Saudi, US institutes hold discussion on regional, bilateral issues

Middle East issues were the focus of discussions held between the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and the Saudi delegation. (AN photo)
Updated 08 December 2017

Saudi, US institutes hold discussion on regional, bilateral issues

RIYADH: The Prince Saud Faisal Institute for Diplomatic Studies held a cordial discussion on Thursday about Middle East issues with a delegation from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Saudi-US relations are “becoming stronger, as we’re talking about the biggest oil producer and the largest oil consumer in the world,” said Shoura Council member Dr. Raeda Abu Nayan.
“Deals signed in May during President Donald Trump’s visit are evidence of these close ties,” she added.
“Saudi Arabia has strong confidence in the US business environment, and I think the US believes in the economic reforms that Saudi Arabia is pursuing,” she said.
“Saudi Arabia has shifted from a government-led economy to a market-based one. The government believes all stakeholders should be involved (the government, the private sector, NGOs and foreign investors).”
Shoura Council member Dr. Hanan Al-Ahmadi said: “The meeting with the delegates of the Washington Institute was a great opportunity to exchange views and information on issues of mutual interest between the US and Saudi Arabia.”
She added: “Such meetings are useful to enhance communication between the people of the two countries, who have been allies for decades and have extended relations and cooperation in various fields.”
She said: “We had a very good discussion on the impact of Vision 2030 on all aspects of Saudi life, focusing on the economy, education, the role of youth, women and regional issues.”
Al-Ahmadi added: “We shed light on the achievements of Saudi women and our pride in where we are at this moment in our country’s history.”
She said: “Women represent a higher proportion of university graduates, an increasing percentage of the labor market, and are entering decision-making circles.”
She added: “The movement to improve public sector performance and counter terrorism is a relief to us, as we know that this time the government is determined to succeed.”
The Saudi delegation “emphasized the Kingdom’s role in supporting US counterterrorism efforts,” Al-Ahmadi said.
“We expressed concerns about the fact that American media doesn’t reflect accurately the Saudi role in global efforts to counter terrorism, and the long partnership between our two nations in the fight against terror.” 
Shoura Council member Dr. Modi Al-Khalafi said: “We touched upon several critical topics: Social, economic and religious reforms; unacceptable Iranian involvement in the region and proxy wars resulting from it; and US-Saudi collaboration on counterterrorism.”
Many US delegates said they were impressed and surprised that Saudi women’s voices were articulated loudly, clearly and in partnership with their male colleagues.
“We’re proud of our traditional role as mothers and housewives, as it’s important for the family and society, as much as we’re proud of being working mothers,” said Abu Nayan.
“Our vision is to increase the contribution of women in the workforce from 22 to 30 percent by 2030,” she added.
“We’re breaking the glass ceiling, and we’re going to increase the percentage of women in higher positions from 1.27 now to 5 percent.”
A participant at the dialogue, Susan Wang, said she thought wearing the abaya would be constricting, but “I’m surprised by how liberated I feel wearing it.”
Abu Nayan replied: “We’re proud of our abayas, and you shouldn’t judge us by what we’re wearing on our heads, but what we have in our minds.”
Al-Khalafi said: “As a Saudi woman, there’s always a lot to say about our history, challenges, achievements and hopes for the future.”
She added: “More often than not, exchanges like this, especially among knowledgeable scholars who are candid with each other, result in tangible steps that can bridge a gap or pave the way for further collaboration.” 


Saudi Arabia eases coronavirus lockdown restrictions

Updated 26 May 2020

Saudi Arabia eases coronavirus lockdown restrictions

  • Curfew to be eased on Sunday, except in Makkah, as domestic travel permitted
  • All curfews in Saudi Arabia to be lifted by June 20

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced the easing of restrictions that has halted much of the activity in the country due to the coronavirus pandemic.

As of Sunday 31, May, the curfew on all areas of the Kingdom will be eased, except Makkah. Movement in cities and within the regions of the country will again be permitted, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Tuesday.

The easing will mean the Kingdom’s 24-hour lockdown is relaxed with a curfew from 3 p.m to 6 a.m until Sunday, after which the hours will change to 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.. Makkah will remain under a full 24-hour lockdown.

On June 21, all curfews in the Kingdom will be lifted and prayers at Makkah’s mosque will be permitted.

Before then, social distancing guidelines must continue to be adhered to and gatherings of more than 50 people will continue to be banned.

Authorities have also allowed the attendance at ministries, government agencies and private sector companies, and the return of their office activities.

Some economic and commercial activities will also be allowed to take place including those at wholesale and retail shops, as well as malls. Cafes will be permitted to operate once more.

However, all job sectors where social distancing rules are harder to achieve such as beauty salons, barbershops, sports and health clubs, recreational centers and cinemas will remain closed.

Umrah pilgrimage and international flights will continue to be suspended until further notice.

The new rules are subject to constant evaluation at the health ministry and can be changed if the situation warrants it.

Earlier, Dr. Tawfiq Al-Rabiah, the health minister, said: “The phases start gradually until we return to normalcy, with its new concept based on social distancing.” 

He added that the precautionary steps taken by the Kingdom early in the outbreak helped to limit the spread of the virus. 

Now, he said, the ministry has developed a plan for the next phase that relies on two main factors: The capacity of the health care system to cope with critical cases, and the expansion of testing to identify new infections as soon as possible.

Reassuring the Saudi nation on Monday, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said: “The bad conditions will pass, God willing, and we are heading toward the good, God willing.” 

The Kingdom recorded 2,235 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, taking the total to 74,795, and the death toll rose by nine to 399. Worldwide the virus has infected more than 5.5 million people and killed nearly 350,000.