Saudi crown prince praises ‘deep relations’ with US as he meets Donald Trump

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President Donald Trump says Saudi Arabia has been a great friend to the United States and is a "great purchaser" and "investor" in its economy. (AFP)
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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman meeting Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan, Mar 20, 2018. (AP)
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Updated 21 March 2018
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Saudi crown prince praises ‘deep relations’ with US as he meets Donald Trump

WASHINGTON: A new “renaissance” was apparent in the artfully decorated Oval Office on Tuesday — as Saudi-US ties reached new heights after the tumultuous years of the Obama administration. 
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, embarking on a lengthy multi-city tour of the US, was greeted at the White House with a warm handshake by President Donald Trump, who said the relationship between the two states is now as good as it has “ever been.”
The meeting, attended by a small but raucous press corps, reinforced the reset in the countries’ relations following tensions under the previous US administration — and shows they are edging closer in trade, defense, and security ties, analysts said last night. 
“We are the oldest ally (of the) United States of America in the Middle East — more than 80 years,” the crown prince said during the meeting at the White House, welcoming the “deep relations” between the two countries.
Speaking in English, Crown Prince Mohammed pointed out significant Saudi investments in the US.
The meeting between Trump and the crown prince came on the same day that the US Senate voted to kill a resolution calling for an end to the US involvement in the conflict in Yemen. The resolution, drafted by senators including Bernie Sanders, was defeated by a 55-44 margin.
President Donald Trump said Saudi Arabia and the US have a “great relationship” and that the Kingdom is assisting in the fight against terror financing.
“We have a zero tolerance for the funding of terrorists. And we’re working very hard, and I will say that Saudi Arabia has been working very hard on that,” he said.
He said the relationship between the nations was “very very strained” during former President Barack Obama’s tenure, but that he and the crown prince have become “very good friends in a short period of time.”
“The relationship now is probably as good as it has really ever been, and I think will probably only get better,” he said.

Talks were also expected to extend to cover Iran, which Saudi Arabia accuses of financing terrorism and meddling in regional countries’ affairs. The Kingdom’s Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir on Monday called the nuclear deal between Iran and Western powers a “flawed agreement,” and Trump has made clear he plans to exit the agreement unless changes are made to it.
“Iran has not been treating that part of the world, or the world itself, appropriately. A lot of bad things are happening in Iran. The deal is coming up in one month and you will see what happens,” Trump said on Tuesday. 
Sigurd Neubauer, a Middle East analyst in Washington, said that the meeting between Trump and the crown prince shows that ties between the countries are stronger.
“There is no doubt that the US-Saudi relationship is having a renaissance,” he said, adding that the two men have an “extraordinary” personal relationship.
“They probably see each other as mirror images. Trump wants to make America great again ... and Mohammed bin Salman wants to make Saudi Arabia great again,” said Neubauer.
It also emerged this week that Saudi Arabia, the UAE and US are launching a trilateral security forum to address Iran’s “malign activity” in the Middle East and other strategic issues.
The forum, to be held at the national security adviser level, will engage monthly on issues of strategic importance, including the US’ South Asia strategy, the unity of the Gulf Cooperation Council and the war in Yemen, according to a US senior administration official.
Firas Maksad, director of the Arabia Foundation in Washington, said that the news showed that the US is looking to build closer ties with its allies in the Arabian Gulf.
“At a time of great change, both in Washington and in the Middle East, the announced trilateral security group signals US determination to coordinate more effectively with its closest Arab allies,” he told Arab News.
Crown Prince Mohammed also met today with Republican and Democratic congressional leaders including Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, according to the Saudi Embassy in Washington.
He also met with Senate majority and minority leaders, the house majority leader, the Senate majority whip, members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the chair of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, and the chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security. 
The crown prince briefed the members on the Kingdom’s plans for economic transformation through Vision 2030, including recent reforms to empower women and youth in Saudi society.


Europe’s solutions to migration create humanitarian crises

Updated 58 min 28 sec ago
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Europe’s solutions to migration create humanitarian crises

One of Europe’s main solutions to migration — Greece’s overcrowded, unsanitary Moria migrant camp — has suicidal children and conditions that a psychiatrist compared to “an old-fashioned mental asylum.”
In another heavily criticized solution to immigration, imprisoned men and women have been shuttled away from one gunbattle only to end up incarcerated on the front line of another, vulnerable to both trafficking and new abuse.
The jammed Moria camp on the Greek island of Lesbos and the dangerous migrant detention centers in Libya serve as a sober reminder to European leaders that their statistical success in curbing migration into the continent has spawned what the UN and others condemn as massive humanitarian failures. Deeply divided over how and where to control Europe’s borders, leaders are meeting Wednesday in a summit in Austria.
Migrant sea arrivals to Europe have plummeted this year, but each journey now carries increasing risks of death or indefinite detention in squalid conditions. More than 1,700 people have already died on Mediterranean crossings this year.
Abbas Elnaser, an Iraqi who arrived in Moria about three weeks ago, said his 8-year-old daughter’s health had always been frail and she was deteriorating quickly in the camp that was built for 3,100 but now houses over 9,000 people.
“She has problems breathing most of the time, she has problems in her lungs,” he said. “The tent is surrounded by garbage.”
In the central Mediterranean, Europe has effectively outsourced sea rescues of migrants to the Libyan coast guard, whose boats have returned 13,000 migrants to Libyan detention centers this year. In some of those centers around the Libyan capital of Tripoli, migrants ended up on the front lines of gunbattles as militias fought for control of the city.
At one point in the fighting, detainees abandoned by their jailers for days broke out of at least one center but ended up caught in gunbattle. A half-dozen people were shot, according to Ibrahim Younis, head of the Libya mission for the aid group Doctors without Borders.
As a Tripoli cease-fire brokered by the UN threatens to fracture, food for the detainees there is dwindling. Libyan officials complain that both they and the migrants have been largely abandoned by Europe. In the Janzour detention center, around 900 people were crammed into a space intended for half that many.
“We have difficulties in providing subsistence, difficulties in providing food, and difficulties in sheltering them,” said 1st Lt. Jamal Hussain. The government, which runs the facility, refused to allow an Associated Press journalist to speak to detainees.
The official number of asylum-seekers and refugees in detention in Libya is around 5,000, but thousands more are believed to be captive in warehouses and other buildings, where there have been widespread reports of slavery, sexual abuse and other atrocities.
This month the UN broke its silence over Europe’s policy of allowing the Libyan coast guard to intercept migrants, saying it was untenable and putting thousands of people at risk of being jailed indefinitely in inhumane conditions. Detailing allegations of torture, sexual abuse, violence and “nightmarish” conditions, the UN refugee agency said Libya doesn’t remotely meet the criteria “as a place of safety.”
In all, around 56,000 refugees and asylum-seekers are registered with the UN in Libya and neighboring Niger, which have accepted millions of euros in exchange for European promises to evaluate a portion for resettlement.
But, critics say, resettlement simply isn’t happening. A total of 657 people had left for resettlement in Europe as of last week, out of 3,886 slots promised over a year ago in 11 European countries and Canada.
Meanwhile, the Libyan and Greek detention centers continue to fill, with migrants and refugees waiting a year or more for a decision in their cases. That, however, suits many anti-immigrant populists in Europe just fine.
“Until the message is made abundantly clear that illegal economic migrants will not be processed, that boats will be turned back, thousands and thousands more sad and desperate lives will be lost in vain, all for your feelings of virtue,” said Nathan Gill, a British member of the European parliament, accusing fellow legislators last week of being soft on immigration. “You’re not really helping people.”
If migrants have made it to the Greek island of Lesbos, they’re already one step ahead of those trapped in Libya. But conditions are hardly better. Raw sewage flows out the main entrance in Moria, garbage piles up outside the containers where igrants sleep.
Luca Fontana, who works for Doctors without Borders in Lesbos, said a quarter of the minors there had either attempted suicide, had suicidal thoughts or were harming themselves.
“Only last week had to suture the wrists of a couple of unaccompanied minors, they tried to cut their veins inside Moria camp,” he said.
Psychiatrist Alessandro Barbero of Doctors without Borders said Moria was as grim as “an old-fashioned mental asylum, not seen in parts of Europe since the mid-twentieth century.”
Any hope of an easy solution to Europe’s immigration dilemma has faded.
Paolo Campana, who has studied the smuggling networks that lead through Libya, believes a solution is only possible if legal migration into Europe opens up at the same time as peace, stability and prosperity emerge in violence-plagued nations like Iraq, Syria, Ethiopia and Eritrea.
“We need to be humanitarian and to be pragmatic,” he said.
As of last week, 73,696 migrants and refugees have entered Europe by sea this year along with over 11,000 land arrivals, compared with 128,993 sea arrivals in 2017 and 298,663 in 2016.
European leaders in June proposed creating centers to process migrants in North Africa but those governments quickly rejected the idea. The EU now is pitching plans of an upgraded border force.
Last week, Austria and Italy’s right-wing interior ministers called for shipboard screenings of migrants on the Mediterranean, raising new questions about whose ships and where — given that Italy has blocked humanitarian groups from docking with migrants rescued at sea, favoring Libyan boats instead.
Trying to tackle the enormous problem at Moria, Greece on Tuesday agreed to transfer 2,000 asylum-seekers from the camp on Lesbos to the mainland this month. The move that can’t come soon enough for the migrants there. Ali Sajjad Faizy, a 19-year-old from Afghanistan, said conditions at Moria have steadily worsened and residents must stand in line “for four or five” hours just to get food.
“It’s completely full,” he said.