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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Saudi Green Initiative forum

Saudi Green Initiative forum
Updated 40 min 51 sec ago

Saudi Green Initiative forum

Saudi Green Initiative forum

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman opened the Saudi Green Initiative forum in Riyadh place on Saturday, announcing the Kingdom’s new “green” objectives.

The forum will discuss Saudi Arabia's environmental efforts with guests that include high-profile government leaders and international personalities.

"We announce in this Forum the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's roadmap for protecting the environment and confronting climate change. This annual forum will serve as a platform to launch our new environmental initiatives and monitor the impact of the previously announced ones," the Crown Prince said. 

"I am pleased to launch initiatives in the energy sector that will reduce carbon emissions by (278) million tons annually by 2030, thus voluntarily more than doubling the target announced, estimated at (130) million tons annually," he added.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman also announced the Kingdom's accession to the Global Methane Pledge, "which aims to reduce methane emissions globally by 30 percent."

The Crown Prince also announced Saudi Arabia’s intention to join the Global Oceans Alliance, the Alliance to Eliminate Plastic Waste in Oceans and Beaches, the Sports for Climate Action Agreement, and to establish a global center for Sustainable Tourism, and a Non-Profit foundation to explore the seas and oceans.

"I look forward to the Middle East Green Initiative Summit, which we will host the day after tomorrow, with the aim of synergizing and coordinating efforts among the countries of the region to develop the plans necessary to reach the Middle East Green Initiative target," he concluded. 

Other Saudi ministers will also be speaking at the forum, exploring specific themes around business and the environment, marine and ocean life, and the oil and gas industry. 

Big corporate icons, including Paddy Padmanathan of ACWA Power and Jasper Graf of Daystar Power US, are also participating in the forum.  


First full Friday prayers at Two Holy Mosques

First full Friday prayers at Two Holy Mosques
Updated 23 October 2021

First full Friday prayers at Two Holy Mosques

First full Friday prayers at Two Holy Mosques
  • Worshippers return to holy cities as restrictions eased

MAKKAH: After more than a year and a half, Muslims worldwide were delighted to see Friday prayers at the Two Holy mosques return to full capacity.

Considered the two holiest sites in Islam, painful images of the mosques devoid of worshippers due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March of 2020 affected Muslims everywhere, but particularly citizens of Makkah and Madinah.

“It’s a blessing, to walk in the mosque’s pathways and you’re surrounded by people again,” said Abdullah Mahdi, a private-sector worker and longtime resident of the holy city. “Though masked still, it doesn’t really matter, the place is alive with movement and worshippers again.

“It’s truly a sight to behold and to see the Grand Mosque’s courtyard around the Kaaba filled with people on the first Friday after the easing of the restrictions is a sign that it’ll be alright, God-willing.”

Last Saturday, the Ministry of Interior announced the easing of restrictions across the Kingdom, including those affecting the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah, which are returning to full operations and capacity.

Deputy Secretary-General for the Affairs of the Grand Mosque Dr. Saad bin Mohammed Al-Muhaimid told Arab News that the Presidency of the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques had used all of their human and mechanical resources to implement the plan to return to full capacity.

FASTFACTS

• Last Saturday, the Ministry of Interior announced the easing of restrictions across the Kingdom, including those affecting the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah, which are returning to full operations and capacity.

• Those working at the Two Holy Mosques had been asked to abide by and enforce the directives issued by the authorities concerned with fighting the coronavirus pandemic to ensure everyone’s safety.

“They did so through an integrated plan of capabilities and services that were harnessed to preserve the safety of the Grand Mosque’s visitors and facilitate the performance of their rites in a spiritual, safe and reassuring atmosphere,” he said.

“Based on the directives of the president of the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, Sheikh Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Sudais, we have accelerated the pace of work and raised the level of readiness in an effort to provide the Grand Mosque’s visitors with better services and means of comfort.

“We have also doubled our efforts since we started implementing the plan to return to full capacity while achieving the highest-quality standards.”

The deputy secretary-general said that those working at the Two Holy Mosques had been asked to abide by and enforce the directives issued by the authorities concerned with fighting the coronavirus pandemic to ensure everyone’s safety.

The ministry and authorities stressed the importance of visitors adhering to the directives included in the Interior Ministry’s statement by wearing face masks at all times inside the Grand Mosque and booking their Umrah and prayer appointments through the official applications (Eatmarna and Tawakkalna).


Saudi Arabia’s carbon-rich mangroves are key to combating climate change

Saudi Arabia’s carbon-rich mangroves are key to combating climate change
Updated 23 October 2021

Saudi Arabia’s carbon-rich mangroves are key to combating climate change

Saudi Arabia’s carbon-rich mangroves are key to combating climate change
  • Mangrove forests are vital for climate change, as highly productive and biodiversity-rich inter-tidal forests sequester carbon faster than terrestrial forests
  • Saudi Green Initiative starts on Oct. 23-24 and aims to assert the country’s work to achieve change domestically and regionally regarding climate change

JEDDAH: Plans to establish Saudi Arabia’s first national mangrove park are underway to enhance the Kingdom’s efforts in environmental protection and tourism development through vast green spaces.

The plans were announced by the Ministry of Environment, Water, and Agriculture. They are part of the ministry’s initiative to add more green spaces and national parks in the country, which currently has 27 national parks.

Mangroves are mainly found off the south-western waters in the Jizan region. They help to protect marine habitats, seagrass, coral reefs, and more from harmful runoffs from passing boats and human waste. 

They are known to residents of the Farasan Islands and Jizan as shura trees, and the area is frequented by residents and visitors all year round.

To further protect mangrove forests, the ministry planted more than 875,000 mangrove trees in the southern regions of the Red Sea coast. 

The first is in a location dubbed Bahar1 and is near the cultural village south of Jizan city where 440,000 trees were planted. There were 435,000 mangrove trees planted in Bahar2 in the town of Al-Sawarmah.

Greenhouse gases drive climate change. 

Mangrove forests are vital for climate change, as highly productive and biodiversity-rich inter-tidal forests sequester carbon faster than terrestrial forests. The more CO2 the mangroves capture, the faster the greenhouse gases are removed from the atmosphere. The distinctive ecosystems also protect shores and can help prevent direct damage in case of storms.

More than a quarter of the world’s mangroves have been lost over the past decade due to artificial intrusions.

The Saudi Green Initiative starts on Oct. 23-24 and aims to assert the country’s work to achieve change domestically and regionally regarding climate change, to build a better future, and improve the quality of life. The country has made significant efforts to protect the environment and mitigate the effects of climate change. Reducing carbon emissions is crucial to slow the impact of climate change and restore environmental balance. 

Ten billion trees will be planted throughout the Kingdom to transform the desert into green land and rehabilitate 40 million hectares of land in the upcoming decades.


Diriyah, Jewel of the Kingdom: DGDA tour guides shine at Expo Dubai Saudi Pavilion

Diriyah, Jewel of the Kingdom: DGDA tour guides shine at Expo Dubai Saudi Pavilion
Updated 23 October 2021

Diriyah, Jewel of the Kingdom: DGDA tour guides shine at Expo Dubai Saudi Pavilion

Diriyah, Jewel of the Kingdom: DGDA tour guides shine at Expo Dubai Saudi Pavilion

Diriyah Gate Development Authority’s talented tour guides are working hard at the Saudi Pavilion during Expo 2020 Dubai to share the history of Diriyah, the birthplace of the Kingdom, the land of kings and heroes where it all began.

The DGDA is proud that seven of the guides from its talented team are currently in Dubai to support the Saudi Pavilion, help drive the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, and represent the spirit of Saudi youth.

The pavilion reflects the Kingdom’s past, present and shared future. It soars five stories high, covering an area the equivalent of two football fields, making it the second-largest at the event after the UAE pavilion.

Thanks to its dazzling design features that beam multicolored bursts of light over the surrounding areas, including 8,000 LED floor lights and the world’s largest digital mirror screen, visitors will enjoy a different experience each time they stop by. It is a design that honors four main themes: the Saudi people, the nation’s heritage, opportunity and nature.

The DGDA tour guides will be working in the pavilion for the duration of Expo 2020 Dubai, sharing with visitors the amazing history and culture of the Kingdom, and Diriyah in particular. Their duties include leading public tours of the entire pavilion, guiding school tours, looking after VIP guests and groups, and training the temporary staff and interns working at the pavilion.

Their extensive training in Diriyah has prepared them well for their participation in Expo 2020 Dubai, and their involvement is a unique recognition of their talent, knowledge and passion.

Rahaf Alharbi, one of DGDA’s rising stars and a passionate tour guide at the Saudi Pavilion, said: “It is a great honor for me to be here at Expo 2020 Dubai to represent Saudi Arabia and to tell the world about Diriyah’s rich history. I am looking forward to the whole world learning about the birthplace of the Kingdom, with its unique history and culture. I am proud to be part of this team and truly enjoy the new experiences we can make here.”

The DGDA is leading the transformation of Diriyah into Saudi Arabia’s foremost historical, cultural and lifestyle destination. The authority was established in July 2017 to preserve Diriyah’s history, celebrate its community, and develop the historic UNESCO World Heritage site of At-Turaif into one of the world’s greatest gathering places, at the heart of Saudi Arabian culture and heritage.

The protection and preservation of Saudi history and culture, including the stories of the nation’s forefathers and its physical heritage, is a key pillar of the work of the DGDA. It is running an extensive program to train specialist tour guides to share the rich history of the birthplace of Saudi Arabia. This training can last months or even years, during which trainees are taught about the Kingdom’s history, archaeology and hospitality.


Saudi Arabia’s chief of general staff receives commander of US Central Command

Saudi Arabia’s chief of general staff receives commander of US Central Command
Updated 23 October 2021

Saudi Arabia’s chief of general staff receives commander of US Central Command

Saudi Arabia’s chief of general staff receives commander of US Central Command

RIYADH: Air Chief Marshal Fayyadh bin Hamed Al Ruwaili, chief of the general staff of the Saudi Arabian Armed Forces, received Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., commander of US Central Command, and the accompanying US delegation at King Salman Air Base.

During the meeting they discussed aspects of cooperation between the two countries, especially in the defense sector, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

They reviewed the importance of strengthening military cooperation and also discussed issues of common interest with regards to regional security and stability.

The meeting was also attended by a number of senior officers from both sides.