King Salman’s visit to bolster Saudi-Japanese ties, says envoy

Japanese Ambassador Norihiro Okuda
Updated 06 March 2017
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King Salman’s visit to bolster Saudi-Japanese ties, says envoy

RIYADH: Norihiro Okuda, Japanese ambassador to Saudi Arabia, has described the forthcoming visit of King Salman as “significant,” reflecting the priority the Kingdom attaches to strengthening the relationship with Japan.

As part of his month-long Asian tour, King Salman is scheduled to arrive in Tokyo on a three-day trip that will begin on March 12.
“The visit of King Salman to Japan is mainly intended to strengthen ties in different domains,” said Ambassador Okuda. He said that the king, during his stay in Japan, will hold wide-ranging talks with top Japanese officials covering bilateral, regional and international issues of common concern.
“First of all, I would like to extend my heartfelt welcome to King Salman on the occasion of his visit to Japan,” Okuda said. “It will be King Salman’s first official visit in three years; he was there in Japan in 2014 in the capacity of crown prince.”
Regional issues involving East Asia will also be part of the meeting agenda, he said. The envoy also said that “Japanese officials would also like to exchange views on the Middle East regional issues such as Yemen and Syria with King Salman.”
He further pointed out that Japan will take up the opportunity during the visit of King Salman to consult on diverse issues, not only on economic issues, but also culture and entertainment in order to achieve the goals set in the Saudi Vision 2030, as well as security cooperation.
Ambassador Okuda noted the visit of Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, second deputy premier and defense minister, to Japan last September. “The visit was indeed an opportunity for both Saudi Arabia and Japan to reaffirm their sound bilateral relations over the past six decades, and to kick off an ambitious exercise to enhance collaboration to create (a) vibrant society and thriving economy through implementation of Saudi Vision 2030 and National Transformation Program 2020,” he added.
Asked about the growing relations between Saudi Arabia and Japan, he said: “Japan highly commends a series of initiatives taken by the Kingdom to reform economy and society, and it wants to actively cooperate with Saudi Arabia to achieve the goals that the vision sets out.”
For that purpose, both countries have established the Joint Group for Saudi-Japan Vision 2030, he noted.
Okuda pointed out that a delegation headed by Hiroshige Seko, Japanese minister of economy, trade and industry, had his first meeting with his Saudi counterpart within the framework of the Joint Group in October. During the meeting, the two sides discussed areas of potential cooperation in fields like energy, health care, retail, animation and intellectual property.
He pointed out that the group has established five sub-groups, which will comprise senior officials and experts. These sub panels are in the fields of trade and investment opportunities, investment and finance, energy and industry, SME and capacity building, and culture and sports.
Referring to the outcome of the first meeting of group, Okuda said that both counties have had detailed discussions to identify specific areas and practical ways of cooperation. Areas such as infrastructure, entertainment, energy and the Saudi Aramco initial public offering are considered as priorities, he noted.
“Saudi and Japan hope to agree on high-priority projects at a ministerial meeting in Tokyo, which, we hope, will be held on the occasion of King Salman’s visit,” he added. “We welcome more frequent and more detailed discussions on the regional security issues between the two countries.”
Referring to the developments in the field of defense cooperation, Ambassador Okuda said, “the two countries will also focus on possible future defense cooperation including high-level reciprocal visits of high ranking defense officials and cooperation in the area of defense-related equipment.”
The envoy noted that the Kingdom recently appointed a defense attache in Tokyo, the first to serve in Japan in such a role. “His appointment is the symbol of the deepening relations between the two countries,” he said.
Saudi Arabia and Japan signed a defense agreement in Tokyo during the visit of the Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman last September.


Saudi Arabia lifts ban on women driving

Updated 1 min 46 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia lifts ban on women driving

  • They start their engines and hit the roads throughout the Kingdom
  • End of driving ban is crowning achievement so far of Saudi Vision 2030

Women throughout Saudi Arabia waited for the stroke of midnight, turned the keys in the ignition, fired up their engines — and hit the road to a bright new future.

It was the moment they had waited for since King Salman issued the royal decree on September 26, 2017, to lift the driving ban on women. 

Just after midnight on Saturday and in the first minutes of Sunday, Samah Algosaibi grabbed the keys to her family’s 1959 Corvette C1 and drove out of the driveway of her beach house in Khobar.
“We are witnessing history in the making as we look toward the dawn of a promising future,” said Algosaibi, the first female board member of Ahmad Hamad Algosaibi & Bros.

“As a businesswoman in Saudi Arabia, I am grateful for the women’s empowerment movement taking place. Today, I am honored to be sitting behind the wheel of change.”

Another woman to hit the road after midnight was Lina Almaeena, a member of the Saudi Shoura Council. “It feels very liberating,” she said about driving her mother’s Lexus.
Almaeena, also the co-founder and director of Jeddah United Sports Co, had exchanged her UAE license for a Saudi one. 

“I am thrilled!” Sarah Alwassia, 35, a nutritionist in Jeddah, told Arab News. “I learnt how to drive 18 years ago in the States where I got my driving license. I can’t believe that the day to drive in my own home town has come.”

Alwassia obtained her first American license when she was 18 years old in 2000, and had it exchanged for a Saudi license on June 6 in Jeddah. She explained that she is a mother, and this change provided comfort for her and her family. It also comes with various benefits, such as taking quick action in emergencies, and economic benefits such as saving money instead of paying for a driver when she needs to run errands. 

“I will be driving my kids to school and picking them up in comfort and privacy,” she said.

Women in the Kingdom commented on how this event is changing the course of their lives. “Independence is a huge thing for me,” Alwassia said. “Driving is one small part of it. I am very optimistic of the change that our loving country has made.”  

Alwassia applauds the efforts the country has made to support women. “I am confident that driving in the beginning will be pleasant, since our country has made all of the effort to support women and to protect them.
“I think our society was looking forward for this change, and I am sure the majority will adapt fast.

“I feel safe, our country did everything to make this transition pleasant and safe for every woman behind the wheel. I am really thankful to witness this historic moment and I am so happy for all the women in Saudi Arabia, especially my daughters.”
Sahar Nasief, 64, a retired lecturer from the European languages and Literature Department at King Abdulaziz University, said: “Nothing could describe my feelings. I can't wait to get on the road.”
Nasief received a very special gift from Ford for this occasion.

“They gave me a 2018 Expedition to drive for three days, a Mustang California Special,” she told Arab News.

Nasief obtained her Saudi license on June 7. She also holds a British license and two American licenses. “Now, I have my national license too,” she said. 

She also said the lifting of the ban provided a sense of relief. “I feel that I can practice one of my rights, and I don't have to live at the mercy of my driver any more.”
Society has been demanding such a change for years, “as it will take the physical and economic burden off most men.”
Pointing to the anti-harassment law, Nasief said: “I feel very confident especially after announcing the strict harassment law.”
Joumana Mattar, 36, a Jordanian interior designer, exchanged her Jordanian driver’s license and obtained a Saudi one on June 11. 

“I had my Jordanian license since I was 18 years old, and the moment I heard about the opening of exchanging foreign licenses, I immediately booked an appointment,” she said.
Mattar said she looks forward to the change in so many ways. “I'm finally in control of my time, schedule and privacy.” 

Mattar said she is both confident and anxious about the event. “I'm anxious only for feeling that I'm part of a huge first step for women driving in the Kingdom, but I'm confident also because of the support that I'm getting from my husband and family.
“Every first step is the hardest. Society is facing a huge change, but I'm positive because this change is done and supported by the government and Vision 2030.”

Mattar said she feels secure now. “I'm in control of any case I'm facing.”

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