Italian ambassador to Riyadh hails Saudi ‘social revolution’

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Italian Ambassador Luca Ferrari. (Photo: Abdulrahman Al-Salem)
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Italian Ambassador Luca Ferrari speaks during an interview with Arab News. (Photo: Abdulrahman Al-Salem)
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Updated 02 January 2020

Italian ambassador to Riyadh hails Saudi ‘social revolution’

  • Saudis should be proud of their country and proud of their changes, says Luca Ferrari

RIYADH: The outgoing Italian ambassador to Saudi Arabia has described the last four years in the Kingdom as remarkable, calling them a “social revolution.”

Luca Ferrari was reflecting on his time in the country, from the changes he witnessed firsthand to the political relations between Italy and Saudi Arabia. 

“These are the four years of the most remarkable event in Saudi Arabia, which is a social revolution,” he told Arab News. “There’s also an economic one and a political one, but I think the strongest element is the social evolution.”

He said the younger generation was taking control and imposing their own way of life on the Kingdom, saying this development exceeded expectations. 

“I see the younger generations in Europe who are always crying for the state to do something. Here I see the younger generations in Saudi Arabia taking things in their own hands and just building up and moving on.”

Last year’s Formula E event in Diriyah was a moment when the Kingdom changed dramatically, he added, while his favorite cultural event in Saudi Arabia was the performance of Italian opera star Andrea Bocellia at the Winter at Tantora Festival in AlUla. 

“That was quite remarkable, because the setting of this dramatic theater in the middle of the desert created by Italian architects in AlUla,” he said, speaking of the theater which is set between volcanic mountains and Nabataean ruins. “It was stunning.”

I see the younger generations in Saudi Arabia taking things in their own hands and just building up and moving on.

Luca Ferrari, Italian ambassador

His second cultural highlight was Milan’s La Scala making its debut in Riyadh in June, when the symphony orchestra from the world-famous opera house treated 3,000 people to an hour of beautiful classical music. 

The show opened with a surprise performance of the Kingdom’s national anthem by Saudi opera singer Sawsan Al-Bahiti, who received a standing ovation for her rendition.

The orchestra was conducted by maestro Pietro Mianetti, and featured performances by soprano Francisca Manzo and tenor Ricardo Della Sciucca.

“It was packed,” said Ferrari. “They played some of the best pieces of Italian concertos and opera. It was very well done. It wasn’t an embassy event. It was something by the Saudis for the Saudis.”

HIGHLIGHT

Italian visitor numbers to Saudi Arabia are increasing thanks to the introduction of a new tourist visa, with holidaymakers going out and about in Riyadh and elsewhere.

Italian visitor numbers to Saudi Arabia were increasing thanks to the introduction of a new tourist visa, with holidaymakers going out and about in Riyadh and elsewhere. There was also an increase of Saudis heading to Italy and the ambassador said he was happy about those numbers too. 

“You know, it takes very little time to get a bad image, but then it takes a long time to make a bad image better. And Saudi Arabia had a bad image because it was a very closed country. Nobody knew anything about it. And so, you allowed those who were against you to speak, to badmouth this country without reacting. Now that you’re opening up, just by the fact that you’re opening up, I mean, this is beyond the response. Maybe some problems were true, but most of them were not.”

People will discover Saudi Arabia for themselves and spread the word, he added, although it could take as much as a generation. “Saudi Arabia’s image will change. Saudi Arabia will change, and I think only to something better.”

Another transformation was many Saudis staying put instead of traveling overseas for their holidays. “Everybody was here, because there was so much to see and to do in Riyadh, Jeddah, Dammam, everywhere. There is a lot to do in the country. I could testify that 80 percent of my Saudi friends are all here and I see them every day. Last year or the year before they were all away.”

The ambassador said he had visited different parts of Saudi Arabia and had a lot of fun. 

“I think they (Saudis) should be proud of their country. They should be proud of their changes. They should never sell themselves short. You can be open-minded and still maintain your traditions and one thing does not impede the other. And that’s very, very important. Yes, it has a future ahead. You’re a very young country and young people are thriving, and they have a long future in front of them.”

His next posting is in China.


Riyadh ‘Peace Declaration’ seen as game-changer for stability in Sudan

Updated 12 min 14 sec ago

Riyadh ‘Peace Declaration’ seen as game-changer for stability in Sudan

JEDDAH: As chair of the Friends of Sudan group, Saudi Arabia has called for an inclusive sustainable peace process for the country, the Kingdom’s envoy to Khartoum told Arab News.
Participants at the 8th Friends of Sudan meeting, convened via video conference on Wednesday, seized the opportunity to reaffirm their full commitment to Sudan’s Transitional Government in developing an inclusive and sustainable peace plan and economic reform program.
The group, chaired by Saudi Arabia, was represented by the Kingdom’s Foreign Minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan. Along with their international partners, through the Riyadh Friends of Sudan meeting, expressing their full confidence in the civilian-led transition under the leadership of Prime Minister Dr. Abdullah Hamdok as they continue to prioritize a comprehensive and inclusive peace plan despite unforeseen challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Kingdom’s Ambassador to Sudan Ali bin Hassan Jafar, told Arab News that the meeting comes at a crucial time for the group and is the first to discuss the peace process at length.
In recognition of its mediation role, Saudi Arabia invited representatives of the government of South Sudan as honorary guests to attend the meeting for the first time following their constructive role in the Juba peace talks.
The high-level representation, led by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of South Sudan, Ambassador Beatrice Khamisa Wani, and Chairman of South Sudan Government Committee for Peace Mediation in Sudan Tut Galuak, are a recognition for their role in advancing the Juba Peace Talks negotiations in good faith.
The Friends of Sudan welcomed the participation of the Sudan Revolutionary Front and the Sudan Liberation Movement in the meeting, recognized by the group as a sign of their goodwill and commitment and constructive engagement with the international community to work with Sudan’s Transitional Government to achieve sustainability and peace in their country.
“Great efforts have been made by Saudi Arabia with the help of its international partners at the Friends of Sudan meeting to call on all parties involved to come back to the negotiating table, appealing to them to realize the historic opportunity to reach consensus for sustainable peace talks that will ensure unity, stability and prosperity of Sudan,” said the ambassador.
The Friends of Sudan was established in 2018 as an informal group, and includes countries and organizations committed to joint action to provide support to the transitional government in the country.
Representatives attended the meetings and discussed the best means to coordinate support and work with Sudan’s transitional government to reach economic stability, prosperity and sustainable peace in the country’s critical time.
“The meeting served as a first achievement in the Friends of Sudan group, reaffirming their commitment to helping Sudan sustainable peace. Under Saudi Arabia’s initiative, the group issued the Riyadh declaration ‘Partners for Sustainable Peace in Sudan,” added the ambassador.
The declaration commended the resolution and resolve of most of the outstanding issues during the Juba Peace Talks, said the ambassador.
The road ahead will be challenging, the envoy added.
The Partners for Sustainable Peace in Sudan Declaration (Peace Declaration) expressed their concern that a number of parties remain outside the peace process. The ‘Peace Deceleration’ called on all parties to the conflict to engage in good faith in the peace process and refrain from counterproductive demands, cautioning that all spoilers to the peace process or the implementation of the Political Agreement and Constitutional Charter of Aug. 17, 2019, may have consequences imposed on them.
The inclusion of women and youth in the peace process and the transitional government was also stressed in the meeting.
The declaration reaffirms the group’s commitment and will to remain engaged and assist Sudan’s Transitional Government. Any obstruction to the peace process will prolong the suffering of the Sudanese people, the partners said.
As the world is a financial crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Friends of Sudan group urged in the meeting that parties to the peace talks be aware of Sudan’s economic challenges, prioritize demands that reflect the understanding and appreciation to these challenges and collaborate to find mutual and agreeable solutions.