Saudi Arabia urges Barzani to call off Kurdish independence referendum

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Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani. (Reuters)
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Turkish tanks during a military exercise near the Turkish-Iraqi border in Silopi, Turkey, on Wednesday. (Reuters)
Updated 21 September 2017
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Saudi Arabia urges Barzani to call off Kurdish independence referendum

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia urged Kurdish leaders on Wednesday to call off next week’s planned independence referendum in the interests of Iraq’s stability, security, unity and sovereignty.
The referendum “may result in negative repercussions” for the fight against terrorist organizations, and “it would be best to avoid new crises,” a Saudi government statement said.
The Kingdom “looks forward to the wisdom of President Masoud Barzani in not holding a referendum … in order to spare Iraq and the region more risks,” and “calls upon the parties concerned to engage in dialogue in order to achieve the interests of the Iraqi people.”
All parties should adhere to the agreements they had signed, and to the provisions of the Iraqi constitution, the statement said.
The Iraqi prime minister Haider Al-Abadi insists that the referendum is unconstitutional, and the Iraqi Supreme Court has ordered it to be suspended. “The referendum is rejected, whether today or in the future, in the Kurdistan region within the 2003 borders or in the disputed areas,” Al-Abadi said.
Al-Abadi also hinted at a possible military intervention in Kirkuk, which is home to diverse communities including Arabs and Turkmen who oppose the vote.
“If a Kirkuk citizen is exposed to danger, it’s our legitimate duty to impose security,” he said
Amid growing international pressure on the Kurds to call off the vote, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to impose sanctions against the Kurdistan Region. Turkey, home to the largest Kurdish population in the region, has warned that any breakup of Iraq or Syria could lead to a global conflict, and is due to prepare a formal response on Friday.
The Turkish cabinet and security council would discuss Ankara’s options and “put forward their own stance on what kind of sanctions we can impose, or if we will,” Erdogan said in New York, where he is attending the UN General Assembly.
Nevertheless, Masoud Barzani, leader of the Kurdistan Regional Government, remains determined and defiant. Irbil’s union with Baghdad had come to an end, he said, and he called for Iraq and the Kurdistan Region to be “kind neighbors” instead. There was no other solution than to go through with the referendum, he said.
Barzani has said a “yes” vote would not trigger an immediate declaration of independence, but rather kick-start “serious discussions” with Baghdad.


Saudi Arabia ‘racing into the future’ with Formula E

Updated 15 December 2018
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Saudi Arabia ‘racing into the future’ with Formula E

  • A first for Saudi Arabia and the region, the event’s magnitude reflects the Kingdom’s goal of hosting major events and promoting them domestically and globally
  • “This is unprecedented and fabulous,” one concert-goer said. Another said: “I can’t believe I’m in Saudi Arabia.” 

RIYADH: Formula E is one for the books. Attracting fans from all over the world, the mega event — held in the historic Saudi town of Ad Diriyah, a UNESCO World Heritage Site — is set to revolutionize motorsports by using only electric race cars. 

Officially known as the ABB FIA Formula E Championship, the race expects to draw 40,000 attendees, with access not only to the race but also to the Kingdom’s largest ever festival for music, entertainment and cultural activities.

A first for Saudi Arabia and the region, the event’s magnitude reflects the Kingdom’s goal of hosting major events and promoting them domestically and globally.

A milestone was marked as Bandar Alesayi and Ahmed bin Khanen became the first Saudi I-Pace eTrophy racers, sponsored by the General Sports Authority (GSA). 

Both drivers predict increased grassroots support in the Kingdom for youths to train in carting and race-car driving.  

At 1.76 miles long with 21 corners, the track is somewhat tricky for first-time Formula E drivers.

“The system is like Mario Bros when they get the little star and go faster,” said Formula E founder and CEO Alejandro Agag. The new electric circuit in Saudi Arabia has been hailed as one of the best Formula E tracks.

The three-day event is hosting some of the world’s top singers, including Jason Derulo, Enrique Iglesias, Amr Diab, Black Eyed Peas, David Guetta and One Republic, along with DJ EJ. 

“This is unprecedented and fabulous,” one concert-goer said. Another said: “I can’t believe I’m in Saudi Arabia.” 

Outside the venue, Al-Bujairy, one of Ad Diriyah’s historic areas, hosts high-end restaurants, cafes and local designer outlets overlooking the historic district of At-Turaif, which was once home to the Saudi royal family and has newly opened for visitors.

Another area of interest is the Family Zone, with many events and activities to entertain all age groups. Men, women and children are given different driving experiences.

In Ad Diriyah’s Formula E, only one car is allowed per driver instead of two, making pit stops more crucial in terms of timing.  

“Attack mode” gives cars a temporary power boost from 200 to 225 kilowatts, equivalent to 268-302 horsepower. Drivers need to move to a certain area on the track to activate this mode.

“Saudi Arabia is racing into the future with Formula E, as we open the Kingdom to the world in a transformation that’s being supercharged by the Vision 2030 plan, driven forward by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman,” Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal Al-Saud, vice-chair of the Saudi Arabian General Sports Authority, told Arab News.