Saudi foreign minister says Israel policy unchanged

Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said Israel’s involvement in the region will be on the table when a peace deal is made with the Palestinians. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 28 January 2020

Saudi foreign minister says Israel policy unchanged

  • Foreign minister says Israeli passport holders are still unable to visit the the Kingdom

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia confirmed on Monday that Israeli passport holders were not permitted to enter the Kingdom.

Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said the policy was unchanged despite Israel saying on Sunday that its citizens could now travel to Saudi Arabia.

“Our policy is fixed,” Prince Faisal told CNN. “We do not have relations with the state of Israel, and Israeli passport holders cannot visit the Kingdom at the current time.

“When a peace agreement is reached between the Palestinians and the Israelis, I believe the issue of Israel’s involvement in the region will be on the table.”

Analysts said the statements by both countries were significant as US President Donald Trump prepared to unveil his Middle East peace plan in Washington.

“Israel wanted to fool the Arabs, and to put Saudi Arabia in a difficult position, saying they had resolved the issue with the Kingdom and were ready for peace,” the Saudi political analyst Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri told Arab News.

“But the Kingdom is saying, ‘No, you cannot visit until there is a solution,’ and we will find out tomorrow if the Trump peace plan is that solution.”

The 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, calling for normal Arab relations with Israel in return for its withdrawal from occupied land, was the benchmark, Al-Shehri said.

“If they are going to override the Arab Peace Initiative without a workable alternative, then of course the Kingdom will not establish diplomatic relations.” 


Two Holy Mosques in Saudi Arabia ready to confront health epidemics

Updated 32 min 1 sec ago

Two Holy Mosques in Saudi Arabia ready to confront health epidemics

  • The Kingdom has gained experience in dealing with millions of peoples, says crowd expert

MAKKAH: The General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques has announced its readiness to deal with any epidemic cases. It said that it will provide all necessary information to pilgrims and has doubled cleaning times of the courtyards and corridors of the Grand Mosque in Makkah.

The presidency said that it is raising media awareness in all languages and through informative screens to distribute the latest medical instructions and emergency developments.

Abdulhamid Al-Maliki, assistant undersecretary for services affairs at the presidency, told Arab News that the Two Holy Mosques are collaborating with public health authorities to face all possible situations.

Al-Maliki said that he has been working hand-in-hand with governmental and private agencies to distribute masks and hand sanitizer.

He added that coordination has been made with public health-related bodies to mobilize the necessary media coverage to inform all pilgrims of different nationalities wherever they may be.

The assistant undersecretary said that responding to all instructions and advice is necessary for the best handling of health issues.

Crowd expert Akram Jan said that Saudi Arabia has gained experience in dealing with crowds and millions of people, and that it was prepared to handle several sudden scenarios as well as the most difficult situations with success.

Jan said that the difficulties that accompany the presence of viruses — such as the new coronavirus — are their ability to spread and infect through contact or sneezing. He added that the Kingdom is taking precautionary measures to prevent a disaster from happening.

 

Disinfection

The floors of Makkah’s Grand Mosque are washed and disinfected four times daily as part of measures to ensure the safety of pilgrims and visitors.

Highly qualified cadres use the best technology and cleaning and sanitizing tools, said Jaber Widaani, director of the mosque’s department of disinfection and carpets. 

There are 13,500 prayer rugs at the mosque, all of which are swept and fragranced on a daily basis, he added.

Since the new coronavirus emerged in December 2019 in central China, it has sickened 82,000 people globally, with more than 2,700 deaths. The illness it causes was named COVID-19, a reference to its origin late last year.

Middle East countries have been implementing measures to protect their citizens and residents from the rising coronavirus cases.

On Thursday, Dubai’s Emirates announced a temporary ban on carrying Umrah pilgrims and tourists from nearly two dozen countries to Saudi Arabia.

The announcement came after the Kingdom placed a temporary ban on pilgrims from entering the country to perform Umrah, in an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Nearly 7 million Umrah pilgrims visit the Kingdom each year, the majority of whom arrive at airports in Jeddah and Madinah.