KSA, France in talks to boost ties

King Salman receives French Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development Jean-Marc Ayrault in Riyadh on Tuesday. (SPA)
Updated 25 January 2017
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KSA, France in talks to boost ties

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia and France said on Tuesday they hoped Syrian truce talks in Astana would lead to a resumption of UN-led peace efforts in Geneva and more aid to civilians suffering from years of war.
In a joint news conference, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir and his French counterpart Jean-Marc Ayrault also said cooperation with new US President Donald Trump would be important on a range of Middle East issues.
Iran, Russia and Turkey ended talks in Kazakhstan on Tuesday with the announcement of a trilateral mechanism to observe and ensure full compliance with a shaky truce between Syrian warring parties.
Saudi Arabia did not take part in the Astana meetings. A French envoy attended informally with other Western counterparts. The talks in Astana come after years of intermittent talks in Geneva failed to resolve the conflict.
"We wish for the success of today's meeting, but I don't know if we're going to reach a real agreement. We hope for negotiations to resume in Geneva," Ayrault said.
Al-Jubeir said he was optimistic about the possibilities of regional powers working with the Trump administration. He expressed confidence in Trump's cabinet nominees, including national security adviser Michael Flynn, whom he described as "an American patriot."
Flynn ruffled feathers with divisive rhetoric on the campaign trail, such as the Twitter comment: "Fear of Muslims is RATIONAL."
The Kingdom and France vowed to take bilateral relations to greater heights during the talks held between King Salman and Ayrault at Al-Yamamah Palace in Riyadh on Tuesday.
“Saudi-French relations date back to 1926, and France is third-largest investor in the Kingdom,” Al-Jubeir said, adding that both countries face several challenges, including in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and Iran.
Al-Jubeir said the Kingdom is not aggressive against any country, and condemned Iran's intervention in the affairs of Arab states, including Syria, Iraq and Yemen.
“Yet the Kingdom wants to build friendly relations with Iran, since it is a Muslim country that falls within the region,” Al-Jubeir said.
Ayrault said during his meeting with the king, he stressed the strategic alliance between the two countries, and explored ways to combat terror and establish permanent peace in the region.
He added that terror has become a common enemy of the two countries, which need concerted efforts to combat terror and extremism, and block their sources of funding.
Commending the Kingdom's efforts against terror, Ayrault said there is an urgent need to crush Daesh and for political dialogue between aggrieved parties.
He said France does not yet know the foreign policy of the Trump administration, but the G20 meeting in Bonn in February will help clarify this.
Speaking about Syria, Ayrault said: “We need a permanent a cease-fire, which could allow humanitarian aid to the victims of this tragedy.”
French exports to the Kingdom have increased by 20 percent in the last year. The Riyadh Metro is being constructed in partnership with French company Alstom.
Ayrault said France is ready to undertake new projects in the Kingdom under Saudi Vision 2030 and the National Transformation Program (NTP) 2020.
Al-Jubeir said the talks with Ayrault were positive and demonstrated the keenness of the two parties to strengthen bilateral relations.
The French minister also met with Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and visited a construction site of Riyadh Metro, King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) and the Misk Foundation in the Diplomatic Quarter.


Major projects, investments worth over $685bn unveiled on Saudi National Day

A photo taken on July 5, 2018, shows Bader al-Ajmi, 38,(L) owner of "One Way Burger" serving customers from his truck at a main street in the capital Riyadh. (AFP)
Updated 22 September 2018
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Major projects, investments worth over $685bn unveiled on Saudi National Day

  • The private sector’s contribution to the GDP at constant prices doubled to around SR1236.6 million in 2017

JEDDAH: A major economic boost in the form of 10 major projects and investments exceeding SR685 billion ($183 billion) were unveiled as celebrations of the 88th Saudi National Day got under way.
The Council of Saudi Chambers released a report focusing on great economic achievements in 2017.
These projects reflect the Kingdom’s vision under the wise leadership of King Salman and that of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to provide a brighter future through diversifying sources of national income, tackling environmental challenges and increasing investment and prosperity.
The report summarized the most important events and economic developments in the Kingdom over the past year. These include the lifting of the ban on women driving in June, and the establishment of the General Authority for Cyber Security, in addition to the numerous royal decrees providing financial support to Saudis.
It also noted the important decisions related to the Saudi business sector. These include the launch of a private sector incentive program with a value of SR72 billion, the privatization of 10 government sectors and the establishment of the General Authority for Real Estate. The private sector is still showing a strong performance as an efficient partner in the inclusive development process and in the achievement of the Kingdom’s 2030 Vision, the report noted, as it contributes 39 percent to the Saudi gross domestic product (GDP).
The private sector’s contribution to the GDP at constant prices doubled to around SR1236.6 million in 2017. There has been increased contribution to GDP from non-oil private sector streams.
The private sector also witnessed an increase in the number of workers, in its capital, in the number of shares on the Saudi market, in the cumulative number of establishments operating in the Kingdom, and in non-oil exports.
Continued growth of the private sector was attributed by the report to the Saudi government’s support. This support comes through initiatives such as the removal of obstacles to financial development, improvements to the working environment and policies adopted to boost investment.
It also reviewed the private sector’s efforts to support diversification of the economy and lower unemployment rates.
The importance of the measures taken to prioritize the employment of qualified Saudi workers over the employment of expatriates in the private sector were stressed, as well as the sector’s role in providing education and health services.