Saudi crown prince woos US media with promises of reform

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman holds talks with the White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner on Wednesday. (SPA)
Updated 22 September 2018
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Saudi crown prince woos US media with promises of reform

WASHINGTON: Photos of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Donald Trump meeting at the White House were published on the front pages of The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, in what some commentators saw as a public relations coup for Saudi Arabia.
The New York Times headlined its story: “Saudi Prince’s White House Visit Reinforces Trump’s Commitment to Heir Apparent.”
The crown prince has dominated a significant amount of the capital’s attention this week and the glowing headlines would have been warmly welcomed by the Kingdom’s officials.
“The early judgment appears to be that US opinion hopes that MBS’s social and economic reforms will succeed, for the benefit of the Kingdom and the wider Middle East,” said Simon Henderson, director of the Gulf and energy policy program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Trump was effusive in his welcome of the Saudi royal, in remarks that received wide press coverage in the US.
The US president hailed the US-Saudi relationship as “probably the strongest it has ever been.”
“We understand each other,” Trump told reporters. “Saudi Arabia is a very wealthy nation, and they’re going to give the United States some of that wealth, hopefully, in the form of jobs, in the form of the purchase of the finest military equipment anywhere in the world.”
The US public has been suspicious of Saudi Arabia, largely since the attacks of 9/11. In reality, the two countries have long been allies, and working in close cooperation on issues of security and economics.
The Kingdom has been trying to remake its public image in the United States to reflect that fact.
Dov Zakheim, board director at the Atlantic Council, a leading US think tank, said Saudi Arabia would be delighted with the coverage.
“All of this is a clear public relations victory for Saudi and for MBS,” he said.
Zakheim cited an interview with the crown prince on the CBS flagship “60 Minutes” show on Sunday. The show, known for its critical and hard-hitting investigations, gave a highly favorable portrayal.
“There is a change there. It’s not a major change, but it’s enough of a change for American policymakers to feel comfortable doing what America has been doing for years, which is cooperating (with Saudi Arabia),” Zakheim said.
Trump and the crown prince held talks in Washington on Tuesday. Appearing together before the press, Trump talked at length about arms sales and business deals between Saudi and the US, which he said would create jobs for American workers.
The crown prince seemed relaxed and happy as he and the US president fielded questions from the media in a televised appearance.
“The optics are all good,” said Jim Smith, a former US ambassador to Saudi Arabia under President Barack Obama.
But he expressed concern that Trump’s preoccupation with weapons deals was not the best way for the US to support Saudi reform efforts.
“All the White House wanted to talk about was defense sales and the political message of jobs in the US,” he said.
On Tuesday evening, the crown prince had dinner with Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, together with Michael Bell, a senior National Security Council official, and Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s Middle East peace envoy.
They talked about Trump’s hopes to start a new Middle East peace process. Experts agree there is little appetite among the Israelis and Palestinians for talks on terms set by the Trump administration.
Public relations successes aside, confusion remained about the exact outcome of the US-Saudi talks within the US foreign policy establishment and among Middle East watchers in the US capital.
“How does one measure success in Washington? The meeting with President Trump appeared to go well, but the president is fickle,” Henderson, of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said in an emailed response to questions from the Arab News.


Saudi Arabia’s up-and-coming energy park set to transform KSA into a global industrial powerhouse

Situated in the Kingdom’s Eastern Province, between Dammam and Al-Ahsa, the project will be developed in three phases. (Supplied)
Updated 12 December 2018
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Saudi Arabia’s up-and-coming energy park set to transform KSA into a global industrial powerhouse

  • The first phase is scheduled for completion by 2021
  • SPARK will localize more than 300 new industrial services and facilities and will have specialized training centers to cater to the huge influx of manpower

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia is fast catching up with the world’s ever-growing energy and technology scene ahead of 2030. In fact, the King Salman Energy Park (SPARK) may soon prove a global destination for energy industry investors.

The new energy city mega-project is being developed by Saudi Aramco, which received authoritization to embark on the initiative in the summer, and is operated, managed and maintained in partnership with the Saudi Authority for Industrial Cities and Technology Zones (MODON). 

With projections that the megacity will create more than 100,000 jobs, it is considered one of the most up-and-coming energy parks in the world.

SPARK will localize more than 300 new industrial services and facilities and will have specialized training centers to cater to the huge influx of manpower.

Situated in the Kingdom’s Eastern Province, between Dammam and Al-Ahsa, the project will be developed in three phases. 

The first phase is scheduled for completion by 2021, while the final phase of the project is set for completion in 2035. With all this on track, the 50-square-kilometer project is poised to be a magnet for foreign and domestic investment. 

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman inaugurated the King Salman Energy Park at the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) on Monday. (SPA)

What’s more, Aramco’s espousal of SPARK will also help businesses indulge in technological development, manufacturing and exports channels and build a world-class energy supply chain. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman inaugurated the King Salman Energy Park at the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) on Monday.

During the groundbreaking ceremony, Energy Minister and Aramco Chairman Khalid Al-Falih declared SPARK a special economic zone (SEZ) in which businesses can enjoy exclusive benefits. 

“We are looking forward to collaborating with our first anchor partners at SPARK,” said Saudi Aramco President and CEO, Amin Nasser.

SPARK has already attracted investment from foreign and local companies to produce and manufacture goods and services. The first phase of the project is expected to cost about $1.6 billion. 

The park is set to attract industrial investors in the water, power, petrochemical and wastewater sectors, among others. 

Facilities at SPARK will also help investors bridge gaps in local production back home, increasing competition in the long run. 

“This energy city is exciting because it brings together a multitude of businesses,” Mark McCollum, president and CEO of Weatherford Corp, told SPARK.

“We firmly believe that collaboration and cooperation among service companies and individual providers to the energy sector is vital in breaking new ground.”

The King Salman Energy Park is also set to promote small and medium-sized enterprises. With focus on energy production, it also provides opportunities for investment in residential and commercial real estate projects.

Nasser said that the “King Salman Energy Park will spur a new era of growth for one of the Kingdom’s already thriving sectors. What’s more, it will serve as a central gateway to the region’s economies since Aramco is at the heart of the global oil and gas industry.”