Kingdom, US agree: Assad should have no role

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Updated 08 November 2013

Kingdom, US agree: Assad should have no role

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah and US Secretary of State John Kerry held wide-ranging talks on Monday that focused on key bilateral and regional issues, with special reference to Syria, Iran and the Middle East peace process.
Concerns over continuing Israeli settlement expansion, a flawed American foreign policy and an urgent need to restore peace and security in the Middle East region were also raised in talks.
King Abdullah discussed issues that have divided opinion among senior US and Saudi officials. The talks were attended by Crown Prince Salman, deputy premier and minister of defense; Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz, second deputy premier; and Prince Saud Al-Faisal, foreign minister, and high-ranking Saudi and US officials.
Addressing a joint press conference with Kerry after talks with the king, Prince Saud said that the Kingdom and the US are “friendly countries” with a relationship based on “sincerity, candor and frankness”. Saudi Arabia, he said, is an important diplomatic and trading partner for the US.
Both leaders agreed that there should be “no role” for Syrian President Bashar Assad in any transitional period.
Prince Saud demanded Iran leave Syria, saying that Tehran was helping President Bashar Assad to strike and kill his own people. He said the proposed talks to end Syria’s civil war could not happen without the participation of an opposition coalition leading the struggle to oust Assad.
“Assad has lost all legitimacy, and he must go,” said Kerry.
Prince Saud expressed deep frustration with the UN, where the Kingdom recently rejected a seat on the Security Council because of its inability to achieve progress on Syria, Palestine and other issues.
He said: “The Kingdom’s refusal of a UN Security Council seat is in no way a move to withdraw from the UN.” He criticized the UN and other international organizations, which have failed “to make the Middle East a nuclear-free zone.”
Kerry acknowledged that the region is rocked by the turmoil of the Arab Spring, which is reshaping the geopolitical landscape.
Kerry said Saudi-US ties are “strategic” and “enduring”. There were “no differences” between them on Syria, Kerry said. He praised the Kingdom as “the senior player in the Arab world.” Washington and Riyadh shared many current concerns, he said, highlighting the difficult transition in Egypt, the war in Syria and Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
He also assured that Iran “will not acquire a nuclear weapon” and that America will not abandon its allies.
On the question of security, he said: “We will be there for Saudi Arabia, for the Emiratis, for Qataris, for the Jordanians, for the Egyptians and others.”
He reiterated that the US will not allow those countries to be attacked from outside.
Kerry was in Saudi Arabia on the second phase of a 10-day tour through the Middle East, Europe and North Africa.


Saudi rural tourism recovers after months of forced isolation

Updated 11 July 2020

Saudi rural tourism recovers after months of forced isolation

  • Saudis turn to domestic traveling and flock to their nation’s cooler cities and rural areas

TAIF: As Saudi citizens turn to domestic tourism in the country’s summer resorts, adapting to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, rural areas have become targeted by local tourists wishing to get away from the soaring temperatures in most of the Kingdom’s cities.

Visitors are now choosing cold Saudi cities instead of Europe, which they are accustomed to visiting, such as Taif, Al-Baha, and Abha.

COVID-19 has postponed all plans to travel abroad, and attention has now focused on domestic tourism amid strict health protocols in parks, gardens and recreational areas.

Walid Al-Hamidi, vice president of the Tourism Development Council, confirmed to Arab News that Asir, with its facilities and attractions, was ready to receive summer visitors from across the country.

He said that under the directives of Asir's governor, who supervises all activities and events directly and constantly, many committees had been formed to prepare a successful summer tourism season, to optimize the opportunity and allow people to enjoy the exceptional ambiance of Asir.

“A comprehensive tourism plan was set up two years ago, which resulted in a successful Al-Soudah Season with the support of Asir’s Investment Authority,” Al-Hamidi added.

He noted that Asir’s directives aimed this year to build an exceptional tourism model that meets optimal health standards in dealing with COVID-19.

The model is supported by the “Nashama Asir” team — consisting of 4,000 volunteers — who have been trained for months and have all the necessary skills to make the season successful. Their work will continue until the end of the pandemic and throughout the summer.

“Everyone is ready at public facilities, gardens and parks, to serve tourists,” he said, adding “tourists coming from all the over the Kingdom will be welcomed with smiles, enhanced services, and warm welcomes.”

Dr. Sami Al-Obaidi, chairman of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Taif, told Arab News that the tourism sector was the economic backbone of any country or city.

He said that Taif was considered one of the most important tourist cities, given its many attractions  that made it top of any list of places to visit in the Kingdom.

“Suspending travel abroad, and limiting tourism … due to the coronavirus pandemic, makes us, as officials and citizens in Taif, well placed for a beautiful and safe tourism season for Taif’s citizens and visitors,” said Al-Obaidi.

“Meetings are held around the clock, headed by Saad Al-Maimouni, the governor of Taif, with the participation of the relevant authorities.”

He expected all sectors, especially tourism, hospitality and a few other businesses in Taif, to recover to some extent during this season, especially now tourists have already started flocking to the region, with numbers set to increase over the coming weeks.