Saudi crown prince meets with MPs and religious leaders

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Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets with British Chancellor Philip Hammond and CEOs of major British companies. (SPA)
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Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby greets Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for a private meeting at Lambeth Palace in London on Mar 8, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 10 March 2018
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Saudi crown prince meets with MPs and religious leaders

LONDON: In a packed schedule, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met political and religious leaders yesterday on the second full day of his landmark visit to Britain.
Following on from his first day, in which he had lunch with Queen Elizabeth II and met with Prime Minister Theresa May, the crown prince met with MPs and ministers as business leaders gathered from the two countries in the capital.
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion of millions of Christians globally, received the crown prince at Lambeth Palace in central London, where the two talked for an hour.
“The crown prince made a strong commitment to promote the flourishing of those of different faith traditions, and to interfaith dialogue within the Kingdom and beyond,” a statement from Lambeth Palace said.
He also extended an invitation to the Archbishop to visit Saudi Arabia, senior sources at both the Saudi Embassy in the United Kingdom and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told Arab News.
Earlier this week, Crown Prince Mohammed met Coptic Pope Tawadros II at Cairo’s largest cathedral, and invited Egypt’s Christians to visit Saudi Arabia.
He has said in interviews that he wants to return Saudi Arabia to “moderate Islam” that is open to the world and tolerant of other faiths.
Crown Prince Mohammed and the Archbishop viewed a selection of early texts from the Christian, Muslim and Jewish faiths, including fragments of a Qur’an manuscript found in a Birmingham University library in 2015, which are thought to be among the world’s oldest, Reuters reported.
“The Archbishop shared his concern about limits placed on Christian worship in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and highlighted the importance for leaders of all faiths to support freedom of religion or belief, drawing on the experience of the UK,” the statement said.
Welby also “voiced his distress” at the humanitarian situation in Yemen, where Iran-backed Houthi militias overthrew the internationally recognized government in 2014 sparking the conflict.
Saudi Arabia leads an Arab coalition supporting forces loyal to the president against the militias and their allies.
On Wednesday night, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said: “Iran is playing a destructive and dangerous role in Yemen and destabilizing the region.”
Speaking at a news conference with the Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir he said there had been “a British-Saudi agreement to control shipping lines in preparation for the opening of Yemeni ports.”
Al-Jubeir said that Saudi Arabia agreed with Britain “on the need to deter Iran and stop its support for terrorism.”
“We support the transitional process and the political dialogue in Yemen,” he added, stressing that “the war there was imposed on us.”
He pointed out that “the Houthis have rebuffed all attempts to reach a political solution in Yemen.”
The Saudi foreign minister affirmed the Kingdom’s continued humanitarian assistance to Yemen after the war.
Yesterday, the crown prince also met with Philip Hammond the treasury secretary and they discussed ways to improve economic cooperation between the two countries as well as opportunities that may arise from the implementation of the Vision 2030 plan to move the Saudi economy away from oil.
He also held talks with MPs from all parties and the heads heads of parliamentary committees for the armed forces, foreign affairs and intelligence.


Saudi businesswomen eye greater role in the economy with end to driving ban

The end of the driving ban is expected to help bring an economic windfall for Saudi women. (Shutterstock)
Updated 23 June 2018
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Saudi businesswomen eye greater role in the economy with end to driving ban

  • The historic move is a huge step forward for businesswomen in the Saudi Arabia, says businesswoman
  • A recent survey by the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce indicated that transportation was a major concern holding Saudi women back from joining the labor market

The end of the driving ban will boost women’s financial power and allow them to play a bigger role in economic and social diversification in line with Vision 2030, prominent businesswomen said on Friday.

Hind Khalid Al-Zahid was the first Saudi woman designated as an executive director — for Dammam Airport Company — and also heads the Businesswomen Center at the Eastern Province Chamber of Commerce and Industry. 

She sees the historic move as a huge step forward for businesswomen in the Kingdom.

“Women being allowed to drive is very important; of course this will help a lot in sustainable development as the lifting of the ban on women driving came as a wonderful opportunity to increase women’s participation in the workforce,” she told Arab News on Friday, ahead of the end of the ban on Sunday.

She added that women in the job market are under-represented; they make up to 22 percent of the national workforce of about six million according to official estimates. Lifting the ban will help to take women’s representation in the workforce to 30 percent by 2030, she said.

“This is not just the right thing to do for women’s emancipation, but also an essential step in economic and social development as part of the reforms,” she said.

She said that there were different obstacles in increasing women’s participation in the workforce and other productive activities, and the driving ban was one of them. It was a strategic issue that needed to be addressed on a priority basis. With the issue resolved, it would help immensely in giving Saudi women better representation as they would help to diversify the Saudi economy and society.

She said that women could contribute hugely to the workforce and labor market as half of Saudi human resources were female, and unless allowed to excel in different sectors it would not be possible to do better, mainly because of restricted mobility.

A recent survey by the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce indicated that transportation was a major concern holding Saudi women back from joining the labor market.

Nouf Ibrahim, a businesswoman in Riyadh, said: “It will surely boost female economic participation and help increase women’s representation in the workforce immensely. It will also help to reduce the overall national unemployment rate as most of the unemployed are women and many of them are eligible as university graduates.”

She echoed the opinion that the move would help to bring an economic windfall for Saudi women, making it easier for them to work and do business, and thus play a bigger and better role that would help economic and social diversification in line with Saudi Vision 2030.

“Being able to drive from Sunday onwards after the ban is lifted will be a wonderful experience. Earlier we were dependent on a male family member and house driver to take us to workplace, to the shopping center, school or other required places for some work, now we can drive and that will allow active participation in productive work,” Sulafa Hakami, a Saudi woman working as the digital communication manager with an American MNC in Riyadh, told Arab News.

“Saudi women can now share effectively the bigger and better responsibilities,” she said.