Saudi-Canada relations set to scale new heights

Updated 18 April 2016
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Saudi-Canada relations set to scale new heights

RIYADH: Relations between Saudi Arabia and Canada are set to scale new heights and Ottawa has identified some priority areas of cooperation, Canadian Ambassador Dennis Horak said here on Sunday.

“Political dialogue and sound relationship” are key elements in Canada’s engagement with Saudi Arabia and with the extended Gulf region as a whole,” the newly appointed ambassador told Arab News.
He said the two countries had been working closely in several fields for the last many decades. “The new priority areas in which the two countries can work together are oil and gas, agriculture, sustainable technologies, health care, information and communication technologies as well as mining.”
The envoy, who also spoke about multimillion dollar assistance to help settle conflicts in the Middle East and fight Daesh, gave a detailed overview of the Saudi-Canadian relations, with special reference to the defense deal.
He also spoke about regional issues, while stressing the fact that the two countries have had nearly similar approaches on Syria, Yemen, Iraq and the Middle East peace process.
Asked about the supply of light armored vehicles and the unwanted criticism of the Kingdom in a section of Canadian press, Horak said he would not comment on the legal aspect of the deal signed by the two countries. He, however, added that Canada will honor the contract and the government has decided, as everybody knows, to honor the previously agreed contract for the sale of light-armored vehicles to Saudi Arabia.
The contract, worth $15 billion, involves Ontario-based General Dynamics Land Systems and Saudi Arabia, but brokered through the government-owned Canadian Commercial Corporation, according to reports published recently. The deal was signed in February 2014 after the visit of the then Prime Minister Stephen Harper to the Kingdom.
In reply to a question about the progressively growing cooperation in education, Horak said there were over 16,000 Saudi students attending universities in Canada within the framework of the King Abdullah Scholarship Program.
“A large number of Saudi doctors are also being trained in Canada,” said the diplomat, adding that the enrollment of Saudi students is growing “quite substantially.”
He said the growing number of Saudi students strengthens people-to-people contacts, while creating strong complementary interests between Saudi Arabia and Canada.
Horak said a commercial delegation will arrive in the Saudi capital on April 25 with a mandate to boost commercial links between the two countries. The visit of the commercial mission is being coordinated by the Saudi-Canadian Business Council, he added.
On the trade front, the diplomat said that Riyadh and Ottawa have forged closer ties. “The two-way trade exceeds $3.3 billion annually,” he said, while promising to look for avenues of cooperation.
He also said that the Canadian government and the Canadian missions in Saudi Arabia have always been keen to facilitate visa issuance to businessmen, students and tourists. It takes only 10 to 12 working days to process a visa application, if all the requirements are met by the applicant.
“We are always looking for ways to improve the process,” said the diplomat, who likes to play ice hockey and golf.
Horak, who is fascinated by the life in the land of desert dunes, has also found some of his old diplomat friends currently serving in Riyadh. He was also happy to note that more women diplomats are being posted in the Saudi capital, which is narrowing the gender gap in the local diplomatic world.


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

Updated 23 April 2019
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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.