Saudi-US relations ‘at all-time high’ as crown prince begins tour

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir. (SPA)
Updated 20 March 2018

Saudi-US relations ‘at all-time high’ as crown prince begins tour

WASHINGTON: Iran’s “nefarious” behavior, trade ties and the tech sector are all high on the agenda as Saudi Arabia’s crown prince begins a multi-city trip to the US, where he is due to meet President Donald Trump later on Tuesday.
Talks about further action against the regime in Tehran are “ongoing,” the Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said Monday, as he laid out the agenda for the US visit by the Kingdom’s heir apparent.
“Our relationship with the US is at an all-time high,” Al-Jubeir said at a briefing in Washington.
“We have very strong ties in all areas, whether it is in trade and investment, whether it is in the military cooperation, whether it is in counter-terrorism.
“This visit will help further strengthen these ties between our two countries.”
The trip follows the crown prince’s visits to both Egypt and the UK earlier this month, which led to a string of political and economic agreements signed between the Kingdom and two of its key allies.
But the visit to the US aims to build on what is possibly Saudi Arabia’s most important relationship, and one strengthened by the arrival of Trump in the White House.
Aside from meeting the US president, Crown Prince Mohammed is also due to meet with Vice President Mike Pence, administration officials and religious leaders.
He will meet financiers and think tank chiefs in New York, entertainment executives and technology entrepreneurs in San Francisco and Los Angeles, and key figures of the energy industry in Houston.
“We will sign a number of agreements during this trip,” said Al-Jubeir, adding that most of the deals are expected to be memorandums of understanding.
The visit by Crown Prince Mohammed follows Trump’s move last week to dismiss his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who is known to have a softer line on Iran than the US president. Al-Jubeir described Tillerson’s successor, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, as “a friend.”
The Saudi foreign minister said the so-called “nuclear deal” between Iran and Western powers — a point of contention between Trump and Tillerson — was “flawed,” describing Tehran’s behavior as “nefarious.”
“We have always argued that Iran must be held accountable for its support for terrorism, for violating resolutions related to ballistic missiles, and for interfering in the affairs of other countries,” he said.
“We’re working to see what the most effective way of achieving those objectives is … Those discussions are ongoing.”
Al-Jubeir acknowledged that Saudi Arabia had work to do in correcting some perceptions about the conflict in Yemen, where the Kingdom leads coalition forces battling Iran-backed Houthi militias.
“A lot of (the issues) we have in Yemen is more perception than reality,” he said.
“The reality is that we didn’t start this war, we didn’t want this war – it was imposed upon us.”
The social reforms underway in Saudi Arabia, under the crown prince’s ambitious Vision 2030 plan, are also set to be discussed in the US.
Changes include allowing women to drive from this summer, allowing cinemas to open in the Kingdom, as well as the broader aim to diversify the economy away from its “addiction” to oil.
Al-Jubeir said people should “stay tuned” for news of further reforms, adding that there had been little “pushback” on those that had already taken place.
A key aim of the plan is to make Saudi Arabia “a normal country in which normal people lead normal lives,” he added.


Climate change inspires prestigious Saudi art exhibition

We hope visitors would be inspired by the works they see, says Hamza Serafi, head of the curatorial committee at the Saudi Art Council. (Photos/Huda Bashatah)
Updated 29 January 2020

Climate change inspires prestigious Saudi art exhibition

  • The seventh ‘21,39 Jeddah Arts’ event addresses the global environmental crisis under the title ‘I Love You, Urgently’

JEDDAH: The seventh 21,39 Jeddah Arts is back in town, addressing the global environmental crisis under the title “I Love You, Urgently.” Based at the Saudi Art Council’s hub in Jeddah, it parades the work of local artists.

Muhammad Hafiz, vice-chairman of Saudi Art Council, emphasized the importance of art in complementing societies, and how it is now being carried out by the state. He said: “This year we’re supported by the Ministry of Culture, who have kindly reached out to support us.”
Maya El Khalil, the curator of “I Love You, Urgently” paid tribute to Frei Otto, the masterful architect who has painstakingly contributed to memorable sights in the Kingdom and has been the inspiration for this year’s concept.
“In our part of the world, for the time being, these concerns (sustainability of the environment) aren’t a priority,” she said during the press conference to launch the exhibition.
 “It was interesting to see the artists go through a long process of research and study, building their awareness of their surroundings,” she said.
Hamza Serafi, head of the curatorial committee at the Saudi Art Council, said that they hoped visitors would be inspired by the works they see.
He thanked the curator for choosing Frei Otto, one of the pioneers of biomimicry — the imitation of nature.
“With that humane concept, the artists started expressing their feelings about how they see nature; some went into architectural forms, filming, music; it’s really diverse,” he said.
Visual artist Marwah Al-Mugait is one of 21 artists who have participated in the main exhibition this year, making her third appearance thanks to the Saudi Art Council.
Al-Mugait’s creation can be sensed upon entry to the cavernous venue, where women’s chants can be heard. Upon inspection, behind a lavish white curtain, a video filmed in Riyadh is playing across a curved wall where a group of women come together in self-expression and self-preservation, before they huddle against an ancient tree and embrace it.
“This year is exceptional because of the theme; I’m so happy and honored to work with Maya El Khalil, who presented the concept of biomimicry,” Al-Mugait told Arab News.

FASTFACT

The exhibition hosts visits from schools organized by the Ministry of Education.

Al-Mugait began to work toward unseen elements to display “multi-layered emotional details” in her work in order to depict the senses rather than what meets the eye. Initially, the Riyadh-based artist felt anxious about applying this new concept to her background in film and performance.
 “Throughout my research, I was driven towards the topic of the defense mechanisms of species, plantations and human beings, specifically Mimosa pudica, which closes in on itself whenever a predator is trying to touch it,” she explained.
Al-Mugait also drew inspiration from the way bees deal with predators who attack their hive, during which they perform a shimmering wave collectively.
As she struggled to translate these mechanical moves into a body language that conveys how humans can defend themselves from inner and outer harm, psychological harm and abuse, she came across Movers in Riyadh, and two of their choreographers helped her shape her performance.
Al-Mugait chose 14 female dancers to depict empowered women, two Jamaican-British and 12 Saudis. “I wanted to trace that power which you cannot see with my camera, along with their interaction with nature. That moment when they hug the tree at the end is similar to the one you would get from a mother.”
During the first week of 21,39 Jeddah Arts, a forum will be held with talks and panel discussions by the curator El Khalil and the artists of “I Love You, Urgently.”
The exhibition is open to the public, and also hosts visits from schools as part of educational trips orchestrated by the Ministry of Education, said Hafiz.
The event will run from January 28 to April 18, with further exhibitions taking place besides “I Love You, Urgently,” including “Architecture of Tomorrow: Frei Otto’s Legacy in Saudi Arabia,” which pays tribute to the inspiration behind this year’s theme, and “Sculpting Spaces — Architectural Desert Dwellings for AlUla”.
The Saudi Art Council is a non-profit initiative founded in 2014 by a number of art enthusiasts, and has been supportive of local artists and art movements in the Kingdom.