Saudi Arabia, US share ‘identical views’ on regional issues — Saudi FM

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir shakes hands with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a joint press briefing at the Royal airport in the capital Riyadh. (AFP)
Updated 29 April 2018
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Saudi Arabia, US share ‘identical views’ on regional issues — Saudi FM

  • Saudi Arabia stresses the deep and strategic relations with the US and the shared mutual interests in several fields
  • The meetings highlighted the common views between the two sides in several issues and the desire to intensify joint efforts to tackle the issues in the region

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir stressed the deep and strategic relations between the Kingdom and the United States and the shared mutual interests in several fields, particularly security, military, commercial, social, and educational fields.
Al-Jubeir was speaking at a joint press conference with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Riyadh, stressing that the bilateral meetings that were held within the framework of his visit to the Middle East, were positive, constructive, and fruitful.
During the meeting, the pair reviewed bilateral relations and ways of enhancing them in all fields. They also discussed the challenges in the region, including the situations in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, as well as Iran’s negative interventions in the region, the crisis in Yemen, supporting the five countries in the African Sahel Region, and ways of dealing with the Libyan crisis. 
The Saudi Foreign Minister said the meetings highlighted the two sides “identical viewpoints” regarding several issues and the desire to intensify mutual efforts to to “enhance Iran’s Nuclear Deal” and tackle the issues of the region.
“We look forward to working with the Secretary of State in the future for the interests of the two friendly countries,” said Al-Jubeir.
Regarding Iran, Minister Al-Jubeir noted: “We said in the past that the Kingdom supports the policy of President Donald Trump and the efforts to improve the Iranian nuclear agreement, and we believe that it must have a limit to the quantity of uranium enrichment, it should be eliminated permanently and we believe monitoring Iran’s nuclear sites must be intensified.”
He added: “We believe that the Iranian problem must be dealt with by imposing further sanctions on Iran for violating international resolutions on ballistic missiles, supporting terrorism and for intervening in the affairs of the countries of the region.” 
For his part, Pompeo stressed the Kingdom is a key partner and long-time friend of the US and their bilateral partnership is growing to serve the common interests.
The US official thanked King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for their generous hospitality, saying: “I have had the opportunity to work closely with Saudi Arabian leaders for years, and I look forward to the constructive work as United States Secretary of State.”
The Secretary of State praised the outcomes of the Saudi Crown Prince’s visit to the US the last month, his welcome by Trump and his meetings with many administration’s leaders.
During his visit to Riyadh, which is the first leg of a Middle East tour, and talks with Mohammed bin Salman, Pompeo said topics related to Iran, Syria, and Yemen were discussed, as well as relations with Gulf countries.
He said the “Saudi Arabia’s security is a priority for the US and we will continue to work closely with our Saudi partners to counter threats to this country’s security.” 
“That, of course, starts with Iran. Iran destabilizes this entire region. It supports proxy militias and terrorist groups. It arms – it is an arms dealer to the Houthi rebels in Yemen, and Iran conducts cyberhacking campaigns. It supports the murderous Assad regime as well,” he added.
Pompeo also said: “Unlike the prior administration, we will not neglect the vast scope of Iran’s terrorism. It is indeed the greatest sponsor of terrorism in the world, and we are determined to make sure it never possesses a nuclear weapon. The Iran deal in its current form does not provide that assurance. 
“We will continue to work with our European allies to fix that deal, but if a deal cannot be reached, the President has said that he will leave that deal,” he stated.
Pompeo went on to say that the nuclear agreement has failed to moderate the regime’s conduct in many other areas, noting that “Iran has only behaved worse since the deal was approved,” as it has been supporting Houthi rebels in Yemen by providing military equipment, training and funding.
He described this as a violation of Iran’s commitments to the UN Security Council resolutions, also referring to the Houthi’s continued targeting of the Kingdom and the navigation routes in the Red Sea with ballistic missiles. However, he insisted a political solution was the only way to advance long-term stability in Yemen and end the suffering.
The Secretary of State also said there was an agreement to support the efforts of the new UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, and push for a lasting political solution to end the civil war and address the deteriorating security situation, pointing out that Al-Qaeda and Daesh took advantage of the long political and security vacuum left by this conflict.
He said: “The visit of President Trump to Saudi Arabia was historic. He attended the opening of the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology (ETIDAL),” indicating that Muslim-majority countries should head the fight against extremism and violence.
“If we’re going to conquer extremism and defeat the forces of terrorism together, I know that Saudi Arabia will be at the front of it. We all must honestly confront the crisis of Islamist extremism and the Islamist terror groups it inspires,” he declared.
He stressed his country’s readiness to stand with the Kingdom in its pursuit of common interests and bilateral security, noting that Vision 2030 and the reform agenda were inspiring initiatives that promote tolerance, respect, economic development and women empowerment.
Concluding, Pompeo stressed strong US support for promoting common economic and security interests and emphasized the necessity of Gulf unity to ensure regional security.
On Friday at a NATO foreign ministers meeting in Brussels, the first stop on his trip, Pompeo repeated Trump’s pledge to withdraw from the Iran deal unless it is significantly strengthened. He said the US was “unlikely” to stay in if that was not done.
“Absent a substantial fix, absent overcoming the shortcomings, the flaws of the deal, he is unlikely to stay in that deal past this May,” Pompeo said.
Also looming over the trip is uncertainty over Trump’s policy on Syria, which has shifted between a speedy all-out withdrawal of American forces and leaving a lasting footprint to deter Iran from completing a land bridge from Tehran to Beirut.
Pompeo also is taking a leading role in President Donald Trump’s preparations for an expected summit in May or early June with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Pompeo, while en route to Israel, was asked whether a US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal would complicate negotiations
“I don’t think Kim Jung Un is staring at the Iran deal and saying, ‘Oh goodness, if they get out of that deal, I won’t talk to the Americans anymore. There are higher priorities, things he is more concerned about than whether the Americans stay” in the accord, Pompeo said.


How Saudi women are getting ahead of men as STEM graduates

Dr. Fatima Alakeel, cybersecurity expert. (AN photo)
Updated 20 March 2019
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How Saudi women are getting ahead of men as STEM graduates

  • ‘Securing a job after the degree remains the challenge,’ says Dr. Fatema Alakeel of King Saud University in Riyadh
  • ‘Saudi women are ambitious,’ says one graduate. ‘We are acquiring high degrees and seeking successful careers’

DUBAI: More and more girls in Saudi Arabia are opting for an education in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), and now the challenge is finding them employment, said Dr. Fatima Alakeel, a cybersecurity expert and faculty member at King Saud University (KSU) in Riyadh.
“In the Kingdom, STEM-related jobs are limited at the moment, as the economy is primarily oil-based and there are few technical jobs available,” said Alakeel, who is also the founder and CEO of the non-profit Confidentiality, Integrity & Availability Group (CIAG), which focuses on information security training and research in Riyadh.
According to a government report on the labor market situation in the third quarter of 2018, more than 30 percent of Saudi women aged between 15 and 65 are unemployed.
Among them, the highest rate of unemployment is among 20-24-year-olds (more than 70 percent) and among 25-29-year-olds (55 percent).
According to the report, there are 923,504 Saudi jobseekers, of whom 765,378 are women (82.2 percent).
“We have more girls in STEM education compared to Western countries,” said Alakeel, who completed her doctoral degree in computer science in the UK at the University of Southampton in 2017.
According to a report prepared by the Saudi Education Ministry, girls accounted for 57 percent of undergraduates for the year 2015-2016 in the Kingdom.
That same year, women outnumbered men in graduating with a bachelor’s in biology, information technology (IT), mathematics and statistics, and physics.
According to a survey Alakeel recently conducted on social media, “almost 80 percent of (Saudi) girls were keen to study STEM, but securing a job after the degree remains the challenge,” she said.
Maha Al-Taleb, 22, graduated earlier this year with a degree in technology from KSU, specializing in IT networks and security.
“It’s common for girls in the Kingdom to opt for STEM education,” said Al-Taleb, who now works in a public sector company in Riyadh as a junior information security analyst.
“Saudi women are ambitious. We’re acquiring high degrees and seeking successful careers. I don’t know why the world assumes that Saudi women are a backward tribal species who have no say in these matters. This entire perception is flawed.”
Al-Taleb got a job offer immediately after university, but realizes that not all her peers are as fortunate. Women “are facing problems in securing jobs, not because companies don’t want to hire us, but because employment for Saudi youths is a major challenge,” she said.
“In today’s Saudi Arabia, parents are encouraging their daughters to get a degree not just in the Kingdom; they also want them to go to Western universities. It has become a common phenomenon. Things have changed. Women are a crucial part of the nation’s development process.”
Not all women graduating in the Kingdom are as lucky, among them Razan Al-Qahtani. “It has been several months since I graduated, yet I haven’t been able to find a job. It has been a struggle so far,” said the 25-year-old IT graduate. “We have more talented and qualified girls, especially in the field of technology, but there are few jobs available. It’s a difficult situation, but we’re hopeful things will change very soon.”
Al-Qahtani expressed confidence that the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plan will bring opportunities for qualified Saudis.
As part of Vision 2030, the government has committed to raise employment among Saudi women.
Alakeel said the government is working hard to find a solution, and it is only a matter of time until more such jobs are on offer.
“As per Vision 2030, there will be more jobs, including technical jobs, available in the country. Once we have more jobs, women will eventually get their due share,” she added. According to Alakeel, female empowerment and promotion to leading roles have made huge progress in Saudi Arabia, and this may affect existing STEM job opportunities.
“We’re glad to see Her Royal Highness Princess Reema bint Bandar Al-Saud becoming the first female ambassador of the country. It only suggests change is on the way,” Alakeel said.
Al-Taleb expressed pride in the way her parents have supported her, saying: “My father isn’t educated and my mother has basic literacy, but both provided me with the education I desired. They want their daughters to be as successful as their sons.”
Like women in any country, the transition from university to the workplace is not always easy, even for young Saudi women with technology degrees. Yet they are not losing hope.
“We realize these are difficult times in terms of employment, especially in technology-related fields, but things will change,” Al-Taleb said. “Saudi women will soon be ruling the fields of STEM all over the country.”