MBS: Middle East can be the ‘new Europe’

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, second right, and Bahrain’s Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, second left, attend the Future Investment Initiative conference. (AN photo by Ziyad Alarfaj)
Updated 02 November 2018
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MBS: Middle East can be the ‘new Europe’

  • Crown prince tells Future Investment Initiative forum in Riyadh that he would like to see the economic transformation of the region happen within his lifetime
  • “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in five years will be completely different,” he says

RIYADH: The Middle East can be the “new Europe,” Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said on Wednesday as he vowed to see the region thrive economically. 

The crown prince told a packed audience at the Future Investment Initiative forum in Riyadh that he would like to see the economic transformation of the region happen within his lifetime. 

He said his “war” was restoring the Middle East to its past glory. “I believe the new Europe is the Middle East,” Prince Mohammed said. “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in five years will be completely different.”

The crown prince is driving Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 plan for economic and social reforms. “If we succeed in the coming five years, other countries will join us,” he said. “Even Qatar, despite our differences with it, has a strong economy and it will be completely different in five years.”

The crown prince said Saudi Arabia had already taken “very big steps” to develop its own economy. 

“The numbers speak for themselves,” he said. “Our non-oil revenues have almost tripled.”

Prince Mohammed said the Kingdom would continue with its ambitious Vision 2030 reform plan, predicting the economy will grow by 2.5 percent this year and that growth would improve next year.

He cited Saudi Arabia’s efforts to transform its oil-dependent economy, build more infrastructure, and fight terror. “All our projects are going ahead, reform is going ahead, our war on extremism is going ahead, our war on terrorism is going ahead ... our efforts won’t stop no matter how they try to constrain us,” he said.

Higher crude prices and an expansion of the non-oil economy helped Saudi Arabia’s economy grow in the second quarter at its fastest pace for over a year, according to official data.

The crown prince praised Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, ruler of Dubai, who he said had set the standard for Middle East societies. 

Prince Mohammed was speaking on stage with Bahrain’s Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad and Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri. 

Prince Salman said growth in Saudi Arabia was good for the region as a whole. “Saudi Arabia is the engine of growth in our region and its success will be reflected on us,” he said. 

Hariri spoke of the importance of forming a new government in Lebanon — something he acknowledged will take time. “We are looking forward to forming a government that will meet the needs and expectations of the Lebanese people,” he said. 

Prince Mohammed joked about allegations that Hariri was detained in the Kingdom last year — and said the Lebanese PM would be departing the Kingdom soon. 

“Prime Minister Saad is staying in the Kingdom for two days so I hope you don’t spread rumors that he was kidnapped,” the crown prince said.


Two Saudis among 31 foreigners killed in Easter Day attacks in Sri Lanka

Updated 57 min 24 sec ago
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Two Saudis among 31 foreigners killed in Easter Day attacks in Sri Lanka

  • Mohamed Jafar and Hany Osman, cabin crew with Saudi Arabian Airlines, were in transit and staying at one of the three hotels targeted
  • Saudi Ambassador Abdulnasser Al-Harthi says officials are awaiting the results of DNA tests

COLOMBO: Two Saudis were among 31 foreigners killed in a string of Easter Sunday suicide bombings in Sri Lanka, the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry said on Monday, a day after the devastating attacks on hotels and churches killed at least 290 people and wounded nearly 500.

The extent of the carnage began to emerge as information from government officials, relatives and media reports offered the first details of those who had died. Citizens from at least eight countries, including the United States, were killed, officials said.

Among them were Saudis Mohammed Jafar and Hany Osman. They worked as cabin crew on Saudi Arabian Airlines, and were in transit and staying at one of the three hotels that were hit.

Saudi Ambassador Abdulnasser Al-Harthi said that officials are awaiting the results of DNA tests on the two Saudi victims, and only after these are received will their names be confirmed.

Cabinet spokesman Rajitha Senaratne said the Sri Lankan government believes the vast scale of the attacks, which clearly targeted the minority Christian community and outsiders, suggested the involvement of an international terrorism network.

“We don’t think a small organization can do all that,” he said. “We are now investigating international support for them and their other links — how they produced the suicide bombers and bombs like this.”

The attacks mostly took place during church services or when hotel guests were sitting down to breakfast. In addition to the two Saudis, officials said the foreign victims included one person from Bangladesh, two from China, eight from India, one from France, one from Japan, one from The Netherlands, one from Portugal, one from Spain, two from Turkey, six from the UK, two people with US and UK dual nationalities, and two with Australian and Sri Lankan dual nationalities.

Three of Danish billionaire Anders Holch Povlsen’s four children were among the foreigners who were killed, a spokesman for the family confirmed. Povlsen is the wealthiest man in Denmark, the largest landowner in Scotland and owns the largest share of British online fashion and cosmetics retailer Asos.

Two Turkish engineers working on a project in Sri Lanka also died in the attacks, the English-language Daily Sabah newspaper reported. Turkey’s foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu gave their names as Serhan Selcuk Narici and Yigit Ali Cavus.

Fourteen foreign nationals remain unaccounted for, the Sri Lankan foreign ministry said, adding that they might be among unidentified victims at the Colombo Judicial Medical Officer’s morgue.

Seventeen foreigners injured in the attacks were still being treated at the Colombo National Hospital and a private hospital in the city, while others had been discharged after treatment.