Saudi crown prince oversees $20bn of deals with Pakistan

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Mohammed bin Salman and Imran Khan at a banquet held in the crown princes honor. (SPA)
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Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is greeted by Pakistan's prime minister, Imran Khan, after landing in Islamabad. (PID)
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Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is greeted by Pakistan's prime minister, Imran Khan, after landing in Islamabad. (PID)
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Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is greeted by Pakistan's prime minister, Imran Khan, after landing in Islamabad. (PID)
Updated 18 February 2019

Saudi crown prince oversees $20bn of deals with Pakistan

  • Consider me ‘the ambassador of Pakistan’ in Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman tells Imran Khan
  • Pakistani PM: Islamabad, Riyadh have elevated their relationship to ‘level where it has never been before’

ISLAMABAD: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan to consider him the “ambassador of Pakistan” in Saudi Arabia moments after the two countries signed key memorandums of understanding (MoUs) worth $20 billion on Sunday in the fields of energy, petrochemicals, minerals, agriculture and food processing.

The MoUs were signed by Pakistani and Saudi ministers on Sunday night in the presence of the crown prince and Khan.

The crown prince kicked off a rare Asian tour with a two-day visit to Pakistan on Sunday evening. After Islamabad, he will travel to India and China.

He was received by Khan and Army Chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa as he landed in Rawalpindi. The crown prince was given a 21-gun salute upon arrival.

A formation of JF-17 thunder jets and F-16 fighter jets had escorted his plane after its entry into Pakistani airspace.

Khan broke protocol by personally driving the crown prince from the Nur Khan Air Base in Rawalpindi on the outskirts of Islamabad.

On a personal request by Khan to the crown prince to allow Hajj pilgrims to go through immigration procedures in Pakistan and to look into the conditions of Pakistani workers, particularly prisoners, in Saudi Arabia, the crown prince said the Kingdom will do “whatever we can do” to oblige Islamabad.

 

“Just consider me the ambassador of Pakistan in Saudi Arabia,” the crown prince said amid applause by Saudi and Pakistani ministers, journalists and businessmen present at the banquet at the Prime Minister House.

The crown prince said Pakistan and Saudi Arabia had signed investment MoUs worth $20 billion.

“It’s big for phase one, and definitely it’s going to grow … and be beneficial for both countries,” he added.

“We believe that Pakistan is going to be a very, very important country in the coming future, and we want to be sure that we are part of that.”

Earlier, Khan and the crown prince had a one-on-one meeting at the Prime Minister House, followed by the inaugural session of the Supreme Coordination Council, co-chaired by the two leaders.

The council was formed “to fast track decisions in key areas of bilateral cooperation, and for close monitoring of their implementation,” the Prime Minister House said in a statement on Sunday night.

“Under the Supreme Coordination Council, a Steering Committee and Joint Working Groups have been set up at Ministerial and Senior Officials levels, to develop frameworks of cooperation in specific projects and submit recommendations to the respective Ministers.”

Khan and the crown prince will co-chair sessions of the joint working groups on Monday. “For Pakistanis, this is a great day,” Khan said in a speech delivered after the signing of the MoUs.

“Saudi Arabia has always been a friend for Pakistan. Saudi Arabia has been a friend when Pakistan has needed friends,” he added.

“Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are taking their relationship to a level where it has never been before.”

Last year, Saudi Arabia offered Pakistan $3 billion in foreign currency support for a year, and a further loan worth up to $3 billion in deferred payments for oil imports to help stave off a current account crisis.

Speaking about the $60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) of energy and infrastructure projects that forms a key node in Beijing’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative linking China with Asia, Europe and beyond, Khan expressed hope that Saudi Arabia will participate with Islamabad in what he considered an “exciting future.”

He said: “We have CPEC, we have links with China, we have very close connectivity with probably … the biggest market in the world, which is China. So we welcome Saudi Arabia to participate with us. It’s an exciting future.”

Pakistan’s Foreign Office earlier thanked the crown prince for “generously” reducing Saudi visa fees at Khan’s request.

The Saudi Embassy in Islamabad announced on Friday that non-pilgrimage visit visa fees for single entry has been lowered from SR2,000 ($533) to SR338, while the fee for a multiple-entry visa has been reduced from SR3,000 to SR675. The new fee structure came into effect on Feb. 15.


Riyadh Season Boulevard zone opens with spectacular parade

Updated 14 min 26 sec ago

Riyadh Season Boulevard zone opens with spectacular parade

  • The Riyadh parade is thought to be the biggest parade in Kingdom to date

RIYADH: More than 1,500 performers and 25 floats took part in a parade and carnival on Thursday night that officially launched Riyadh Season’s Boulevard zone. The crowds that gathered for the fun-packed event were also treated to motorcycle displays, fireworks and other surprises.

The Boulevard lit up at 9 p.m. for the start of the 90-minute event, which featured some of the international artists who will perform as part of Riyadh Season. Afterwards, the zone’s food and drink outlets, outdoor cinema and fountain shows officially opened.

The audience watched the parade, performances and displays from specially constructed stands. Food trucks offered a selection of tasty snacks, and organizers also provided prayer rooms, toilets, first-aid stations and other facilities.

 

GEA president Turki Al-Sheikh gave an opening speech: “Our dearest people, in the beginning of this season, we welcome you and our guests in Riyadh.

“I want to share a story with you all; once upon a time, I was from a middle-class family. My mother and father would gather both their salaries to have us travel to see the world, and then we would stay in Riyadh for a year. These were our capabilities (at the time) and there was nothing to do in Riyadh. Who would've thought that we’d see all of this in Riyadh, and in our beloved country?

“This wouldn't have been possible without -of course Allah first- a person who has the qualities and vision of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.”

He tweeted: “Riyadh traffic police estimated we have exceeded 600K which means ten times the capacity.”

In addition to the opening-night festivities, the Boulevard zone, which covers 400,000 square meters, will host a wide range of entertainment options and activities for all ages, including the outdoor cinema, restaurants, and sports, music and theatrical events. It has three main venues: The 22,000-seat Mohammed Abdu Theater, the 6,000-seat Abu Bakr Salem Theater, and the 2,000-seat Baker Al-Sheddi Theater.

The parade is just one of more than 100 events featuring local, regional and international performers taking place during the Riyadh Season festival, which continues until mid-December at 12 zones across the city: the Boulevard; the Front; Riyadh Car Show; Winter Wonderland; Riyadh Stadiums; the Diplomatic Quarter; Al-Muraba’a; Al-Malaz; Wadi Namar; Nabd Al-Riyadh; Riyadh Safari; and Riyadh Sahara. It has been organized with the support of Turki Al-Sheikh, chairman of the General Entertainment Authority and president of Riyadh Season.

The ambitious 2019 Saudi Seasons initiative, the first of its kind in the region, was launched in February and includes 11 local seasons covering most parts of the Kingdom. Designed to promote the fledgling Saudi entertainment sector and boost tourism, it is attracting some of the biggest names in world entertainment.

The Riyadh parade is thought to be the biggest parade in Kingdom to date. It follows a folklore parade at the Mawtni (My Nation) cultural event in Yanbu to mark Saudi National Day this year, and a parade during the Jeddah Season festivities in the city’s Obhur district.

The parade had a special surprise; the appearance of DJ Carnage who took to the stage dressed in complete Saudi attire and performed his successful electronic show.

The musician also took to Twitter to celebrate the night and how he had had a hand in “making history,” tweeting: “A huge thank you to @Turki_alalshikh  ..... what you did for your country last night... was so special... thank you for having me... we made history.”