$800bn plan to turn Riyadh into cultural hub for the Middle East

$800bn plan to turn Riyadh into cultural hub for the Middle East
Fahd Al-Rasheed, president of the Royal Commission for the City of Riyadh. (Supplied)
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Updated 06 July 2020

$800bn plan to turn Riyadh into cultural hub for the Middle East

$800bn plan to turn Riyadh into cultural hub for the Middle East
  • Saudi capital’s planning chief unveils ambitious strategy ahead of G20 urban development summit

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia is launching a SR3 trillion ($800 billion) plan to double the size of Riyadh in the next decade and transform it into an economic, social and cultural hub for the region.

The ambitious strategy for the capital city was unveiled by Fahd Al-Rasheed, president of the Royal Commission for the City of Riyadh, ahead of key meetings of the U20, the arm of the G20 leaders’ summit that deals with urban development and strategy.

“Riyadh is already a very important economic engine for the Kingdom, and although it’s already very successful, the plan now, under Vision 2030, is to actually take that way further, to double the population to 15 million people,” he told Arab News.

“We’ve already launched 18 megaprojects in the city, worth over SR1 trillion, over $250 billion, to both improve livability and deliver much higher economic growth so we can create jobs and double the population in 10 years. It’s a significant plan and the whole city is working to make sure this happens.”

 

About $250 billion in investment is expected from the private sector, with the same amount generated by increased economic activity from population growth, finance and banking, cultural and desert tourism, and leisure events.

 

“We must also ensure the growth is managed properly, so there will be a focus on transport and logistics, including the Riyadh metro which will open at the beginning of next year. The aim is to increase productivity,” Al-Rasheed said.

The plan involves the creation of a “mega industrial zone” focusing on advanced technology such as renewables and automation, and biotechnology and aquaponics. Another key feature is sustainability, with energy conservation, the circular carbon economy with its emphasis on reducing emissions, and water management, all priorities.

“You will see 7 million trees planted in Riyadh in the next few years, and King Salman Park will be bigger than Hyde Park in London,” Al-Rasheed said.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • 18 megaprojects have already been launched worth over $250 billion.
  • 7 million trees planted in Riyadh in the next few years.
  • King Salman Park will be bigger than Hyde Park in London.

The city also aims to be a Middle East artistic and cultural hub. An opera house is being considered, as well as public art shows with 1,000 works commissioned from around the world. “We have not seen anything like it since Renaissance Florence,” Al-Rasheed said.

The plans will be discussed this week during online meetings of the U20 linking Riyadh with Houston. The Texas oil capital is suffering a new spike in coronavirus cases and pandemics will be on the agenda. “We want to deal with this one, but also be ready for the next one,” Al-Rasheed said.


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 5 min 45 sec ago

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.


Saudi Arabia donates $1m to UN Syria fund

Saudi Arabia donates $1m to UN Syria fund
Updated 16 min ago

Saudi Arabia donates $1m to UN Syria fund

Saudi Arabia donates $1m to UN Syria fund
  • Al-Mouallimi also attended a Arab coalition meeting on Yemen
  • The Kingdom won seats on the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs and Commission on Population and Development

LONDON: Saudi Arabia has donated $1 million as part of the Kingdom’s contribution to the voluntary fund of the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM) on Syria.
The donation was handed over on Wednesday by the Saudi permanent representative to the UN, Abdallah Al-Mouallimi, during a virtual meeting with the head of IIIM on Syria, Catherine Marchi-Uhel.
During the meeting, they reviewed the Kingdom’s regional efforts in general and in Syria in particular.
Al-Mouallimi said his country’s role in the Syrian issue is to support political solutions and humanitarian efforts.
Marchi-Uhel thanked Saudi Arabia for its generous support, and called on the Kingdom to continue providing political support for the Syrian crisis, especially in efforts to hold accountable those who commit heinous crimes against the Syrian people.
Al-Mouallimi also participated in a meeting with the permanent representatives of the coalition countries fighting to support the legitimate government in Yemen.
They discussed the latest developments in Yemen and the most prominent challenges, as well as the statement issued by the UN Security Council on Friday welcoming the Saudi peace initiative to end the conflict and reach a comprehensive political solution.
The initiative also calls for a nationwide cease-fire, the reopening of Sanaa airport, and allowing free movement of ships for refueling and goods.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has won a seat on the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) for 2022-2025, and on the UN Commission on Population and Development for 2022-2066.
Al-Mouallimi praised the high status and international confidence that the Kingdom enjoys, and its record of global successes in various fields.
He said the Kingdom, through its long experience and achievements in combating drugs and organized crime, will be an important tributary to the UN and the committee members in this field.


Who’s Who: Dr. Munir bin Mahmoud El-Desouki, president of King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology

Who’s Who: Dr. Munir bin Mahmoud El-Desouki, president of King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology
Updated 18 min 9 sec ago

Who’s Who: Dr. Munir bin Mahmoud El-Desouki, president of King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology

Who’s Who: Dr. Munir bin Mahmoud El-Desouki, president of King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology

Dr. Munir bin Mahmoud El-Desouki was appointed president of King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) by royal decree on April 19.
El-Desouki has been assistant minister at the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT). He also worked as deputy minister for development and planning at the MCIT and senior adviser to the minister of MCIT.
El-Desouki has served on and chaired several national committees, held a number of positions in KACST and won numerous awards and prizes, including the 2014 Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Prize for inventors and the talented (Takreem) for his invention in electrical engineering called “Development through Time Integration.”
He gained his B.Sc. in electrical engineering from the King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals in 2002. He also received an M.A.Sc. in electrical and computer engineering from McMaster University, Ontario, Canada, in 2005.
El-Desouki attained his M.Eng. degree in engineering entrepreneurship and innovation from McMaster University in 2007.
He obtained his Ph.D. from the same university in electrical and computer engineering in 2010, specializing in CMOS imagers for low-level light biomedical applications, in addition to CMOS imagers for high-speed non-invasive fluorescence lifetime imaging systems.
El-Desouki has also published more than 85 scientific papers and articles in scientific journals and world conferences and has received more than 20 patents.


Exclusive: Patriot missile deal to help boost Saudi defenses, secure world energy supplies, says Greek FM

Exclusive: Patriot missile deal to help boost Saudi defenses, secure world energy supplies, says Greek FM
Updated 21 April 2021

Exclusive: Patriot missile deal to help boost Saudi defenses, secure world energy supplies, says Greek FM

Exclusive: Patriot missile deal to help boost Saudi defenses, secure world energy supplies, says Greek FM
  • Nikos Dendias told Arab News he sees Saudi Arabia’s development plans as “historic” and would like Greece to be a part of it
  • He said Turkey has unintentionally brought Eastern Mediterranean and Gulf countries together by highlighting their common principles

JEDDAH: The Patriot air defense system that will be provided by Greece to Saudi Arabia will not only bolster the Kingdom’s security but also secure global energy supplies, Nikos Dendias, the Greek foreign minister, has told Arab News.

He made the remark during an exclusive interview on Tuesday, after signing an agreement on draft arrangements for the legal status of the Greek armed forces in Saudi Arabia that will be supporting the Kingdom’s defense capabilities.

Earlier, Dendias and Nikos Panagiotopoulos, the Greek defense minister, met Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. According to a Saudi Press Agency report, during the meeting they reviewed Greek-Saudi bilateral relations, joint cooperation in different fields and ways to support and develop such cooperation, besides current regional issues.

The meeting was also attended by Saudi Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman and Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan.

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias (L) meets with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh. (Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

“The reason I'm here today is to sign an agreement with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia according to which a (battery) of Greek Patriot missiles will be stationed in Saudi Arabia in order to help the defenses of the Kingdom, but also secure the energy supply of the world,” Dendias told Arab News.

He said “the sky is the limit” as far as cooperation between Greece and Saudi Arabia is concerned, adding that “it is a new era and we are progressing rapidly.

“There’s lots that we can achieve in defense, there’s lots that we can achieve in creating a climate which would secure energy and would secure cooperation between like-minded countries. We have done quite a lot but there’s lot to be done.”

Discussions between the two sides extended to other areas besides defense. Saudi Arabia has been opening its doors to international companies and foreign investors to contribute to the Kingdom’s transformation and development plans.

Opinion

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Asked whether Greek companies were looking forward to participating in the upcoming projects, Dendias said he saw the opportunity as something much bigger than a matter of business.

“It is not just money; it is not just exporting services. It is not just good for my country and good for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” he said.

“This is a project that I have to say has a historical component. It's a huge change and I would like my country to be a part of it.”

Nikos Dendias, Greek foreign minister, told Arab News the Patriot air defense system that will be provided by Greece to Saudi Arabia will bolster the Kingdom’s security. (AN Photo/Huda Bashatah)

On April 16, Dendias was in the news when he and his Turkish counterpart clashed openly at a joint news conference in Ankara. Seeking to ease months of tensions over territorial disputes in the Eastern Mediterranean, he met Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. But the news conference, which began with hopes of improved relations, quickly descended into acrimonious accusations from both sides.

“Unintentionally Turkey pushed towards that direction in the sense that made everybody else realize that they act in a different way … they have an understanding … based on international law, based on international law of the sea, based on good neighborhood relations,” Dendias told Arab News.

“But what I wish that will happen in the future is that Turkey will understand that this, this is the right way forward and Turkey will eventually join this understanding between countries. But of course, being an optimist does not mean turning blind. There's a long way to go before we can see that.”

Nikos Dendias spoke to Arab News after signing an agreement on draft arrangements for the legal status of the Greek armed forces in Saudi Arabia that will be supporting the Kingdom’s defense capabilities. (AN Photo/Huda Bashatah)

Elaborating on the disputes embroiling Turkey, Greece and Cyprus over oil and gas drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean he said: “Greece believes in renewables. Greece is not going to start digging the bottom of the sea of the Mediterranean in order to find gas, in order to find oil, for (this) very, very simple reason. 

“But we need 10 or 20 years to find it and exploit it, and cost-wise it would be so much more expensive than, for example, in Saudi Arabia. So, economically I don't envision Greece becoming an oil-producing country.

“And with all due respect, the Aegean (Sea), for example, is a paradise on earth. We are not planning to turn (it) into a Gulf of Mexico. So, Greece wishes to have energy supplies. Greece wishes to have very good relations with the Saudi Kingdom, but Greece does not plan in the foreseeable future to become an oil- and gas-producing country.”

According to UNWTO, Greece broke an all-time record by welcoming 33 million international visitors in 2019, making it a leader in global tourism and has been high on the top of many tourists’ list.

Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al-Khateeb announced that the Kingdom was aiming to attract new investments worth $58 billion by 2023 in tourism infrastructure. The sector currently contributes 3.5 percent of the total GDP; the goal is to raise this figure to 10 percent.

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias is received by his Saudi Arabian counterpart Prince Faisal bin Farhan in Riyadh. (Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Dendias believes Saudi Arabia has a lot of potential to develop its tourism sector, and with Greece’s vast experience in the sector, the people of the two nations have a lot to offer to one another and “many people would like to see what I’m seeing (here in the Kingdom).”

He rejected the notion that the Eastern Mediterranean and the Gulf are two geographically different regions with different threat perceptions, and asserted that they both face common challenges.

He said the challenges for the two regions come from two fronts with like-minded visions, which are moving away from peaceful relations and are in search of ways to create more challenges instead of being “good neighbors.”

“Globalization is here and threats and challenges are rather more common than they used to be,” Dendias told Arab News. “I believe that in this globalized world, things have become much closer than we believed in the past. Most countries, both the Gulf countries and the Eastern Mediterranean countries, face common challenges and common answers were required.”

Dendias said Saudi Arabia and Greece have both been in alignment on the most pressing issues, rejecting extremism and favoring stability. “We have to try to achieve this common understanding for the region,” he said. “All countries in the region should act according to international law, (the UN Convention on the) Law of the Sea, the United Nations Charter and good neighborly relations.”

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias meets with his Saudi Arabian counterpart Prince Faisal bin Farhan in Riyadh. (Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Achieving good neighborly relations “should be our target,” he said, adding: “Is it easy? Probably not. Is it feasible? I would say yes.”

Dendias also touched on the thorny issue of refugees and the challenges that Greece faces as the transit point for tens of thousands of migrants and refugees trying to reach Europe from Africa and the Middle East.

In March 2016, the European Union entered into a landmark agreement with Turkey, through which hundreds of thousands of migrants had transited to reach EU soil, to limit the number of asylum seeker arrivals.

Under the deal, irregular migrants attempting to enter Greece would be returned to Turkey, and Ankara would take steps to prevent new migratory routes from opening. In exchange, the EU agreed to resettle Syrian refugees from Turkey on a one-to-one basis, reduce visa restrictions for Turkish citizens, pay 6 billion euros in aid to Turkey for Syrian migrant communities, update the customs union, and re-energize stalled talks regarding Turkey’s accession to the European Union.

However, tensions arose in spring 2020, when Ankara threatened to let hundreds of thousands of migrants into Greece before backing off.

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias during a meeting with Saudi Arabia’s Adel Al-Jubeir in Riyadh. (Saudi Press Agency)

Dendias said the migration and refugee crisis will be very difficult to resolve, especially with new tensions and crises in the Eastern Mediterranean region.

“There are countries that have instrumentalized the refugee crisis in order to apply pressure both to Greece and to the European Union for their own reasons and that is not acceptable,” he said.

He added: “It will be much easier if countries around the Mediterranean are stabilized and become functional states. I’m speaking about Syria and Libya, and we also have to address the challenge (arising) from Lebanon.

“Yet again, what we're trying to achieve now is within our European family. Greece, with the European Union, is to create a new regime to address the huge challenge of migration and the refugee problem.”

For the whole year 2015 the number of sea arrivals to Greece from Turkey amounted to 856,723. According to the UNHCR, last year 15,696 migrants crossed into Greece.

“The refugee crisis and the migration crisis is here to stay with us,” Dendias said. “We will be dealing with this issue in the foreseeable future. And we will have to be prepared for it.”

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Twitter: @Rawanradwan8


Saudi Arabia announces 12 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 12 more COVID-19 deaths
Updated 21 April 2021

Saudi Arabia announces 12 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 12 more COVID-19 deaths
  • The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom has increased to 391,362
  • A total of 6,858 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia recorded 12 new COVID-19 related deaths on Monday, raising the total number of fatalities to 6,846.
The Ministry of Health confirmed 1,028 new confirmed cases reported in the Kingdom in the previous 24 hours, meaning 408,038 people have now contracted the disease. 
Of the total number of cases, 9,818 remain active and 1,145 in critical condition.
According to the ministry, the highest number of cases were recorded in the capital Riyadh with 431, followed by Makkah with 220, the Eastern Province with 157, and Madinah and Asir recorded 45 cases each.

The ministry also announced that 824 patients had recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 391,362.
Over 7.5 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Saudi Arabia to date, through more than 600 centers across the country.
The ministry renewed its call on the public to adhere to the measures and abide by instructions.
The coronavirus pandemic has affected over 143 million people globally and the death toll has reached around 3.06 million.