Le Drian: KSA, France have unified position on Syria

Updated 08 November 2013
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Le Drian: KSA, France have unified position on Syria

French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian reiterated Monday that Riyadh and Paris share a common stance on Syria.
Speaking to a select group of journalists at the Royal Terminal in Jeddah on Monday, he said: “The shared French-Saudi approach is to strengthen and empower the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) and Gen. Salim Idris of the Free Syrian Army.”
Le Drian conveyed a message from President Francois Hollande to Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah during his meeting with him.
France has emerged as a strong ally of Gulf countries in an altered geopolitical scenario. The exceptionally warm reception that Le Drian received in Jeddah was indicative of the special relationship between the two countries.
“I am overwhelmed by the warm response from the Saudi leadership,” he said. “This goes to prove the depth of our strategic relationship.”
The minister said France was providing political, military and humanitarian support to the SNC and Gen. Salim Idris. “Our support and approach was commended by the Saudi leadership and the Saudi people,” said Le Drian.
The minister said: “There is no military solution to the Syrian crisis, and everyone recognizes this fact, so parties will have to come to the negotiating table.”
He said that the chances of Geneva II succeeding seem bright. “We want to see the constitution of a transitional government during the Geneva II conference,” said Le Drian.
He said the unwavering French support to the Syrian National Coalition, including military hardware, is aimed at strengthening the SNC’s position at the bargaining table in Geneva. “The stronger it is, the better it will be during negotiations for a transitional government.”
He said efforts were being made to isolate extremist elements and armed militant groups in Syria. “The presence of armed extremists have complicated the situation and have actually benefited (Bashar) Assad,” he said.
Le Drian was blunt on the issue of Iran. “We have seen and heard the speech of (Iranian President) Hassan Rowhani. While all those words are nice to hear, everything will depend on what actions the Iranian leadership will take to de-escalate tension in the region,” he said. “Words, however conciliatory, mean nothing unless and until they are converted into actual deeds.”
The minister held wide-ranging talks with Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah, Crown Prince Salman, National Guard Minister Prince Miteb bin Abdullah and Deputy Defense Minister Prince Salman bin Sultan during his daylong visit.
He said the Middle East peace process came under discussion during his talks with Crown Prince Salman. “We have to see to it that the peace process materializes,” he said.
Earlier, Maj. Gen. Mohammad Al-Hazzab, commander of the west zone, received Le Drian at King Abdul Aziz International Airport’s Royal Terminal.
French Ambassador Bertrand Besancenot was also present at the press conference.
Le Drian has been a frequent visitor to the region and has visited several countries in the Gulf.
France has a military base in the UAE, with about 500 personnel supporting naval, ground and air assets.


Saudi Arabia will be one of the very best countries for tourism, says Prince Sultan

Updated 46 min 30 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia will be one of the very best countries for tourism, says Prince Sultan

  • The number of job opportunities is expected to increase to 1.2 million by the year 2020.
  • The Saudi government has allocated SR5 billion to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques’ program.

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia will be one of the most attractive countries for tourism because of its location, its unique tourist and historic elements and its hospitable and welcoming people, said Prince Sultan bin Salman.
Prince Sultan, who is president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH), told the annual conference of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) in the Argentine capital Buenos Aires that the efforts of the SCTH and its partners in localizing tourist jobs resulted in an increase in the number of direct jobs in the tourism sector from 936,000 in 2016 to 993,000 by the end of 2017. The number of job opportunities is expected to increase to 1.2 million by the year 2020.
He said the contributions of tourism to the national GDP amounted to 3.6 percent, up to 4.9 percent of the national non-oil output, and the revenues of the tourism sector reached SR97.5 billion ($26 billion). Direct jobs in the tourism sector exceeded 994,000, and the proportion of Saudi citizens currently employed in the sector is about 28 percent.
The Saudi government has allocated SR5 billion to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques’ program, which takes care of the cultural heritage of the Kingdom.
The program includes the establishment of 18 museums in the Kingdom’s regions, the creation of 80 heritage sites and opening them to visitors throughout the Kingdom, the restoration and preparation of 18 villages and traditional towns to receive visitors, and hosting economic and local hospitality activities operated by local people, as well as opening 17 centers for artisans that serve as incubators for the development of their businesses, factories for their production, and outlets for sale.
Prince Sultan also noted that after the SCTH completed the registration of the first four sites on the World Heritage List (Madain Saleh, Al-Tarif district in Jeddah, historic Jeddah, rock inscriptions in Jubba and Shuweis in Hail), it has been working with its partners to complete the registration files of six additional sites. Also, 20 additional important Islamic sites are being rehabilitated and prepared in Makkah and Madinah.
The conference was attended by more than 1,200 prominent investors and key corporate officials in tourism.
The WTTC is the largest gathering of investors and private sector professionals working in tourism around the world.