British delegation praises help for Hajj pilgrims

From Left: Deputy Minister of Hajj and Umrah, Dr. Hussein Al-Sharif; Seif Usher, British consul general; Lord Qurban Hussain, vice chair of the APPG; MP Yasmin Qureshi; and Rashid Mogradia, CEO of CBHUK, during the event in Jeddah. (Photo supplied)
Updated 04 December 2018

British delegation praises help for Hajj pilgrims

  • British Consul General Seif Usher hosted a UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hajj and Umrah at the British Consulate in Jeddah
  • The parliamentary group was led by MP Yasmin Qureshi and Lord Qurban Hussain

JEDDAH: British Consul General Seif Usher hosted a UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hajj and Umrah at the British Consulate in Jeddah.

At a reception to welcome the group on Sunday, Usher said that the British government was committed to providing the best possible consular service to pilgrims visiting Saudi Arabia each year.

“The British consular team works year round to ensure that British pilgrims have a peaceful and trouble-free pilgrimage,” he said.

The parliamentary group was led by MP Yasmin Qureshi and Lord Qurban Hussain.

Usher also extended a welcome to the Deputy Minister of Hajj and Umrah for Hajj Affairs Dr. Hussein Al-Sharif.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank Rashid Mogradia, CEO of the Council of British Hajjis, and all the other organizations and tour operators for their efforts to support British pilgrims,” the envoy said. 

Qureshi said: “I would like to thank Seif Usher for hosting the cross-party group in Jeddah. It is important that we understand the issues facing British pilgrims on the ground when they are on Hajj and Umrah, and work closely with the British consulate and the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah to address any issues so that people have a positive experience.” 

Hussain highlighted the challenges, such as travel fraud, facing the UK Hajj and Umrah industry. He welcomed advances in technology to help pilgrims in line with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reforms.

Rashid Mogradia, CEO of the Council of British Hajjis, highlighted the work of the charity and the parliamentary group in educating pilgrims when booking a pilgrimage package.

Recent annual Hajj awards held at the Intercontinental Park Lane London had brought a positive outlook to the Hajj and Umrah sector, he said. 

Al-Sharif accepted the award for the ministry’s eHajj system. The British consulate in Jeddah collected the best UK public sector award for services to British pilgrims.

Arab coalition working to protect region’s security, says spokesman

Coalition spokesman Col. Turki Al-Maliki at a press briefing. (SPA file photo)
Updated 19 March 2019

Arab coalition working to protect region’s security, says spokesman

  • Houthis want to disturb peace, says coalition spokesman
  • Stockholm peace agreement under strain

RIYADH: The Arab coalition supporting the internationally recognized Yemeni government is committed to protecting regional and global security, a spokesman said Monday.

Coalition spokesman Col. Turki Al-Maliki was asked at a press briefing about Houthi militias threatening to target the capitals of Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

“This is their way to disturb peace,” Al-Maliki replied. “Previously the Houthis targeted Riyadh with a ballistic missile, violating all international laws by attacking a city that has more than 8 million civilians. We take all precautions to protect civilians and vital areas. The coalition works to protect regional and international security.”

Al-Maliki said Houthis had targeted Saudi border towns several times, the most recent incident taking place in Abha last Friday.

But the Saudi Royal Air Defense Force had shot down a drone that was targeting civilians, he added.

He said four Saudi nationals and an Indian expatriate were injured in the attack because of falling debris.

The drone wreckage showed the characteristics and specifications of Iranian manufacturing, he said, which proved Iran was continuing to smuggle arms to the militias.

He warned the Houthis to refrain from targeting civilians because the coalition, in line with international humanitarian law, had every right to counter such threats.

He said the coalition was making efforts to neutralize ballistic missiles and dismantle their capabilities, as the coalition’s joint command would not allow the militia to possess weapons that threatened civilian lives and peace.

Al-Maliki reiterated that the Houthis were targeting Yemeni civilians and continued to violate international laws. 

He also urged Yemenis to try their best to prevent children from being captured by Houthis, who were using them as human shields and child soldiers.

His comments came as the UN tried to salvage a peace deal that was seen as crucial for ending the country’s four-year war.

The Stockholm Agreement was signed by the Yemeni government and Houthi representatives last December.

The main points of the agreement were a prisoner exchange, steps toward a cease-fire in the city of Taiz, and a cease-fire agreement in the city of Hodeidah and its port, as well as ports in Salif and Ras Issa.

Militants triggered the conflict when they seized the capital Sanaa in 2014 and attempted to occupy large parts of the country. An Arab coalition intervened in support of the internationally recognized government in March 2015.

The World Health Organization estimates that nearly 10,000 people have been killed in Yemen since 2015.

Earlier this month US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that President Donald Trump’s administration opposed curbs on American assistance to the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.

“The way to alleviate the Yemeni people’s suffering isn’t to prolong the conflict by handicapping our partners in the fight, but by giving the Saudi-led coalition the support needed to defeat the Iranian-backed rebels and ensure a just peace,” Pompeo said at a news conference in Washington.