Saudi Arabia welcomes Biden commitment to help Kingdom defend territory

US Vice President Kamala Harris (L) and Secretary of State Antony Blinken (R) listen as President Joe Biden delivers a speech on foreign policy, at the State Department, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021, in Washington. (AP)
US Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Antony Blinken listen as President Joe Biden delivers a speech on foreign policy, at the State Department on Thursday. (AP)
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Updated 06 February 2021

Saudi Arabia welcomes Biden commitment to help Kingdom defend territory

Saudi Arabia welcomes Biden commitment to help Kingdom defend territory
  • US president says Kingdom faces attacks from Iranian supplied forces
  • Saudi Arabia agrees with Biden that Yemen needs political solution

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia on Thursday welcomed Joe Biden’s commitment to help the Kingdom defend its people and territory.

The US president made the comments in his first foreign policy speech at the Department of State.

“Saudi Arabia faces missile attacks, UAV strikes and other threats from Iranian supplied forces in multiple countries,” Biden said. “We’re going to continue to help Saudi Arabia defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity and its people.”

The Kingdom has repeatedly been the target of missiles and drones launched by Iran-backed Houthi militants in Yemen.

Biden said that Timothy Lenderking, a long-serving US diplomat in the Middle East, had been appointed as a special envoy to Yemen.

The president said the war in Yemen “has to end” and that Lenderking would work with the UN and all parties in the conflict to push for a diplomatic solution.

Saudi Arabia, a member of the Arab coalition supporting Yemen’s internationally recognized government, has repeatedly called for a diplomatic solution to the conflict.

"The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia welcomes the United States’ commitment, expressed in President Biden’s speech today, to cooperate with the Kingdom in defending its security and territory," said Prince Faisal bin Farhan, Saudi Arabia's foreign minister. "We look forward to working with Tim Lenderking to achieve our joint goal of a comprehensive political resolution in Yemen as part of our shared vision for a peaceful and prosperous region."

Saudi Arabia's Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman welcomed the US president's commitment to working with allies to resolve conflicts. He also welcomed the appointment of Lenderking and said the Kingdom was looking forward to working with its American partners to "alleviate the humanitarian situation and find a solution to the Yemen crisis, and ensure peace and stability."

Prince Khalid underscored the Kingdom's commitment to Yemen in seeking a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

"Even before the Iran backed Houthi militants overthrew the government of Yemen in 2014, the Kingdom has spared no effort in finding a sustainable political resolution to the conflict, including the GCC initiative, the Kuwait talks, and numerous other UN brokered peace talks," he said.

A foreign ministry statement said the Kingdom welcomed Biden’s pledge to help Saudi Arabia defend itself and Washington’s commitment to a diplomatic solution in Yemen. “The Kingdom affirmed its steadfast position in supporting a comprehensive political solution to the Yemen crisis, and welcomed the US’ emphasis on the importance of supporting diplomatic efforts to solve the Yemeni crisis, including the efforts of the UN envoy Martin Griffiths,” the ministry said.

Saudi Arabia has taken a number of steps to progress the political solution, the statement continued, including the coalition’s declaration in April of a unilateral cease-fire, in response to a call by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

“The Kingdom looks forward to working with the Biden administration and with newly-appointed US envoy to Yemen Tim Lenderking, the United Nations, Arab coalition countries and all Yemeni parties in order to reach a comprehensive political solution in Yemen,” the ministry added. “The Kingdom will continue its remarkable efforts to alleviate the human suffering of the brotherly Yemeni people, and has provided more than $17 billion over the past few years.”

Saudi Arabia also said it wants to strengthen cooperation with the US to face “to deal with challenges in the region” including moving forward with the Middle East peace process.
 


Saudi National Bank posts 20% rise in quarterly profit

Saudi National Bank posts 20% rise in quarterly profit
Updated 4 min 11 sec ago

Saudi National Bank posts 20% rise in quarterly profit

Saudi National Bank posts 20% rise in quarterly profit
  • The result was better than the 3.6 billion riyals average analysts’ forecast on Refinitiv Eikon data

DUBAI: Saudi National Bank (SNB), the country’s biggest lender, on Sunday posted a nearly 20 percent rise in third-quarter profit from higher fees.
SNB reported a net profit of 3.8 billion riyals ($1.0 billion) for the quarter that ended on Sept. 30, up from 3.2 billion riyals in the same period a year earlier.
The result was better than the 3.6 billion riyals average analysts’ forecast on Refinitiv Eikon data.
The Saudi bank said total operating income increased by 38.4 percent mainly due to higher net special commission income, foreign exchange income and higher fees from banking services


US urges North Korea to stop missile tests

US urges North Korea to stop missile tests
Updated 31 min 6 sec ago

US urges North Korea to stop missile tests

US urges North Korea to stop missile tests
  • Tuesday’s launch was the latest in a series of recent weapons tests by Pyongyang

SEOUL: The US on Sunday urged North Korea to stop “counterproductive” missile tests, but expressed hope Pyongyang would respond positively to Washington’s call for dialogue.
It comes after North Korea fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) on Tuesday, prompting an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council.
US special representative on North Korea Sung Kim met his southern counterpart Noh Kyu-duk after a meeting with their Japanese counterpart in Washington.
He labelled Tuesday’s launch a “provocation,” and urged Pyongyang to stop “concerning and counterproductive” missile tests.
“We hope the DPRK will respond positively to our outreach,” Kim told reporters in Seoul, using the acronyms of North Korea’s official same.
Tuesday’s launch was the latest in a series of recent weapons tests by the country, including a long-range cruise missile, a train-launched weapon, and what it said was a hypersonic warhead.
Earlier this month, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un blamed the United States for sanctions, dismissing Washington’s assertions that it does not have hostile intentions.
Kim met three times with former president Donald Trump, who boasted of stopping a war but failed to reach a comprehensive agreement on ending the country’s nuclear program.
President Joe Biden has promised to keep seeking diplomacy but with a more low-key approach.


Melbourne to ease more COVID-19 curbs as 80 percent vaccination rate nears

Melbourne to ease more COVID-19 curbs as 80 percent vaccination rate nears
Updated 31 min 28 sec ago

Melbourne to ease more COVID-19 curbs as 80 percent vaccination rate nears

Melbourne to ease more COVID-19 curbs as 80 percent vaccination rate nears
  • Home to about five million people, Melbourne endured nearly nine months of stay-at-home restrictions

MELBOURNE: Melbourne, the world’s most locked-down city that emerged from its latest spate of COVID-19 restrictions on Friday, will see more curbs eased next week when Victoria state reaches an 80 percent full vaccination rate, officials said on Sunday.
Home to about five million people, Melbourne endured 262 days, or nearly nine months, of stay-at-home restrictions during six lockdowns since March 2020, longer than the 234-day continuous lockdown in Buenos Aires.
Starting on Friday, when 80 percent of people across Victoria — of which Melbourne is the capital — are expected to be fully vaccinated, Melburnians will be free to travel throughout the state and masks will no longer be required outdoors.
“There’s a fundamental agreement that we have reached with the Victorian community, we asked you to get vaccinated, you have done that in record time and record numbers,” Premier Daniel Andrews said.
With a once-sputtering vaccine rollout now at full speed, authorities across Australia no longer plan to rely on extended lockdowns to suppress the virus. Victoria recorded 1,935 new coronavirus cases and 11 deaths on Sunday.
As the state moves toward a “vaccinated economy” in which only fully inoculated people will be allowed into venues, a 90 percent percent rate is expected around Nov. 24, Andrews said.
He added that he wanted to see crowds in excess of 80,000 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground for the Boxing Day Test on Dec. 26 between Australia and England.
“It’s our approach to try and achieve life as close to normal as possible,” Andrews said.
Australians overwhelmingly support vaccinations, with research by the Melbourne Institute at the University of Melbourne, showing in October that only 6.9 percent of the population were unwilling to be inoculated.
New South Wales state, whose capital Sydney spent 100 days in a lockdown that ended earlier this month, recorded 296 new COVID-19 cases and four deaths. Nearly 85 percent of the state’s population have been fully vaccinated.
New Zealand, which is also learning to live with the virus through vaccinations, had 80 cases on Sunday, all in the North Island. On Saturday, it reported a first COVID-19 infection in nearly a year in the country’s South Island.


Saudi insurer MEDGULF to increase capital by 50% to $279mn for more solvency

Saudi insurer MEDGULF to increase capital by 50% to $279mn for more solvency
Updated 50 min 9 sec ago

Saudi insurer MEDGULF to increase capital by 50% to $279mn for more solvency

Saudi insurer MEDGULF to increase capital by 50% to $279mn for more solvency
  • The company plans to increase its capital from SR700 million ($186.6 million) to SR1.050 billion ($279.9 million)

RIYADH: The Mediterranean and Gulf Insurance and Reinsurance Company (MEDGULF) plans to increase its capital by 50 percent to boost its solvency and leverage business expansion opportunities.

The company plans to increase its capital from SR700 million ($186.6 million) to SR1.050 billion ($279.9 million), by offering 35 million new ordinary shares through a rights issue at an offer price of SR12 , and a nominal value of SR10 per share, a statement revealed.

Up to 15.9 percent of the offering proceeds will be invested in information technology applications with focus on business development, sales generation and customer service, the company noted in the offering prospectus.

MEDGULF received approval on the capital increase from the Saudi Central Bank in June 2021 and from Saudi Capital Market Authority (CMA) in September 2021. The company will have its extraordinary general assembly meeting on November 3rd to discuss the offering plans further.

MEDGULF is a major player in the Saudi insurance industry with health insurance being the largest business division, representing 72 percent of gross premiums as on December 31, 2020, followed by motor insurance at 17 percent and general insurance at 11 percent.


Desperate for employees, US businesses struggle to hire

Desperate for employees, US businesses struggle to hire
Updated 24 October 2021

Desperate for employees, US businesses struggle to hire

Desperate for employees, US businesses struggle to hire
  • More than 10 million jobs were unfilled as of the end of August, according to government data

NEW YORK: To keep the taps at his recently opened beer tasting room flowing, Peter Chekijian had no choice but to ask his main employees to come in seven days per-week.
The staffing shortage has also kept Chekijian from realizing his goal of brewing beer on site, since he can’t find contractors to finish installing tanks he requires.
“That’s been a big issue of getting people to actually finish up the job,” said Chekijian, who co-founded the small Twin Fork Beer Company in New York state.
Even as millions of Americans who lost their jobs to the Covid-19 pandemic have returned to work, companies nationwide report they’re still struggling to hire employees in recent months.
More than 10 million jobs were unfilled as of the end of August, according to government data. The labor force participation rate, which measures the US economy’s active workforce, was 61.6 percent in September, compared to 63.3 percent before the pandemic.
The causes of the short staffing are myriad, from continued fears of contracting Covid-19, particularly among people who live with elderly family or children, to early retirements and objections over work-life balance and low wages.
And while the government throughout the pandemic offered generous unemployment benefits to keep people who lost their job financially sound, their expiration last month hasn’t yet caused hiring to increase.

The employee shortages come as restaurants and entertainment venues reopen amid as more Americans get vaccinated, and ahead of the uptick in business around the holiday season.
With “so many employers trying to hire so many people at the same time, it creates that imbalance,” said Aaron Sojourner, an economist at the University of Minnesota.
Employers who spoke to AFP told of mad scrambles to attract applicants by offering higher wages and other perks.
Chekijian has put out ads looking for employees and attended job fairs with offers of time off, benefits packages and salaries as generous as he can manage, but still can’t find the people he needs.
“It’s been shockingly slow,” he said. “It’s definitely affecting what we’re trying to do in terms of growing our business.”
The biggest American retailers are hiring staff ahead of the holiday season, with Amazon and Walmart both recruiting 150,000 people, Target and UPS taking on 100,000 and FedEx 90,000.
Logistics company GXO is looking to hire 9,000 employees for the busy season over the next two months, and its head of human resources Maryclaire Hammond said “finding people has been a huge issue.”
“There is a massive competition for talent at all levels, there is an absolute war,” she said in an interview.

GXO is particularly short on material handlers and forklift operators, and has paid for billboards and social media advertisements and organized job fairs to attract applications.
It has upped its pay by $3 to $5 per-hour in the past eight months and offered hiring incentives and a benefits package including health insurance, retirement contributions and college tuition assistance.
But Hammond said getting people to stay is even trickier.
“The current workforce is pretty fickle, happy to change,” she said. If a warehouse nearby pays even slightly more, employees will move there.
The company has tried to make workers feel comfortable, even going so far as to hand out burritos at some warehouses.
“Offering very good burritos in the mornings, it sounds silly, but things like that really motivate people,” Hammond said.
It has also tried to find ways around the worker shortages by increasing automation in its warehouses by 40 percent this year.
Staci Weinsheimer is looking for a full-time administrative job and feels that the market is finally turning in her favor.
“I’m getting a lot of interviews, I’m getting a lot of great feedback from the employers,” she said after meeting with hospitality companies at a job fair in Melville, New York.
Some job seekers still struggle to find work, or question whether companies will treat them well.
“Employers could be spending more money to attract new hires, and to improve working conditions. Those who do that find it easier to hire,” Sojourner, the University of Minnesota economist, said.
He added: “But a lot of employers are reluctant to really raise wages, because that does come out of their profits, and then the incumbent employees might also want a raise.”