Emir of Qatar calls Saudi Crown Prince, seeks dialogue to end row with Anti-Terror Quartet

Qatar's emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani (left), and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. (QNA photo via AFP / SPA file photo)
Updated 09 September 2017

Emir of Qatar calls Saudi Crown Prince, seeks dialogue to end row with Anti-Terror Quartet

JEDDAH: Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani has called Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to express his desire to start a dialogue and discuss the demands of the Anti-Terror Quartet (ATQ), the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said.
Crown Prince Mohammed received the call on Friday, a day after US President Donald Trump offered to mediate and help resolve the dispute between Qatar and the quartet of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. Trump made the announcement in a joint press conference at the White House with Kuwaiti Emir Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah, who had been mediating between Qatar and the ATQ.
The Crown Prince welcomed Sheikh Tamim’s dialogue offer, SPA said, adding that the details will be announced later after Saudi Arabia “concludes an understanding” with its three partners.
The ATQ severed diplomatic relations with Qatar in June, accusing it of supporting extremist groups and of being too close to Iran, which has been accused by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) of fomenting strife in various partrs of the region.
The four countries also shut down air, maritime and land links and imposed economic sanctions on Qatar.
A defiant Qatar rejected the quartet's demands, even though these were reduced from an initial 13 to six. Doha also restored diplomatic ties with Tehran, further widening the rift.
Earlier Friday, Washington said Trump had called the Qatari emir and “stressed the importance of unity in fighting terrorism.”
“The president underscored the importance of all countries following through on commitments from the Riyadh Summit to maintain unity while defeating terrorism, cutting off funding for terrorist groups, and combating extremist ideology,” the White House said in a statement.
Trump and Sheikh Tamim also discussed the continued threat Iran poses to regional stability, the statement said.
The ATQ said in a statement early Friday that dialogue with Qatar should not be preceded by any condition.
And while the ATQ thanked the Emir of Kuwait for his mediation efforts, it made it clear that the military option against Qatar was never on the table.
"The Quartet regrets what the Emir of Kuwait said about the mediation succeeding in preventing a military intervention. (The Quartet) stresses that the military option was never — and never will be — an option in any way."
The ATQ also thanked President Trump for insisting that the only path to resolve this issue is to stop financing terror, and that he wouldn't have the desire to resolve it (the issue) if that is not achieved.


Saudi pursuit of ‘green Kingdom’ goal gets a boost

Updated 18 November 2019

Saudi pursuit of ‘green Kingdom’ goal gets a boost

  • Agreement between agriculture ministry and Dubai's ICBA aimed at conserving natural resources
  • Kingdom's biosaline agriculture research and systems stands to benefit from ICBA's expertise

DUBAI: Agricultural development and environmental sustainability in Saudi Arabia will receive a boost in the coming years, thanks to a new agreement between the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA) in Dubai and the Saudi Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture.

The agreement aims to enable Saudi Arabia to achieve its goal of preservation and sustainable management of its natural resources by raising the quality of biosaline agriculture research and systems.

The ministry says that the agreement will make use of the ICBA’s expertise in capacity development besides agricultural and environmental research, especially in the fields of vegetation development, combating desertification and climate change adaptation.

“It also includes training programs for Saudi technicians and farmers,” the ministry said. “In addition, it will localize, implement and develop biosaline agriculture research and production systems for both crops and forestation, which contributes to environmental and agricultural integration.”

Dr. Ismahane Elouafi, the ICBA’s director general, told Arab News: “The agreement had been in the making for about two years. That was when we were approached by the Saudi government.”

Dr. Ismahane Elouafi, ICBA Director General, at the center's Quinoa fields in Dubai. (Supplied photo)

She said: “We put forward a proposal to demonstrate how the ICBA can help the Saudi government to implement its Green Kingdom Initiative, through which the ministry is trying to restore green coverage in the country and revive old conservation practices.”

Geographical features and climatic conditions very greatly from one part of the country to the other.

In the past, experimentation with such crops as potatoes, wheat and alfalfa proved detrimental to the Kingdom’s environment and natural resources due to faster rates of groundwater withdrawal.

“The ministry wanted to put a halt to over-abstraction of water, so they went through different policies,” Elouafi said.

“They made sure, for example, that farmers stopped producing wheat because about 2,400 liters of water is consumed to produce 1 kg of wheat. It was a huge amount,” she added.

“The new strategy is to find more appropriate crops for the farming community, which is quite large in the Kingdom.”

Saudi Arabia has been trying to grow its own food on a large scale since the 1980s. 

The objective of the Green Kingdom Initiative is to reduce the agricultural sector’s water demand by finding alternatives to thirsty crops.

The agreement will require the ICBA, over the next five years, to build for Saudi Arabia a new biosaline agriculture sector. 

As part of this shift, cultivation of a number of crops, notably quinoa, pearl millet and sorghum, will be piloted in high-salinity regions and then scaled up.

“The crops did very well in the UAE,” Elouafi said. “We’re looking at Sabkha regions, which have very high salinity and wetlands, and are on the ministry’s environmental agenda.”

Another objective is “smart” agriculture, which will involve raising water productivity, controlling irrigation water consumption and changing farming behavior.

Elouafi said that getting farmers in the Kingdom to stop cultivating wheat took some time as they had become accustomed to heavy government subsidies. In 2015, wheat production was phased out, followed by potatoes a year later and then alfalfa. 

“Farmers were provided everything to the point where they got used to a very good income and a very easy system,” she said.

“Now farmers are being asked to start producing something else, but the income won’t be the same, so it’s very important at this stage that the ministry has a plan and it’s fully understood.”

The agreement envisages preparation of proposals for ministry projects that involve plant production, drought monitoring, development of promising local crop and forestation varieties, and conservation of plant genetic resources.

“We’re also discussing capacity building because the ministry is big and has many entities. Because Saudi Arabia is a large country and has the capacity to meet some of its food requirements internally, what’s required is a better understanding of the country’s natural capabilities in terms of production of the crops it needs, like certain cereals,” Elouafi said.

“The way the authorities are going about it right now is more organized and more holistic. They’re trying to plan it properly.”

Elouafi said that having a better understanding of Saudi Arabia’s water constraints and managing the precious resource is essential.

 

Although almost the entire country is arid, there is rainfall in the north and along the mountain range to the west, especially in the far southwest, which receives monsoon rains in summer.

 

Sporadic rain may also occur elsewhere. Sometimes it is very heavy, causing serious flooding, including in Riyadh.

“They (the government) are very interested in drought management systems. The Kingdom has a long history of agriculture,” Elouafi said.

“It has large quantities of water in terms of rainfall, and certain regions have mountainous conditions, which are conducive to agriculture.”

Clearly, preservation of water resources is a priority for the Saudi government. But no less urgent is the task of conversion of green waste to improve soil quality, increase soil productivity and water retention, and reduce demand for irrigation.

The Kingdom is one of at least three Gulf Cooperation Council countries that are taking steps to develop a regulatory framework for the recycling of waste into compost.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Oman are respectively aiming to recycle 85 percent, 75 percent and 60 percent of their municipal solid waste over the next decade, according to a report by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) entitled “Global Food Trends to 2030.”

Saudi Arabia and the UAE rank in the bottom quartile of the 34 countries covered by the EIU’s Food Sustainability Index, with low scores for nutrition and food loss and waste. 

The answer, according to many farmers, policymakers and food-industry experts, is a shift toward more sustainable management of each country’s natural resources.