US Treasury secretary leads Middle East trip focused on combatting terror financing

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. (AP)
Updated 23 October 2017

US Treasury secretary leads Middle East trip focused on combatting terror financing

RIYADH: US Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin will embark on a four-nation trip to the Middle East including Saudi Arabia on Wednesday with plans to discuss combatting terror financing on top of his agenda.
During his stay in Riyadh, Mnuchin will hold talks with top Saudi officials, including Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan, on a range of bilateral, regional and international issues.
According to the itinerary of the US treasury secretary released on Sunday by the US Embassy in Riyadh: “Mnuchin will commemorate the Terrorist Financing Targeting Center, and deliver the keynote address at the Future Investment Initiative (FII) Summit on Wednesday.” The US secretary will meet top officials of the Kingdom, the UAE, Qatar and Israel during this trip.
“This White House support mission is a follow-up to President Donald J. Trump’s first foreign trip in May, when he visited the region to announce the Terrorist Financing Targeting Center (TFTC) memorandum of understanding,” said the embassy statement.
Mnuchin, accompanied by Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Sigal Mandelker, will lead the delegation that includes senior Treasury staff to discuss the TFTC partnership, and other initiatives to combat illicit finance.
“While in Saudi Arabia, Mnuchin will commemorate the opening of the TFTC, and meet with his official government counterparts,” said the statement. “The secretary will then proceed to Israel to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss terrorist financing and other national security issues. After Israel, Mnuchin will then hold meetings on terrorist financing with his counterparts in the UAE and Qatar.”

Visit to Pakistan, India and China proves strategic for Saudi Arabia

Updated 24 February 2019

Visit to Pakistan, India and China proves strategic for Saudi Arabia

  • Benefits of three-country tour include billions in economic deals as well as security initiatives

JEDDAH: The three-country tour of Asia by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that came to a close this weekend was an economic and strategic success, experts say.

“Saudi Arabia might be seen by some as moving to the East,” Salman Al-Ansari, founder of the Saudi American Public Relation Affairs Committee (SAPRAC), told Arab News. “The correct way to put it is that it’s spreading its wings East and West.

“Economic diversification requires strategic diversification. This should not be seen in any way as Saudi Arabia giving the cold shoulder to its most trusted allies, specifically the US,” he said. “And as Joseph Parry said: ‘Make new friends but keep the old; those are silver, these are gold.’”

The tour, which saw Saudi Arabia’s crown prince warmly welcomed by the leaders of Pakistan, India and China, is in line with the crown prince’s Vision 2030, which plans to transform Saudi Arabia’s economy that relies on crude oil exports into a vibrant, diversified economy. The tour resulted in billions of dollars in economic deals as well as initiatives to increase security and combat terrorism.

“Saudi Arabia is the one and only country that can take the leadership position on the global efforts of combating terrorism, specifically in the ideological front,” Al-Ansari said.

Hamdan Al-Shehri, a political analyst and international relations scholar, said that China and Saudi Arabia have the same goals of security and stability. “China shares the Kingdom’s concerns and it knows that our continent has suffered from terrorism issues and international interventions and also troubles in the region.”

The two countries also improved on their mutually beneficial economic ties. As Al-Shehri pointed out: “China needs a huge energy source, and Saudi Arabia is one of these sources that can provide China with energy.”

One significant deal is the $10 billion refining and petrochemical complex, a joint venture between Saudi Aramco and Norinco, to be developed in the Chinese city of Panjin.

Also of great geopolitical significance is the $10-billion oil-refinery in Pakistan’s Gwadar Port, as it is one of the most important parts of China’s One Belt, One Road Initiative, Al-Shehri said. “Global players are willing to invest in this project. The Kingdom’s investment in this field will serve Pakistan and will benefit the Kingdom as well as the (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor).”

And despite its historical relationship with Pakistan, Al-Shehri said that the Kingdom also found common ground with India. For instance, the two countries agreed to set up a working group on counter-terrorism. 

“India shares the Kingdom’s concern about instability in the seas, such as the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea. These are all places of global trade,” Al-Shehri said, adding that he hopes the Kingdom will play a role in resolving border points of contention between Pakistan and India as it did between Eritrea and Ethiopia.

It wasn’t all just business. The crown prince’s tour included some other announcements, including that 2,100 Pakistani and 850 Indian prisoners will be released from the Kingdom’s jails, that the Chinese language will be introduced in the Saudi school curriculum and that Saudi Arabia will soon host several concerts featuring major Bollywood performers.

The crown prince also called for the creation of a health center in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province dedicated to the memory of a Pakistani hero who saved 14 lives in Jeddah’s 2009 floods.