Riyadh, Paris set to explore new horizons of cooperation

The aerial view of Riyadh at night. File/ Reuters
Updated 08 April 2018

Riyadh, Paris set to explore new horizons of cooperation

  • Franco-Saudi cooperation deal to develop Al-Ula, a Saudi city 380 km north of the holy city of Madinah
  • France ranks as the third largest investor in Saudi Arabia
RIYADH: Key regional issues will top the agenda of talks between French President Emmanuel Macron and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who will arrive in Paris late on Sunday.
The two leaders will also explore ways to forge a new strategic partnership, especially in the fields of security, energy, trade and investment.
Mounir Slimani, a spokesman for the French Embassy in Riyadh, told Arab News: “The crown prince will visit France on April 9 and 10, where he will meet with French President Macron and Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, as well as Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian and a few other high-ranking officials.” This will be his first visit to France as heir to the Saudi throne.
Asked about the itinerary of the crown prince in France, the embassy’s spokesman said he “will visit Paris’ start-up hub ‘Station F’ and meet several CEOs of French companies.”
Slimani, quoting a French presidency statement, said: “France wants a new cooperation with the Kingdom, concentrating less on contracts and more on investing in the future, especially in digital and renewable energy, with a common vision.”
He added: “Culture, heritage, tourism, investment and new technology are also on the agenda of discussions of Crown Prince Mohammed and his official delegation.” To this end, it is important to note that a Franco-Saudi cooperation deal to develop Al-Ula, a Saudi city 380 km north of the holy city of Madinah, is likely to be signed during the visit. The city, rich in archaeological remnants, was capital of ancient Lihyanites.
Commenting on the visit of the crown prince to France as part of a multi-nation international tour, Mohammed Al-Khunaizi, a Shoura Council member, said his meeting “with top French leaders and business gentry will support Vision 2030... The focus of the visit is more on expanding cooperation in different areas including defense, security, digital economy, renewable energy and investment ties.”
“In fact, the tour of Crown Prince Mohammed is more focused on security, economy and business,” said Dr. Ibrahim Al-Qayid, a founder member of the Riyadh-based National Society for Human Rights.
He said that the crown prince has lent all his support to “encourage entrepreneurship and foreign investment, and privatize state-owned industries... The crown prince’s support to women with an aim to integrate them into the workforce has started paying dividends.”
On the commercial front, he said, the Kingdom and France have forged closer ties. “France ranks as the third largest investor in Saudi Arabia with its total cumulative investment exceeding $15 billion today,” said Abdulrahman Al-Mehlafi, a financial expert. He further pointed out that more than 80 French companies have a substantial presence in the Kingdom.

Innovative Saudi cultural center showcases world-famous ‘The Scream’ artist’s exhibition

Updated 26 June 2019

Innovative Saudi cultural center showcases world-famous ‘The Scream’ artist’s exhibition

  • 40 works by Edvard Munch go on display for first time in Middle East

DHAHRAN: A dynamic Saudi cultural center is to showcase the works of one of the world’s most famous painters in an exhibition-first for the Middle East.

Forty pieces by Norwegian artist Edvard Munch, best known for his iconic “The Scream” painting, will go on public display at the King Abdul Aziz Center for World Culture (Ithra).

The special exhibition, titled “Landscapes of the Soul,” is the latest in a series of high-profile cultural events to be staged at the showpiece exhibition in Dhahran.

Developed by Saudi Aramco with the aim of stimulating knowledge, creativity and cross-cultural engagement, Ithra’s theater, museum, exhibition hall and art gallery complex forms a key part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plan to promote culture and entertainment.

The Munch exhibition, which runs until Sept. 3, portrays the artist’s personal life experiences of misery, love, despair, loneliness and reflections of the soul, through his distinctive works.

“It is such an honor to host and introduce to Saudi Arabia, and indeed, the Middle East, the work of the world-renowned artist Edvard Munch,” Rania Biltagi, Ithra’s head of communications and partnership, told Arab News.

Munch’s (1863-1944) original exhibition has been located in Oslo, Norway since 1963, and the Saudi display is being staged in Ithra’s Great Hall in partnership with the Munch Museum in Norway.

As well as a lithograph version of his most famous painting “The Scream,” other works on show will include “Summer Night. The Voice,” 1894, “Self-Portrait,” 1895, and “The Sick Child,” 1896.

“A moment that stood out from the opening was when speaking to a couple visiting the exhibit, they mentioned that they were Norwegian and working in Saudi,” Biltagi said. “They explained that they had never had the chance to visit the Munch Museum in their homeland and what an unexpected pleasure it was to be able to see Munch’s work in Saudi.”

Biltagi added that the event epitomized the aim of Ithra in providing a platform to bring together cultures as well as people.

The center, featured in Time magazine’s list of the world’s top 100 places to visit, is a pioneer on the Kingdom’s culture and arts scene, organizing a variety of events, performances, programs and experiences to suit all ages and backgrounds. Previous exhibitions have included a focus on Saudi contemporary art, Leonardo da Vinci, and installations symbolizing creativity and innovation.