‘Reset’ in Saudi-US ties predicted as Trump meets deputy crown prince

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Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman holds talks with US President Donald Trump in Washington. (AN photos)
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Updated 24 March 2017
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‘Reset’ in Saudi-US ties predicted as Trump meets deputy crown prince

WASHINGTON: Saudi-US relations were firmly in the spotlight Tuesday as President Donald Trump hosted Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the White House for their first official meeting.
The meeting was dubbed a “reset moment” in US-Saudi relations after eight years clouded with differences under the Obama administration over its handling of the Arab Spring, the Iran nuclear deal, arms sales and the war in Syria.
This potential reset is, however, seen as more “transactional” by some, as the Trump administration attempts to engage different stakeholders in the region.

Focus on Yemen

Trump’s working lunch with Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is also Saudi Arabia’s second deputy premier and defense minister, was in the “Old Family Dining Room” on the State Floor of the White House.
The meeting marks the first official visit to the White House by any Arab leader since Trump took office in January.
Vice President Mike Pence, chief strategist Steve Bannon, senior adviser Jared Kushner, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus were seen in photos in the Oval Office prior to the lunch, according to the White House press pool.
US sources with knowledge of the visit told Arab News that “Yemen is a primary focus” for the meetings, in gauging the Trump administration’s views and ideas for finding a settlement to the war.
Theodore Karasik, a senior adviser to Gulf State Analytics, told Arab News that the Saudi prince’s trip “is broad-ranging, crossing many issues and sectors” and that it sets “the next stage of the US-Saudi strategic relationship.”
Karasik noted, however, the different atmosphere and policy approaches that will face Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on this White House meeting, as compared to those under Obama.
“The Trump approach is different from that under the Obama administration, it is more aggressive and rooted in transactional foreign policy,” Karasik said. He defined the Trump style as “pushing and pulling at the stakeholders to come to some type of solution,” something that comes “with higher risk but greater payoff.”
Higher expectations are being set for US-Saudi relations under Trump, other analysts said.
Andrew Bowen, a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), told Arab News that the deputy crown prince’s visit to Washington marks “an opportunity to reset the relationship and put it on better footing after a rough period of relations between President Obama and Riyadh.”
Bowen anticipated a generally better road ahead for US-Saudi relations under Trump, as compared to Obama.
“Trump means business and a deal can certainly be worked out between Washington and Riyadh. Will the Saudis get everything they want? No. Will the relationship fall below their expectations? Probably,” he said.

"A historic turning point"

For his part, a senior adviser to the Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed gave a statement praising the outcome of the meeting with President Trump, dubbing it a "historic turning point" according to Bloomberg.
"Relations had undergone a period of difference of opinion. However, today’s meeting has put things on the right track, and marked a significant shift in relations, across all political, military, security and economic fields," the advisor said.  
The issue of banning some citizens from six countries from entering the United States of America was discussed and the Saudi position on the front was that Riyadh "does not believe that this measure is targeting Muslim countries or the religion of Islam."
"This measure is a sovereign decision aimed at preventing terrorists from entering the United States of America. President Trump expressed his deep respect for the Religion of Islam, considering it one of the divine religions that came with great human principles kidnapped by radical groups," added the source.
Many of the economic files between the two countries have been discussed. They included huge Saudi investments in the United States of America in addition to exceptionally and largely providing American companies with the opportunities to enter the Saudi market.
On the Iran nuclear deal front, Prince Mohammed bin Salman has stressed how bad and very dangerous the nuclear deal is on the region and that it is going to hold the
Iranian radical regime back for a short period of time in their quest for producing a nuclear weapon.
Bloomberg quoted the Saudi senior advisor as saying that "President Trump and the Deputy Crown Prince share the same views on the gravity of the Iranian expansionist moves in the region. Iran is trying to gain its legitimacy in the Islamic world by supporting terrorist organizations with the aim of reaching Mecca, the Qibla of all Muslims, which gives them the legitimacy they lack in the Islamic world."
"Iran’s support of terrorist organization such as Hezbollah, al-Qaeda, ISIS and others along with its obstructing of any deal to settle the Palestinian issue, as a form of exporting its issues abroad, are nothing but another attempt to the gain the legitimacy it lacks among Muslims."
Concerning terrorism in the region, both parties agreed that recruitment campaigns carried out by some terrorist groups in Saudi Arabia against Saudi citizens are launched to legitimize these groups. Since the Kingdom is seen as a leading country in the Islamic World, Seat of the Revelation, Land Two Holy Mosques, and the Qibla of all Muslims, which represent an unparalleled legitimacy. In addition to attempting to harm the Saudi strategic relations with the US in particular, and the rest of the world in general.
Prince Mohammed Bin Salman expressed, after the meeting, his satisfaction with the positive attitude and clarifications he heard from President Trump about his stance on Islam, which runs against what the media promoted about the President, stressing that his Excellency President Trump has an unprecedented and serious intention to work with the Muslim World and to achieve its interests and that Prince Mohammed considers his Excellency as a true friend of Muslims who will serve the Muslim World in an unimaginable manner, opposite to the negative portrait of his Excellency that some have tried to promote whether through publishing unjust statements that are taken out of their context or by means of unrealistic media commentaries and analyses about his Excellency.


UN: Nearly 71 million now displaced by war, violence at home

Updated 19 June 2019
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UN: Nearly 71 million now displaced by war, violence at home

  • The figures are bound to add fuel to a debate at the intersection of international law, human rights and domestic politics
  • UNHCR said 70.8 million people were forcibly displaced at the end of last year, up from about 68.5 million in 2017

GENEVA: A record 71 million people have been displaced worldwide from war, persecution and other violence, the UN refugee agency said Wednesday, an increase of more than 2 million from last year and an overall total that would amount to the world’s 20th most populous country.
The annual “Global Trends” report released by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees counts the number of the world’s refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people at the end of 2018, in some cases following decades of living away from home.
The figures, coming on the eve of World Refugee Day on Thursday, are bound to add fuel to a debate at the intersection of international law, human rights and domestic politics, especially the movement in some countries, including the US, against immigrants and refugees.
Launching the report, the high commissioner, Filippo Grandi, had a message for US President Donald Trump and other world leaders, calling it “damaging” to depict migrants and refugees as threats to jobs and security in host countries. Often, they are fleeing insecurity and danger themselves, he said.
The report also puts a statistical skeleton onto often-poignant individual stories of people struggling to survive by crossing rivers, deserts, seas, fences and other barriers, natural and man-made, to escape government oppression, gang killings, sexual abuse, militia murders and other such violence at home.
UNHCR said 70.8 million people were forcibly displaced at the end of last year, up from about 68.5 million in 2017 — and nearly a 65 percent increase from a decade ago. Among them, nearly three in five people — or more than 41 million people — have been displaced within their home countries.
“The global trends, once again unfortunately, go in what I would say is the wrong direction,” Grandi told reporters in Geneva. “There are new conflicts, new situations, producing refugees, adding themselves to the old ones. The old ones never get resolved.”
The phenomenon is both growing in size and duration. Some four-fifths of the “displacement situations” have lasted more than five years. After eight years of war in Syria, for instance, its people continue to make up the largest population of forcibly displaced people, at some 13 million.
Amid runaway inflation and political turmoil at home, Venezuelans for the first time accounted for the largest number of new asylum-seekers in 2018, with more than 340,000 — or more than one in five worldwide last year. Asylum-seekers receive international protection as they await acceptance or rejection of their requests for refugee status.
UNHCR said that its figures are “conservative” and that Venezuela masks a potentially longer-term trend.
Some 4 million people are known to have left the South American country in recent years. Many of those have traveled freely to Peru, Colombia and Brazil, but only about one-eighth have sought formal international protection, and the outflow continues, suggesting the strains on the welcoming countries could worsen.
Grandi predicted a continued “exodus” from Venezuela and appealed for donors to provide more development assistance to the region.
“Otherwise these countries will not bear the pressure anymore and then they have to resort to measures that will damage refugees,” he said. “We are in a very dangerous situation.”
The United States, meanwhile, remains the “largest supporter of refugees” in the world, Grandi said in an interview. The US is the biggest single donor to UNHCR. He also credited local communities and advocacy groups in the United States for helping refugees and asylum-seekers in the country.
But the refugee agency chief noted long-term administrative shortcomings that have given the United States the world’s biggest backlog of asylum claims, at nearly 719,000. More than a quarter-million claims were added last year.
He also decried recent rhetoric that has been hostile to migrants and refugees.
“In America, just like in Europe actually and in other parts of the world, what we are witnessing is an identification of refugees — but not just refugees, migrants as well — with people that come take away jobs that threaten our security, our values,” Grandi said. “And I want to say to the US administration — to the president — but also to the leaders around the world: This is damaging.”
He said many people leaving Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador through Mexico have faced violence by gangs and suffered from “the inability of these governments to protect their own citizens.”
The UNHCR report noted that by far, the most refugees are taken in in the developing world, not wealthy countries.
The figures marked the seventh consecutive year in which the numbers of forcibly displaced rose.
“Yet another year, another dreadful record has been beaten,” said Jon Cerezo of British charity Oxfam. “Behind these figures, people like you and me are making dangerous trips that they never wanted to make, because of threats to their safety and most basic rights.”