Foreign envoys salute Saudi initiative to convene extraordinary summit

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe joins Thursday’s G20 video conference from Tokyo to discuss the coronavirus crisis. (AFP)
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Updated 27 March 2020

Foreign envoys salute Saudi initiative to convene extraordinary summit

  • Saudi king: ‘Human crisis requires a global response’

RIYADH: King Salman chaired an emergency virtual summit of G20 world leaders on Thursday to discuss the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, which, to date, has no known cure or preventive vaccine.

“This pandemic has taken a great toll on human lives and caused tremendous suffering to many people around the world,” King Salman said in his opening speech.

“The impact of this pandemic has spread to the global economy, financial markets, trade, and global supply chains, hampering growth and development and reversing the gains accomplished in (the recent past).”

King Salman extended his deepest condolences to everyone around the world affected by this pandemic, wishing a speedy recovery to all those who are infected.

The key to surviving the crisis is to work together, the king said.

“This human crisis requires a global response. The world is counting on us to come together and cooperate in order to face this challenge. We have to work to ensure the quantity of medical supplies to face future pandemics.

“It is our responsibility to extend a helping hand to developing countries and the least developed countries to enable them to overcome this crisis and its repercussions,” King Salman continued. 

“The G20 has previously proven its effectiveness in mitigating the severity of the global financial crisis.”

He added: “We value the effective measures adopted by different countries in this regard. We reaffirm our full support for the World Health Organization in coordinating efforts to counter this pandemic.”

To further complement these efforts, he stressed, the G20 must assume responsibility for reinforcing cooperation in financing research and development for medicine and a vaccine for COVID-19 and ensuring the availability of vital medical supplies and equipment.

King Salman also highlighted one positive development from the COVID-19 pandemic — that the world has been brought together as one to fight an invisible enemy.

“Through our cooperation, we are confident that we, together, will overcome this crisis, and move forward towards a future where all people thrive, prosper and are healthy,” he said at the end of his speech.

China’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Chen Weiqing said: “We appreciate the great efforts made by Saudi Arabia, under the leadership of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman, to make this extraordinary summit a success, and reaffirm a strong commitment to protect lives, safeguard people’s jobs and incomes, restore confidence, preserve financial stability, revive growth and recover stronger. To minimize disruptions to trade and global supply chains, provide help to all countries in need of assistance, and to coordinate on public health and financial measures.”

He added: “China has been working with all countries and international organizations to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. In his speech at the summit, Chinese President Xi Jin Ping stressed the importance of a coordinated approach to fight COVID-19 and confirmed that China was ready to join the international community and make its contribution in sharing knowledge, jointly developing medicine and a vaccine, and helping countries with vulnerable public health systems. We support the WHO, G20 and other mechanisms and organizations.

“As the major engine of the world economy, China is committed to enhancing coordination of macro policies, safeguarding the global supply chain, reducing tariffs, removing barriers and promoting trade. Together, we will prevail.”

Japanese Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Uemura Tsukasa told Arab News: “First of all, I would like to express my highest respect to the government of Saudi Arabia, which holds the G20 presidency this year, for hosting the extraordinary virtual G20 summit meeting at this critical moment. We are now facing one of the biggest global crises in history. It is time for the G20 countries to cooperate and take the lead in the global fight against the novel coronavirus.

“As a member country of the G20 Troika (the previous, present, and next countries to hold the presidency of the G20), Japan is keen to cooperate with other countries to tackle this crisis,” the envoy added. 

“Prime Minister Abe is fully committed to handling the situation every day and taking leadership in implementing robust precautious measures to prevent the further spread of the virus. I sincerely hope that the world will overcome this crisis as early as possible.”

Commenting on the first virtual G20 Summit, Marcelo Gilardoni, Argentina’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, told Arab News: “Argentina and Saudi Arabia are working hand-in-hand, together with the rest of the G20, to address the global health challenges that created this unprecedented crisis.

“Argentina sees this virtual summit hosted by King Salman as a great opportunity to discuss coordinated measures in all fields to face this outbreak,” the envoy continued.

EU Ambassador in Riyadh Michele Cervone d’Urso told Arab News: “Today European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen and President of the European Council Charles-Michel joined other G20 leaders for the first Virtual G20 Leaders meeting, chaired by King Salman, to address the global COVID-19 pandemic. For the European Union, it is essential to act jointly on preparing to restart economies, keeping global supply chains open, and delivering vaccines and treatment.”

The EU envoy underlined that the pandemic is a global problem, requiring global solutions and global cooperation with far-fetching consequences in human, economic and geopolitical terms.


‘American Sharqawia’: US Consul General Rachna Korhonen bids Saudi Arabia farewell

Updated 09 July 2020

‘American Sharqawia’: US Consul General Rachna Korhonen bids Saudi Arabia farewell

  • "There’s some magic in the water of the desert," says Korhonen

JEDDAH: As she reaches the end of her second mission in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, US Consul General Rachna Korhonen will soon be heading home, taking memories to last a lifetime.
Known for her love for culture and the Arabic language and for her vast knowledge of the region, Korhonen became well known as a constant supporter of Saudi women and youth in the region, participating in numerous cultural and social events in the Eastern Province and across the Kingdom.
After two more weeks in the Kingdom, Korhonen will return to the US capital to serve as the executive director of the Bureau of Near East Affairs (NEA) and the Bureau of South Central Asian Affairs (SCA) at the US State Department which supports the posts in the region, including Saudi Arabia, thus continuing her connection with the Kingdom.
With 14 years of experience as a US diplomat, she served 3 years in Riyadh in 2010, and then came back to serve as the consul general in Dhahran in August 2017. “I would say Riyadh was the start of my relationship with Saudi Arabia, and Dhahran and the Eastern Province is the culmination of the relationship,” said Korhonen told Arab News on a video call. She almost feels herself Sharqawia, a resident of the Eastern Province, Sharqia.
“Ana Sharqawia (‘I am a Sharqawia). The measure of any place is the people, it’s not about the place, it’s really about the people.”
As consul general, her role was to build relations and promote the interests of her home in the country where she was posted. Korhonen went the extra mile, she joined in the region’s celebrations and understood its traditions and culture.

Recalling her time in the Eastern Province, she said: “I’ve been getting to know Sharqawis, the people who live and work here, who have made this their home in the years since Aramco started or were born in Al-Ahsa. I think anyone who comes to the Eastern Province falls in love,” she said.
“The biggest reason I’ve gotten to enjoy myself here is (because) it has quite a bit of America here. I think it’s difficult to realize how much America exists in Saudi Arabia until you come to the Eastern Province,” she added.
As the drilling for oil began in 1935 with the help of the California Arabian Standard Oil Company (CASOC), which later became Saudi Aramco, Saudi Arabia’s oil capital has been home to thousands of Americans over the past 85 years, who have had a major influence on the region.
“Aramco is definitely a reminder of home, and you put that in with the people, the hospitality, the normal way of being Saudi which is to welcome your guests no matter who they are. You put those things together, you get the best of the United States and you get the best of Saudi Arabia.”
A native of New Jersey and big baseball fan, her love for the game didn’t stop her from supporting the Al-Ettifaq Football Club in Dammam, attending matches and singing their anthem.
Her trips to Al-Ahsa, a place she calls the most beautiful place in the Kingdom, allowed her to discover the region’s vast experiences.
Her appreciation of Al-Ahsa goes deep. Both the scenery and the hospitality of the people make it her favorite city — she even took Ambassador John Abizaid on a trip there in February.
“As you drive towards Al-Ahsa, you can see the sand changing color, from a bright yellow to a reddish color,” she said. “You start seeing the desert turning green, which is amazing to me. I’m a mountain and forest type of person and I can tell you that I now like the desert too, it’s beautiful.”
The uniqueness of Al-Ahsa called out to Korhonen and she recalls her first visit to the region in 2017. “The history, the people, the food, the culture, is very different from any place I’ve been to in Saudi Arabia, Hasawis (people of Al-Ahsa) are lovely. I think there’s some magic in the water of the desert,” she said.
Korhonen developed an interest in regional cultural events, visiting local markets picking out sheep for Eid, learning about the Saudi love for falconry and participating in the traditional celebratory dance of Al-Arda. She even has a Diwaniya, a parlor where guests are received, at her home.

When she returned to the Kingdom in 2017, Korhonen noticed the transformation of the Kingdom, noting that Vision 2030 has been the instigator for this noticeable change.
“The changes have been tremendous, I think Vision2030 is really going to really bring Saudi Arabia onto the world stage. I think some parts are already there. In the energy sector, Saudi Arabia has always been a leader,” she said. “I’m betting you right now that you’re going to see Saudi women, you’re going to see Saudi men, you’re going to see Saudi kids, Saudi art, culture and music, the traditional Saudi things, all starting to show up on the world stage.”
As the Kingdom heads towards diversifying its economy, Korhonen anticipates that the world will begin seeing more Saudi entrepreneurs with innovative ventures, as education is key. She noted that with the continuous flow of Saudi students on scholarships in the US, their return to the Kingdom will help bring forth a new business-like mindset with partnerships between the two countries that will help the Kingdom’s economy to flourish.
“It’s coming,” she noted. “I’ve seen some of the (US) businesses here, but I haven’t seen enough yet and I’d like to see more of that in the next 2-5 years, because Vision 2030 will be a success if we can get entrepreneurs to start businesses and hire more Saudis,” she added. “That to me is the key and that is what you should be bringing back from the US.”
As the end of her mission draws near, it's safe to say that we'll be seeing Korhonen back in the Kingdom in the near future.
“I’ll honestly come back because of the people, because of the friendships I’ve made here.”