Interview: Adel Al-Jubeir talks Yemen, Saudi-US relations, human rights and Israel

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Updated 23 March 2021

Interview: Adel Al-Jubeir talks Yemen, Saudi-US relations, human rights and Israel

In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Adel Al-Jubeir stressed that the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the US was “strong, dynamic and multifaceted.” (AN Photo)
  • In exclusive interview, Saudi Arabia’s minister of state for foreign affairs described Saudi-US ties as “strong, dynamic and multifaceted” 
  • He said Riyadh has supported “every effort and every initiative” by UN envoys to find a solution to Yemen conflict

RIYADH: Relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia will continue virtually unaltered under the Biden administration, the Kingdom’s minister of state for foreign affairs has said.

In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Adel Al-Jubeir stressed that the relationship between the two countries was “strong, dynamic and multifaceted.”

“The (Biden) administration has made it very, very clear that it is committed to the defense of Saudi Arabia, that it is committed to defending Saudi against external threats,” he said.

“So, I really don’t see much of a change between this administration and the previous administration in terms of their commitment to Saudi Arabia.”


He pointed out that relations between the two countries go back 80 years, and have been an important factor in maintaining global stability and security.

“Our relationship with the US is a strategic relationship. We have economic interests and financial interests. We work to fight extremism and terrorism,” Al-Jubeir said.

“We work to stabilize the region — whether it’s trying to bring peace between Israelis and Palestinians; whether it’s in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan; trying to reduce tensions between India and Pakistan; whether it’s stabilizing Sudan; whether it’s working to end the war in Libya or to deal with the G5 (Sahel) countries, in their fight against Boko Haram.

“I believe they have made it clear that they want Iran to go back to the nuclear agreement and they want a nuclear agreement that is, to quote Secretary of State (Antony) Blinken, ‘stronger and longer.’ This is something that we've been advocating since the advent of this deal.

“We want the ‘sunset provision’ to be eliminated so that Iran cannot indefinitely enrich uranium. And we want to have a broader and deeper inspections mechanism to make sure that everything in Iran can be inspected, should there be a need.”


The recent attacks on Saudi Aramco facilities had links to Iran, Al-Jubeir told Arab News. “All of the missiles and drones that came into Saudi are Iranian manufactured or Iranian supplied,” he said. “Several of them, as we've said, came from the north; several came from the sea.”

In his view, the US decision to remove the Houthis from its international terrorism list, on the same day the Yemeni separatists attacked the civilian airport in Abha in Saudi Arabia, would make little difference to the international effort to provide aid to the country.

“We have made this very clear to our friends in Europe and to the US as well as to the United Nations special envoy,” Al-Jubeir said.

“The Taliban in Afghanistan are on the terrorism list; it doesn’t stop aid from coming to Afghanistan. In Syria you have Daesh on the terrorism list and that doesn’t stop aid from going to Syria. Hezbollah in Lebanon is on the terrorism list, that doesn’t stop aid from going to Lebanon. The Al-Shabab in Somalia are on the terror list and that doesn’t stop aid from going there. Boko Haram is on a terror list and that doesn’t stop aid from going into the G5 Sahel countries.”

The problem, Al-Jubeir insisted, lay with the Houthis. “They steal the aid; they sell it to finance their war machine. They induct young boys — 9, 10, 11 years of age — and put them on the battlefield, which is against international law and a severe violation of human rights,” he said.

“They indiscriminately launch ballistic missiles and drones against civilians, whether it’s in Saudi Arabia or in Yemen, where they also robbed the Central Bank. They rejected every attempt at achieving a peaceful settlement or cooperating with the UN special envoy.

“So, the message the position from our perspective with regards to the Houthis is very clear: They belong on a terrorism list and nobody should deal with them.”

The presence of the Iranian-backed separatists does not mean that peace is impossible in Yemen, Al-Jubeir said.

“We believe there is a political solution out there. We’re trying to achieve that political solution and have been trying to do so since the beginning of the commencement of hostilities several years ago,” he said.

“We have supported every effort and every initiative by the UN special envoys to arrive at a solution. We have worked to unify the Yemeni government, to unify the north with the Southern Transition Council. We have provided more than $17 billion in humanitarian assistance. We have made it very clear that the only solution in Yemen is a political solution based on the GCC initiative, the outcomes of the Yemeni National Dialogue and the UN Security Council Resolution 2216.”

Al-Jubeir defended Saudi Arabia’s record on human rights, which has come under attack in some parts of the world.


“Our view is that Saudi Arabia has made great strides in human rights. Fifty years ago, we had no schools for women; today 55 percent of college students are women. Seventy years ago, we had maybe 90 percent illiteracy rates; today everybody reads and writes and goes to school,” he said.

“Seventy or 80 years ago, infant mortality rates were very high. Maybe two out of three children died before the age of two. Today they’re at the same level as Europe and the United States. We have life expectancy rates that, within one generation, have virtually doubled. So, we take care of our people by providing them security, by providing them healthcare, by providing an education, by providing them opportunity.”

He added: “With regards to human rights as defined by the critics of Saudi Arabia, we have made great strides — in terms of liberating women, empowering youth, in terms of reforming our judicial system, in terms of opening up our society and making it possible for young people to be able to realize their hopes and their dreams and their ambitions. This is human rights. This is the important part.”

Despite the “normalization” of relations between some Arab countries and Israel, the position of the Kingdom remained unchanged, Al-Jubeir emphasized.


“We want a two-state solution based on the Arab Peace Initiative and the relevant United Nations resolutions where we have a Palestinian state and living side by side in peace and security. That remains our position,” he said.

“We believe that we were instrumental in moving the Arab world away from the ‘three nos’ ­— announced in Khartoum in 1967 that said ‘no to negotiations, no to recognition, and no to peace’ — by putting forth the late King Fahd’s eight-point plan at the Arab Summit in Fez in the early ’80s.

“This was adopted by the Arab world and basically called for a two-state solution. Then later at the (Arab League) summit in Beirut in 2002, we put forth the Arab Peace Initiative that called for what I mentioned: Two states, recognition, normalization of relationship, and everything that it entails in terms of good neighborly relations. This was adopted by the global community and that remains our position now.”

Referring to the states that have normalized ties with Israel, Al-Jubeir said: “Those are sovereign decisions that are really up to those countries. What we have said is if that leads to a change in Israel’s position with regards to annexation of Palestinian territory, or if it leads to a softening of Israel’s position with regards to negotiations, then there may be some benefit in it.

“But as far as the Kingdom is concerned, our position remains that normalization can only come if there’s an agreement on peace.”


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Ramadan’s success story visible in Makkah’s Grand Mosque

Ramadan’s success story visible in Makkah’s Grand Mosque
Updated 12 May 2021

Ramadan’s success story visible in Makkah’s Grand Mosque

Ramadan’s success story visible in Makkah’s Grand Mosque
  • Authority tasked with keeping pilgrims safe in holy sites offers glimpse behind the scenes

MAKKAH: Each year, millions of worshippers travel to Saudi Arabia to pray at the Two Holy Mosques in Makkah and Madinah. Keeping these vast crowds safe and provided for is a gargantuan task at the best of times, but the pandemic has added many more layers of preparation.

Saudi Arabia banned international visitors from making the Islamic pilgrimage, or Hajj, in 2020, in a bid to control the coronavirus pandemic. Only a very limited number of people residing in the Kingdom were permitted to take part.

Now that flights have resumed and the Kingdom’s borders have reopened, worshippers are permitted to enter — provided they abide by a strict set of protocols.

The General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, which is overseeing these protocols, works year-round to improve the experience for visitors and staff.

Hani Haider, the presidency spokesperson, said in a recent statement that “immunization is an essential condition for performing Umrah and praying in the Two Holy Mosques.

“It is the first condition for applicants requesting permits to pray, perform Umrah or visit the Grand Mosque in Makkah. The permits are issued through the Eatmarna app or the Tawakkalna app. Entering the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah requires the Tawakkalna app.

“This applies to immunized people that have received their first dose of the vaccine no less than 14 days prior to their visit, and to people that have completely recovered from a coronavirus infection.

“Three tracks have been designated to the elderly and people with special needs near the holy Kaaba, while six entry points have been dedicated to pilgrims that are being allowed to the Mataf dish as batches through 14 virtual tracks,” he added.

Haider called on pilgrims to follow these tracks in order to ensure the smooth flow of movement, in addition to abiding by the preventive measures put in place to preserve everyone’s safety.

Many of these measures are carefully managed by the presidency’s Technical and Service Affairs Agency. Its staff distribute single-use Zamzam water bottles in the Mataf dish and squares.

They also oversee transport inside the Grand Mosque, organize the entry and exit of visitors, assist people with special needs, and supervise the equipping, disinfecting and perfuming process.

The agency coordinates the movement of pilgrims inside the Grand Mosque and its squares with a crew of observers to ensure COVID-19 containment measures are respected.

Its staff of 4,000 cleaners disinfect and perfume the Grand Mosque 10 times a day, using more than 60,000 liters of disinfectant and 1,200 liters of air freshener.

More than 70 field teams have also been formed to disinfect the Grand Mosque, its outer squares and bathrooms using carefully selected eco-friendly materials to ensure the safety of visitors.

More than 500 automatic hand sanitizing machines equipped with sensors have been distributed throughout the mosque as part of health precautions.

Meanwhile, the Transport Services Department has raised its readiness to serve visitors to the Grand Mosque by preparing more than 5,000 regular vehicles and 3,000 electric vehicles.

Stickers stressing the importance of social distancing can be found at distribution points, while other signs can found on vehicles to confirm they are disinfected before and after use.

The agency has also recruited more than 100 observers and deployed them at the Grand Mosque’s doors to welcome pilgrims, and guide them to their designated areas.

Authorities have allocated 10 doors for pilgrims, including the King Fahd Gate, Ajyad Gate, Safa Gate, Gate of the Prophet, Bani Shaybah Gate, Al-Marwah Gate, Al-Arqam Gate and Al-Marwah Bridge.

Security personnel are on hand to guide worshippers in case prayer areas become overcrowded.

One of the agency’s most important tasks is monitoring the operational status of all 200 escalators and 14 elevators, overseen by more than 90 Saudi engineers and technicians.

They are also in charge of checking the sound system, which is made up of almost 8,000 speakers, nine microphones for the imam and six microphones for the muezzin.

Additionally, the agency is in charge of conditioning the air in the Grand Mosque’s squares through water-spraying technology, absorbing the thermal energy from the outside air and lowering its temperature.

There are almost 250 spray fans spread across the squares of the Grand Mosque, which are used during prayer times when the Grand Mosque’s squares are full and the temperature is high.

“The state has mobilized all of its human and material capabilities on various aspects, including engineering, technical and services, to ensure the pilgrims’ comfort,” Kamelia bint Mohammed Al-Daadi, assistant secretary for women’s services and administrative affairs, told Arab News.

Her department has launched four initiatives to help improve security and comfort for female visitors.

The first is dubbed “Safe Sanctuary,” which focuses on managing the squares and transport services dedicated to women, providing name-tagged scarves, and raising awareness about preventive measures through a barcode system that displays incorrect behaviors.

Next is “Good Hospitality,” which manages the doors dedicated to women, welcomes pilgrims, guides them, and provides them with services in numerous languages.

The third initiative is centered on cleanliness, focusing on the disinfection of carpets in the Grand Mosque so that female pilgrims can safely and hygienically break their fast and perform Tarawih prayers.

The initiative’s logo is printed on all sanitized equipment and staff have all been trained to operate disinfection machines, and to distribute disinfectants and cleaning tools in female facilities.

Finally, the department’s Women Suqya Zamzam Unit is responsible for distributing water from the Zamzam well in sanitary containers to female pilgrims.

The General Department for Administrative, Planning, Institutional Excellence and Technology has also launched four initiatives to prepare its staff. The first, dubbed “Digital Flashes,” is overseen by the Technology and Electronic Services Unit.

“It consists of preparing and designing educational publications to promote knowledge and develop digital skills, and publishing them through various social media platforms on a daily basis during the holy month of Ramadan,” Al-Daadi said.

Another initiative called “Proficiency” is carried out by the Planning, Institutional Excellence and Quality Unit, and is designed to actively spread the message and vision of the Two Holy Mosques, and hold educational workshops.

The third, named “Rehabilitation,” is carried out by the Services of Temporary Female Workers Unit to provide temporary female staff with a rehabilitation program before the Hajj season begins and to celebrate World Manager’s Day.

“Lastly, the fourth initiative is ‘Enrichment,’ which is carried out by the Women Training Academy,” Al-Daadi said.

“It consists of organizing an awareness-raising forum that builds bridges between the female employees of the Grand Mosque and female pilgrims in order to raise the level of readiness.”

Saudi family of crescent sighters carrying on 100-year-old tradition

Saudi family of crescent sighters carrying on 100-year-old tradition
Updated 12 May 2021

Saudi family of crescent sighters carrying on 100-year-old tradition

Saudi family of crescent sighters carrying on 100-year-old tradition
  • Kingdom attaches great importance to scientific process, skill of moon sighting

MAKKAH: When it comes to sighting the new crescent moon, one Saudi family is light years ahead of most.

For more than 100 years, members of the hawk-eyed Al-Barghash family have been spotting the moon each month without the use of telescopes or other modern devices.

The tradition has been passed down through generations of the family from the central Saudi city of Tumair, 140 km northwest of Riyadh.

“This is a gift from God that we enjoy and seek to teach to our children after we have inherited it from our parents and ancestors,” Mutaib Al-Barghash told Arab News.

He said his father and friends used to stand on a watchtower to sight the crescent of Ramadan, Eid Al-Fitr, and the month of Dhu Al-Hijjah.

“My father trained me and my brothers on crescent sighting until it became a passion for us. We endeavored to develop the site until it became an observatory that now receives people wishing to train on crescent sighting,” he added. 

He noted that the purpose of training and education in the “art of crescent sighting” was to abide by the words of Prophet Muhammad who instructed Muslims to start fasting on seeing the crescent of Ramadan and stop fasting on seeing the crescent of Shawwal. 


• For more than 100 years, members of the hawk-eyed Al-Barghash family have been spotting the moon each month without the use of telescopes or other modern devices.

•The tradition has been passed down through generations of the family from the central Saudi city of Tumair, 140 km northwest of Riyadh.

Al-Barghash’s grandfather, Ibrahim, was a cleric well-known for his 20/20 vision. “My father Abdulrahman inherited this talent from him. All the family was renowned for its sharp sight.”

He pointed out that he and his brothers were all expert crescent sighters who were only ever hindered by cloudy skies, with climatic conditions sometimes differing between observatories in Tumair, Hautat Sudair, and Shaqra.

Located on mountain plateaus, he said these were the three best places to spot the crescent moon because of their clear skies. “We have been climbing that plateau monthly for 16 years to sight the crescent of each month,” he added.

On the prospect of technology making the role of crescent sighters redundant, Al-Barghash said that the old and new ways complemented each other.

“Our sons accompany us each month to understand the science and comprehend it properly. We are also training more than five people at Tumair observatory to be the sighters of the future,” he added. 

Mutaib Al-Barghash

Saudi Arabia attaches great importance to the process of crescent sighting and its Supreme Court ensures the reliability of sighters using several criteria, most notably a comprehensive medical examination and eye tests. Results are then submitted to a special committee affiliated to the Ministry of Justice and accredited by royal decree.

Minister of Justice Dr. Walid Al-Samaani follows up on the work of the committee.

Judges are assigned to accompany sighters at observatories throughout the Kingdom and are supervised by King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) with the participation of specialists in crescent sighting and astronomy, along with representatives of government agencies.

Astronomers are now using computers in crescent sighting to accurately determine variables.

Zaki bin Abdulrahman Al-Mustafa, KACST professor

Suitable observatory sites are selected according to geographic, scientific, and astronomic criteria. KACST’s astronomical observatories are equipped with state-of-the-art instruments, telescopes, binoculars, and thermal cameras to sight the crescents and are linked to the Supreme Court via live video broadcasts.

The Supreme Court closely follows the process of crescent sighting, examining the astronomical and mathematical reports issued by government agencies on the moon’s movements, and weather conditions in each monitoring area.

Sighters are interrogated by the committee to verify the validity of their sighting before an announcement is made.

Zaki bin Abdulrahman Al-Mustafa, professor of astronomy at KACST’s National Center for Astronomy and Navigation, said astronomers were now using computers in crescent sighting to accurately determine variables such as sunrise, sunset, moonset, sunrise and sunset positions, angles between the sun, the intensity of its illumination, and the crescent path in the sky.

The center is a world leader in the field of crescent sighting and has published many scientific papers in trade magazines while annually producing a booklet of related data. Al-Mustafa and his team were able to sight the crescent several times in broad daylight with high-sensitivity cameras and tracked the moon until sunset.

The team obtained two patents for the scientific milestone, and work is underway to develop the technique for sighting in difficult climatic conditions, such as clouds and dust, by designing special filters.

Saudi king, crown prince register as organ donors

Saudi king, crown prince register as organ donors
Updated 56 min 5 sec ago

Saudi king, crown prince register as organ donors

Saudi king, crown prince register as organ donors
  • The donor program is part of the Saudi Center for Organ Transplantation
  • Governors, other high officials also register, following the king's example

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman have registered in an organ donor program as a humanitarian gesture, Saudi Press Agency reported on Tuesday.

“This unsurprising gesture comes within the framework of the great care that patients with final organ failure receive from the king and the crown prince, and as encouragement from the leadership for all citizens and residents to register in the organ donation program,” the statement said.

The donor program, part of the Saudi Center for Organ Transplantation, is of “great importance because it gives hope to patients whose lives depend on new organ transplants.”

King Salman worked to establish the Saudi Center for Organ Transplantation — formerly known as the National Center for Kidney Transplantation — to ease the suffering of the increasing number of patients with kidney failure.

The circle of organ donation was then expanded to include all patients with final organ failure, and to bring hope to patients on waiting lists, whose recovery depends on new organs, such as hearts, livers, kidneys, lungs and others.

“The king and crown prince’s initiative to register in the organ donor program constitutes a caring, patriarchal gesture toward patients in the end stages of organ failure, as well as one of the most important forms of solidarity known to Saudi society,” the statement said.

It also comes as support for enhancing public health levels, increasing the efficiency of the medical sector in conducting these complex operations, and contributing In raising its success rates in the future.

Taking the cue, other high officials also joined the organ donation program.

Among those who registered, according to SPA, were Prince Saud bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz, governor of the Eastern Region; Prince Faisal bin Khalid bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz, governor of the Northern Borders Region; Prince Dr. Hussam bin Saud bin Abdulaziz, governor of Al-Baha; and Prince Faisal bin Nawwaf bin Abdulaziz, governor of Al-Jouf.


Saudi Arabia launches Eid aid projects in various countries

Saudi Arabia launches Eid aid projects in various countries
Updated 12 May 2021

Saudi Arabia launches Eid aid projects in various countries

Saudi Arabia launches Eid aid projects in various countries
  • The project will benefit 294,000 people and help them join in the celebrations of Eid Al-Fitr

JEDDAH: As the Eid Al-Fitr celebrations are about to begin all across the world, the Kingdom is expediting its efforts to ensure that all Muslims join their brethren in the festivities by launching special aid programs.

The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief) distributed Eid clothes among orphans of Syrian and Palestinian refugees living in different parts of Lebanon. The program benefited 6,548 children, which also included members of the host community.

The aid packages to the cities of Tripoli, Zahle, and Dbayeh, east of the Lebanese capital Beirut, form part of the center’s project to provide Eid clothes for children.

KSrelief on Tuesday launched a project to distribute 6,876 cartons of dates weighing 55 tons to support Jordanians, Syrian and Palestinian refugees in Jordan.

Saud bin Abdul Aziz Al-Hazim, KSrelief director in Jordan, said the center distributes the aid in cooperation with the Jordanian Hashemite Charitable Organization.

In Yemen, KSrelief launched its special Eid aid program in Al-Mahrah governorate. It is part of the center’s project to benefit 42,000 families in nine governorates including Aden, Abyan, Lahj, Al-Dhale’e, Hadramout, Shabwah, Marib, and Taiz.

The project will benefit 294,000 people and help them join in the celebrations of Eid Al-Fitr.


• KSrelief distributed Eid clothes among 6,548 children in Lebanon.

• The center’s Eid program will benefit 294,000 people in Yemen.

• The center distributed 14,351 bags of rice weighing 21 kg each among 86,106 individuals in different parts of Pakistan.

• KSrelief launched a project to distribute 6,876 cartons of dates in Jordan.

The center distributed 14,351 bags of rice weighing 21 kg each among 86,106 individuals in different parts of Pakistan including Islamabad, Lahore, Faisalabad, Khanewal, Sahiwal, Dera Ismail Khan, and Lower Dir.

Pakistan’s Communications Minister Murad Saeed thanked King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the humanitarian support extended to the Pakistani people and other countries.

He praised the work of the center and lauded its “dedication” in selecting beneficiaries and the overall distribution process.

KSrelief has implemented 1,556 projects worth more than $5 billion in 59 countries. The initiatives have been carried out in cooperation with 144 local, regional and international partners since the inception of the center in May 2015.

According to a recent KSrelief report, the countries and territories that benefited the most from the center’s various projects were Yemen ($3.53 billion), Palestine ($363 million), Syria ($305 million), and Somalia ($203 million).

Saudi Arabia confirms 13 COVID-19 deaths, 999 new cases

Saudi Arabia confirms 13 COVID-19 deaths, 999 new cases
Updated 12 May 2021

Saudi Arabia confirms 13 COVID-19 deaths, 999 new cases

Saudi Arabia confirms 13 COVID-19 deaths, 999 new cases
  • The Kingdom said 1,286 patients recovered in past 24 hours
  • 8 mosques temporarily closed after some people tested positive for coronavirus

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia recorded 13 new COVID-19 related deaths on Tuesday, raising the total number of fatalities to 7,098.
The Ministry of Health confirmed 999 new confirmed cases reported in the Kingdom in the previous 24 hours, meaning 428,369 people have now contracted the disease. 
Of the total number of cases, 9,169 remain active and 1,358 in critical condition.
According to the ministry, the highest number of cases were recorded in the capital Riyadh with 352, followed by Makkah with 260, the Eastern Province with 120, Madinah recorded 54 and Asir confirmed 50 cases.
The health ministry also announced that 1,286 patients had recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 412,102.

The ministry renewed its call on the public to register to receive the vaccine, and adhere to the measures and abide by instructions.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Islamic Affairs temporary closed eight mosques in four regions after some people tested positive for coronavirus, bringing the total number of mosques closed to 1,129 within 94 days, 1,114 of which have reopened after being sterilized.
The coronavirus pandemic has affected over 160 million people globally and the death toll has reached around 3.32 million.