Qatar’s Emir greeted by Saudi Crown Prince at Al-Ula ahead of landmark summit

Qatar’s Emir greeted by Saudi Crown Prince at Al-Ula ahead of landmark summit
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman welcomed on Tuesday the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani to Al-Ula ahead of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit, as the Qatari leader stepped off the plane. (AFP)
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Updated 05 January 2021

Qatar’s Emir greeted by Saudi Crown Prince at Al-Ula ahead of landmark summit

Qatar’s Emir greeted by Saudi Crown Prince at Al-Ula ahead of landmark summit
  • Qatari Emir greeted by Saudi Crown Prince in historic meeting
  • Discussions likely to include Yemen and relations with the US

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman welcomed on Tuesday the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani to Al-Ula ahead of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit, as the Qatari leader stepped off the plane.

The two men embraced and then spoke briefly before walking down the red carpet to a waiting car.




The moment the Qatari Emir and Saudi Crown Prince met for the first time since the historic agreement reached the night before. (AFP)

Saudi Arabia reopened its airspace and land and sea borders with Qatar on Monday, in a breakthrough agreement aimed at ending the three-year diplomatic dispute with Doha. The full deal is expected to be signed at the annual summit in AlUla.

Other GCC leaders arrived at Saudi Arabia’s Al-Ula ahead of the 41st summit on Tuesday.

Crown prince Mohammed bin Salman said on Monday the summit would create a united front, would bolster peace and prosperity and lead to a closing of ranks to promote solidarity in the face of regional challenges.

 

Discussions during the summit are excepted to cover the current on-going war in Yemen between the Iran-backed Houthi militia and forces under President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, as well as relations with the US and president-elect Joe Biden.

The moment the Kuwait leader arrived. (AFP)

Meanwhile, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry is expected to take part in GCC summit in Saudi Arabia, an official source told Reuters news agency.

Later the men posed for photos outside the vast mirrored building that is the venue for the summit in the Al-Ula valley in Saudi Arabia's desert.

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Danish diplomat leaves Saudi Arabia a witness to ‘historic changes’

As a Danish diplomat based in Saudi Arabia for two years, Camilla Fatum Stoltenberg has had a unique perspective of the sweeping reforms taking place across the Kingdom. (Supplied)
As a Danish diplomat based in Saudi Arabia for two years, Camilla Fatum Stoltenberg has had a unique perspective of the sweeping reforms taking place across the Kingdom. (Supplied)
Updated 54 min 25 sec ago

Danish diplomat leaves Saudi Arabia a witness to ‘historic changes’

As a Danish diplomat based in Saudi Arabia for two years, Camilla Fatum Stoltenberg has had a unique perspective of the sweeping reforms taking place across the Kingdom. (Supplied)
  • Camilla Fatum Stoltenberg has seen Saudi women embrace the empowerment brought by Vision 2030   

RIYADH: As a Danish diplomat based in Saudi Arabia for two years, Camilla Fatum Stoltenberg has had a unique perspective of the sweeping reforms taking place across the Kingdom.

But for a woman from a liberal Scandinavian nation such as Denmark, it has been the changing roles of Saudi women that have resonated the most.

“I think the increased focus on improving women’s role in society in line with Vision 2030 has had the largest impact on the people in Saudi Arabia,” Stoltenberg told Arab News after recently leaving the Kingdom for her next job. “Due to Vision 2030, the discussions on the role of women and women themselves have become more visible in the Saudi Arabian society,” she said.

Stoltenberg worked as a political officer at the Embassy of Denmark in Riyadh. She covered political, economic and cultural developments in the Kingdom, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and Yemen.

In her role and personal life living in Riyadh she witnessed the many changes and developments implemented by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 reform program.

From women being allowed to drive to the transformation in women’s roles in the workplace, Stoltenberg witnessed first-hand the immense female empowerment and social changes the country has gone through.

“I am happy that I have been able to experience two years of the impressive and important transformation that is taking place in Saudi Arabia. It is truly a historic time,” she said.

Stoltenberg, along with other expats who have attended conferences and seminars, has seen women leading discussions and inspiring future generations in the Kingdom.

She has also seen women launching many businesses that are now contributing to the growing private sector.

“I am pleased to see that many men and women acknowledge the benefits of improving women’s role in society and support the reforms,” Stoltenberg said.

One of the biggest initial changes for women came in September 2017 when King Salman announced the royal decree that would end the driving ban in the Kingdom. Soon after, Reema Juffali became Saudi Arabia’s first professional female racing car driver.

The changes have also had a large effect on the Danish community living in the Kingdom, as well as tourists visiting the country.

Female Danish residents can now freely navigate through the country in their cars.

“The lifting of the driving ban for women in June 2018 and the increased mobility have affected Danish female residents and my female friends and colleagues in a positive way,” Stoltenberg said.

She explained how tourism law changes in Saudi Arabia have affected the way the Danish community interacts with the Kingdom.

Tourist visas were launched in 2019, opening international tourism to more than 49 countries, allowing many Danes the opportunity to explore Saudi Arabia and visit their loved ones living and working in the Kingdom.

The easing of restrictions on women’s dress has also allowed expats more freedom and to not have to wear an abaya in public.

“Many Danish residents have enjoyed being able to go to the cinema, concerts and other entertainment activities which have been available as part of the Saudi Seasons,” Stoltenberg said in reference to a series of entertainment events.

Stoltenberg has been able to travel through the eastern province and to Jeddah, and discovered many similarities between the Danish and Saudi Arabian people in culture and hospitality.

“I found that Saudis are curious, very hospitable, friendly and helpful, she said. “I have often been greeted with a ‘welcome to Saudi Arabia’ in supermarkets, malls and restaurants.”

More broadly, Stoltenberg said that she was impressed with the reform steps taken in Saudi Arabia.

“I have experienced that there is a real will to change, and the pace of the reforms during the last two years is striking,” she said. “Change is never an easy task, and it will take time, but it has been very inspiring to meet the driven and passionate people in Saudi Arabia that are supporting and working toward reforming the country.”

Stoltenberg closely followed the conferences and events being led by Saudi women and hosted by the Danish embassy. The embassy hosted an event in January 2021 inviting many prominent female leaders in to exchange ideas.

“Women empowerment is high on the agenda in both Denmark and Saudi Arabia, and it was a great opportunity to share experiences, industry insights and ideas on how to overcome challenges and further improve the role of women,” Stoltenberg said.

Now based back in the Danish capital Copenhagen, she said that she looks forward to coming back to the Kingdom to see the changes that will take place in the future.

“My fondest memory of Saudi Arabia is a combination of the people I met, the different experiences I had, the places I visited, and the challenges and opportunities that come with leaving my comfort zone and being on unknown territory,” she said.

“I tell my friends and family that they should visit Saudi Arabia as soon as COVID-19 is over. Saudi Arabia has a lot to offer and experiencing the country, the people and the modernization progress first-hand has made a big impression on me, and I am sure it will on others too.”


Arab coalition thwarts drone launched by Yemen's Houthis towards Saudi Arabia

Arab coalition thwarts drone launched by Yemen's Houthis towards Saudi Arabia
Updated 46 min ago

Arab coalition thwarts drone launched by Yemen's Houthis towards Saudi Arabia

Arab coalition thwarts drone launched by Yemen's Houthis towards Saudi Arabia
  • The Houthi drone was targeting the southern city of Khamis Mushait

RIYADH: The Arab coalition said it intercepted and destroyed a drone launched by Yemen’s Houthi militia toward southern Saudi Arabia, Saudi Press Agency reported on Wednesday.
Spokesman Col. Turki Al-Maliki said: “Joint coalition forces managed to intercept and destroy a booby-trapped drone launched by the Iran-backed Houthi militia in a systematic and deliberate manner to target civilians and civilian objects in the city of Khamis Mushait.”
Col. Al-Maliki said the coalition’s joint forces command has taken and implemented the necessary operational measures to protect civilians and civilian installations, in accordance with international humanitarian law.


Let there be light: 17-day festival to illuminate Riyadh

The Noor Riyadh festival is the first event organized by the Riyadh Art Program and will run from March 18-April 3. (SPA)
The Noor Riyadh festival is the first event organized by the Riyadh Art Program and will run from March 18-April 3. (SPA)
Updated 04 March 2021

Let there be light: 17-day festival to illuminate Riyadh

The Noor Riyadh festival is the first event organized by the Riyadh Art Program and will run from March 18-April 3. (SPA)
  • Saudi capital will be transformed into giant art gallery of sculptures and outdoor installations

RIYADH: A 17-day “festival of light” in Riyadh in March will transform the Saudi capital into a giant art gallery of sculptures, lighting displays, interactive performances and outdoor installations.
The festival will also feature workshops, discussions, tours, presentations, volunteer programs, cinematic and musical events, and recreational and educational activities.
“It aims to improve the city’s quality of life in line with the goals of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, and to enhance the cultural and artistic aspects of the city, by transforming Riyadh into an open art gallery that blends the traditional with the contemporary,” said Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan, the Minister of Culture.
He said the festival sought to enhance community interaction, spread art and beauty throughout the city, and enrich the daily life of its residents and its visitors, by promoting art in public places and the local art movement, and encouraging more creativity and innovation.
Lighting artists from more than 20 countries will take part in the festival, nearly half of them Saudi. The participants from the Kingdom are Ahmed Mater, Lulwah Al-Homoud, Ayman Zidani, Rashed Al-Shashai and Maha Mallouh. Prominent international artists taking part are Daniel Buren, Carsten Holler, Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, Yayoi Kusama and Dan Flavin.
The Noor Riyadh festival is the first event organized by the Riyadh Art Program, one of four major projects launched by King Salman in March 2019. It will run from March 18-April 3.


Saudi ministry launches corrective period for anti-concealment law

Saudi ministry launches corrective period for anti-concealment law
Updated 04 March 2021

Saudi ministry launches corrective period for anti-concealment law

Saudi ministry launches corrective period for anti-concealment law
  • Businesses in the Kingdom that are currently engaged in "commercial concealment" are given six options to correct their status until Aug. 23

JEDDAH: The National Program for Combating Commercial Concealment announced the start of a corrective period for violators of the system, ending on Aug. 23 after a six-month time frame.

“The corrective period of the anti-concealment law began. Those wishing to correct the situation of their businesses can apply electronically and benefit from the advantages of the corrective period and exception from the penalties stipulated in the law,” said a statement on the ministry’s website.

Regulations for correcting legal status relating to commercial concealment, as approved by the Ministry of Commerce, involve six options.

Violators can allow the entry of a non-Saudi partner into a business, or register the ownership of a facility in the name of a non-Saudi, after they fulfill the legal requirements for ownership.

Another option is to continue practicing business activity by introducing a new partner — a Saudi or licensed foreign investor — and registering the change with the Ministry of Commerce.

A Saudi violator can sell or waive a facility, while a non-Saudi violator can obtain the privileged iqama and complete a correction of status by taking advantage of the iqama benefits.

A final option in the corrective period lets a non-Saudi leave the Kingdom permanently through a final exit visa after submitting a pledge to abandon previous business rights, and announcing this through the means specified by the Ministry within a period not exceeding 30 days.

The new corrective regulations also state that an exemption from penalties will not include violators who were arrested before submitting a request to resolve their situation, or those who were referred to the Saudi Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution before submitting their request.

The request to correct a business status will be reviewed to verify that it meets the necessary requirements, and the applicant will be informed of the result within 90 days. The Ministry can extend this period in the event that it is incomplete based on acceptable reasons and justifications.

If a correction to an establishment’s status is incomplete, the applicant will be required to complete other corrective procedures within 180 days from the expiry date of the first deadline.

Talat Hafiz, a Saudi economist, financial analyst, and board member of the Saudi Financial Association, said commercial concealment is a major financial crime in the business environment of any country, including the Kingdom, “since it works against fair and unjustifiable commercial trading and causes significant harm to the economy and to its gross domestic product.”

He said: “The government of Saudi Arabia has been alerted to such risks and consequences of commercial concealment, and has introduced a very powerful national program to combat such economic and commercial disease by implementing the National Program for Combating the Commercial Concealment.”

Also known as the national anti-commercial concealment (Tasattur) program, the initiative aims to combat all types of commercial concealment by enforcing a number of measures and actions, including a gradual requirement for all business outlets to use electronic payment systems in their trade activities.

“This will give the consumer the choice to use different means of payment, in addition to cash payments,” Hafiz said. “This is part of the program’s initiative, under the title ‘Obliging shops and outlets to provide electronic payment systems.’”

In cases where these regulations are violated, stern measures and penalties will be imposed.

The procedures are part of the recommendations and directives of the Saudi leadership, Hafiz said, and are relevant to combating commercial concealment through the consolidation of efforts among several government sectors.

The program’s primary mission is to regulate financial transactions and eliminate the illegal remittance of funds.

“The program was launched by the Ministry of Commerce in Saudi Arabia to limit the spread of commercial fraud and to ensure legal commercial trading in the country,” Hafiz said.

“The participants in the National Program for Combating the Commercial Concealment continue to work together, consolidate efforts and coordinate among each other for the implementation of the program’s recommendations.”

Each authority will carry out its own designated tasks, taking into consideration the fulfillment of the program’s objectives. Evaluations and assessment will be completed by every concerned authority during all implementation stages of the program.

The program ensures that all commercial businesses in Saudi Arabia are legally run and are established in accordance with Saudi commercial law and legal regulations.

“Such programs will limit cases of money laundering, because a well and legally established business doesn’t need to wash its money, and clean it up to converted money that looks and seems that is coming and generated from legal sources,” Hafiz said.

A recent example of commercial concealment crime involved a Saudi citizen and two expats. They were handed severe sentences following questioning by the Saudi Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution.

The Saudi national established two businesses and enabled two men hailing from Africa to handle illicit money for transfer abroad in exchange for payment.

Following the investigation, authorities handed the fraudsters prison sentences for periods of no less than 16 years and fines of no less than SR168,000 ($44,793).

Authorities also seized SR739,990,490 in assets from the three, and imposed a travel ban and prohibited the Saudi national from practicing commercial activity for five years.

Public prosecution handed down an order to deport the two expats following the completion of their prison sentences. On top of this, the accomplices will have their commercial registrations canceled, and are required to collect due Zakat taxes and fees.

The judgment of the case will also be published in two local newspapers, while the illegal funds will be tracked abroad through statutory procedures.

Decoder

TASATTUR PROGRAM

Saudi Arabia's Tassatur program is also known as the National Anti-Commercial Concealment initiative, which aims to stamp out the practice of Saudis fronting for foreign nationals who are engaged in commercial activities in the Kingdom.


US Yemen envoy Lenderking back in Saudi Arabia for consultations — State Dept

US Yemen envoy Lenderking back in Saudi Arabia for consultations — State Dept
Updated 03 March 2021

US Yemen envoy Lenderking back in Saudi Arabia for consultations — State Dept

US Yemen envoy Lenderking back in Saudi Arabia for consultations — State Dept

WASHINGTON: The US special envoy for Yemen, Timothy Lenderking, is back in Riyadh for further consultations with Saudi Arabia on resolving the conflict in Yemen, State Department spokesman Ned Price told a news briefing on Wednesday.
Lenderking had met with senior government officials and the UN special envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, during a visit to the region, Price said. He declined to say whether Griffiths had met with Houthi representatives.
Earlier, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters that Lenderking and the Houthis’ chief negotiator, Mohammed Abdusalam, held a first direct meeting in the Omani capital, Muscat, on Feb. 26.