Riyadh refutes Tehran claim on mediation request with Houthis

Houthis raise their weapons in the air during a demonstration. (Reuters)
Updated 16 September 2017
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Riyadh refutes Tehran claim on mediation request with Houthis

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia has refuted Iranian statements that the Kingdom has requested Iranian mediation with Al-Houthis in Yemen, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said.
The director of media affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Osama Ahmed Nugali, refuted the statement of Hossein Amir Abdollahian, senior adviser to the Iranian Parliament speaker, carried by Iranian News Agency (IRNA), that Saudi Arabia requested Iranian mediation with Houthis in Yemen.
He further confirmed that these claims are baseless and unfounded.
On the other hand, State Minister for Foreign Affairs of the UAE Anwar Qarqash said Houthi statements threatening the UAE and its capital is substantial evidence of the necessity for the Decisive Storm operation and that Iran’s militias (Houthi) have despicable objectives and their danger is real.
On his Twitter account, he said the decisive king launched the “storm” due to his knowledge of the danger of changing the strategic balance, and Houthi threats have proved that. Arab coalition forces are fighting the necessary battle for the future of the region, he said.
“Houthi threats and their follies do not frighten us and expose the desperation of those who are defending faded illusions, but they reveal their ill-intentions on the security and stability of the Gulf,” he said.
Qarqash’s remarks come following recent threats made by Houthi leader Abdulmalik Al-Houthi where he threatened to attack neighboring countries and oil tanks off the Yemeni coasts with missiles in case the legitimate government and Arab coalition forces advance to the Yemeni port of Al-Hodeida.
Meanwhile, Reuters quoted a local official as saying that three persons suspected of belonging to Al-Qaeda terror group were killed in an attack launched by drones in southern parts of Yemen late Thursday. The attack targeted the Modiya region, in Abyan province, and the suspected members were killed while riding a motorcycles. The US has repeatedly attacked Al-Qaeda elements with helicopters and drones in a campaign to eliminate the terror group’s ability to launch attacks.
In a related development, an officer of the demobilized Republican Guard loyal to deposed President Saleh said Houthi militia were training women to use weapons and in other war skills. Female trainers from Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria, who were brought in by the Houthi militia in 2014, are carrying out the training.
A report carried by Al-Asima.online affirmed the existence of Iranian female trainers and exploitation of women prisoners and girls by the Houthi militia in this regard.
The website quoted an officer, who asked for anonymity, as saying that nearly 500 Yemeni girls were conscripted in Sanaa and are in the hands of Iranian and Iraqi female trainers. Zumar province, in southern Sanaa, is reported to have the largest training camp for women.
Girls and school students are taken for training either forcibly, threating their fathers with killing, or bribing their families with money, exploiting their difficult living conditions, he said.
He said Houthi conscription training courses do not come directly but start with so-called “cultural courses” which are purely religious courses before enrollment in the real conscription courses.


Saudi Crown Prince takes Pakistan bond ‘to new level’

Updated 18 February 2019
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Saudi Crown Prince takes Pakistan bond ‘to new level’

  • Asseri said Saudi Arabia has deferred payments on oil worth billions of US dollars from time to time in order to ease pressure on the Pakistan economy
  • Pakistan’s relatively young population is also hoping for a stronger relationship with the Kingdom

RIYADH: A major transformation is underway in Saudi Arabia’s economic relationship with Pakistan, according to Dr. Ali Awadh Asseri, a former ambassador to Islamabad.

In a wide-ranging interview with Arab News, the former envoy said greater interaction between business and the private sectors in both countries will take the historical bond “to a new level.” 

Asseri, who spent nine years in Islamabad and was the second-longest serving Saudi ambassador to the country, said: “We know that Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have always enjoyed an incomparable level of understanding and friendship based on religion, culture and values. There is a historical bond between the two countries. 

“I have no doubt that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is taking a cohesive approach to strengthen the relationship and take it to another level.” 

Asseri said that while Saudi Arabia and Pakistan cooperated closely on security matters, bilateral trade between the countries remained limited to about $4 billion. 

“We need to ... encourage the private sectors to interact more. We can help Pakistan’s industry and we need to become more involved in the trade sector. There are advanced industries and firms in Pakistan, and they have raw materials — it’s a good environment for investors.”

Asseri said Saudi Arabia has deferred payments on oil worth billions of US dollars from time to time in order to ease pressure on the Pakistan economy. The Kingdom is also making billion-dollar direct investments in the country in line with the China-Pakistan economic corridor. 

“I am happy to see a major transformation underway in Saudi-Pakistani economic relationships with our leadership and government deciding to invest in the economic development of Pakistan,” he said. 

The former ambassador said frequent official visits between the two countries were important. 

“I came back recently from Pakistan, and the vibe of the media, government and people was so optimistic. Pakistanis were excited about the crown prince’s visit. People hope it will bring great opportunities for the economy as well as strengthening the political and social ties between the two countries,” he said.

Asseri said Saudi Arabia and Pakistan had faced many challenges together in recent decades.

In 2001, during Asseri’s first year as Saudi ambassador in Pakistan, the 9/11 attacks on New York led to greater cooperation between Islamabad and Riyadh in dealing with terrorism.

The Kingdom had been closely involved with Pakistan since its independence, he said. “King Abdul Aziz sent King Saud and Prince Faisal to Pakistan at that time. So if we go back through history, we can see that this relationship is truly unique.” 

Asseri also highlighted the ties between the two countries on humanitarian issues, security and military issues, saying: “Pakistan has suffered serious security and humanitarian consequences of the decades-long war in Afghanistan, besides housing millions of Afghan refugees.

“Together Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have worked for peace in Afghanistan and will do whatever it takes to achieve this long-desired goal.”

Asseri said Pakistanis were quick to show their appreciation for Saudi Arabia’s assistance in the past regardless of the change in Pakistani leadership over the years. 

“The relationship is unique because it is between people. Such a relationship (will) keep growing with every generation.

“When Pakistan was in a difficult position in 2005 after a devastating earthquake, Saudi Arabia went out of its way to provide the support it needed. Prince Ahmed bin Abdul Aziz and eight ministers visited Balochistan. Field hospitals were created with Saudi doctors treating people and performing surgery there.” 

Pakistan also has a deep loyalty to Saudi Arabia, Asseri said. “Pakistan has military expertise, and through cooperation between the two countries, it helped the Saudi military during its development.” 

“The Kingdom’s recent appointment of a Saudi commercial attache in Pakistan will also bolster the economic links between the two countries,” he said. 

“There are good minds in Pakistan and good products that could be manufactured in Saudi Arabia.”

Asseri said he is also optimistic that Saudi plans to build a major oil refinery in Gwadar will help create an “economic hub.” 

The former envoy said the Saudi crown prince’s visit to Pakistan will add to the relationship between the countries. 

Pakistan’s relatively young population is also hoping for a stronger relationship with the Kingdom. 

“Young Pakistanis who are advanced in the IT and industrial sectors are looking forward to helping and cooperating with Saudi Arabia, and sharing their experiences and knowledge,” he said.