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.
 


Careem’s first ‘Captainah’ ready to hit the road

A video made for the big day also features Captainah (the female version of captain) Enaam Gazi Al-Aswad, Careem’s first female driver in Saudi Arabia, sharing her thoughts on the historic event
Updated 23 June 2018
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Careem’s first ‘Captainah’ ready to hit the road

  • Mudassir Sheikha, CEO of Careem, said the historic moment was set to drive economic and positive social change in the country
  • Careem, which plans to open 100,000 jobs to female drivers in the wake of the decree, said that far from losing business, the company stands to benefit from an energized economy. 

As the largest mover of people in the Kingdom, the ride-hailing app Careem has been preparing for women driving by investing almost $80 million over the past five years in its Saudi operations. 

The money has been spent on infrastructure, call centers and affordable on-demand transportation services across the country.

Mudassir Sheikha, CEO of Careem, said the historic moment was set to drive economic and positive social change in the country. 

“We created this committee whose basic job was to figure out the changes that we need to make in our platform to make it more open and acceptable to women,” he said. 

“We have invested more than $100 million in Saudi Arabia. We are truly excited to be part of this 2030 change. We made a pledge that we will have 20,000 captains (drivers) on our platform by 2020,” Sheikha added.

A video made for the big day also features Captainah (the female version of captain) Enaam Gazi Al-Aswad, Careem’s first female driver in Saudi Arabia, sharing her thoughts on the historic event.

“I’m very glad. Finally, I got my license from Saudi Arabia. I wished a long time ago to have these things in my country. I have freedom now to ride anytime I want to drive … with income! It will help me financially (and) socially to feel alive again, go out to drive, meet people and have income. I think it is a nice opportunity in this life and it is going to be in the history also,” Al-Aswad said.

Careem even set up a women’s captain committee to better understand what barriers might exist for women wanting to drive.

Throughout 2018, $30 million has been invested in Careem’s Saudi operations alone as the company shows its support for Vision 2030.

Careem, which plans to open 100,000 jobs to female drivers in the wake of the decree, said that far from losing business, the company stands to benefit from an energized economy. 

“While it’s true that 70 percent of our users in Saudi are female, our success and growth in the country is mainly because we offer a safe, reliable and affordable service,” said Abdulla Elyas, co-founder and chief people officer at Careem.

“When we have more women who are employees and entrepreneurs, and the whole country has increased mobility, the domestic economy gets energized and that’s when transportation services will be in more demand.

“As with the possibility of registering women captains (drivers), we will be able to welcome new female customers who feel more comfortable riding with another female.”