Saudi-US relations ‘at all-time high’ as crown prince begins tour

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir. (SPA)
Updated 20 March 2018
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Saudi-US relations ‘at all-time high’ as crown prince begins tour

WASHINGTON: Iran’s “nefarious” behavior, trade ties and the tech sector are all high on the agenda as Saudi Arabia’s crown prince begins a multi-city trip to the US, where he is due to meet President Donald Trump later on Tuesday.
Talks about further action against the regime in Tehran are “ongoing,” the Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said Monday, as he laid out the agenda for the US visit by the Kingdom’s heir apparent.
“Our relationship with the US is at an all-time high,” Al-Jubeir said at a briefing in Washington.
“We have very strong ties in all areas, whether it is in trade and investment, whether it is in the military cooperation, whether it is in counter-terrorism.
“This visit will help further strengthen these ties between our two countries.”
The trip follows the crown prince’s visits to both Egypt and the UK earlier this month, which led to a string of political and economic agreements signed between the Kingdom and two of its key allies.
But the visit to the US aims to build on what is possibly Saudi Arabia’s most important relationship, and one strengthened by the arrival of Trump in the White House.
Aside from meeting the US president, Crown Prince Mohammed is also due to meet with Vice President Mike Pence, administration officials and religious leaders.
He will meet financiers and think tank chiefs in New York, entertainment executives and technology entrepreneurs in San Francisco and Los Angeles, and key figures of the energy industry in Houston.
“We will sign a number of agreements during this trip,” said Al-Jubeir, adding that most of the deals are expected to be memorandums of understanding.
The visit by Crown Prince Mohammed follows Trump’s move last week to dismiss his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who is known to have a softer line on Iran than the US president. Al-Jubeir described Tillerson’s successor, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, as “a friend.”
The Saudi foreign minister said the so-called “nuclear deal” between Iran and Western powers — a point of contention between Trump and Tillerson — was “flawed,” describing Tehran’s behavior as “nefarious.”
“We have always argued that Iran must be held accountable for its support for terrorism, for violating resolutions related to ballistic missiles, and for interfering in the affairs of other countries,” he said.
“We’re working to see what the most effective way of achieving those objectives is … Those discussions are ongoing.”
Al-Jubeir acknowledged that Saudi Arabia had work to do in correcting some perceptions about the conflict in Yemen, where the Kingdom leads coalition forces battling Iran-backed Houthi militias.
“A lot of (the issues) we have in Yemen is more perception than reality,” he said.
“The reality is that we didn’t start this war, we didn’t want this war – it was imposed upon us.”
The social reforms underway in Saudi Arabia, under the crown prince’s ambitious Vision 2030 plan, are also set to be discussed in the US.
Changes include allowing women to drive from this summer, allowing cinemas to open in the Kingdom, as well as the broader aim to diversify the economy away from its “addiction” to oil.
Al-Jubeir said people should “stay tuned” for news of further reforms, adding that there had been little “pushback” on those that had already taken place.
A key aim of the plan is to make Saudi Arabia “a normal country in which normal people lead normal lives,” he added.


Meet Saudi Arabia’s artist to the kings

Saudi painter Hisham Binjabi’s stunning creations have become the choice of kings. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
Updated 21 min 39 sec ago
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Meet Saudi Arabia’s artist to the kings

  • From the age of three, Hisham Binjabi has never lost his appetite for art

JEDDAH: When it comes to royal connections, Saudi painter Hisham Binjabi can truly claim to have made it an
art form.

During a lifetime at the easel, the unassuming Jeddah-based artist’s stunning creations have become the choice of kings.

And it all began at the age of just 14, when Binjabi painted a portrait of King Faisal and ended up presenting it in person to the late king of Saudi Arabia.

Further commissions were to follow, which resulted in Binjabi producing works of art not only for the Saudi royal family, but royalty in other countries too.

Today he owns two galleries in Jeddah from where he exhibits artwork and sculptures from around the world. 

Binjabi revealed his incredible story to Arab News while at work painting on canvas at a recent Jeddah book fair.

Hisham Binjabi made works of art not only for the Saudi royal family, but royalty in other countries too. (Photos/Supplied)

From the age of three, when he painted the walls of his family home in black, Binjabi has never lost his appetite for art. His talent was recognized at school where he was known as the “boy who paints,” and although he chose to major in science, a teacher spotted his artistic skills and taught him the basics of mixing colors.

Binjabi said: “After that I started to practice, and whenever I didn’t need to attend a class, I would escape to the painting room. As I became stronger with the use of colors, my teacher suggested I pick a subject to paint and I chose to do a portrait of King Faisal.”

After framing his picture, Binjabi was spotted carrying his creation down the street by the then-minister of education, who was so taken by it that he invited the teenager to present it to King Faisal himself. 

On the right track

The young artist continued to paint in his home and later studied English literature at King Abdul Aziz University, where again his talents were spotted. 

The dean of the university asked him to produce a painting to display in a tent, and this time the subject was to be camels.

During a visit to the campus, the then-King Khaled saw the painting and asked to meet the artist. “Before I knew it, I was standing in front of King Khaled,” said Binjabi. 

“The king asked me why I had painted camels, and I told him that camels were the friends of Bedouin people.”

The king invited Binjabi to go to Riyadh and attend the first ever Janadriyah Festival, and from then on his works became highly prized by royalty. The then-Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz asked him to produce a painting of his guests, a French prince and Sheikh Zayed of the UAE, watching camels through binoculars. 

As a result, Binjabi was invited to stay at Sheikh Zayed’s palace in Abu Dhabi, where he spent four months painting a family portrait for the leader.

Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was to be another of Binjabi’s distinguished clients, and even while studying for a Master’s degree in Lebanon, he painted for the king of Lebanon.

He said: “It did get overwhelming. I never asked to be associated with royalty, it just happened. Something in my heart kept pushing me along and telling me I was on the right track.”

Today he still represents the Kingdom in many different countries. 

“My life is full of stories about art which I find inspirational,” Binjabi added.