Arab News chief recalls anecdote that set foundation of Saudi-Japanese ties

Arab News chief recalls anecdote that set foundation of Saudi-Japanese ties
Arab News Editor-in-Chief Faisal J. Abbas speaks at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo on Thursday. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 08 July 2019

Arab News chief recalls anecdote that set foundation of Saudi-Japanese ties

Arab News chief recalls anecdote that set foundation of Saudi-Japanese ties
  • Faisal J. Abbas sees enhanced bilateral relations following crown prince’s successful visit

TOKYO: Following the visit of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Japan for the G20 Summit, Arab News Editor-in-Chief Faisal J. Abbas provided context to growing Saudi-Japanese ties during a talk in Tokyo on Thursday.

Participating in a panel discussion at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan, moderated by British journalist Fred Varcoe, Abbas recalled an incident that marked a turning point in bilateral relations.

“It involved former Japanese Emperor Akihito and the late (Saudi) King Fahd. During the 1953 coronation of (Britain’s) Queen Elizabeth II, when King Fahd wasn’t even crown prince at the time let alone king, both he and the emperor had been invited to attend the ceremony,” said Abbas. 

“Upon discovering that he’d been seated in the first row and the emperor had been seated in the third row, King Fahd immediately insisted on giving the emperor his own seat, despite the breach of British royal protocols,” Abbas added.

“A friendship grew out of mutual respect ever since that moment. In some circles, it’s a very famous story, and whenever there’s a state visit it’s always repeated. That shows you the level of respect between the leaderships of the two countries.”

Abbas took questions from journalists in attendance, and the topics included Saudi-Japanese ties, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Saudi-Iranian relations.

He also discussed educational reforms, being a journalist in Saudi Arabia, and ongoing efforts toward gender equality and female empowerment in the Kingdom.

Abbas expressed his happiness at being in Japan for a third time, saying he learned something new every time he was there, and hoped to spend more time in the country in the future.

He referenced the crown prince’s visit, saying he hoped to see Saudi-Japanese relations go beyond trade and extend to such areas as cultural exchange.

“The relationship started based on the fact that Japan doesn’t produce its own oil, and Saudi Arabia used to import a lot of automobiles from Japan,” Abbas said.

“But now, with the new crown prince and the focus on having a strong bilateral relationship with Japan, we’re looking to enhance the relationship.”

Abbas also discussed his interview with Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono, in which he discussed the possibility of Tokyo acting as a “credible broker” in ongoing efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

When asked about the Saudi position on Israel, Abbas stressed that the Kingdom has no issue with Judaism or Jews.

“We believe that the problem between Palestine and Israel is a land dispute, and taking it out of context has harmed both sides,” he said, adding that once religion enters the argument, it becomes more complicated.

“You stop talking about land, and it becomes a nasty who’s right, who’s wrong situation. Our position is clearly outlined in the Arab Peace Initiative (API) of 2002.”

The API calls for normalizing relations between Arab states and Israel in exchange for the latter’s full withdrawal from the occupied territories, including East Jerusalem, and a “just settlement” of the Palestinian refugee issue based on UN Resolution 194.

Abbas welcomed the idea of Japan becoming an unbiased broker in negotiations. “I think it’s a great idea. The region has a lot of trust in Japan, and I hope it succeeds,” he said.

On the subject of Tehran, he said Saudi Arabia has “more in common with Iran than probably any other country in the world. It was never a position of us or them. What we’re asking for is to stop the destabilizing activities Iran has been carrying out in the region.”

Abbas added: “If we can disarm Iran, I think it would achieve the purpose without a drop of blood, and it would be an excellent achievement.”

He also discussed his attempts to create a gender-inclusive environment at Arab News, referencing his plan for a 50/50 gender ratio by 2020.


WhatsApp delays data sharing change after backlash

WhatsApp delays data sharing change after backlash
Updated 15 January 2021

WhatsApp delays data sharing change after backlash

WhatsApp delays data sharing change after backlash
  • WhatsApp canceled its February 8 deadline for accepting the tweak to its terms of service
  • The platform said it would instead “go to people gradually to review the policy at their own pace before new business options are available on May 15”

SAN FRANCISCO: WhatsApp on Friday postponed a data-sharing change as users concerned about privacy fled the Facebook-owned messaging service and flocked to rivals Telegram and Signal.
The smartphone app, a huge hit across the world, canceled its February 8 deadline for accepting an update to its terms concerning sharing data with Facebook, saying it would use the pause to clear up misinformation around privacy and security.
"We've heard from so many people how much confusion there is around our recent update," WhatsApp said in a blog post.
"This update does not expand our ability to share data with Facebook."
It said it would instead "go to people gradually to review the policy at their own pace before new business options are available on May 15."
WhatsApp's new terms were unpopular among users outside Europe who do not accept that they were given a deadline to be cut off from the service.
The update concerns how merchants using WhatsApp to chat with customers can share data with Facebook, which could use the information for targeted ads, according to the social network.
"We can't see your private messages or hear your calls, and neither can Facebook," WhatsApp said in an earlier blog post.
"We don't keep logs of who everyone is messaging or calling. We can't see your shared location and neither can Facebook."
Location data along with message contents is encrypted end-to-end, according to WhatsApp.
"We're giving businesses the option to use secure hosting services from Facebook to manage WhatsApp chats with their customers, answer questions, and send helpful information like purchase receipts," WhatsApp said in a post.
"Whether you communicate with a business by phone, email, or WhatsApp, it can see what you're saying and may use that information for its own marketing purposes, which may include advertising on Facebook."
Encrypted messaging app Telegram has seen user ranks surge on the heels of the WhatsApp service terms announcement, said its Russia-born founder Pavel Durov.
Durov, 36, said on his Telegram channel this week that the app had over 500 million monthly active users in the first weeks of January and "25 million new users joined Telegram in the last 72 hours alone."
WhatsApp boasts more than two billion users.
"People no longer want to exchange their privacy for free services," Durov said without directly referring to the rival app.
Encrypted messaging app Signal has also seen a huge surge in demand, helped by a tweeted recommendation by billionaire tech entrepreneur Elon Musk.
In India, WhatsApp's biggest market with some 400 million users, the two apps gained around four million subscribers last week, financial daily Mint reported, citing data from research firm Sensor Tower.
WhatsApp has sought to reassure worried users in the South Asian country, running full-page adverts in Wednesday's newspapers, proclaiming that "respect for your privacy is coded into our DNA".
Telegram is a popular social media platform in a number of countries, particularly in the former Soviet Union and Iran, and is used both for private communications and sharing information and news.
Durov said Telegram has become a "refuge" for those seeking a private and secure communications platform and assured new users that his team "takes this responsibility very seriously."
Telegram was founded in 2013 by brothers Pavel and Nikolai Durov, who also founded Russia's social media network VKontakte.
Telegram refuses to cooperate with requests from authorities to hand over encryption keys, which resulted in its ban in several countries, including Russia.
Last year, Russia announced that it will lift its ban on the app after more than two years of unsuccessful attempts to block it.