inaugural session.
Referring to the joint resolve to restore peace and security in the region, King Salman called on the stakeholders to exert efforts to restore “the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people to establish an independent state with Al-Quds as its capital.” Regarding Yemen, King Salman said that the way to solve the Yemeni crisis is through cooperation and political means.
He said the “the coalition led by Saudi Arabia is keen to achieve security and stability in war-torn Yemen under the leadership of its legitimate government.” “We, the GCC states, support a peaceful solution to the crisis in Yemen in order to enable that country to overcome the conflict and then march toward peace and development,” said the king, and referred to a possible solution built on the foundations of the national dialogue, the Gulf initiative, and UN Security Council Resolution 2216.
On the question of terrorism, King Salman called on the international community to “share responsibility in the fight against extremism and terrorism.” “The Kingdom exerts great efforts to combat terrorism and will continue its efforts in cooperation with friendly countries in this regard,” said the king, adding that “terrorism has no religion.” He said Islam “is a religion of moderation,” an apparent reference to those who are maligning the name of Muslims and Islam.
King Salman reiterated the need “to boost cooperation in all domains among the member states.” The leaders of Gulf countries, who met later on Wednesday night, would reportedly hammer out a common strategy to fight the threats from Islamist extremism and plunging oil prices.
The opening session of the GCC summit was attended by Sayyid Fahd bin Mahmoud Al-Said, deputy prime minister of Oman; Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, emir of Kuwait; King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa of Bahrain; Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, emir of Qatar; and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, vice president of the United Arab Emirates, prime minister and ruler of Dubai.
Speaking during the opening session, the Qatari emir said that “the current GCC meeting comes amid critical conditions and serious challenges facing the world, in general, and the Middle East, in particular, which lay more responsibility on us.” “The GCC, however, is capable of dealing with these challenges, thanks to their solidarity in all political, economic and security areas,” he said.
He said that “terrorism has become the most dangerous challenge facing the era in which we are living; and threatening international security and peace.” On the Palestine-Israel conflict, he said that “the creation of a Palestine state has not been realized due to Israel’s arrogant and aggressive policies, which are aimed to change the geographical and demographic map of the region in general and the occupied Palestinian lands in particular.”
On Syria, the Qatari emir said the continuation of the Syrian crisis places on the international community an historic, ethical and humanitarian responsibility. “The impact of the Syrian crisis has gone beyond the Syrian lands and the regional borders; which have threatened peace and stability in the whole world.” The Qatari leader also stressed the importance of peace and stability in Yemen and Iraq.
Addressing the GCC summit, GCC Secretary General Abdulatif Al-Zayani expressed confidence that “the prudent chairmanship of Saudi Arabia during the current session will fulfill the aspirations of GCC citizens.” He said the current session is being held amid volatile regional situations and challenges, which necessitate vigilance, joint strategies, and dedicated works in all fields. He also called for closer cooperation among the member states of the GCC.
A reliable source close to the GCC general secretariat said that the GCC summit would also review steps to implement an earlier decision to form a joint military command, coordinate regional military cooperation and achieve defense integration. The phenomenon of terrorism poses grave challenges that require us and the international community to intensify collective efforts and take all necessary measures to confront it, he said.
Another key issue on the agenda of the two-day GCC summit is the plummeting price of oil, which makes up around 90 percent of GCC public revenues. The price of oil has fallen by about 40 percent since June, putting GCC states at risk of losing billions of dollars. Many other regional and international issues were discussed on Wednesday night before a final communiqué is expected to be issued at the conclusion of the summit on Thursday.
More than 1,000 guests including foreign journalists are attending the GCC summit in Riyadh. A press office has been set up at the local Marriot Hotel for local and international journalists. There is tight security in the Saudi capital, with the main thoroughfares adorned with the flags of the member states, which include Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Kuwait and Qatar.

A Saudi app that promotes Arabic reading

Updated 24 min 25 sec ago

A Saudi app that promotes Arabic reading

  • Lamsa was launched in Saudi Arabia in 2012
  • It provides an innovative way of motivating children to learn

DUBAI: The most crucial year in a child’s education may be the age of 8, or third grade, according to a study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.The organization, which focuses on improving the wellbeing of American children, found this to be the developmental phase when children transition from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.”

The research also established that third graders who lack proficiency in reading are four times as likely to become high-school dropouts.

The significance of this pivotal point in early childhood development is what drives Badr Ward, CEO of Arabic edutainment app Lamsa, to develop innovative ways of motivating kids in the Arab world to read and learn in their language.

“If we don’t encourage reading at that age, we could be taking the risk of them having a life-long issue with catching up,” Ward said.

Since children already spend a considerable amount of their time on connected devices, Ward is convinced that edutainment — media designed to educate through entertainment — is the best way to make screen time “relevant and meaningful.”

Badr Ward, CEO of Lamsa. (Supplied Photo)

Launched in Saudi Arabia in 2012, Lamsa provides an ad-free platform featuring animated literature, rhymes, songs, interactive games and educational videos in Arabic for children aged between 2 and 8.

Ward said: “We have to face reality. Education systems across the world are legacy systems. Whether we like it or not, technology has changed the way we consume information. Children today have access to devices from the moment they are born. So whether it’s reading on paper or e-books or interactive storytelling, we need to look at encouraging them to read, and to love to read and learn.”

Ward explains that much like a favorite teacher impacts a child’s interest in a subject, edutainment has a significant effect on their curiosity about a topic.

He modelled the characters in the edutainment app after his daughter Joory and son Adam, whose lack of interest in reading prompted him to start Lamsa.

Ward sought advice from his friend Leonard Marcus, an author, historian and expert on English language children’s literature. Marcus recommended taking the kids to a comic book store and letting them explore without forcing them to buy anything.

“So I did that,” Ward said. “We went to the comic book store, and I let them roam around. They were fascinated by the images.”

“Arabic is not just a language. It’s so important for children to understand their heritage and culture.”

Badr Ward, CEO of Arabic edutainment app Lamsa

He then asked his kids if they wanted anything, and they asked to have some of the comics. “In the evening, I found my children opening the comic book and just laughing,” he said.

“Because of that start three years ago, they can’t let go of books now.”

Ward said seeing the power of images and illustrations has made him support using pictures to captivate children.

The lack of quality and culturally relevant educational material in Arabic remains a challenge, he said. For this reason, Lamsa’s content library has been developed to celebrate Arabic not just as a language but as a source of heritage, culture, literature, music and food. The app team works in partnership with Arab authors, illustrators and organizations.

“Arabic is not just a language,” Ward said, adding that for Arab children everywhere, understanding cultural context is crucial to their values, beliefs and identity.

“It’s so important in the development of children to have a clear understanding of where they come from. In order to establish understanding of other cultures and learn tolerance, you need to start with your own. It’s fundamental to confidence, identity and heritage.”


 The Middle East Exchange is one of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum Global Initiatives that was launched to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai in the field of humanitarian and global development, to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region. The initiative offers the press a series of articles on issues affecting Arab societies.