1.8 million foreign pilgrims expected

Updated 05 October 2012
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1.8 million foreign pilgrims expected

JEDDAH: More than 1.8 million foreign pilgrims were expected to perform Haj this year, Haj Minister Bandar Hajar announced recently.
Speaking to reporters after visiting the headquarters of the Tawafa Organization for South Asian Pilgrims, Hajar said there was no plan to reduce the number of Umrah pilgrims for the mataf (circumambulation area around the Kaaba) expansion project. 
The minister said this year’s was the most successful Umrah season. An estimated 5.5 million foreign pilgrims came to the Kingdom. “We issued 5.8 million Umrah visas this year. Most of the 5.5 million pilgrims came for Umrah have already left the Kingdom. Only 10,000 pilgrims are now remaining in the country,” he said.
“This is a big success compared to the Umrah season of 2005, when 2.5 million foreign pilgrims came and about half of them remained in the country, overstaying their Umrah visas,” he explained.
Hajar said despite the convening of an emergency Islamic summit in Makkah, the Umrah pilgrims who came from different parts of the world were able to leave the Kingdom without any difficulty. He commended the efforts of all government departments for the success of the Umrah season.
Hajar said he is ready to meet the Shoura Council if he gets an invitation from the consultative body. “I have not yet received any invitation and I am ready to accept the invitation at any time,” he said.
Hajar met with chairman and members of the organization’s board of directors and discussed its preparations for the Haj season. He urged the organization to make use of the huge facilities being provided by the government in the service of pilgrims.
The ministry has set out a plan for sending pilgrims of various Tawafa organizations to the Jamrat and the Haram Mosque in coordination with the Public Security and Civil Defense Department.
Adnan Katib, president of the Tawafa Organization of South Asian Pilgrims, said they had discussed with Hajar the organization’s operation plan for the Haj season.
“We have discussed various aspects to improve services for pilgrims including housing, transport and general planning,” Katib said, adding that the organization would mobilize all its resources to extend the best possible services to the guests of God.

 


China's ambassador: Saudi Arabia a 'strategic partner and powerful ally'

Updated 31 min 41 sec ago
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China's ambassador: Saudi Arabia a 'strategic partner and powerful ally'

  • The two friendly countries enjoy a complete strategic partnership, Li said.
  • The China-Saudi Arabia High-Level Joint Committee will meet during the crown prince's visit

RIYADH: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to China heralds a new era in the relationship between the two countries, according to Li Huaxin, the Chinese ambassador to the Kingdom.

“This is an important visit with a series of political exchanges at the highest level,” Li said.

“They are embracing this opportunity to hold a joint, bilateral, high-level committee meeting to guide and coordinate cooperation in all fields,” he said, referring to the China-Saudi Arabia High-Level Joint Committee established in January 2016. 

The committee met for the first time in August that year in Beijing and again, 12 months later, in Jeddah. 

Li’s comments came as the Saudi crown prince began a visit to China, the Kingdom’s biggest trading partner. The visit is the last leg of an Asia tour seeking to build economic ties, and strengthen social and cultural links.

“The two friendly countries enjoy a complete strategic partnership,” said Li. “Both parties are excited to move forward.”

China has responded enthusiastically to the visit, a recognition of the powerful position the Kingdom holds in the region and globally.

 “Saudi Arabia is a very important country that has a big impact, whether in the region or world,” said Li. “We consider the Kingdom to be a powerful ally in building (China’s Belt and Road initiative) and linking it with the Saudi Vision 2030, while preserving the stability and development of the region and the world.”

Since the crown prince’s launch of Vision 2030 in 2016, many in the Kingdom, including the ambassador, have witnessed the immense change it has brought to the country.

“I have seen, personally, the major developments taking place in Saudi Arabia,” said Li. “While there are changes in its cities and economy, the most important change is in the Saudi people. They are showing their enthusiasm and their abilities, which have grown on a large scale. They are playing a big role in building their country.

“I see a bright future for Saudi Arabia.”

Li highlighted the importance of the evolving strategic partnership between the two countries and their respective strengths, saying: “China is a large country in terms of its economy, and Saudi Arabia in its importance, whether in the Gulf, Arab and Muslim countries or the world. Therefore, direct meetings between the two leaderships are of vital importance.

“Both leaderships are on the same page and their stances on many issues are similar. I have attended many meetings where the two parties confirmed the similarity and conformity of their positions.”

On issues of particular importance to the Arab world, Li noted that China’s stance on Palestine has not changed in decades.

“We have called for a solution for the two sides and the creation of an independent Palestinian state with full sovereignty, as well as Israel’s withdrawal from occupied lands, in keeping with UN Security Council resolutions, and the return of Palestinian refugees to their lands.”

Li said that both China and the Kingdom believe in the importance of sovereignty.

“Every country calls for sovereignty free from interference in its internal issues,” he said, adding that each nation has its own rules and social system, which must be respected.

“We both seek to find peaceful solutions to regional and world issues; in that respect we are similar,” he said.

The ambassador said that cooperation between China and Saudi Arabia is based on global principles and international law, and with the five principles of coexistence: Mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, non-aggression, non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, equality and cooperation for mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence.

These principles were first set out in a treaty between China and India in 1954.

Responding to the suggestion that some nations might be skeptical or critical of China, the envoy said: “When we discuss these relations with our brothers, we do not care what others think as long as it is good, normal cooperation between two brotherly nations and is based on global principles and law.

“Our cooperation is not aimed at any country, whether in the region or world. Some countries might be annoyed by it, but the forest is vast and the birds are many, and they may chirp as they please.”