France’s ex-first lady hails Saudi Arabia’s evolution

France’s ex-first lady hails Saudi Arabia’s evolution
Cecilia with her husband Richard.
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Updated 15 May 2020

France’s ex-first lady hails Saudi Arabia’s evolution

France’s ex-first lady hails Saudi Arabia’s evolution
  • Cecilia Attias regularly visits the Kingdom with her husband, Richard, who runs a communication strategy firm

PARIS: On the night of May 16, 2007, newly elected French president Nicolas Sarkozy was in Place de la Concorde, Paris, celebrating his victory. But where was his wife, Cecilia, many people wondered?

She did not join him until 11 p.m. when, urged by her daughter, Jeanne-Marie, she finally appeared alongside her husband. As the crowd roared and rejoiced, Cecilia’s sad expression sparked rumors that all was not well with the marriage.

The rumors were confirmed in October when the Sarkozys announced their divorce. The following March, the former Cecilia Sarkozy married Richard Attias, a Moroccan businessman and events producer who is currently working with the Saudi authorities.

“Richard is spending a lot of time in Saudi Arabia, where he is working on the organization of the G20, which is to be held in the country in November,” said Cecilia Attias, who often accompanies her husband when he visits the country. “He has also worked with the Kingdom to set up the global Future Investment Initiative forum in Riyadh.

“I have learned a great deal about Saudi Arabia and become very familiar with it after visiting many times. It is a country that has changed a great deal since Prince Mohammed bin Salman became crown prince. The country is in a real evolution. There is much that has changed and there are many things that still need to change. The country has evolved very rapidly.”

Attias is the granddaughter of Catalan composer, Isaac Albeniz. In July 2007, she helped free five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor who had spent years on death row after allegedly being tortured into confessing they infected Libyan babies with the HIV virus. She visited Tripoli twice to meet Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi and negotiate their release.

After her split from Sarkozy, she moved to the US with their 10-year-old son, Louis Nicolas Sarkozy, and her daughters Jeanne-Marie and Judith from her marriage to French TV star Jacques Martin. In October last year, Attias published “Agree to Disagree,” a book she wrote with Louis, who attended a military school in the US and is studying for a degree in philosophy and history at NYU. In a series of letters, mother and son set out to discover each other anew. With no holds barred they discuss a range of hot topics, from education to religion, feminism to climate change. “Who am I apart from being an ex-first lady who made headlines in France?” Attias asks herself in the book.

“For me, politics is a profession like any other and I place it at the top of the ladder because it is politics that governs and manages all aspects of our daily lives,” she said when I asked about her decision to give up the role of first lady, and all that went with it. “Therefore I have great respect for public affairs, for the Republic, and for the policies used to implement the rules of the Republic.

BACKGROUND

After her split from Sarkozy, Cecilia moved to the US with their 10-year-old son, Louis Nicolas Sarkozy, and her daughters Jeanne-Marie and Judith from her marriage to French TV star Jacques Martin.

“Besides that, I am an ordinary woman, who was married to Nicolas for 25 years, during which we had a son. I left to rebuild my life on the other side of the Atlantic. I have never been elected, nor have I, myself, ever been in politics. I was by the side of a politician but I do not have a personal voice that makes me different. I am an ordinary person.”

An ordinary person perhaps, but it is nevertheless rather extraordinary for the wife of a president to leave her husband.

“The extraordinary side comes from media exposure but the act itself was ordinary: A couple separates like thousands of other couples,” Attias said. “The only thing was that he was president and people had trouble understanding that. In life many people fight for power and money, and when you reject them people do not understand this.”

What about the timing of their split, so soon after his election victory? Why not separate before then?

“On one hand, he was the father of our son and he was my husband for a long time,” said Attias. “It is not easy to break up a family. For me, it was a heartbreaker and, in addition, I have a lot of respect, tenderness and affection for Nicolas. Leaving him at the hardest moment of his life was incredibly difficult.

“I left once before and when I came back, before he was president, it was really for him, for us, and not to help him get elected. I realized when he was president that once a vase is broken, you cannot put the pieces back together; there are deep breaks and I could not play a role that is not true. I am too faithful and righteous.”

More than a decade after their divorce, the couple’s relationship remains amicable, according to Attias.

“Everything is going very well,” she said. “We have a son in common and we shared 25 years so we are not distant from each other. We meet and I have lunch with Richard and Nicolas. We see each other often and  ... Nicolas has rebuilt his life; he has a wonderful little girl (nine-year-old Giulia, with wife Carla Bruni).”

Given her own experience of politics, would she encourage her son to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a politician? She notes that Louis has talent, charisma and a very punchy style that wins people over. He also believes in important fundamental values and will defend what is good and right, which are all fine political qualities, she adds, “but I will not push him into politics. He writes articles and reads a lot and he will choose his own path.”

And what is her opinion of incumbent French President Emmanuel Macron? He is “an extremely bright and well-educated man,” according to Attias.

“I met his wife, Brigitte, and I like her very much; she is absolutely likable,” she added. “Neither of them, however, have any political background or experience and that makes things very hard.”


Saudi Arabian Military Industries signs deals at IDEX

Saudi Arabian Military Industries signs deals at IDEX
Updated 27 February 2021

Saudi Arabian Military Industries signs deals at IDEX

Saudi Arabian Military Industries signs deals at IDEX
  • SAMI also agreed to be a strategic partner of Saudi Arabia’s General Authority for Military Industries (GAMI in next year’s IDEX

Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI) signed several cooperation agreements with international companies and government authorities during the International Defense Exhibition and Conference (IDEX) this week.

SAMI, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Public Investment Fund (PIF), aims to enhance the Kingdom’s defense capabilities and localize its military industry as part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030.

“We are pleased to achieve outstanding success through our participation in IDEX 2021,” Walid bin Abdulmajeed Abu Khaled, CEO of SAMI, said.

“This will lead us to new achievements and make Saudi Arabia one of the leading manufacturers of military systems in the world.”

SAMI signed a joint venture agreement with the US firm Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest military defense company. The venture will develop capabilities in manufacturing software technologies, along with the production, maintenance, and repair of helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft.

SAMI also signed a cooperation agreement with Nimr, which is part of the Abu Dhabi-based EDGE Technology Group. The deal will allow both companies to work together on armored military and security vehicles. It also marks the first collaboration in the field of military industries between Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Saudi Arabia’s General Authority for Military Industries (GAMI) also signed an agreement with SAMI to be a strategic partner in next year’s IDEX.

During the five-day exhibition, GAMI Gov. Ahmed bin Abdul Aziz Al-Ohali visited the Saudi pavilion along with Saudi Ambassador to the UAE Turki bin Abdullah Al-Dakhil.

The pavilion also welcomed Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed and Lt. Gen. Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the UAE’s deputy prime minister.

 

 

 

 


US not aiming ‘to rupture relationship’ with Kingdom: Politico

King Salman and US President Joe Biden recently discussed strengthening partnership during phone call. (Reuters/File Photo)
King Salman and US President Joe Biden recently discussed strengthening partnership during phone call. (Reuters/File Photo)
Updated 27 February 2021

US not aiming ‘to rupture relationship’ with Kingdom: Politico

King Salman and US President Joe Biden recently discussed strengthening partnership during phone call. (Reuters/File Photo)
  • Saudis show wide support at home for MBS, describe CIA report as speculative

RIYADH: US President Joe Biden and his administration may be seeking a recalibration of its relationship with Saudi Arabia, but is adamant not to rupture the relationship with the Kingdom, a senior US official said.

Speaking to Politico, the official said that there are “important interests” the US shares with Saudi Arabia. The administration views the Kingdom as an important partner in the Middle East, and it has promised to keep supporting the country as it defends itself against attacks blamed on Iran.

The official’s comments came after a classified CIA report was released on the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist, who was killed by a group of rogue Saudi agents in Istanbul in 2018.

Despite a lot of hype that preceded the release of the report, many observers have described it as too analytical and lacking evidence.

“No smoking gun,” CNN’s International Diplomatic Editor Nic Robertson said.

Israeli journalist and commentator Barak Ravid wrote on Twitter: “US intelligence report on Khashoggi, which is 100% analysis and 0% information, raises real concerns about the quality of access US intelligence agencies have in Saudi Arabia.”

Meanwhile, in the Kingdom, Saudis took to social media to show support for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who underwent a successful surgical procedure on Wednesday morning to treat appendicitis.

Saudi journalist Abdulrahman Al-Rashed tweeted there was nothing new in the declassified CIA report. He described those who were betting on Biden to damage the relationship with Saudi Arabia as “ignorant of how the world operates.”

Saudi columnist Salman Al-Dossari tweeted that the Biden administration should be praised for publishing the CIA report, saying that the findings support Saudi court rulings.

Last September, Saudi Arabia’s Public Prosecution announced the final sentences for the eight people convicted of the Khashoggi murder.

Five of them received 20-year jail sentences for their involvement in the killing. Another was sentenced to 10 years while two others received seven years. Commenting on the verdict, the Khashoggi family called the judgment “fair and dissuasive.”


Saudi envoy meets UN Women’s executive in New York

Saudi envoy meets UN Women’s executive in New York
They also discussed ways to enhance cooperation in various fields. (SPA)
Updated 27 February 2021

Saudi envoy meets UN Women’s executive in New York

Saudi envoy meets UN Women’s executive in New York
  • Al-Mouallimi virtually met the newly-appointed permanent representative of Mozambique to the UN, Pedro Comissario Afonso

NEW YORK: Saudi Arabia’s permanent representative to the UN, Abdallah Al-Mouallimi, held a virtual meeting with Asa Regner the assistant secretary-general of the UN and deputy executive director of UN Women.

The two sides reviewed the latest preparations for the upcoming session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW65), in which the Kingdom will take part.

They also discussed a number of topics of common interest, and ways to enhance cooperation in various fields.

Al-Mouallimi also virtually met the newly-appointed permanent representative of Mozambique to the UN, Pedro Comissario Afonso.

During the meeting, the two sides discussed topics of common interest and ways to enhance cooperation in various fields.

Both meetings were attended by the director of Al-Mouallimi’s bureau, Faisal Al-Haqbani, and the head of public relations and information of the delegation, Taful Al-Aqbi.

 


Who’s Who: Ziyad Al-Shiha, new CEO of Saudi Investment Recycling Co. 

Who’s Who: Ziyad Al-Shiha, new CEO of Saudi Investment Recycling Co. 
Updated 27 February 2021

Who’s Who: Ziyad Al-Shiha, new CEO of Saudi Investment Recycling Co. 

Who’s Who: Ziyad Al-Shiha, new CEO of Saudi Investment Recycling Co. 

Ziyad Al-Shiha has been appointed CEO of the Saudi Investment Recycling Co. (SIRC).

SIRC, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Public Investment Fund, the National Waste Management Center and the municipality of the Eastern Province recently signed an agreement to start integrated waste management and waste recycling activities in the province.

Al-Shiha has been a board member of the National Petrochemical Company, a Saudi joint-stock company, since 2019, and was deputy chair of the Business 20 (B20) Trade and Investment Taskforce.

He was president and CEO of the Saudi Electricity Co. (SEC) from 2014 to 2018 and, prior to that, was a SEC board member from 2012 to 2013.

Al-Shiha has a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, a master’s degree in engineering and control systems from Rice University, and a second master’s in executive business administration from MIT.

He had a number of positions at Saudi Aramco after joining the company in 1984. He was an electrical engineer and vice president of general planning in one of the international joint ventures in the Philippines. He was also a public relations manager at Aramco, the director of facilities planning, and the executive director of power systems.

Al-Shiha has participated in several leadership training programs, including MIT’s Sloan Fellowship Program.


Saudi universities opening coronavirus vaccine centers

Saudi universities opening coronavirus vaccine centers
Universities used human and technical capabilities in university hospitals and health centers to support state institutions. (SPA)
Updated 27 February 2021

Saudi universities opening coronavirus vaccine centers

Saudi universities opening coronavirus vaccine centers
  • The Kingdom is ranked first in the Arab world, 12th among G20 countries, and 14th at the global level in publishing scientific research on coronavirus

RIYADH: Several Saudi universities have begun preparing coronavirus vaccination centers for use by faculty, their families, citizens and residents.

Vaccines will be given to people according to priority and age group, and as per the approved electronic systems.

The move comes as part of the Ministry of Education’s efforts under the guidance of Education Minister Hamad Al-Asheikh to join national efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

The launch of vaccination centers in universities emphasizes their role in serving the community. It is is also part of a long series of joint programs between Saudi government bodies.

As per the directives of Al-Asheikh, universities have prepared emergency plans since February last year to fight the pandemic. These include programs, events and community activities that raise awareness of the threat of coronavirus.

Universities also used human and technical capabilities in university hospitals and health centers to support state institutions, and allocated buildings for isolation and quarantine.

Saudi institutions also encouraged faculty members and researchers in universities to present scientific studies, research, and innovations to aid the global fight against the pandemic.

The Kingdom is ranked first in the Arab world, 12th among G20 countries, and 14th at the global level in publishing scientific research on coronavirus.

In addition, Saudi universities have organized conferences, forums, scientific seminars and workshops. The events were part of the success of clinical trials for the production of a Saudi vaccine by the scientific team at Imam Abdulrahman bin Faisal University.

Vaccination centers are being prepared at King Saud University, Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University, Imam Muhammad bin Saud Islamic University, Majmaah University, Bisha University, Umm Al-Qura University, Taif University, Hail University, Jazan University, the University of Hafr Al-Batin, and others.

Specialized administrative workers will organize medical teams to ensure the smooth flow of vaccines at the new centers.