Saudi official: Partnership with US resilient, more intelligence sharing on Yemen desired

Prince Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud
Updated 11 May 2017

Saudi official: Partnership with US resilient, more intelligence sharing on Yemen desired

WASHINGTON: Following a boost in US-Saudi official meetings and ahead of President Donald Trump’s visit to the Kingdom next week, the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington hosted a one-day conference on Wednesday keynoted by Saudi government foreign policy adviser Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud.
Prince Faisal, who was recently appointed as a high-ranking adviser to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, candidly opened his remarks by acknowledging that the “Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has a good story to tell even if we have often not been effective at telling it.”
One aspect of the story that he told to an audience of US experts and investors gathered in the Knight Conference Center at the Newseum centered around Vision 2030 that “established a direction of travel for the Kingdom toward a path to sustainable prosperity for the people of Saudi Arabia.
“Today, one year into our journey, we have a better grasp of the challenges and opportunities we will face,” he said.
One year after its launch, Prince Faisal said: “The vision’s commitment to a set of measurable and clearly defined goals, specific accountability mechanisms and relevant stakeholders for each objective have been identified.” He went on to highlight key goals to “diversify our economy, triple non-oil revenue to $141 billion by 2020 and create 450,000 new non-governmental jobs.”
Social programs are also a critical part of the plan, according to the Saudi official.
“We intend to empower women to play a more prominent role by increasing women’s participation in the workforce from 22 to 30 percent, among other goals,” he said, before stressing the progress already made on women’s empowerment.
“While 10 years ago, seeing women participating in government meetings was uncommon, today, when I go to meetings at government agencies, I’m more likely than not to see several women participating in the decision-making process.”
Boosting tourism and attracting investment is also big part of the way forward, he said, and Saudi Arabia’s strategy is to approach “policymakers and opinion leaders to support these initiatives and American businesses and investors, as well as those from China, Japan and other potential economic partners, to participate in them.”
He refused to call Vision 2030 “a program for economic reform,” framing it instead as “a true effort at national transformation to create a more vibrant society, thriving economy and an ambitious nation.”
The official also applauded “the resilient seven-decade-old US-Saudi partnership,” promising to take it “to new levels on investment and foreign policy.” Answering a question on Yemen, Prince Faisal said Saudi Arabia seeks help on interjecting Iranian arms, more intelligence sharing and munitions that will cut collateral damage.
The hopeful Saudi view on relations was shared by Tim Lenderking, deputy assistant secretary of state for Arabian Gulf affairs in the Near East Bureau at the US Department of State. Lenderking, who served in Saudi Arabia in the past, said the “US looks at the GCC as a force multiplier.”
He noted the improved US-Saudi relations under President Trump and said “what you are seeing from the new administration is a more robust relationship with Saudi Arabia.”
The US official added that Washington "doesn't want war with Iran; (it) wants Iran and Saudi (Arabia) to co-exist,” and called for a diplomatic vision between Iran and Washington.
The conference’s banner, “Saudi Transforming,” engaged Saudi journalists and activists as well. Ahmed Omran, a journalist, said the “government does pay attention to what the religious establishment thinks but they do not always follow their advice.”
Meanwhile, Lina K. Almaeena, a member of the Shoura Council of Saudi Arabia, said “the religious institution is a thing of the past.”
The conference followed a series of official and non-official visits by Saudi delegations to Washington ahead of a highly-anticipated Trump visit to the Kingdom, marking the US president’s first foreign trip.


Shared experiences: Philippines, Libya eye stronger defense cooperation over Daesh

Updated 29 September 2020

Shared experiences: Philippines, Libya eye stronger defense cooperation over Daesh

  • Follows meeting between senior officials to discuss bilateral ties between two countries

MANILA: The Philippines and Libya are looking to explore opportunities for defense cooperation based on their “shared experiences” in fighting Daesh, the Philippines’ charge d’affaires and embassy head of mission in Tripoli, Elmer Cato, told Arab News.

“The Philippines and Libya could cooperate in such areas as counter-terrorism and intelligence sharing. We shared our experience fighting Daesh in Marawi and Sirte,” Cato said following his meeting with Libya’s Defense Minister Salahuddin Al-Nimroush on Sept. 21, referring in part to a five-month siege which pitted Filipino forces against Daesh-inspired militants, and the eight months of fighting to liberate Sirte from the group.

“In Sirte, a number of nurses were taken hostage by ISIS (Daesh) but later managed to escape. In Derna, four Filipino oil workers were taken and later executed, but their bodies have not yet been recovered. We continue to work with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in recovering the remains of our four countrymen,” he said.

He added, however, that the meeting — which included discussions on language training and military-to-military exchanges — was only “exploratory” and intended to see how the Philippines could expand ties “with one of our closest friends” in Africa.

“Cyberdefense was (also) brought up because the minister (Al-Nimroush) was an IT expert,” Cato said, before thanking him for giving the Philippine navy vessel BRP Gabriela Silang permission to enter Libyan waters and evacuate Filipinos “at the height of the fighting” in Tripoli earlier this year.

“We took the opportunity to express our appreciation to Libya for approving our request for the BRP Gabriela Silang to enter Libyan waters and dock in Tripoli, in case we needed to evacuate Filipinos,” he said.

Al-Nimroush expressed his appreciation for the Philippine’s continued presence in Tripoli through its embassy as “one of several countries that chose to keep their diplomatic missions open” and praised Filipino nurses and workers in the oil sector for their “important role” in Libya.

“The minister thanked us ... for being true friends of Libya. He said he and the Libyan people appreciated the fact that we kept our embassy in Tripoli open and allowed our people to continue caring for their sick and in helping them pump their oil. We told him that’s what friends are for,” Cato said.

He added that while Al-Nimroush “had been around Southeast Asia,” he never had the chance to visit the Philippines. 

“He told me ‘when I do get the chance to visit, I will go scuba diving in Palawano,’” Cato said.

The Philippines recently won the Best Overseas Diving Award 2020 during the 28th Marine Diving Fair held at the Sunshine City Convention Center in Tokyo, Japan. 

Cebu, Bohol, Moalboal, and Busuanga, all of which are teeming with whale sharks, snappers, dugong, and other exotic species, are some of the most popular diving sites in the Philippines.

Cato’s meeting with Al-Nimroush followed talks with Libyan Foreign Minister Faraj Abdelrahman Abumtary earlier this month, where the two discussed the state of Philippine-Libya relations and steps to strengthen bilateral ties. 

This was in addition to discussing the measures taken by Libyan authorities to ensure the well-being of more than 2,300 Filipinos residing in the country.