John Abizaid on Saudi-US ties: ‘We have a good marriage’

John Abizaid on Saudi-US ties: ‘We have a good marriage’
US Ambassador John Abizaid with Saudi Arabia's Ibrahim Abdulaziz Al-Assaf. Abizaid has paid tribute to 75 years of Saudi-American ties. (SPA)
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Updated 13 February 2020

John Abizaid on Saudi-US ties: ‘We have a good marriage’

John Abizaid on Saudi-US ties: ‘We have a good marriage’
  • US ambassador says ‘we look forward to another 75 years of a great relationship’ between Washington and Riyadh

RIYADH: “We have a good marriage,” said US Ambassador John Abizaid, summing up Saudi-American ties during a roundtable discussion with journalists to mark the 75th anniversary on Feb. 14 of the historic meeting between King Abdul Aziz and US President Franklin D. Roosevelt on board the USS Quincy.

“This isn’t to say we’ve had the perfect marriage. We’ve had a normal marriage, more good than bad. But we look forward to another 75 years of a great relationship.”

The passage of time has naturally seen up and downs in the relationship, but since that meeting between Saudi Arabia’s founding monarch and the US president, Washington has been a steady strategic partner of Riyadh.

“Of course there are always fits and starts in any relationship, but we look to the future. We want to be your primary partner as you move forward in achieving the crown prince’s Vision 2030 goals,” Abizaid said. “We’re very confident that we can be your partner.”

Vision 2030 is built on three pillars — a vibrant society, a thriving economy and an ambitious nation — that draw on Saudi Arabia’s intrinsic strengths to help its citizens realize their aspirations and potential.

The National Transformation Program aims to develop governmental work and establish the needed infrastructure to achieve Vision 2030’s ambitions and 96 strategic objectives.

With the Kingdom opening up and businesses thriving, more countries want to take part in the transformation and help Saudi Arabia realize its reform objectives.

“We know we have to compete with the Chinese, the Russians, the French, the British and everybody else, but that’s OK because we’ve had a special partnership for so long,” Abizaid said.

“We’ve been through so many things together. We’re very comfortable that we can move through all the challenges that we have, and 75 years from now we’ll be having the 150th anniversary, so we look forward to that.”

Regarding the tourist e-visa that saw the Kingdom open its doors to visitors in October 2019, Abizaid said: “The last time I checked, we were in third place (in terms of the number of tourists). (In) first (position were) the Chinese.”

Pointing to the recent visit by a group of Americans from Houston, Texas, on tourist visas, he said: “They came for a cultural enrichment tour of Saudi Arabia. We shared with them some of our perspectives on what’s going on here. People are coming (to the Kingdom).”

With the coronavirus threat casting a long shadow over international air travel, tourism might not be at its peak right now, he said, adding: “Once we get past the coronavirus issue, I think you’ll see a pickup in American tourism.”

Abizaid said he is working with Princess Reema bint Bandar, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the US, to make sure more Americans get a chance to experience the Kingdom first-hand.

American tourists “come with an idea that’s shaped by some negative publicity,” but “they quickly see that people are friendly, people are extremely hospitable, that there are changes that are making Saudi Arabia a better place for its own people. And they leave impressed,” he added.

Looking to the future of Saudi-US ties, Abizaid said: “As we go into the next 75 years, we want there to be a more equal exchange of people.”

Currently, there are 40,000 Saudi students in the US and a very small number of American students in the Kingdom.

“Some of your universities have achieved extremely high levels of capability,” Abizaid said, citing King Abdullah University for Science and Technology (KAUST) as an example.

“It’s time that we bring in American students over here to study, learn the language, learn the culture.”

Abizaid spoke of commemorating the 75th anniversary of US-Saudi ties in a novel way. “I was at KAUST the other day. It’s a world-class university. See this theme of 75, (we’re) looking to get 75 Americans to come over in 2021 to be part of the experience of KAUST. We very much support that,” he said.


Saudi ban remains on 20 countries when flights resume on May 17

Saudi ban remains on 20 countries when flights resume on May 17
Updated 15 min 1 sec ago

Saudi ban remains on 20 countries when flights resume on May 17

Saudi ban remains on 20 countries when flights resume on May 17
  • Health Ministry reports 1,028 new coronavirus cases, 824 recoveries, 12 deaths

JEDDAH: The resumption of international flights at 1 a.m. on May 17 will exclude the 20 countries where the ban on flights continues as part of preventive measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), said Saudia airline.
The banned countries, named by the Ministry of Interior, are: Argentina, the UAE, Germany, the US, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Pakistan, Brazil, Portugal, the UK, Turkey, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, France, Lebanon, Egypt, India and Japan.
The clarification came in response to a citizen’s query about whether the travel suspensions will continue.
Noncitizens, diplomats, health practitioners and their families traveling from the listed countries have been denied entry to the Kingdom since Feb. 3. The ban applies to arriving passengers who have passed through any of the prohibited countries in the 14 days prior to their application to enter the Kingdom.
Meanwhile, Ministry of Education employees who have yet to receive the COVID-19 vaccine are to be identified and put on a list, Saudi online newspaper Ajel reported.
The decision is part of official efforts to ensure a swift return to normal schooling, while safeguarding the health and safety of students and staff.
Education Minister Hamad Al-Asheikh previously called on ministry employees to arrange for vaccination in time for the start of the coming academic year.
Saudi authorities on Wednesday reported 12 additional deaths related to COVID-19. The death toll now stands at 6,858. The Ministry of Health reported 1,028 new cases, meaning that 408,038 people have contracted the disease, of which 9,818 remain active.
It said 431 of the new cases were in Riyadh, 220 in Makkah, 157 in the Eastern Province and 45 in Madinah. Another 824 patients recovered from the disease, bringing the total number of recoveries to 391,362.
Saudi Arabia has conducted 16,352,116 PCR tests, including 58,507 in the previous 24 hours.
Saudi health clinics set up by the ministry as testing hubs or treatment centers have helped hundreds of thousands of people around the Kingdom since the outbreak of the pandemic.
Saudis and expats in the Kingdom continue to receive coronavirus vaccine shots, with 7,537,798 people having been inoculated so far.


DiplomaticQuarter: Outgoing Pakistan ambassador meets Eastern Province governor

DiplomaticQuarter: Outgoing Pakistan ambassador meets Eastern Province governor
Updated 52 min 26 sec ago

DiplomaticQuarter: Outgoing Pakistan ambassador meets Eastern Province governor

DiplomaticQuarter: Outgoing Pakistan ambassador meets Eastern Province governor

Pakistani Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Raja Ali Ejaz called on Eastern Province Gov. Prince Saud bin Naif on the occasion of the end of his diplomatic duty in Riyadh.
The governor welcomed the ambassador at a reception, and they talked about the good relations between the two countries and various ways to further enhance mutual cooperation, said the Pakistani Embassy.
Ejaz thanked Prince Saud for the warm hospitality extended to him, and expressed his gratitude to King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for rendering all assistance to Pakistani expatriates during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The ambassador also thanked Prince Saud for his support, and for looking after Pakistani expatriates residing in the province. “The Pakistani populace was very happy under the governor’s kind patronage,” Ejaz told Arab News.
Prince Saud praised the Pakistani community for being loyal and hard-working, and said the two countries and peoples have cemented an unbreakable bond of friendship.
He expressed certainty that bilateral relations will continue to grow, wishing Ejaz well for his future assignments and looking forward to maintaining contact.
Offering his thanks to all those who helped him carry out his work successfully, Ejaz said Saudi Arabia is a wonderful country in which he had a wonderful experience serving his compatriots.
He added that his successful stint in the Kingdom was mainly due to the continuous cooperation received from the Saudi government, the private sector and his colleagues.


NEOM launches 3 initiatives to support UN Sustainable Development Goals

NEOM launches 3 initiatives to support UN Sustainable Development Goals
Updated 22 April 2021

NEOM launches 3 initiatives to support UN Sustainable Development Goals

NEOM launches 3 initiatives to support UN Sustainable Development Goals
  • The initiatives were launched to celebrate World Creativity and Innovation Day
  • Department will work alongside MiSK Leadership, CyberX and Digital Giving programs

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s NEOM, a futuristic $500 billion megacity development, announced on Wednesday that it has launched three initiatives represented by the Social Responsibility Department.
The initiatives aim to support the sustainable development goals, celebrate the World Creativity and Innovation Day, and encourage the participation of the local community in developing innovative solutions that would support the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
The department said that it will work alongside the MiSK Leadership, CyberX and Digital Giving programs, and with the University of Tabuk and the General Authority for Small and Medium Enterprises, to launch these initiatives.
The first initiative is represented in the third batch of the Spark initiative and includes an innovative six-week training program designed to enhance the spirit of entrepreneurship among Saudi youth, the department said in a statement published by the Saudi Press Agency.
It introduces participants to the critical steps involved in starting a business and supports them with the necessary tools to form bright business ideas. From there, participants can turn them into vivid and realistic businesses for a sustainable future, in order for them to be able to present them to investors later.
The program is in support of the Kingdom’s drive to increase the participation of small and medium-sized enterprises in driving economic growth.
Last year, two batches of the program were successfully launched, benefiting 300 graduates, including 10 winners who passed the final round of Spark Tank.
The second initiative is the NEOM Generation Innovation Challenge, which will be held in partnership with the Industrial and Robot Innovation Center at the University of Tabuk. It involves challenging students from all over the Kingdom to present their ideas in the fields of water, energy, media, entertainment, transportation, health and food.
The ideas and their solutions must be centralized using artificial intelligence (AI) systems and be implementable in NEOM’s corresponding sectors. The participants will be evaluated based on their creativity, AI integration, and the extent to which their ideas align with NEOM’s approaches.
The third initiative is the CyberX Bootcamps, a non-profit platform for electronic awareness and digital knowledge under the supervision of the Digital Giving initiative. A training camp on AI and machine learning for youth will be held.
The department said it will spread awareness of the SDGs and provide opportunities for the local community to learn and gain important knowledge on sustainable development through quality education, gender equality, decent work and economic growth, sustainable cities and societies, as well as partnerships to achieve the goals.


Saudi aviation authority tightens COVID-19 controls at airports

The General Authority of Civil Aviation calls on everyone to adhere to the COVID-19 preventative measures. (SPA)
The General Authority of Civil Aviation calls on everyone to adhere to the COVID-19 preventative measures. (SPA)
Updated 22 April 2021

Saudi aviation authority tightens COVID-19 controls at airports

The General Authority of Civil Aviation calls on everyone to adhere to the COVID-19 preventative measures. (SPA)
  • GACA introduced screening points and appointed observers to ensure measures are fully implemented

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s aviation authority, in cooperation with security services, has stepped up inspections and control visits to airports and other authority buildings and facilities to monitor violations of precautionary measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) has also introduced screening points to measure temperatures or check health data through the Tawakkalna app. It has also appointed a protocol officer for each facility and more than 250 observers to ensure that precautionary measures are fully implemented and followed.
In addition, GACA said it has increased educational awareness messages, and told businesses and other organizations operating in airports to adhere to health precautions.
GACA President Abdulaziz Al-Duaij stressed the importance of continuing to adhere to safety protocols set by the Ministry of Health — including wearing face masks at all times, continuous sterilization efforts, procedures to prevent overcrowding, and maintaining social distancing — and warned against complacency.
He said that only individuals registered with the Tawakkalna app will be allowed entry to authority buildings. He urged everyone to follow “the recommended health measures in order to preserve the gains achieved in combating the coronavirus” in the Kingdom which, he added, would not have been achieved without “the generous support from the Saudi leadership that placed citizens’ health and safety first and foremost.”
GACA added that it is working with the Ministry of Health to implement precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the virus at airports, and has put in place a package of health measures that meet global health and safety standards.


Saudi aid agency delivers $1.5 million medical aid package to Pakistan

Saudi aid agency delivers $1.5 million medical aid package to Pakistan
Updated 21 April 2021

Saudi aid agency delivers $1.5 million medical aid package to Pakistan

Saudi aid agency delivers $1.5 million medical aid package to Pakistan

The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief) has delivered a special medical aid package worth $1.5 million to help combat the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Pakistan.
The consignment was officially handed over — on behalf of the center — by the Saudi ambassador to Pakistan, Nawaf bin Said Al-Malki, to Akhtar Nawaz, chairman of the Pakistani National Disaster Management Authority, at the Saudi Embassy in Islamabad.
Items included 25,000 sterile surgical suits, 125,000 nonsterile surgical suits, 188,000 KN95 masks, 1,925,000 surgical masks, 9,500 nitrile gloves, and 46 respirators.
Nawaz thanked KSrelief for the medical equipment which he said would help his country’s fight against the COVID-19 outbreak. Saudi Arabia, through KSrelief, supports numerous health programs around the world aimed at tackling the COVID-19 pandemic.