GCC, US to boost ties with new Washington office

GCC, US to boost ties with new Washington office
Updated 23 April 2016

GCC, US to boost ties with new Washington office

GCC, US to boost ties with new Washington office

RIYADH: American President Barack Obama lashed out at Iran here Thursday, saying that the US continues to have “serious concerns” about Iran’s belligerent behavior even after the nuclear deal that was signed last year. Obama was speaking after the conclusion of the high-profile summit between the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the US, which was chaired by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman.
The summit, attended by heads of all six Gulf states, pledged to continue coordinating closely on issues of mutual concern including through meetings of foreign and defense ministers. They also agreed to hold an annual summit-level meeting and open an office in Washington to advance cooperation, and endorsed additional security initiatives.
In a major development, Obama and the Gulf leaders also directed the US-GCC Working Group to meet twice a year “to advance cooperation in counterterrorism, streamlining the transfer of critical defense capabilities, missile defense, military preparedness and cyber security.” In this context, the leaders announced plans for a significant US-GCC military exercise to be held in March 2017.
In a speech, King Salman said the Riyadh summit, which was a follow up to a similar GCC-US summit held last year at Camp David, was “constructive and fruitful,” and thanked Obama and his officials for “enhancing the consultation and cooperation between the GCC countries and the US.”
“I would like to emphasize the keenness and commitment of the GCC countries to develop historical and strategic relations between our respective countries and the US to serve our mutual interest as well as the security and peace of the region and the world.” Obama, while briefing media, also pledged to coordinate better on conflicts across the region.
He said that “while the Iranian nuclear agreement had helped “cut off every single one of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon,” illegal Iranian arms shipments, ballistic missile tests, and “destabilizing acts” were a continued worry for the US and its Gulf allies.
Obama said the US would use every element of its power to ensure the security of its interests and partners in the Gulf region. He said that the US and its Arab allies remain united in their effort to dismantle Daesh, adding that talk of strained relations between the US and the Gulf bloc “was always overblown.”
Referring to the summit talks, he said that “the leaders of the Gulf states pledged to increase their contribution to the anti-IS campaign.” On Syria, Obama acknowledged the cessation of hostilities between government and opposition forces was “very fragile” and in danger of “breaking down.” But he insisted that sticking with a diplomatic approach to easing President Bashar Assad out of power was still the right course of action.
He called on Assad to step aside not only because he has killed his own people but also because it was hard to see him being the head of a government that would end the fighting. “Whoever comes out on top will be standing on top of a country that has been devastated,” Obama said.
On the situation in Iraq where the US is a major stakeholder together with GCC countries, Obama said that the US and its Gulf allies should wait to see whether Iraq could resolve its political crisis before committing more financial aid. He made it clear that the political paralysis was impeding US-led efforts to defeat Daesh and reconstruct that war-torn country.
“Right now in Baghdad, there’s some big challenges,” Obama said. “Until that’s settled, I think it’s important for us to make sure that any additional stabilization dollars that we put in are going to be effectively spent,” said Obama, who spoke candidly on regional conflicts, while assuring Gulf states to work together to ensure peace and security in the region.
Applauding the efforts of the GCC countries including the Kingdom, Obama said that the formation of a new government in Libya and peace talks to end fighting in Yemen “along with last year’s nuclear deal with Iran” wouldn’t have been possible without support from the Gulf partners. However, he stressed the need for “consistent, institutionalized communication” with countries in the region.
He also pointed out that intelligence sharing between the US and the GCC was vital in the fight against terrorism. “I think that overall there is a broad consensus in assisting each other in our collective security,” Obama stated, while adding that “our intelligence sharing is vital in fighting against terrorism, and it has consistently improved.”
On the question of falling oil prices and its impact on oil producing and consuming countries, the US president said that the US and Gulf producers would work together to lessen the impact of low oil prices. They “will launch a new high-level economic dialogue with a focus on adjusting to lower oil prices, increasing our economic ties and supporting GCC reforms,” he said at the close of the GCC summit.
He also called for closer climate cooperation, a reference to the two sides’ renewed commitment to work together on a 2016 amendment to the Montreal Protocol to reduce the production and consumption of harmful hydro fluorocarbons (HFCs). The amendment has the potential to phase out HFCs and achieve substantial greenhouse reductions that could avoid global warming of up to 0.5 degrees Celsius by 2100.
The official delegation of the Kingdom to the summit included Crown Prince Mohammed bin Naif, deputy premier and interior minister, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, second deputy premier and defense minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir, General Intelligence President Khalid bin Ali Al-Humaidan and many other top officials.
Later on Thursday afternoon, Obama wrapped up his two-day visit and flew to London.


Saudi family infected with Covid-19 evacuated from India 

Saudi family infected with Covid-19 evacuated from India 
Updated 33 min 56 sec ago

Saudi family infected with Covid-19 evacuated from India 

Saudi family infected with Covid-19 evacuated from India 

RIYADH: A Saudi family infected with coronavirus has returned to the Kingdom from India, the Saudi Press Agency reported late Monday.
The family was airlifted by the Air Medical Evacuation Department of Health Services at the Saudi Ministry of Defense in an implementation of directives issued by Saudi King Salman.  
The plane arrived at King Salman Air Base in Riyadh, with all precautionary measures taken by crew members to combat the spread COVID-19.
Previously, Saudi Arabia transported more than 74 cases infected with COVID-19 through its medical air evacuation planes without infecting the medical and aircrews with the virus.


Saudi Arabia’s King Salman receives phone call from Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman receives phone call from Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa
Updated 18 May 2021

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman receives phone call from Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman receives phone call from Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa
  • King Hamad congratulated King Salman on the re-opening of the King Fahd Causeway
  • King Salman thanked Bahrain’s ruler for his efforts to further strengthen the relations between both Kingdoms

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman discussed in a phone call with Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa issues of common interest and relations between both Kingdoms, state news agency SPA reported.
King Hamad further congratulated King Salman on the re-opening of the King Fahd Causeway, following the coronavirus lockdown, Bahrain’s news agency BNA reported.
Only those who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 or those who have recovered from the disease are allowed to leave the Kingdom.
Meanwhile King Salman thanked Bahrain’s ruler for his efforts to further strengthen the relations between both Kingdoms.


Saudi passengers flock to airports as foreign travel resumes

Saudi passengers flock to airports as foreign travel resumes
About 385 international flights took off from nine Saudi airports on Monday, including 225 departures from Riyadh, 75 from Jeddah, 66 from Dammam, and 19 from the other airports. (AN photos by Huda Bashatah)
Updated 18 May 2021

Saudi passengers flock to airports as foreign travel resumes

Saudi passengers flock to airports as foreign travel resumes
  • About 385 flights to international destinations took off from nine airports in the Kingdom on Monday

JEDDAH: The terminals at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah were once again bustling with passengers on Monday, as international travel resumed more than a year after it was suspended to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Arrivals and departures resumed at the Kingdom’s air, land and sea ports at 1 a.m., with Saudi citizens who have been vaccinated, or have recovered from the virus within the past six months, free to travel.
As passengers flocked to the airport from early Monday morning, the flow of traffic was well-organized and smooth. Entry to terminals was restricted to people with valid tickets and helpers accompanying disabled travelers.
As part of the latest rules implemented by authorities, Saudis younger than 18 must also provide proof that they have a health insurance policy, approved by the Saudi Central Bank, that will cover the cost of treatment for COVID-19 in other countries.
Saudi Arabia’s General Authority for Civil Aviation also issued updated travel guidelines, including requirements for the use of the country’s Tawakkalna COVID-19 tracking app. The conditions apply to all travelers, regardless of whether their trip is for leisure, study, work or to receive medical treatment.
About 385 international flights took off from nine Saudi airports on Monday, including 225 departures from Riyadh, 75 from Jeddah, 66 from Dammam, and 19 from the other airports. In addition, about 300 vehicles crossed land borders into Qatar during the morning.
The Kingdom’s national carrier, Saudia, resumed flights to 43 destinations in 30 countries. It said it will operate 178 scheduled flights each week from Jeddah and 153 from Riyadh.

As part of the latest rules implemented by authorities, Saudis younger than 18 must also provide proof that they have a health insurance policy.

Ibrahim Al-Omar, the airline’s director general, said that Saudia has implemented more than 50 precautionary measures throughout all stages of the flight process, and has been ranked among the Top-10 safest airlines in the world by the Airline Passenger Experience Association. He added that since the pandemic began, the airline has operated more than 100,000 flights, transporting more than 10 million passengers.
The destination of the first international flight to depart from Riyadh on Monday was Hyderabad in India, while the first flight of the day from Jeddah was bound for Dhaka in Bangladesh. The first international flight to land in Riyadh on Monday was from Cairo, and the first arrival in Jeddah was from the Indonesian capital, Jakarta.

INNUMBERS

More than 18,000 people traveled from King Abdulaziz Airport on Monday.

More than 47 flights operated from the Kingdom within 6.

Despite the resumption of international flights, the Saudi Interior Ministry said that a ban remains on direct or indirect travel to 13 countries without prior permission to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The countries this applies to are: Libya, Yemen, Armenia, Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, Somalia, Belarus, India, Lebanon, Turkey, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Venezuela.
In addition, the ministry said travelers heading to Bahrain must have received two doses of a vaccine, and children under the age of 18 are not eligible to travel there. Diplomats and individuals accompanying them, air navigation and ship crews, workers in companies that are part of the health supply chain, and truck drivers are exempt from these rules. People who arrived at the King Fahd Causeway, on the border with Bahrain, but did not meet the requirements were turned away on Monday.
Travelers returning to the Kingdom after visiting a foreign country will be required to quarantine at home for seven days. However foreign visitors, including members of diplomatic missions arriving by air from most countries, will no longer need to quarantine if they have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Those who are not vaccinated must provide proof of a negative PCR test, issued by an approved laboratory within 72 hours of flying to the Kingdom, otherwise they will not be allowed to board the plane.
With the exception of Saudi citizens, resident expats and GCC citizens, all people arriving in Saudi Arabia must have medical insurance that will cover the costs of COVID-19 treatment in outpatient clinics, emergency rooms and hospitals.
On Jan. 29, Saudi authorities postponed the reopening of air, sea and land ports and extended the travel ban from Mar. 31 to May 17. Further information about international travel, including the rules and requirements, is available at www.saudia.com.


Covid rule violators warned as cases decline in Saudi Arabia

Covid rule violators warned as cases decline in Saudi Arabia
Hundreds of individuals were fined for breaking social gathering protocols in different part of Saudi Arabia. (SPA)
Updated 18 May 2021

Covid rule violators warned as cases decline in Saudi Arabia

Covid rule violators warned as cases decline in Saudi Arabia
  • Saudi Arabia has administered more than 11.7 million COVID-19 vaccines so far at a rate of 33.5 doses per hundred

JEDDAH: More than 250 people have been fined for breaking social distancing rules in 24 hours, including 72 women attending a wedding where both guests and the host were fined.
For the fourth day in a row, the number of people infected with the coronavirus in Saudi Arabia remained below 1,000 with a significant rise in recoveries.
There were 886 new cases recorded in the Kingdom on Monday – a total of 433,980 people have been infected with the disease in Saudi Arabia since the start of the pandemic.
Meanwhile a further 1,127 people have recovered, taking the total number of recoveries to 418,914, meaning the Kingdom’s recovery rate has increased to 96.5 percent, marking a significant decline in the epidemiological curve.
There were 7,892 active cases, 1,377 of them critical, an increase of just one patient in the past 24 hours.

FASTFACTS

• A total of 886 new cases were recorded in the Kingdom on Monday.

• The highest number of cases was recorded in the Riyadh region.

• More than 250 individuals fined for violating health protocols.

The regions with the highest number of infections were Riyadh with 281 cases and Makkah with 250. Twelve new COVID-19 related deaths were reported, raising the death toll to 7,174.
Saudi Arabia has administered more than 11.7 million COVID-19 vaccines so far at a rate of 33.5 doses per hundred. Of the Kingdom’s 34.8 million people, 33.6 percent have now been vaccinated with at least one jab.
On Monday, the Ministry of Islamic Affairs closed nine mosques temporarily in six regions, after cases of COVID-19 were detected among worshipers.
The ministry stated that the total number of mosques that had been closed now amounted to 1,210, with 1,188 subsequently reopened after the completion of disinfection.


GCC national ID not valid for travel

GCC national ID not valid for travel
Travelers must verify the conditions of the destination country and ensure they are met. (SPA)
Updated 18 May 2021

GCC national ID not valid for travel

GCC national ID not valid for travel
  • King Fahd Causeway Passports raises operational capacity

RIYADH: Using a national ID as a document for traveling to Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries remains suspended, a spokesman for the Eastern Province Passports said.

Citizens wishing to travel must verify the conditions of the destination country and ensure they are met, Mualla Al-Otaibi added.
In February last year, the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs decided to suspend GCC citizens’ use of national identity cards for travel to and from the Kingdom, coinciding with the onset of precautionary measures to combat COVID-19.
Al-Otaibi said the border points of the Eastern Region Passports had resumed work after the lifting of travel suspensions through all air, land and sea ports on May 17.
“Preventive maintenance work was carried out for all border backup devices and systems,” said Al-Otaibi.
A further 10 lanes have been installed in the departure area, bringing the total number of lanes to 27, with 36 lanes in the arrival area.
King Fahd Causeway Passports increased its operational capacity by 30 percent to facilitate passenger travel.
The spokesman said that meetings and workshops were held with port authorities to ensure speedy and smooth travel, while applying all precautions.

Dhaifallah Al-Otaibi

The movement of passengers leaving for Bahrain had decreased sharply since Monday morning, he said. The director general of Saudi Customs at the King Fahd Causeway, Dhaifallah Al-Otaibi, told Arab News they were ready to receive arrivals and departures through the causeway, and to provide customs services to travelers of all categories.
Customs at the causeway linking Saudi Arabia and Bahrain strived to enhance customs procedures, he added.

We are ready to receive arrivals and departures through the causeway.

Dhaifallah Al-Otaibi, DG Saudi Customs

He confirmed the continued cooperation and coordination between all parties operating at the border crossing, and that port authorities were all working as one business system to provide the best services.
“Customs (the land link between Saudi Arabia and Bahrain) continues to take precautionary measures, (which are) more intense with the start of travel between the two countries to ensure the maximum levels of safety recommended to protect travelers and arrivals, in addition to protecting the employees of the port,” he added.
Customs at the King Fahd Causeway continued working on freight traffic since the suspension of personal travel between the two countries last year, he said.
Causeway customs statistics said that procedures for about 272,000 trucks entering and leaving the Kingdom had been completed between March 2020 until the end of April 2021, while about 325,000 vehicles had crossed the causeway in both directions since the beginning of this year.