Islamic scholars plead for Afghanistan peace, stability

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King Salman has praised the efforts of Muslim scholars taking part in an Afghanistan peace conference in Saudi Arabia. (SPA)
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King Salman has praised the efforts of Muslim scholars taking part in an Afghanistan peace conference in Saudi Arabia. (SPA)
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King Salman has praised the efforts of Muslim scholars taking part in an Afghanistan peace conference in Saudi Arabia. (SPA)
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King Salman has praised the efforts of Muslim scholars taking part in an Afghanistan peace conference in Saudi Arabia. (SPA)
Updated 11 July 2018
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Islamic scholars plead for Afghanistan peace, stability

  • King Salman has praised the efforts of Muslim scholars taking part in an Afghanistan peace conference in Saudi Arabia
  • The king received a delegation of the scholars on Wednesday at his palace in Jeddah

MAKKAH: King Salman received a delegation of Muslim scholars participating in the International Ulema Conference on Peace and Security in Afghanistan, at Al-Salam Palace in Jeddah on Wednesday.

King Salman commended the scholars’ efforts and those of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in holding the conference.

“No one is more eligible then you to serve Islam and Muslims, unite their words, reunify them, and eradicate wars and crises, and the scourges of extremism and terrorism from the Islamic world,” he said. 

“We feel today very optimistic that your efforts will contribute to opening a new page in Afghanistan, to achieve the aspirations of the Afghan people of security and stability. This requires dialogue, reconciliation and tolerance as dictated by our Islamic religion,” King Salman said.

OIC Secretary-General Dr. Yousef bin Ahmed Al-Othaimeen said: “More than 100 Muslim scholars from around the world have gathered for the sake of this ancient Islamic country, which has suffered and is still suffering from the scourge of war, murder, terrorism and division, to evoke the concept of reconciliation in Islam and to come up with a united stance to address the fallout of the Afghan crisis.” 

Al-Othaimeen said that the conference provided a platform for scholars to discuss the crisis from a legitimate perspective to achieve security, peace and reconciliation between the various parts of Afghan society through dialogue, transcending wounds and renouncing all forms of violence, extremism and terrorism incompatible with Islamic religion. 

“The conference will end by unanimously adopting the Makkah Declaration on the consolidation of peace and stability in Afghanistan, a solution emanating from the teachings of Islam and its people,” he said.

He underlined King Salman’s drive to unify ranks, establish peace and achieve security and peace in the Islamic world and in Afghanistan in particular. 

“This is reflected through his support for the truce reached during the Eid Al-Fitr and his appeal to the parties to respond to the call for truce and extend it to stop shedding the blood of innocents and paving the way for a peaceful dialogue,” he said.

Meanwhile, the two-day conference concluded in Makkah with Muslim scholars outlawing the killing of innocent people.

The final declaration stressed that what was happening in Afghanistan was contrary to the principles and formal teachings of Islam.

“The solution to the cause of the Muslim Afghani must particularly go through mutual understanding and direct peaceful negotiations,” read the closing declaration.

Al-Othaimeen said: “We hereby call on Muslim states, organizations and elites to join efforts and pull their weight toward the establishment of peace and security in Afghanistan, using all their potential and influence toward this goal to ensure a peaceful and decent life where Muslims cooperate toward developing their nation in harmony.”

“We affirm that the suicide attacks targeting innocent people, and internecine killings among Muslims, are all acts that are prohibited by Allah and His Messenger under texts that are conclusively clear and well-established, whereby Allah says ‘And whoever kills a believer intentionally, his punishment is hell; he shall abide in it, and Allah will send His wrath on him and curse him and prepare for him a painful chastisement.”

“We endorse and support the efforts of the Afghani scholars toward a successful Afghani reconciliation. We pay tribute to the efforts by the President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Dr. Mohamed Ashraf Ghani, and praise him for his invitation to the Taliban Movement to engage in a direct, peaceful and unconditional dialogue, and for his recognition of the Movement as a political party whose goal shall be the predominance of security in Afghanistan,” he said.

Muslims scholars called on the Taliban Movement to respond to the invitation by the Afghanistan government to abstain from violence, end the mutual killings and sit together around the negotiating table.

Abdullah Al-Tayer, chief adviser to the OIC, told Arab News that the conference was based on a recommendation by the Council of Foreign Ministers in the Islamic countries, and the declaration would be forwarded to them to discuss during their meeting in the UAE. “The council will then submit the declaration and its recommendations to the Islamic summit to decide what will be next,” he said.

Sayed Jalal Karim, Afghan ambassador to Saudi Arabia, told Arab News that the declaration was balanced, calling on all parties to bear responsibility. 


Departing British envoy ‘hugely optimistic’ about Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030

Updated 13 min 5 sec ago
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Departing British envoy ‘hugely optimistic’ about Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030

  • Outgoing British Consul General Barrie Peach will remember the beaches, the historic sites ... and the delicious seafood
  • Peach offers valid reasons for optimism that Saudi Arabia's ambitious Vision 2030 project will be a success

JEDDAH: British Consul General Barrie Peach has reached the end of his third posting in Saudi Arabia. His two years as Consul General in Jeddah — preceded by three years in Riyadh — ends in September.

As he prepares to continue his diplomatic career elsewhere, Peach sat down for an interview with Arab News to reflect on his time in the Kingdom and the optimism he feels for its future in light of Vision 2030. It was, he pointed out, an apt final interview.

“When I first arrived in Saudi Arabia, my first job was in charge of communications, so I was the press officer,” Peach said. “So, I’ve had a very long relationship with Arab News. In fact, the very first time I was interviewed by a newspaper was by Arab News in 2003.”

As Peach explained, it was no surprise that he came to work in the Middle East as a diplomat. 

“I studied Arabic in Scotland and in Lebanon, so I guess the foreign office was a logical choice,” he said. “I’ve been with the Foreign Ministry since the year 2000. Since then, I have worked in a number of Arab countries. I suppose as a diplomat I’m slightly unusual in that I’m coming to the end of my third posting in Saudi Arabia. Most commonly, diplomats will go to a country once in their career, maybe twice at most. In addition to that, I’ve also served in Qatar, Iraq, Algeria, and Libya.”

Peach was already well versed in both the language and customs of Saudi Arabia when he became consul general in Jeddah, having worked in the Kingdom for many years. “I have spent more of my adult life in Saudi Arabia than I have in the UK. So, I guess I really do consider myself in many ways to be part of the fabric of Saudi society,” he said. “I’ve lived here through many changes, many experiences, and I’ve always found Saudi Arabia to be a very warm and welcoming place that I’ve very much enjoyed living in.”



Peach cited the consulate’s coordination with Saudi authorities to provide British pilgrims with security and hospitality during their travels to Makkah as one of the highlights of his time in Jeddah.

“I would say one of the most important functions that our consulate has carried out has been our care toward British pilgrims. When I speak to my Saudi friends and colleagues, they are often surprised at just how many British Muslims visit Saudi Arabia each year. This past year, we’ve had around 130,000 pilgrims visit, including, most recently, 26,000 pilgrims for Hajj. As you know, for many people, this is one of the most important journeys of their lives, and we are ready to help them if — God forbid — they get into any trouble. We are very grateful to the Saudi authorities for the huge efforts that they make in facilitating the pilgrims with safety, security, and tranquility. Thankfully, the vast majority of visits have been trouble free.”

As consul general, Peach has witnessed first-hand the progressive reforms that the Kingdom is going through, and offers valid reason for optimism that the ambitious Vision 2030 project will be a success.

“An important role of the consul general is to promote trade between our two nations, and I’m delighted to say that over the past year we have increased mutual trade between businesses in Saudi Arabia and the UK. We’re expanding into new areas, so we’re mapping our work onto Vision 2030, following the creation of a Strategic Partnership Council as a result of the Crown Prince’s visit to the UK earlier this year,” he said.

“So, we’re looking for opportunities in new areas such as the creative sector, which we see Saudi Arabia is opening up to, not forgetting the more traditional areas where we have longstanding relationships — commerce and manufacturing.

“I’m hugely optimistic about the future of Saudi Arabia. It’s a country that has been blessed with many resources. The oil has been a blessing, the pilgrimage has been hosted here for centuries, and I know under Vision 2030 there are plans to significantly increase the number of pilgrims — which I’m sure will be very successful.” Peach also believes that the Kingdom’s tourism drive has great potential, describing it as “one of the most exciting things” about Vision 2030.

“I’ve lived in Saudi Arabia for over nine years, and I’ve been very fortunate to visit most of the country. It’s an amazing country from the mountains in the North, to the greener lusher mountains of the South, and world-class beaches along the Red Sea. I’m hugely optimistic that, in the future, tourists from around the world will get to experience the Kingdom that I’ve seen. Saudi Arabia has a very young population, and that means a very creative, dynamic population who want to change things and who want to work hard.”

While he may be leaving his official post in the Kingdom, Peach said the country’s natural beauty will certainly lure him back for frequent visits in the future.

“Jeddah will always be a special place for me,” he said. “It’s the first place where I’ve held the head post, and there are certainly unique responsibilities that go along with that. It’s been a very important place for my professional development, but also a place that I’ve been very much made to feel at home. I’ve found the people to be very open, friendly, warm and welcoming. I’ve built up many new friendships and partnerships and I’m sure those relationships will endure. In the years to come, I’m sure I’ll be a regular visitor to the Kingdom.

British envoy Barrie Peach with Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)

“Jeddah is perhaps the most familiar environment to me as I enjoy spending time at the beach, the Red Sea, and eating some great fish. Some of my more memorable experiences though, are from my time in Riyadh, from camping in the desert to eating some of the more interesting foods that we might not be so familiar with in the West. I will always miss my jareesh (a Saudi dish). 

“Al-Ula in Mada’in Saleh is, without a doubt, one of the most spectacular places that I’ve ever visited — a mixture of beautiful natural landscape, desert mountains, and ancient civilization. When I’ve been there in the past, there were so few tourists, unlike — for example — the Nabatean ruins in Jordan, where you’re there with thousands of people. It was actually a really special experience to be at Al-Ula and almost completely alone. I also had the pleasure of organizing the visit of the Prince of Wales to Mada’in Saleh a few years ago, which was quite a unique experience.” 

“A career in foreign service is a uniquely rewarding experience. It has given me the opportunity to travel to places I might not have otherwise visited,” he said. 

“To have been able to travel and experience new cultures and languages, for me, has been the most rewarding part of my career in the foreign office. My advice to anybody who might enjoy that kind of lifestyle would be that a career in diplomacy is an excellent way forward.” 

As Saudi Arabia and Great Britain usher in a new chapter of diplomacy, the departing consul general made sure to welcome his successor.

“I would like to wish him the very best of luck during his time as consul general. For me, he has one of the best jobs in foreign service. I hope that he will very much enjoy it. He’s arriving here at a very interesting time of change, and a change that the UK is very happy to be part of to help and support,” he said. 

And finally, what’s next for the outgoing consul general? Peach kept it short and sweet. “A very long holiday,” he said with a laugh.