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.


All eyes on Mina as Hajj begins today

A Hajj security man takes care of a child. Security forces have been deployed around the clock to deal with all emergency cases. (SPA)
Updated 19 August 2018
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All eyes on Mina as Hajj begins today

JEDDAH: Around 2 million pilgrims arrived in the Holy Land from outside and inside the Kingdom in preparation to set out from Makkah for Mina.
They will retrace the noble tradition of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and spend the Tarwiyah Day on Sunday in Mina. Here they will make final preparations for the Standing (Wuquf) at Arafat, which marks the climax of the annual pilgrimage, on Monday.
To be able to serve the pilgrims and enable them to perform Hajj rituals with ease and comfort, the government and private sectors concerned with Hajj and pilgrim affairs intensify their preparations, under the direct supervision of Prince Khalid Al-Faisal, adviser to King Salman, the governor of Makkah region and chairman of the Central Hajj Committee, and followed up by his deputy, Prince Abdullah bin Bandar.
The Ministry of Health will provide intensive and continuous health services supported by skillful human cadres and state-of-the-art medical technologies, in order to provide the best health services for pilgrims. The Ministry of Health has employed a total of 29,495 physicians, pharmacists, nurses and technicians to provide extensive health care to the pilgrims.
According to the ministry, its manpower during the Hajj consists of 780 consultants in various medical specializations, 1,248 specialists; 2,718 general practitioners; 1,428 pharmacists; 3,553 nurses; 1,173 technicians and lab specialists; 198 specialists in nutrition; 5,587 administrators; 165 engineers; and 1,491 ambulance drivers.
The General Presidency of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque will operate and maintain all technical devices and systems of lighting, air-conditioning and ventilation, sound and control systems, cameras, communication devices and electrical stairs, buildings and libraries in the Two Holy Mosques.
Air-conditioning has been installed in the basement and ground floor and many other areas. Thousands of fans have been installed in the Two Holy Mosques and their yards.
The area around the Two Holy Mosques has been equipped with more than 8,441 toilets, as well as more than 6,000 ablution units. All power supply lines have been prepared to make sure there is power 24/7.
More than 10,000 male and female employees will be available to follow up on work and monitor it during Ramadan, in addition to a large number of cleaners.
Among the services also provided by the Presidency are translation of Friday sermons into 10 languages, organization of various scientific programs, and competitions.
A total of 210 doors in the Grand Mosque and 100 doors in the Prophet’s Mosque have been prepared, as well as 28 escalators in the Grand Mosque and four escalators in the Prophet’s Mosque. There are 38 doors for people with special needs and seven for women.
The Saudi Red Crescent deployed 127 emergency centers, 361 ambulances, 20 motorbikes, and more than 1,861 people to work in the ranges of Makkah and Madinah.
There will be 22 operational hospitals in Madinah and the holy sites, 15 temporary emergency centers, supported with more than 87 ambulances and 653 paramedics.
The Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs mobilized its human and mechanical capabilities to enable pilgrims to perform their duties in a safe and healthy environment by employing more than 26,000 individuals and 717 mechanisms to implement the hygiene plan in Makkah and the holy sites, as well as specialized field teams to control 33,069 food facilities in Makkah.
Civil defense teams will be deployed around the clock to deal with all emergency cases, where the injuries will be transferred using stretchers and wheelchairs to several medical evacuation sites inside and outside the mosque.
These teams will also be carrying out extraction and rescue operations inside the Holy Mosque and the surrounding area, in addition to providing urgent first aid, and transferring critical cases to the nearest hospitals and health centers, in coordination with the Red Crescent teams around the Holy Mosque. The Hajj security forces leaderships announced their readiness to maintain the security and safety of pilgrims during the pilgrimage season.
The General Command of the Air General Security is supported by all the security services and various government sectors.
In preparation for the Hajj season, the Saudi General Security Aviation Command announced that it has started implementing the first phase of its security plan to ensure the safety of pilgrims in the Kingdom. The aviation command will commence security operations over the holy sites, where special helicopters will monitor the activities surrounding the Hajj season this year. The planes are stationed in the designated locations in Makkah and Madinah from various bases to carry out the tasks assigned to them, namely traffic and security, logistical support for other security bodies, humanitarian services and the monitoring of pilgrims not following the rules.