Saudi-Russian relations reach new heights

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Updated 06 October 2017
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Saudi-Russian relations reach new heights

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted Saudi Arabia’s King Salman for talks at the Kremlin on Thursday, cementing a relationship that is pivotal for world oil prices and could decide the outcome of the conflict in Syria. 
Putin received the monarch in the gold-decorated St. Andrew Hall, one of the grandest spaces in the Kremlin, attended by soldiers in ceremonial dress and with an orchestra playing their countries’ national anthems.
“I am sure that your visit will provide a good impulse for the development of relations between our two states,” Putin told King Salman as they sat alongside each other in the Kremlin’s lavishly decorated Green Parlor. “This is the first visit by a Saudi monarch in the history of our relations and that in itself is a landmark event,” Putin said.
The king invited Putin to visit his country — an offer the Russian leader accepted — and said they planned to keep cooperating to keep world oil prices stable.
King Salman told Putin that Iran must stop meddling in the Middle East, Russia’s Interfax news agency reported.
“We emphasize that the security and stability of the Gulf region and the Middle East is an urgent necessity for achieving stability and security in Yemen,” the king said.
“This would demand that Iran give up interference with the internal affairs of the region, to give up actions destabilizing the situation in this region.”
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir told journalists that “relations between Russia and Saudi Arabia have reached a historic moment.”
King Salman and President Putin signed a slew of arms and energy deals.
Saudi Arabia signed preliminary agreements to buy Russia’s S-400 air defense systems and anti-tank guided missile systems and receive “cutting-edge technologies,” the state-owned Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI) said.
These agreements are “expected to play a pivotal role in the growth and development of the military and military systems industry in Saudi Arabia,” SAMI said in a statement.
The leaders of the world’s largest energy exporters discussed an extension of an OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) agreement to cap oil output.
The two countries signed a series of multibillion-dollar investment deals including one to create a $1 billion fund to pursue energy projects.
Moscow and Riyadh worked together to secure a deal between OPEC and other oil producers to cut output until the end of March 2018, helping support prices.
Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih said Saudi Arabia is “flexible” regarding Moscow’s suggestion to extend the pact until the end of next year.
Agreements on global oil supply have helped oil markets to stabilize, Al-Falih said.
He said Saudi Arabia wants to develop ties with Russia further, particularly in the private sector.
“I see huge opportunities for the business sector in both nations,” he said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said agreements came in the fields of “energy — not only traditional but also nuclear power — and also in cooperation in space exploration (and) agro-industry and infrastructure projects.”
Later, speaking at a news briefing, Al-Jubeir said Saudi Arabia is working closely with Russia on uniting Syria’s opposition, adding that Moscow and Riyadh agreed on the need to preserve Syria’s territorial integrity and state institutions.
Al-Jubeir also said that both Russia and Saudi Arabia believe in the principle of non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs and in the principle of territorial integrity.
For his part, Lavrov focused on the common ground, saying the two leaders had agreed on the importance of fighting terrorism, and finding peaceful solutions to conflicts in the Middle East.
Lavrov said the meeting between the Saudi monarch and Putin saw a “particular focus on Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen.”
Separately, the Russian-Saudi Investment Forum concluded on Thursday in Moscow with announcements of joint business and investment projects.
Ibrahim Al-Omar, governor of the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA), said: “We’re working on improving the level of FDI (foreign direct investment) to the Kingdom by attracting more investments. We’re working to give the private sector a bigger share in the market.”
The energy minister said bilateral cooperation in the last two years has benefited the oil market by stabilizing prices.
“It has breathed back life into OPEC, which found itself… unable to swing its production as supply was persistently high in 2014 and global inventories were steadily rising ahead of demand,” Al-Falih added.
 


Departing British envoy ‘hugely optimistic’ about Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030

Updated 20 September 2018
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Departing British envoy ‘hugely optimistic’ about Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030

  • Outgoing British Consul General Barrie Peach will remember the beaches, the historic sites ... and the delicious seafood
  • Peach offers valid reasons for optimism that Saudi Arabia's ambitious Vision 2030 project will be a success

JEDDAH: British Consul General Barrie Peach has reached the end of his third posting in Saudi Arabia. His two years as Consul General in Jeddah — preceded by three years in Riyadh — ends in September.

As he prepares to continue his diplomatic career elsewhere, Peach sat down for an interview with Arab News to reflect on his time in the Kingdom and the optimism he feels for its future in light of Vision 2030. It was, he pointed out, an apt final interview.

“When I first arrived in Saudi Arabia, my first job was in charge of communications, so I was the press officer,” Peach said. “So, I’ve had a very long relationship with Arab News. In fact, the very first time I was interviewed by a newspaper was by Arab News in 2003.”

As Peach explained, it was no surprise that he came to work in the Middle East as a diplomat. 

“I studied Arabic in Scotland and in Lebanon, so I guess the foreign office was a logical choice,” he said. “I’ve been with the Foreign Ministry since the year 2000. Since then, I have worked in a number of Arab countries. I suppose as a diplomat I’m slightly unusual in that I’m coming to the end of my third posting in Saudi Arabia. Most commonly, diplomats will go to a country once in their career, maybe twice at most. In addition to that, I’ve also served in Qatar, Iraq, Algeria, and Libya.”

Peach was already well versed in both the language and customs of Saudi Arabia when he became consul general in Jeddah, having worked in the Kingdom for many years. “I have spent more of my adult life in Saudi Arabia than I have in the UK. So, I guess I really do consider myself in many ways to be part of the fabric of Saudi society,” he said. “I’ve lived here through many changes, many experiences, and I’ve always found Saudi Arabia to be a very warm and welcoming place that I’ve very much enjoyed living in.”



Peach cited the consulate’s coordination with Saudi authorities to provide British pilgrims with security and hospitality during their travels to Makkah as one of the highlights of his time in Jeddah.

“I would say one of the most important functions that our consulate has carried out has been our care toward British pilgrims. When I speak to my Saudi friends and colleagues, they are often surprised at just how many British Muslims visit Saudi Arabia each year. This past year, we’ve had around 130,000 pilgrims visit, including, most recently, 26,000 pilgrims for Hajj. As you know, for many people, this is one of the most important journeys of their lives, and we are ready to help them if — God forbid — they get into any trouble. We are very grateful to the Saudi authorities for the huge efforts that they make in facilitating the pilgrims with safety, security, and tranquility. Thankfully, the vast majority of visits have been trouble free.”

As consul general, Peach has witnessed first-hand the progressive reforms that the Kingdom is going through, and offers valid reason for optimism that the ambitious Vision 2030 project will be a success.

“An important role of the consul general is to promote trade between our two nations, and I’m delighted to say that over the past year we have increased mutual trade between businesses in Saudi Arabia and the UK. We’re expanding into new areas, so we’re mapping our work onto Vision 2030, following the creation of a Strategic Partnership Council as a result of the Crown Prince’s visit to the UK earlier this year,” he said.

“So, we’re looking for opportunities in new areas such as the creative sector, which we see Saudi Arabia is opening up to, not forgetting the more traditional areas where we have longstanding relationships — commerce and manufacturing.

“I’m hugely optimistic about the future of Saudi Arabia. It’s a country that has been blessed with many resources. The oil has been a blessing, the pilgrimage has been hosted here for centuries, and I know under Vision 2030 there are plans to significantly increase the number of pilgrims — which I’m sure will be very successful.” Peach also believes that the Kingdom’s tourism drive has great potential, describing it as “one of the most exciting things” about Vision 2030.

“I’ve lived in Saudi Arabia for over nine years, and I’ve been very fortunate to visit most of the country. It’s an amazing country from the mountains in the North, to the greener lusher mountains of the South, and world-class beaches along the Red Sea. I’m hugely optimistic that, in the future, tourists from around the world will get to experience the Kingdom that I’ve seen. Saudi Arabia has a very young population, and that means a very creative, dynamic population who want to change things and who want to work hard.”

While he may be leaving his official post in the Kingdom, Peach said the country’s natural beauty will certainly lure him back for frequent visits in the future.

“Jeddah will always be a special place for me,” he said. “It’s the first place where I’ve held the head post, and there are certainly unique responsibilities that go along with that. It’s been a very important place for my professional development, but also a place that I’ve been very much made to feel at home. I’ve found the people to be very open, friendly, warm and welcoming. I’ve built up many new friendships and partnerships and I’m sure those relationships will endure. In the years to come, I’m sure I’ll be a regular visitor to the Kingdom.

British envoy Barrie Peach with Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)

“Jeddah is perhaps the most familiar environment to me as I enjoy spending time at the beach, the Red Sea, and eating some great fish. Some of my more memorable experiences though, are from my time in Riyadh, from camping in the desert to eating some of the more interesting foods that we might not be so familiar with in the West. I will always miss my jareesh (a Saudi dish). 

“Al-Ula in Mada’in Saleh is, without a doubt, one of the most spectacular places that I’ve ever visited — a mixture of beautiful natural landscape, desert mountains, and ancient civilization. When I’ve been there in the past, there were so few tourists, unlike — for example — the Nabatean ruins in Jordan, where you’re there with thousands of people. It was actually a really special experience to be at Al-Ula and almost completely alone. I also had the pleasure of organizing the visit of the Prince of Wales to Mada’in Saleh a few years ago, which was quite a unique experience.” 

“A career in foreign service is a uniquely rewarding experience. It has given me the opportunity to travel to places I might not have otherwise visited,” he said. 

“To have been able to travel and experience new cultures and languages, for me, has been the most rewarding part of my career in the foreign office. My advice to anybody who might enjoy that kind of lifestyle would be that a career in diplomacy is an excellent way forward.” 

As Saudi Arabia and Great Britain usher in a new chapter of diplomacy, the departing consul general made sure to welcome his successor.

“I would like to wish him the very best of luck during his time as consul general. For me, he has one of the best jobs in foreign service. I hope that he will very much enjoy it. He’s arriving here at a very interesting time of change, and a change that the UK is very happy to be part of to help and support,” he said. 

And finally, what’s next for the outgoing consul general? Peach kept it short and sweet. “A very long holiday,” he said with a laugh.