Saudi Arabia welcomes US withdrawal from Iran nuclear deal

Trump announced the US will pull out of the landmark nuclear accord with Iran. (AP)
Updated 09 May 2018
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Saudi Arabia welcomes US withdrawal from Iran nuclear deal

  • Saudi Arabia: The Iranian regime took advantage of the economic benefits afforded by the lifting of sanctions and used them to continue its destabilizing activities in the region
  • The Kingdom reaffirms its support of the strategy previously announced by President Trump towards Iran

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia welcomed the announcement on Tuesday by President Donald Trump that the United States is withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal. The government said it also supports the reinstatement of economic sanctions on the Iranian regime, which were suspended under the agreement.

The Kingdom’s previous support for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — signed in 2015 by Iran and the P5+1 group of countries China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States and Germany — was based, it said, on the conviction that all possible steps must be taken that might help to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, and the wider world.

“The Iranian regime however, took advantage of the economic benefits afforded by the lifting of sanctions,” the government said in a statement released by Saudi Press Agency, “and used them to continue its destabilizing activities in the region, especially by developing its ballistic missiles and supporting terrorist organizations in the region, including Hezbollah and the Houthi militias.” It said the groups used these capabilities, provided by Iran, to target civilians in the Kingdom and Yemen, “as well as repeatedly targeting international shipping lanes in a blatant violation of UN Security Council resolutions.”

The statement continued: “The Kingdom reaffirms its support of the strategy previously announced by President Trump towards Iran, and hopes the international community will take a firm and unified stance against the Iranian regime, and its destabilizing aggression in the region, its support to terrorist groups, particularly Hezbollah and the Houthi militias, and its support of the Assad regime — which has committed heinous crimes against its people that led to the death of more than half a million civilians, including through the use of chemical weapons.”

It concluded: “Based on this position, the Kingdom asserts its commitment to work with its partners in the United States and the international community to reach the goals announced by President Trump, and the necessity to address the dangers posed by the policies of Iran on international peace and security through a holistic approach that is not limited to its nuclear program, but addresses its hostile activities, including Iran's interference in the internal affairs of countries in the region, its support of terrorism, and to prevent Iran from ever possessing weapons of mass destruction.”


Brother of Saudi student missing in the Philippines laments ‘weak’ search effort

Updated 8 min 31 sec ago
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Brother of Saudi student missing in the Philippines laments ‘weak’ search effort

JEDDAH, ISLAMABAD: The brother of a Saudi aviation student, who went missing over a week ago while on a training flight in the Philippines, on Sunday criticized the government for its “very weak” search efforts and the Saudi Embassy in Manila for its lack of help.
Abdullah Khalid Al-Sharif, a 23-year-old student at the Orient Flying School, was on a training flight on May 17 in Occidental Mindoro province when contact was lost with his plane. His flying instructor, Capt. Jose Nelson Yapparcon, is also missing.
The Philippine Navy told Arab News that the BE55, a light twin-engine aircraft, was believed to have crashed in the San Jose Strait, about 42 km from the nearest shoreline.
“There are efforts made by the Philippine government but they are very weak,” Abdul Majeed Al-Sharif, Abdullah’s older brother, told Arab News. “No cooperation from the (Saudi) embassy.”
“Still searching through our personal efforts. My uncle, my elder brother and my cousin … We brought, by our own efforts, a sonar to search under the water. We needed the embassy’s efforts to facilitate our work with the authorities, but they didn’t help unfortunately.”
A civil aviation authority spokesman, Eric Apolonio, said the flying school had hired two private divers, two technicians and sonar equipment to continue the search operation.
The Saudi embassy said on Sunday it had set up a team that was working around the clock with Philippine authorities to find the missing trainee and his instructor.
“The Saudi Foreign Ministry constantly follows up with the embassy on the search for the student,” the statement said. “We will continue to make efforts to search for him in coordination with the Philippine Interior Ministry, the Defense Ministry, the civil aviation authority and other agencies.”
Philippine Navy fleet commander Rear Admiral Giovanni Carlo Bacordo said the supposed crash site, based on the aircraft’s last known location, was about 42 km from the nearest shoreline with depth of waters in the area exceeding 600 feet, beyond the capacity of technical divers and equipment.
“You can’t do any salvage operations with our equipment given the depth of the waters in the area,” Bacordo told Arab News, saying the side-scan sonar being used by the navy could only penetrate up to about 180 feet. “It’s also beyond the capacity of our technical divers, who can only go as far as 100 to 300 feet.”

Previous search operations conducted by the navy, along with the Philippine Coast Guard immediately after the crash, have failed to yield results.
Apolonio said the Orient Flying School had hired a sonar with a greater capacity than the equipment used by the navy.
“It can detect more than the expected depth of the area,” he told Arab News, and the (Orient Flying School) operators already coordinated with the navy in the area so they can start new search operations.”
But weather conditions in the area were also hampering the search effort, he added, and the search area may have to be expanded because of the undercurrent.
Apolonio also confirmed that the plane had been involved in a previous accident, in Palawan province in July 2015, but that as far as he knew the aircraft had passed all safety protocols before the May 17 flight.
“We have safety procedures and a checklist and it (aircraft) passed all these. It has been used as a trainer aircraft for years now,” he said, adding that the possibility that the aircraft had developed a problem could not be ruled out.
The spokesman said a statement about the pair would be released only after they were found.
“As of now, we can’t announce what really happened,” he said, adding that the aviation authority was closely communicating with Saudi Arabia’s diplomatic mission in the Philippines.
The Al-Arabiya news website reported Al-Sharif as saying that he believed his brother and the instructor were still alive.
Al-Sharif said a friend of his in the Kingdom had called his missing brother’s number on Saturday several times and that a stranger had answered the call on the fourth time.  
It was a five-minute call with a Filipino, according to the Al-Arabiya report.
“My friend did not understand what she was saying, she was talking loudly. After asking her if she can speak in English, she answered yes, then the call was cut off.” Al-Sharif said his friend called again, but the mobile was switched off.
Al-Sharif also said a fisherman had found a bag containing the instructor’s identity card, bank cards and pictures but that none of his brother’s belongings were found. He said his brother may have been kidnapped.
Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to the Philippines Dr. Abdullah bin Nasser Al-Busairi said the embassy knew about the call. “We have handled it delicately. We sent all the information to security services for site monitoring, and we confirm that the embassy and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Saudi Arabia are very interested and concerned with following the details of the case,” Al-Arabiya reported the ambassador as saying.
The ambassador also denied the embassy had been unhelpful. The lack of publicity was at the request of the family, who did not want to talk to the media, he told Al-Arabiya.