Strategic cooperation between Riyadh and Ankara hits new highs

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman receives President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (File photo)
Updated 29 October 2016

Strategic cooperation between Riyadh and Ankara hits new highs

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia and Turkey have been enjoying a deep and longstanding bond based on their common geopolitical interests and similarities in approaches on a host of regional and international issues.
The recent visit of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, minister of interior, to Turkey; preceded by the visit of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman to Ankara early this year indicate the progressively growing relations between the two countries.
It is important to note here that Turkey has already been working with Riyadh by supporting Operation Decisive Storm in Yemen, and took part in the Saudi-led Islamic alliance against terrorism.
It has also stated categorically that Iran has become more aggressive after signing a nuclear deal with the US.
Khalil Ozcan, a Turkish parliamentarian and head of the Turkish-Saudi Association, who is also a graduate of King Saud University, said that Ankara sees the Kingdom as a trusted strategic partner, with which it has more in common than Iran.
Interestingly, Turks also have a special place in their hearts for the Kingdom because it hosts Islam’s holiest sites.
This attempt for more harmonious relations with Turkey is being made at the highest possible level. The royal visits from the Kingdom and the visits of high-ranking Turkish officials including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan send a message to everyone that the two countries are seeking stability and peace based on a policy of openness, partnerships and the prioritization of economic benefits over politics.
Referring to the important role played by Turkey, Adel Al-Jubeir, foreign minister, said that the Turkey’s engagement in the Middle East is essential for “regional stability.”
He, while showing solidarity with Turkey, also underlined that the Erdogan government successfully defeated the attempted military coup. 
Also, Saudi Arabia and Turkey are on the same page on the regional conflicts and issues including Syria, Iran and Yemen.
The strategic cooperation council established by Saudi Arabia and Turkey is one step above a bilateral alliance.
The purpose of the council includes deeper coordination with Turkey in light of the challenges both countries face in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya, from terrorism to extremism to Iran’s negative intervention in regional issues.
The political battle over the implementation of resolution 2259, which for the first time endorsed a political process in Syria since the conflict there began five years ago, is inevitable.
Moreover, Saudi Arabia and Turkey are both crucial for the quest to defeat Daesh in Iraq and Syria.
They also have great economic potentials.
Turkey and Saudi Arabia are among the leading countries in the Middle East, with a combined Gross Domestic Product of almost $1.4 trillion, an export volume of $540 billion and a population of 105 million.
For decades, the two states have attempted to develop economic relations based on mutual respect.
Turkey sees its friend Saudi Arabia as one of the most important countries in the region.
On commercial front, the two countries have reported consistent growth.
Turkish exports to Saudi Arabia are mainly made up of clothing, textiles, iron, steel, automotive, fruits, vegetables and other agricultural products, while around 80 percent of Turkish imports from Saudi Arabia are composed of oil.
Turkish trade centers, which have aimed to increase bilateral trade volume and develop joint investment projects in Saudi Arabia, are operational in Riyadh and Jeddah.
A large number of well-known Turkish construction companies have been successfully operating in Saudi Arabia for many years.
There have also been many agreements made between the two states in order to secure good bilateral mechanisms for economic cooperation, with one being the Turkish-Saudi Arabian Joint Economic Commission (JEC), which was set up in accordance with Article Five of the Economic Technical Cooperation Agreement of 1974, to secure better relations between Turkish and Saudi business communities.
Referring to the progressively growing commercial relations, Turkish Ambassador Yunus Demirer said that trade between Turkey and Saudi Arabia has been growing consistently. He said that trade between Ankara and Riyadh has shown a stable trend with a much better performance in 2010-2012 period compared to that of Turkey’s overall trade volume. It reached to $8.1 billion in 2012.
“Turkey’s export to Saudi Arabia, which was almost $555 million in 2002 reached to over $3.5 billion in 2015,” Demirer added.
Speaking about the upswing in trade and investment, Ambassador Demirer said that there is a genuine opportunity to establish a long-term partnership between Turkish and Saudi business communities.
Saudi visitors feel at ease in Turkey, says the envoy, while adding further that Turkey is among the world’s top 12 producers of building materials such as cement, glass, steel and ceramic tiles.
As neighbors and two of the world’s oldest civilizations, Turkey and Saudi Arabia have shared a long history of religious, cultural, scientific, and economic linkages, said a report.
The report said that “the depth and diversity of Saudi-Turkish relations, joint commitment to stability and well-being of the region as well as intertwined interests lead the two countries to foster the existing relationship to higher and new levels of cooperation.”
Referring to the investment climate in Turkey, the report said that the structural reforms carried out by the government in the last decade have improved the investment climate in Turkey, which in turn attracted substantial Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).
Legislation on investment was streamlined along global standards.
At present, Turkey has a foreign capital-friendly legislation and transparent regulatory system.
FDI legislation is based on the principle of equal treatment for domestic and foreign investors.
Turkey’s legal system protects and facilitates acquisition and disposal of property rights, including land, buildings and mortgages.
Also, generous tax privileges for free zones and technology development zones have provided a stimulus to the investment therein.
As a result, Turkey has become the commercial/investment hub of the region.
Foreign companies have been using free zones as well as Turkish partners to access the EU market as well as looking for business opportunities throughout the Balkans, Central Asia, the Caucasus and the Middle East.
To this end, the report noted that about 400 Saudi firms directly or indirectly operate in Turkey at present.
Saudi companies mainly invest in industrial sector in Turkey in collaboration with Turkish private and public sectors. 
They can also increase their investments in agricultural, finance, tourism and communications sectors.
Turkey, on the other hand, has had a sizeable number of highly-qualified and technologically superior contractors, who are present in every nook and corner of the globe including the Gulf states today.
In the field of tourism also, Turkey has been doing very well.
A total of 39 million tourists visited Turkey in 2013 and, hence the tourism revenue reached $32 billion.
Turkish tourism sector’s target is to be among the top five countries in the world in terms of attracting the highest number of tourists and receiving the highest amount of tourism revenue by 2023.
It is important to note here that the tourism traffic between the Kingdom and Turkey has also been consistently growing. “Indeed, tourism is a dynamic and resilient sector in Turkey,” said the report.
Speaking about Turkey’s global standing in world’s trade and economy, the diplomat said that “due to its globally integrated and solid economy, large and young population, Turkey is a source of new business and development in its region.”
Turkey has shown remarkable performance with its strong growth over the last decade. A sound macroeconomic strategy in combination with prudent fiscal policies and major structural reforms integrated Turkish economy into the global economy.
Besides, Turkey’s dynamic and growing economy creates many opportunities in trade and in other areas of cooperation in the region.
In fact, the economic growth of Turkey has become sustainable through the macroeconomic improvements and fiscal discipline.
During 2002-2014 period, Turkey ranked among the top five countries with its 4.9 percent annual GDP growth rate.
On the other hand, Turkish contractors have become important players internationally, related to their domestic experience.
Starting from 1972 to 2015 (August), Turkish companies have taken 8,620 projects in 104 countries worth of $318.4 billion.
This increase is mainly related to the airport, metro, industrial production sites, refinery, energy infrastructure and highway projects which require more skills and necessitate more technology.
This also enables Turkey to be among the top 12 producers of building materials in the world, particularly in the supply of products such as cement, glass, steel and ceramic tiles.
These numbers highlight the power that the Turkish construction industry has on an international level. In 2015, 43 Turkish contracting companies were listed among the “Top 250 International Contractors” announced by a leading international industry magazine.
Turkish contracting companies in Saudi Arabia has undertaken over 100 projects up today. All these Turkish companies, especially contracting ones, area also doing exceptionally well in other GCC states. As the political, economic stability and the structural reforms contributed to the inflow of FDI to Turkey and on Turkish companies working overseas, these inflows increased the soundness of the Turkish economy in return.
Saudi Arabia is the largest economy in the Middle East.
The Saudi government has ambitious infrastructure plans for the next years.
Turkish firms, now increasingly internationally oriented, cannot ignore these facts.
On the other hand, Turkish private sector proved its expertise and proficiency worldwide and earned a sound reputation in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East.
Also, Turkey hosts more than 1.5 million Syrian refugees as part of a historical humanitarian effort, and helps many more in Iraq.
The humanitarian assistance of Turkey to those refugees has reached $4 billion.
Turkey has the longest land border with Syria among all its neighbors.
Together with Iraq, the length of the border is 1,295 km.
This is a danger felt far more acutely by Turkey than any other country.
Daesh, which constitutes a direct threat to Turkey’s national security, being priority, any threat coming out of this geography is first directed against Turkey.
Turkey is and will always be on the frontline in combating terror, said the diplomat, while advising resolute and comprehensive action, which is required to curb terrorism, and to finish terror outfits in Syria, Yemen and elsewhere in the region.


Accusations of serial assault spark new #MeToo wave in Egypt

Updated 13 July 2020

Accusations of serial assault spark new #MeToo wave in Egypt

  • Activists say the case shows that misogyny cuts across the country’s stark class lines
  • In Egypt, sexual assault complaints have typically involved street harassment

CAIRO: Their accounts are similar. The girls and women describe meeting the young man — a former student at Egypt’s most elite university — in person and online, followed by deceit, then escalating sexual harassment, assault, blackmail or rape.
Some were minors when the alleged crimes took place. In all, more than 100 accusers have emerged online in the past two weeks.
It’s resulted in a new #MeToo firestorm on social media, and the arrest of the suspect last week from his home in a gated community outside Cairo.
Activists say the case shows that misogyny cuts across the country’s stark class lines; many in Egypt have previously portrayed harassment as a problem of poor urban youth.
Women’s rights champions hope the authorities’ swift response signals change in how Egyptian society handles accusations of sexual assault.
“What’s before this case is totally different from what’s after,” said Nihad Abuel-Komsan, head of the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights and a lawyer representing some of the alleged victims.
Sexual assault and harassment are deep-seated problems in Egypt, where victims must also fight the undercurrent of a conservative culture that typically ties female chastity to a family’s reputation. In courts, the burden of proof lies heavily on the victim of such crimes.
In a statement, the public prosecutor’s officer said the accused man acknowledged he blackmailed at least six girls, saying he would send sensitive photos of them to their families if they cut ties. Several attempts by The Associated Press to contact him or his lawyer were unsuccessful.
Amr Adib, Egypt’s most prominent TV host, said in a recent episode that he’d spoken with the young man’s father, who occupies a high-ranking position at a telecommunication company. He said his son dismissed the allegations.
At least 10 women have officially reported their claims, according to Abuel-Komsan, of the women’s rights center. Activists also set up the Instagram account @assaultpolice to collect allegations, said Sabah Khodir, a US-based writer who helps run the account. She said there are more than 100 accounts.
“We are demanding to be listened to … We are just using what we have, lending our voices to hopefully create some kind of change,” she said.
A court has ordered the accused to remain in custody pending an investigation into an array of accusations that include attempted rape, blackmail and indecent assault, according to a five-page statement by the public prosecutor. In the same statement, the prosecutor urged more alleged victims to come forward.
Last week, the government of President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi moved to amend the country’s criminal law to increase protections for the identities of sexual assault victims, which activists have welcomed. The amendment still needs parliamentary approval and El-Sisi’s signature to be made law.
The allegations against the student cover a period of at least three years.
Many of the anonymous accounts appear to be from fellow students at the American International School, one of the country’s most expensive private high schools, and the American University in Cairo, which school officials said the accused left in 2018. It would appear that he then enrolled at the European Union Business School in Spain, in an online program last year.
In February, he spent three weeks at its Barcelona campus, but the school expelled him after an accusation of online harassment that was subsequently proved false, said Claire Basterfield, a spokesperson for the EUBS. The school has filed a 54-page criminal complaint with the Spanish police, seeking further investigation into his actions.
The head of the American University in Cairo, Francis Ricciardone, said the university has a zero-tolerance policy concerning sexual harassment, but that he would not comment on an ongoing case.
According to accusations posted on social media in the past two weeks, the former student would mine the pool of mutual friends on Facebook, online groups or school clubs. He would start with flattery, then pressure the women and girls to share intimate photos that he later used to blackmail them to have sex with him. If they did not, he would threaten to send the pictures to their family.
In some cases, he “attracted their sympathy by claiming he was going through a crisis,” then lured them to his home in an upscale compound where he sexually assaulted them, the prosecutor’s statement alleged.
In Egypt, sexual assault complaints have typically involved street harassment. During and after the 2011 uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak, women were frequently harassed, groped — and in some cases, beaten and sexually assaulted — during mass protests.
This time, there are signs of wider ripples throughout the society. The current series of complaints has prompted Egypt’s Al-Azhar, the Sunni Muslim world’s foremost religious institution, to speak out on sexual harassment and assault, even challenging the widely held belief that a woman is at fault if her clothing is less than modest. It’s a departure from the norm for the conservative Muslim majority country where most women wear headscarves.
There are also other corners where accusations of sexual harassment are emerging, such as in civil society groups and businesses.
Two rights groups said they fired one employee and suspended another, and opened investigations after allegations of sexual misconduct against them were made public. Authorities also detained a prominent publisher over the weekend after a poet filed a complaint with the Cairo police, accusing him of sexually harassing her, the state-run Al-Ahram reported. The publisher denied the allegations in a Facebook posting. He was released late Sunday on 5,000 Egyptian pounds ($313) in bail, pending an investigation.
The recent cases — reaching into the Egyptian elite — have “refuted all previous arguments and justifications for harassment, from poverty to illiteracy and things like that,” Abuel-Komsan said.