Russian FM: Saudi king’s visit a ‘turning point’ in relations

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. (AP)
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Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov
Updated 05 October 2017
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Russian FM: Saudi king’s visit a ‘turning point’ in relations

MOSCOW: Saudi King Salman’s visit to Russia, which began Wednesday, represents a “real turning point in relations between the two countries,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper in Moscow.
He said Moscow shared Riyadh’s conviction to “further develop bilateral relations at various levels,” and to work toward regional and global stability.
Both countries have maintained high-level dialogue that has produced tangible results, he added.
“We are intensifying efforts to strengthen trade ties and humanitarian relations with the Kingdom,” Lavrov said. “Our common goal is to increase the volume of trade and expand the range of commodities.”
Russia and the Kingdom are jointly working on implementation of agreements between the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and non-OPEC oil producers to reduce global production, he added.
“We consider it extremely important to continue to coordinate efforts with our partners in Saudi Arabia in this regard,” Lavrov said.
He added that King Salman and Russian President Vladimir Putin will discuss the need to find sustainable and permanent solutions to ongoing crises in the region.
The visit will “take cooperation between us to a new level, achieving a fruitful contribution to stability in the Middle East and North Africa,” Lavrov said.
Asked whether a political solution to the Syrian war would be reached soon, Lavrov replied: “Since the beginning of the Syrian crisis, Russia has insisted on a solution through peaceful means by holding an extensive dialogue between the various parties. We also called on the international community to extend a helping hand to the Syrian people to end the violence and bloodshed, and to prevent the support of criminals and terrorists inside the country.”
He said: “The Arab League and many regional and international parties have taken a decision to strip Syrian President Bashar Assad of his legitimacy for a variety of reasons. In doing so, they have effectively attacked the right of the Syrian people to decide who will rule Syria and in what way. We strongly disagree with this approach.”
Lavrov added: “In various international forums, we have always supported the independence, unity and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic. We have reiterated that the fate and future of Syria must be in the hands of the Syrian people, in a fully legal manner and through national dialogue.”
He said Russia has responded to Syrian government requests to help it eradicate terrorism. “At the same time, we continue to believe that the military campaign against extremists must be accompanied by the search for a political solution to the crisis,” Lavrov added.
“To this end, we continue to fight terrorist groups, while strengthening our efforts to stop the bloodshed, provide humanitarian assistance to the population and boost the political process, as stipulated in UN Security Council resolution 2254.”
He underlined the importance of the Astana meetings on Syria, during which he said the concerned parties agreed that there is no alternative to a political and diplomatic settlement under UN auspices, and expressed their commitment to the cease-fire.
“Today, all actors must abandon their own geopolitical ambitions and contribute fully to the restoration of stability and security in Syria, and throughout the Middle East and North Africa,” Lavrov said.
Russia “attaches great importance to cooperation with Turkey and Iran as part of the settlement of the Syrian crisis and to help Baghdad face ISIS (Daesh) terrorist threats,” he added.
“We believe that joint efforts between Russia, Turkey and Iran have succeeded in improving the situation in Syria, destroying the hubs of ISIS, Al-Nusra Front and other terrorist groups, and guaranteeing conditions for a broad and constructive dialogue between Syrian parties.”
Moscow is “not to blame for the current deterioration in US-Russian relations. This is a direct result of the policies of (former President Barack) Obama’s administration, which destroyed the foundations of our cooperation.” Lavrov said.
“In addition, before its departure, the administration planted time bombs to make things more difficult for the new government.”
He said Russia “stands ready to seek new ways, in cooperation with the new US administration, to improve bilateral relations based on the principles of mutual trust and respect for each other’s interests.”
But the accusation of Russian interference in last year’s US election “clearly hampers any attempt to normalize dialogue between the two sides,” Lavrov added.
“There is an unmistakable impression that some in Washington are not happy with the way the American people have expressed their will, trying to blame us for their failures,” he said.
“We have been careful to exercise restraint, especially considering the complex reality of the internal political scene in which the new US administration must work. However, we cannot remain silent toward hostile actions,” including “imposing sanctions.”
Lavrov said there is still considerable unexploited potential for US-Russian cooperation in international affairs.
“We have long urged our counterparts in the United States to build real coordination with us in the fight against terrorism, as well as to deal with other serious challenges, such as the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the drug trade and cybercrime,” he added.
There are also opportunities for mutually beneficial initiatives in trade and investment, he said.
“It is remarkable that US companies attach great importance to their presence in the Russian market, and wish to participate in projects that serve the interests of both sides.”
Asked to evaluate the US-led coalition against Daesh, and the extent of Russia’s role in fighting the terrorist organization, Lavrov replied: “One should start by saying that from the perspective of the Syrians and international law, this alliance is prying on Syria. For its part, the Syrian government remains tolerant as long as coalition activities are directed against terrorists inside Syrian territory.”
He added: “In reality, it was airstrikes by the Russian air force and the Syrian Army that forced ISIS to retreat.”


Saudis recall history’s greatest TV event: Apollo moon landing

Updated 20 July 2019
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Saudis recall history’s greatest TV event: Apollo moon landing

  • The TV images beamed from 320,000km away in space left viewers astounded but happy
  • The TV coverage influenced thinking and attitudes in the Kingdom just like everywhere else

DUBAI: It was a sleepy afternoon in Saudi Arabia, just days before the end of the school vacation, and Saudis had their eyes glued to their TV sets as they waited for live coverage of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

Before July 20, 1969, the idea of a human walking on the moon was the stuff of science fiction. However, almost overnight, sci-fi had turned into reality with a live broadcast showing American astronaut Neil Armstrong’s dramatic descent onto the empty lunar landscape.

Between science fiction and science fact, the live coverage of the lunar landing amounted to an unusual fusion of news and entertainment.

Saudi TV technicians bring the first live images of Neil Armstrong’s 1969 moon landing to
viewers around the Kingdom. (Supplied photo)

The historic images — beamed back to Earth more than 320,000 km away — left Saudi viewers astounded and confused, but mostly elated to be witnessing such an epoch-making event.

The event was covered live on television and radio stations in Saudi Arabia. Most Saudis and residents living in the Kingdom watched it on Saudi channels 1 and 3, owned by Saudi Aramco.

Hessah Al-Sobaie, a housewife from Al-Dawadmi, recalled watching the moon landing from her grandparents’ backyard as an 11-year-old.

“It felt weird watching a human walk on the moon,” she told Arab News. “I remember the endless questions I asked as a child.”

While most people were aware that going to the moon was risky, many Saudis believed that such a journey was impossible and all but unthinkable.


EVENTS WATCH

1. NASA’s Apollo 11 mission control room in Houston has been restored to its 1969 condition and regular tours
will be conducted by the Johnson Space Center.

2. NASA ‘Science Live’ will have a special edition on July 23 on board the aircraft carrier that recovered the Apollo 11 capsule.

3. A summer moon festival and family street fair will be held in Wapakoneta, Ohio, from July 17-20.

4. Downtown Houston’s Discovery green will host a free public screening of the ‘Apollo 11’ documentary, with an appearance by NASA astronaut Steve Bowen.

5. Amateur radio operators will host a series of events on July 20-21.

6. The US Space and Rocket Center is staging a special ‘Rockets on Parade’ exhibition.


The Apollo 11 mission prompted discussions across the Middle East over the reality of what people saw on their TV screens. Some Saudi scholars found it hard to believe their eyes.

“I watched it, and I clearly remember each and every detail of the coverage,” Hayat Al-Bokhari, 68, a retired school principal in Jeddah, said.

“My father, Abdul, was 56 at the time. He said the landing was faked. He couldn’t believe or accept that a human could go to the moon.”

Khaled Almasud, 70, a retired university lecturer, was a student in the US state of Oregon at the time of the mission. “Americans were stunned and over the moon, happy with their national achievement. But many Saudis like me were either in denial or insisting on more proof.”

Since the beginning of the 1960s, King Faisal had been rapidly transforming Saudi Arabia, inviting foreign-trained experts to help build a modern country with world-class infrastructure.

Billie Tanner, now 90, lived in the Kingdom for many years with her husband, Larry, and their two children, Laurie and Scott, aged six and four. The family had just arrived in Saudi Arabia and headed to the Aramco compound in Ras Tanura in the Eastern Province.

A screengrab of video of the first lunar landing beamed toward Earth and shown on television worldwide. 

“We were going through a culture shock,” she told Arab News. “I wasn’t thinking of the moon landing, but we heard about it on the news from Dhahran.

“My kids tried to see the astronauts on the moon with their binoculars and said they could see them walking around.”

The Apollo 11 spaceflight has become a milestone in the annals of human history and science. Since 1969 space exploration has greatly expanded man’s knowledge of the universe, far beyond Earth’s limits.

The captivating live coverage of the moon landing inspired millions of people around the world, profoundly influencing their thinking and attitudes.

The people of Saudi Arabia were no exception.