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Saudi Arabia’s first meeting with G20 leaders

Saudi Arabia’s first meeting with G20 leaders
On Nov. 14, 2008, G20 leaders from the world’s top 20 economies met for the first time in Washington, DC, led by US President George W. Bush. (AFP)
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Updated 20 May 2020

Saudi Arabia’s first meeting with G20 leaders

Saudi Arabia’s first meeting with G20 leaders

The Kingdom took on a leadership role in tackling the global financial crisis of 2008

Summary

On Nov. 14, 2008, G20 leaders from the world’s top 20 economies met for the first time in Washington, DC, led by US President George W. Bush, to discuss solutions to the stock market crash. The gathering, elevated from a finance-minister level, was in answer to a call for greater international cooperation in stabilizing economies.

Saudi Arabia, the largest oil exporter in the group and a rising new economy, proved itself as a key member of the Group of Twenty. King Abdullah, who headed the Saudi delegation, addressed the global challenges with the other leaders, just as the current King Salman is now is rallying the G20 leaders to address the global pandemic.

JEDDAH: On Nov. 14, 2008, Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz joined the first meeting of the leaders of the Group of 20 hosted by US President George W. Bush in Washington, DC, showcasing the Kingdom’s respected position as one of the top 20 economies in the world. 

The G20 was formed in 1999 during a forum in Cologne, Germany that was attended by finance ministers of the original Group of Seven (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US) and bank governors. In response to a financial imbalance as a result of the 1997 Asian financial crisis, the attendees discussed the initiation of a summit that included more of the global community, comprising 10 industrial countries and 10 emerging market economies.

The group’s founding was primarily the initiative of German finance minister Hans Eichel, and finance ministers convened every year to discuss international economic policy issues and promote international financial stability.

On the initiative of US President George W. Bush’s administration, the G20 finance ministers meeting was elevated to the level of leaders, and the first G20 summit was held in November of 2008. The call for more immediate action by heads of state was due to the collapse of global stock markets that year. The first high-level G20 group assembled in Washington, DC, giving Saudi Arabia a chance to demonstrate its global leadership and showcase its economic importance.

“Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah called for greater international cooperation and coordination to offset the impact of the financial crisis.”

From a story by Barbara Ferguson on Arab News’ front page, Nov. 16, 2008

During my first semester as a masters of public health student in Europe in 2008, I kept up with all news related to Saudi Arabia and followed the G20 summit with great interest as it was up to the leader of our nation to show the global community its commitment to its partners and the world. 

As a young Saudi, I lived through some of the early reforms by King Abdullah after he became ruler in 2005. I was a witness to the economy’s boom, a result of the reforms to development infrastructure in the Kingdom. Later, as an Arab News reporter in 2019, I traveled to Tokyo and reported from the T20 (Think 20) Tokyo Summit, one of the G20’s engagement groups.

To understand the G20, you have to understand the T20. It is the intellectual backbone connecting bridges between policy recommendations, called Task Forces (TF), of successive G20 presidencies. Annual summit topics include trade, climate change, terrorism and gender equality. 

Key Dates


  • 1

    The Group of Twenty is founded after the Asian financial crisis as a forum for finance ministers and central bank governors of 19 countries and the EU.


  • 2

    Headed by US President George W. Bush, leaders of the G20 members met in Washington, DC amid the global stock market collapse. Saudi Arabia’s delegation was headed by King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz.

    Timeline Image Nov. 14-15, 2008


  • 3

    The G20 Hamburg summit’s final communique announces that the 2020 G20 summit is to be held in Saudi Arabia for the first time.

    Timeline Image July 8, 2017


  • 4

    The first meeting of the Saudi Arabia-China High-Level Joint Committee between then Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and President Xi Jinping attending the G20 Hangzhou summit.

    Timeline Image Aug. 31, 2016


  • 5

    Saudi Arabia assumes the G20 2020 presidency from Japan.


  • 6

    King Salman calls on G20 leaders to partake in an extraordinary virtual summit in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic to put forward a coordinated set of policies to protect people and safeguard the global economy.

    Timeline Image March 26, 2020


  • 7

    The 15th meeting of the G20 is still scheduled to be held in Riyadh.

I met with heads of Saudi think tanks and researchers at the meeting and spoke about their proposals, many of which would be adopted in the next presidency chaired by Saudi Arabia in 2020. The proposed TFs are selected carefully, as the head of the Saudi T20 delegation, Dr. Fahad Al-Turki, was kind enough to describe it as “a collective effort to ensure continuity” and not break the cycle that first began in 2012, when the T20 engagement group was launched.

For two days I read papers and spoke to heads of research centers from my home country, Japan, Argentina, the US and Japan, sitting through sessions that were open to the public, and read the final communique. I now know more. The G20 is not just simply a gathering of leaders: It is a village of ministers, heads of agencies, researchers, economists, mayors (yes, mayors) and scientists that have set up important policies in order to have more control over their economies while assisting challenged and poorer economies.

Going back to 2008, for two days behind closed doors in Washington, world leaders discussed financial market woes and discussed ways to bounce back, before finally gathering for the first ever “family portrait.”

The G20 is not just simply a gathering of leaders: It’s a village of ministers, heads of agencies, researchers, economists, mayors (yes, mayors) and scientists.

Rawan Radwan

In Arab News’ Nov. 16 edition, it was reported that King Abdullah called for greater international cooperation and coordination to offset the impact of the financial crisis. He emphasized “the need to develop effective monitoring systems” and called on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to play a greater role in supervising the financial sectors of developed countries.

His speech came at a time when the Kingdom was going through various reforms to modernize the country’s business environment, which resulted in the country climbing from 35th to 27th place in rising global economies, moving up to 10th place among the top 40 a few years later.

King Abdullah pledged to provide assistance to developing countries “with the amount it provides exceeding the percentage established by the UN for assistance from industrial countries,” a role the Kingdom has played for years, even before it joined the G20.




A page from the Arab News archive showing the news on Nov. 16, 2008.

The significance of Saudi Arabia’s participation at the first G20 leaders’ summit is that it not only showed that it plays a role in the global market, but also demonstrated the Kingdom’s responsibility to become a voice for the region and the developing world.

Despite its relatively short history, the G20 lay the foundation for stable and rational relations in continuation of the efforts of the G7.

To ensure regional balance over time, the G20 presidency rotates annually according to a system that reflects its nature as an informal political forum. 

A little over a decade later, Saudi Arabia assumed the G20 2020 presidency on Dec. 1, 2019. The 2020 G20 Riyadh summit will be the 15th meeting for the G20 member states at a time when the world is facing yet another crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic, which is set to decimate economies even more than the 2008 global financial crisis.

With the difficulties the world is currently facing with the pandemic, King Salman conducted an extraordinary virtual summit on March 26 with the G20 leaders to advance a coordinated response. It was part of a continued effort by the Kingdom’s leadership to play its role in stabilizing the economies of the world, as there is no returning to normal after COVID-19, but with a united front there is a path forward.

  • Rawan Radwan, Arab News’ regional correspondent based in Jeddah, reported from the T20 (Think 20) Tokyo Summit, one of the G20’s engagement groups.


Saudi driver Al-Rajhi back behind the wheel at Andalucia Rally

Saudi driver Al-Rajhi back behind the wheel at Andalucia Rally
Updated 3 min 50 sec ago

Saudi driver Al-Rajhi back behind the wheel at Andalucia Rally

Saudi driver Al-Rajhi back behind the wheel at Andalucia Rally
  • Fully recovered from a crash last March, Al-Rajhi is back and will be joined by co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz
  • Their itinerary includes a timed super special race over eight kilometers on Wednesday before the four-stage, off-road odyssey with a total distance of 1,473 km

The first round of the 2021 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies starts on Wednesday with the Andalucía Rally and Saudi driver Yazeed Al-Rajhi of the Yazeed Racing team has returned from a neck injury he suffered at the Sharqiya Baja Rally last March.

While Al-Rajhi’s medical team has given him the green light to return to racing after a full year of recovery, co-driver Michael Orr, who suffered injuries in the same accident, is not expected back until the Kazakhstan Rally in June.

So Al-Rajhi will get back behind the wheel alongside German navigator Dirk von Zitzewitz for the Andalucía Rally, which runs through Sunday. Their Toyota Hilux is powered by the Belgian Overdrive Team.

The Saudi motorsport star, who is participating in the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies for the eighth year in a row, is grateful for his recovery from a race touched by tragedy.

“Accidents are part of racing and drivers cannot predict them so we are very lucky that we both walked away,” Al-Rajhi said. 

“I wish a speedy recovery for my colleague and navigator, Michael, who cannot participate with me because he has to complete his treatment sessions, but I expect him to return in the next rally.”

At the Andalusia Rally, Al-Rajhi and von Zitzewitz have an itinerary that includes a timed super special race over eight kilometers on Wednesday before the four-stage, off-road odyssey with a total distance of 1,473 km.

“The time I was recovering gave me a short break to recharge all my mental and physical strength for a new season of the FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies,” Al-Rajhi said. “I am really excited to take up the challenge behind the wheel again.”

As a pair, Al-Rajhi and von Zitzewitz have achieved some strong results in several cross-country rallies since 2019.

“Dirk is back on board with me and we had a great collaboration the last time we were together,” Al-Rajhi said. “So we are looking forward to winning this rally.”

Al-Rajhi and von Zitzewitz won two stages on home soil at the Dakar Rally in January.

“I am very excited to be back alongside Yazeed on the Toyota Hilux,” von Zitzewitz said. 

“I am looking forward to a very intense and challenging race, as the competition will be strong at the Andalucía Rally. I am happy and looking forward to a great race.”


US contractor leaves Iraq base over rocket attacks

US contractor leaves Iraq base over rocket attacks
Updated 24 min 40 sec ago

US contractor leaves Iraq base over rocket attacks

US contractor leaves Iraq base over rocket attacks
  • At least three foreign subcontractors and one Iraqi subcontractor have been wounded
  • Baghdad sent its national security adviser to Balad base last week to try to reassure the American firm

SAMARRA: US contractor Lockheed Martin has withdrawn its staff from an Iraq base where it had been maintaining the Iraqi army’s F-16 fighter jets, military sources said, after a spate of rocket attacks.
At least five attacks have targeted the Balad air base, where other US companies including Sallyport are also present, since the start of the year.
At least three foreign subcontractors and one Iraqi subcontractor have been wounded.
The attacks are rarely claimed, and when they are it is by obscure groups that experts say are a facade for Iran-backed Iraqi factions.
“On Monday morning, 72 Lockheed Martin technicians left,” a high-ranking Iraqi military official told AFP, while a second confirmed the move.
“The technical team in charge of maintenance of the F-16s left the Balad base for Irbil,” the capital of Iraq’s Kurdistan region, the first source added, requesting anonymity.
Baghdad had sent its national security adviser Qassim Al-Araji to the Balad base last week to try to reassure the American firm, days after the latest salvo.
Tahsin Al-Khafaji, spokesman for Iraq’s Joint Operations Command, said Lockheed Martin would “continue to advise the Iraqi air force, even remotely,” citing contractual obligations.
The United States has provided Iraq with 34 F-16s, all stationed at Balad. It has also trained Iraqi pilots, while American contractors have been in charge of the fleet’s upkeep.
Irbil was long considered safer than the rest of Iraq, but the situation has changed recently and Washington has deployed a C-RAM rocket defense system as well as Patriot missiles there, as it has done in Baghdad to protect its troops and diplomats.
In mid-April, pro-Iran fighters sent an explosives-packed drone crashing into Irbil airport in the first reported use of such a weapon against a base housing US troops in Iraq.
The Pentagon has warned that attacks against the US-led coalition rose in the first three months of this year.
“In Iraq, Iran-aligned militias increased their attacks targeting coalition positions and assets this quarter, prompting a temporary departure of US contractors supporting Iraq’s F-16 program,” it said in a report to Congress released earlier this month.


Iraq’s president meets Saudi deputy defense minister in Baghdad

Iraq’s president meets Saudi deputy defense minister in Baghdad
Updated 36 min 27 sec ago

Iraq’s president meets Saudi deputy defense minister in Baghdad

Iraq’s president meets Saudi deputy defense minister in Baghdad

Iraq’s President Barham Salih receives Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman in the capital, Baghdad, Al Arabiya reported on Tuesday.

Developing...


France says a great deal still needs to be done to revive Iran nuclear deal

France says a great deal still needs to be done to revive Iran nuclear deal
Updated 53 min 15 sec ago

France says a great deal still needs to be done to revive Iran nuclear deal

France says a great deal still needs to be done to revive Iran nuclear deal

France’s foreign ministry says a great deal still needs to be done to revive Iran nuclear deal in very short timeframe.

More to follow ...


’It’s all a lie’: hesitancy hampers vaccine drive in war-scarred Syrian area

’It’s all a lie’: hesitancy hampers vaccine drive in war-scarred Syrian area
Updated 11 May 2021

’It’s all a lie’: hesitancy hampers vaccine drive in war-scarred Syrian area

’It’s all a lie’: hesitancy hampers vaccine drive in war-scarred Syrian area
  • Consignment of 54,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine arrived in Idlib at April’s end, the first batch for opposition-held Syrian territory
  • The challenge in Idlib goes beyond doubts about vaccines as some question whether the virus itself is a threat

IDLIB: In northwest Syria, where health care is rudimentary and those displaced by war are packed into squalid camps, the arrival of vaccines to fight COVID-19 should have been cause for relief.
Instead, a UN-backed vaccination campaign has met with suspicion and mistrust by an exhausted population, who feel betrayed by their government and abandoned by the international community after a decade of conflict that ruined their lives.
“It’s all a lie, even if the dose is for free I wouldn’t take it,” said Jassem Al-Ali, who fled his home in the south of Idlib province and now lives in Teh camp, one of many in a region controlled by opponents of the Damascus government.
Youssef Ramadan, another camp resident who lived under bombardment for years, echoed the doubts. “Will we be like sheep who trust the herder until they are slaughtered?” he asked.
A consignment of 54,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine arrived in Idlib at the end of April, the first batch for opposition-held Syrian territory, delivered through the global vaccine-sharing platform COVAX. Inoculations started on May 1.
“There is a large amount of hesitancy and what made it worse is everything in the media continuously about AstraZeneca and blood clots,” Yasser Naguib, a doctor who heads a local vaccine team working in opposition-held areas, told Reuters.
Similar concerns about the coronavirus vaccine have slowed the rollout in Europe and elsewhere amid worries about rare cases of blood clots associated with the AstraZeneca shot.
Most governments have said benefits far outweigh the risks, although some have restricted it to certain age groups. But the challenge in Idlib goes beyond doubts about vaccines. Some question whether the virus itself is a threat.
“If there really was coronavirus in Idlib you would hear about tens of thousands of people getting it,” said 25-year-old Somar Youssef, who fled his home in Idlib’s rural Maara region.
Naguib said it was challenging to convince people fasting during Ramadan to take a shot when they can’t take oral medication for any side effects, such as a fever. Eid Al-Fitr, marking the end of the Muslim month, starts this week.
“We are optimistic that after Eid it will be better,” he said, adding that a 55-strong team was working to raise awareness about virus risks and vaccine benefits.
At the same time as doses from COVAX landed in Idlib, 200,000 shots arrived in Damascus, part of the World Health Organization campaign to inoculate about 20 percent of Syria’s population, or 5 million people across the nation, this year.
Officials have not given any indication about take up in government-held areas, where Damascus also aims to use vaccines from Russia, the government’s military ally, and China.
In Idlib, Naguib said 6,070 people out of around 40,000 health care and humanitarian workers on a priority list had been vaccinated by May 9. But even some health care workers are wary.
A Reuters witness saw just seven out of 30 medical workers receiving vaccines on the first day of a campaign at one Idlib medical center. Initially, only three had volunteered.
“As a director of the kidney dialysis unit, I was the first one to get the vaccine and I wanted to encourage the rest, who were scared because of all the rumors about it,” said Taher Abdelbaki, a doctor at another clinic, the Ibn Sina medical center.
By the end of 2021, two more COVAX vaccine batches are expected to arrive in Idlib to inoculate about 850,000 people in a region of about 3.5 million people, a target that leaves the region’s vaccination teams with much work to do.
“We will not be their lab rats here in the north,” said Abdelsalam Youssef, a community leader in Teh camp.