‘A new page’ as US President Donald Trump lands in Saudi Arabia

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King Salman chats with Trump during the official reception for the US president.
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Updated 20 May 2017
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‘A new page’ as US President Donald Trump lands in Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: US President Donald Trump has landed in Saudi Arabia for a historic meeting tipped to “turn the page” on US-Arab affairs after a strained relationship under the previous American administration.
 
The president touched down in Riyadh and was welcomed by King Salman and senior Saudi officials.
 
Stepping off Air Force One with his wife, Melania, Trump and his entourage received a red-carpet welcome.
 
Trump and King Salman spoke through an interpreter when they met, as a military brass band played, cannons boomed and seven Saudi jets flew over in V-formation, trailing red, white and blue smoke.
 
The two leaders sat side by side at the VIP section of the airport terminal and drank cups of Arabic coffee.
 
On the drive to the Ritz hotel where Trump is staying, King Salman rode with the president in the heavily armored presidential limousine nicknamed “the Beast.”
 
After a royal banquet, Trump and the king were to have private talks and participate in a signing ceremony for a number of US-Saudi agreements, including a deal worth a reported $100 billion for Saudi Arabia to buy American arms.
 
National oil giant Saudi Aramco is expected to sign $50 billion of deals with US companies on Saturday, part of a drive to diversify the Kingdom’s economy beyond oil exports, Aramco’s chief executive Amin Nasser said.
 
Trump is to deliver a speech on Sunday aimed at rallying Muslims in the fight against terrorism. His first official foreign trip since taking office will coincide with three key summits on Saturday and Sunday, as well as several business activities, cultural, intellectual and sports celebrations.
 
The Saudi-US Summit on Saturday will feature a series of bilateral meetings between King Salman and Trump, and “focus on re-affirming the long-standing friendship, and strengthening the close political, economic, security and cultural bonds between the two nations.”
 
It will be followed Sunday by the GCC-US Summit, Arab Islamic American Summit, and the inauguration of the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology.
 
Experts told Arab News that the visit by Trump will boost US-Arab ties after the relationship soured under his predecessor President Barack Obama.
 
“By selecting Saudi Arabia as the first stop on his historic visit, the first official one to any foreign country, President Trump has been prudent to seize an opportunity to turn a new and more positive page toward Arabs and Muslims in the region and beyond,” said John Duke Anthony, founding president and CEO of the National Council on US-Arab Relations.
 
“The president’s visit has a chance to begin healing wounds that have been inflicted on Muslims the world over.”
 
Anthony said that there has been a shift from Trump’s presidential campaign, when he was seen as being openly hostile toward the Muslim world and Kingdom.
 
“As a candidate for the Oval Office, Donald Trump was not shy about criticizing Saudi Arabia. Contexts change, though, and as president, his administration has refrained from unjustified, unnecessary and provocative statements in this regard,” he said.
 
Tensions rose between the Arabian Gulf and the US after the latter brokered the “nuclear deal” with Iran, which some Arab countries claim meddles in regional affairs and sponsors international terrorism.
 
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed, a veteran analyst, said that the new US administration has the opportunity to get tough on Tehran.
 
“Iran has taken the region hostage and has blackmailed Washington for many years,” he wrote.
 
“I believe it is in the hands of the current US administration to get Iran to face a new reality, namely that it must stop the spread of chaos and violence in the region and wider world.”


Saudi women at the wheel: the first 24 hours

Shoura Council member Lina Almaeena getting ready to driver her car as Saudi Arabia lifted the ban on women driving iib Saturday midnight. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
Updated 24 June 2018
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Saudi women at the wheel: the first 24 hours

  • The General Security has already reported that it will be providing the required provisions for female drivers in Saudi Arabia.
  • Private insurance company Najm, in partnership with the General Department of Traffic, has hired 40 women and trained them to respond to road accidents involving female drivers.

JEDDAH:  Women around the Kingdom have turned the ignition in their cars for the first time on their home soil and hit the roads throughout the country. They have gone on social media to express their joy at this monumental occasion which has officially changed the course of their lives. 

Saudi Shoura Council member Lina Almaeena was among the very first women to drive in the Kingdom as soon as the clock struck midnight. 

Women in their cars enthusiastically and wholeheartedly cheered on their fellow female drivers on this memorable night. 

“I feel proud, I feel dignified and I feel liberated, said Almaeena.

She told Arab News that the event was changing her life by “facilitating it, making it more comfortable, making it more pleasant, and making it more stress-free.”

Almaeena urges all drivers to follow the traffic and road safety rules. “What’s making me anxious is the misconduct of a lot of the drivers, the male drivers. Unfortunately they’re not as disciplined as they should be. Simple things such as changing lanes and using your signals — this is making me anxious.”

Almaeena highlighted the significance of being a defensive driver. “I’m confident: I’ve driven all around the world when I travel, especially when I’m familiar with the area. It’s really mainly how to be a defensive driver because you have to be.”

On how society is adapting to this major change, Almaeena said: “Tomorrow is the first day, mentally and psychologically it already had that shift. As I mentioned, it’s a paradigm shift. In perception and how they view women, their capabilities — as equal partners. 

“Mentally it’s already there, and physically we will see — as we start — more and more encouragement for both men and women. Even some of the women who weren’t feeling comfortable about driving, it’s going to be encouraging for them, in a live demonstration and evidence that women can do it.” 

As roads around Saudi Arabia have been inhabited by a new breed of drivers, how has this affected the traffic flow in Saudi Arabia?

 “As of 12 a.m., the implementation of the Supreme Court order to enable women to drive and the implementation of traffic regulations to both men and women is officially in effect," said Col. Sami Al-Shwairkh, the official spokesman for General Security in the Kingdom. "The security and traffic status on all roads and areas around the Kingdom have been reported as normal. There have not been any records from our monitoring of any unusual occurrences on the road throughout the Kingdom.” 

To commemorate this occasion, as seen in the pictures circulating on social media, traffic policemen were handing roses to female drivers early on Sunday.

The General Security has already reported that it will be providing the required provisions for female drivers in Saudi Arabia.

Private insurance company Najm, in partnership with the General Department of Traffic, has hired 40 women and trained them to respond to road accidents involving female drivers.

The General Directorate of Traffic has completed all preparations to employ women on the country’s traffic police force.