‘Russia does not want to act against Saudi interests’

Updated 06 October 2017

‘Russia does not want to act against Saudi interests’

MOSCOW: Russia and Saudi Arabia are not necessarily at odds over key regional issues, even when it comes to policy regarding Iran and Qatar, a senior Moscow diplomat has told Arab News.
Konstantin Kosachev, head of the foreign affairs committee in the upper house of the Russian Parliament, said it was “completely wrong” to claim that his country is “pro-Iranian” or “pro-Qatari” — despite the belief held by some that Moscow and Riyadh do not see eye-to-eye on such contentious issues.
Kosachev was speaking on the occasion of an official visit made by King Salman to Russia, the first such trip made by a sitting Saudi monarch.
When asked about Russia and Saudi Arabia’s apparently opposing stances on key aspects of foreign policy, Kosachev said there was not necessarily a contradiction.
“Our partners in Riyadh should understand that Russia definitely does not want to act against Saudi interests,” he said.
“I would not call our positions on Iranian and Qatari topics opposite ones. It is completely wrong to call Russian foreign policy ‘pro-Iranian’ or ‘pro-Qatari’. Or, say, ‘pro-Turkish’ or ‘pro-Israeli’.
“Iran was always a complicated partner for us, but the difficulties made us appreciate the achievements on many issues – from (the) Iranian nuclear program deal to participation of Tehran in Astana talks together with our country and Turkey. All three states are very different, have (a) complicated history of relations with each other. Nevertheless, understanding of the necessity to resolve common tasks brought them to the understanding that mutual cooperation is inevitable.
“This makes us optimistic regarding relations with other countries of the region, and Saudi Arabia takes a special place among them. Yes, we have different views on some processes in the Middle East, but I am sure that we will manage to reach agreement on the majority of the actual issues if both sides are willing to do it.”
Kosachev said Saudi Arabia’s involvement was “essential” in resolving Middle Eastern disputes.
“Our relations should be upgraded and we believe that now we have a positive background for that. We need Riyadh to understand our intentions and interests, in the Middle East as well, because they do not essentially contradict the interests of Saudi Arabia,” he said.
King Salman’s visit to Russia opens up the possibility of progress in topics relating to the Syrian conflict, Kosachev said.
“We would like to have progress on the package of topics of security and counterterrorism, which is tightly connected to Syrian settlement. Both countries have supported the creation of de-escalation zones in Syria in order to strengthen the cease-fire regime and to resolve the humanitarian problems. We see and appreciate the efforts made by Saudi partners to unite different groups of opposition … for Geneva talks.”

Saudi films soar at Golden Falcon film awards

Updated 58 min 42 sec ago

Saudi films soar at Golden Falcon film awards

  • Winners of first Golden Falcon award will travel to the Netherlands to study filmmaking techniques
  • Film screenings have been revived in KSA as part of wide-ranging social and economic reforms encouraged by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman 

RIYADH: Saudi films have won awards at an international film festival organized by the Netherlands to coincide with the return of cinema to the Kingdom.

The first Golden Falcon Film Festival awards drew Saudi actors, filmmakers and cinema-lovers to the Netherlands embassy in Riyadh on Wednesday.

More than 30 shortlisted Saudi films were shown at the maiden festival on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Nine films were nominated, with three each in the best film, best script and best director categories. Overall winners were chosen by an international jury headed by Dutch filmmaker Hans Treffers.

Best movie award went to “Mazban.” The other two films nominated in the category were “Tongue” and “Building 20.”

“The Poetess,” “Matour” and “Atoor” were nominated in the best director category with “Atoor” bagging the award.

“Departures,” “Atoor” and “The Remaining” were nominated in the best script category with “Departures” winning the award.

Besides the Golden Falcon trophy, the winners will travel to the Netherlands to study filmmaking techniques.

Joost Reintjes, the Netherlands ambassador in Riyadh, told Arab News: “We are proud to organize the first Golden Falcon Film Festival here to promote filmmaking in the Kingdom and provide a platform for young Saudi filmmakers to show what they have to offer.”

Film screenings — banned in Saudi Arabia in the 1980s following religious changes in the Kingdom — have been revived as part of wide-ranging social and economic reforms encouraged by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. 

The return of cinema was heralded with a film screening on Wednesday at a newly built theater at the King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD) in Riyadh. 

Commenting on the lifting of the 35-year ban, Reintjes told Arab News: “That’s Vision 2030 — it is good sign to diversify and develop.

“Although the cinemas in the Kingdom have only been restarted now, Saudi filmmaking has already made a name for itself on the world stage.

“The Saudi film industry will grow very fast. The level of talent is high,” he said.

Mohammed Al-Qass, lead actor from “Departure,” said: “We have been working for this day for years. 

“Saudis with a thirst for cinema were traveling outside the country — now they can enjoy and share the experience in their homeland.” 

Mohammed Khawajah, a Saudi filmmaker and adviser for the film festival, told Arab News: “The idea for this festival came last year when the lifting of the cinema ban was being discussed.

“The Netherlands embassy had this idea about nine months ago; we sat together and planned the whole festival, which was carried out successfully, with hundreds of people enjoying Saudi films.

“We will improve with our next festival, which will have more fun and entertainment,” he said.