Kingdom-Spain ties: Both countries share common stances on many issues

King Salman receives King Felipe VI of Spain at Al-Yamamah Palace in Riyadh on Sunday. (SPA)
Updated 16 January 2017
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Kingdom-Spain ties: Both countries share common stances on many issues

RIYADH: Saudi-Spanish relations are based not only on traditional friendship and mutual respect, and ties between the two countries, but have progressed into deeper relations when culminated by the exchange of visits at the highest levels.
At different times the two countries witnessed the exchange of royal visits, strategic partnerships, and signed bilateral deals, which covered many areas.
The two countries have shared common stances toward many global and regional issues, notably the peace process in the Middle East to which the two countries played an outstanding role: Spain through the Madrid Peace Conference (1991) and Saudi Arabia through the Arab Peace Initiative proposed by King Salman (crown prince at the time) which later developed into an Arab initiative and adopted by the Arab Summit in Beirut, Lebanon, in March 2002.
In acknowledgment of the position of Spain, the late King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz patronized the international conference on dialogue between followers of the faiths in Madrid in July 2008. More than 200 figures representing Muslims, Christians, and Jews attended the event.
In recognition of his historic visit to Spain, the former king, Juan Carlos, awarded the late King Abdullah the Order of the Golden Fleece, the highest Spanish chivalric honor that is held by fewer than twenty other worldwide figures.
The former King Juan Carlos was a frequent guest of the Saudi royal house in his final years as the ruling monarch, visiting the country five times between 2006 and 2014. His close relations reportedly helped a Spanish company win a contract in 2011 to develop the $7 billion (SR26b) high-speed railway between the two holy cities of Makkah and Madinah. Spain’s military ties to Saudi Arabia have since increased to become the fourth-biggest exporter of arms to Riyadh.
To enhance relations between the two countries, a series of deals were signed including, among others, the following:
l A general agreement on economic, investment and technical cooperation
l A cultural agreement covering higher education, research, languages and cooperation between universities (1984)
l A joint aviation agreement (1988)
l A memo of understanding (MOU) for political consultations between the foreign ministries of the two countries (2006)
l An agreement to encourage and protect investments in both countries through the provision of regulatory and legal bases
l The establishment of a Saudi-Spanish infrastructure fund with a capital of $1 billion (SR3.75 billion) to finance infrastructure projects in the Kingdom
l An agreement to avoid double taxation in both countries
l A MOU in the health fields between the two countries
l A cooperation program in the area of tourism
On the economic side, an investment fund worth $5 billion (SR18.75 billion) was established by businessmen of the two countries for joint investments. The volume of trade between the two countries annually amounted to more than $3.5 billion (SR13.12 billion), and focused on many commodities including chemicals, metal products, medical supplies, and wooden products, among others.
To show close historical and cultural ties between the two countries, an exhibition titled “From Qurtuba to Cordoba” was organized in Riyadh in 2013.
In his statement at the time, Spanish Ambassador Joaquín Pérez-Villanueva, told the media that the exhibition revived the heritage of Muslims and their rich civilization, which is still preserved and present in the city of Cordoba.
Opening the event, Prince Sultan bin Salman, the head of Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA), emphasized the role of the exhibition in strengthening cultural relations between the governments of the two countries.
The prince highlighted how this event reflected the common ties shared between the people of Spain and the Kingdom.


Clean sweep: Marine waste targeted in Red Sea tourism program

The program for eliminating marine debris will play an important material and moral role with the support of the residents of areas surrounding the seafront. (SPA)
Updated 56 min 18 sec ago

Clean sweep: Marine waste targeted in Red Sea tourism program

  • Debris major cause of death for marine life
  • Disintegration of plastic waste threaten human food resources

JEDDAH: A beach cleanup program targeting marine waste has been launched by the Red Sea Development Co. (TRSDC), the Saudi Press Agency reported.
The firm, which is behind the development of a luxury seafront tourism destination in Saudi Arabia, is already developing a range of environment-friendly policies such as zero-waste-to-landfill, zero-discharge-to-the-sea, zero-single-use plastics, and achieving 100 percent carbon neutrality. On Saturday it launched the Marine Debris Beach Clean Up Program as part of the Red Sea Project. “Eliminating marine debris is receiving increasing attention from the media that it has become a global cause, urging us to participate in protecting our virgin environment for which our seafront is known,” said TRSDC CEO John Pagano.
“The program for eliminating marine debris will play an important material and moral role with the support of the residents of areas surrounding the seafront. It will also shed light on the importance of reducing the use of nonrecyclable plastics, in addition to encouraging the disposing of these substances in a safe and sustainable manner.”
The TRSDC will continue to explore ways for recycled materials to be a source of employment opportunities for the area’s residents, he added. 
TRSDC is an official partner of the United Nations’ initiative to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the cleanup program will initially support two SDGs: Life Below Water and Life on Land. It will expand to support other SDGs, including Responsible Consumption and Production, Sustainable Cities and Communities, Decent Work and the Growth of the Economy, Ending Poverty, and Quality Education.

HIGHLIGHTS

• TRSDC is an official partner of the United Nations’ initiative to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the cleanup program will initially support two SDGs: Life Below Water and Life on Land.

• It will expand to support other SDGs, including Responsible Consumption and Production, Sustainable Cities and Communities, Decent Work and the Growth of the Economy, Ending Poverty, and Quality Education.

• Institutions or individuals wishing to take part in the beach cleanup program can find more details here: www.act4sdgs.org/partner/TheRedSeaProject

Dr. Rusty Brainard, chief environment officer at TRSDC, said: “Marine debris causes significant damage to the environment and is a major cause of death for many marine organism species, which may ingest these substances. Moreover, the disintegration of plastic waste into small pieces that penetrate into the food web base may also threaten human food resources. Our program for eliminating marine litter is a long-term project that includes ongoing monitoring of environmental health, as well as periodic intervention to clean up any waste in the Red Sea Project.”
TRSDC has teamed up with leading academic institutions in the Kingdom, such as King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) and the University of Tabuk, on a number of educational initiatives, added Brainard.
The partnership between TRSDC and KAUST has led to an international competition — “Brains for Brine” — that encourages academics, scientists, engineers and the water industry to find solutions for managing the disposal of brine, which is a waste product of water desalination, in a sustainable and commercially viable way.
KAUST has also helped TRSDC with marine spatial planning for the Red Sea Project.
As part of the planning process, major environmental studies were carried out to ensure that the area’s sensitive ecology was protected both during and after completion of the development.
The final master plan, which preserves around 75 percent of the destination’s islands for conservation and designates nine islands as sites of significant ecological value, required several redesigns to avoid potential disruption to endangered species native to the area.
Institutions or individuals wishing to take part in the beach clean-up program can find more details here: www.act4sdgs.org/partner/TheRedSeaProject