Interview: Saudi Arabia has ‘important role’ to play in Africa, says EU envoy for Ethiopia

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Updated 06 April 2021

Interview: Saudi Arabia has ‘important role’ to play in Africa, says EU envoy for Ethiopia

Interview: Saudi Arabia has ‘important role’ to play in Africa, says EU envoy for Ethiopia
  • Pekka Haavisto is visiting Saudi Arabia and UAE en route to Ethiopia on his second mission as EU envoy
  • Finnish diplomat says peace during Ramadan in Yemen was among the issues he discussed with Saudi officials

RIYADH: The EU’s envoy for Ethiopia has emphasized the importance of international cooperation to bring the conflict in the Tigray region to an end.

In a wide-ranging interview with Arab News in Riyadh on Sunday, Pekka Haavisto, Finland’s foreign minister, said it is important that the EU works with Saudi Arabia, given that the Kingdom has “good relations with all parties in the whole of Africa.”

Haavisto also described the latest Saudi proposal for peace in Yemen as “a very positive initiative,” and reiterated his condemnation of deliberate attacks by the Houthis on civilians in Yemen and in Saudi Arabia.

Mandated by the EU High Representative Josep Borrell, Haavisto is visiting the Kingdom and the UAE before traveling to Ethiopia on his second mission as the EU envoy.

“International cooperation in this issue is very important,” he said, citing the risks of another conflict in a region where disputes are already rife, including the Sudan-Ethiopia tensions and disagreements among Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan over the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

“The European Union reacted very early on the confrontation in Ethiopia in Tigray and condemned the use of violence,” he said. “It was of course very concerned about the new wave of refugees partly coming to the Sudanese side.”

Haavisto visited refugee camps on the Sudan side in early February, in addition to holding meetings with Ethiopian leaders in December and February. At the time it was not certain that Eritrean troops were involved in the events of Tigray or that militias were causing turmoil.
 

“We have asked the Ethiopian leaders for full humanitarian access to all regions in Tigray, full investigation into human rights violations, dialogue between the parties and a halt to hostilities,” he told Arab News.

“This has been our message also to the neighboring country, Eritrea. We have asked for Eritrean troops to be withdrawn from Tigray.”

According to Haavisto, during their meetings the EU team and Saudi officials compared notes on the situation in the wider region and agreed to keep exchanging views on developments as well as explore future possibilities for closer cooperation.

The EU team also held meetings with officials from Saudi humanitarian agencies, he said. “It is very important that we also have a positive view of the whole of Africa, for the development and assessing of those in need of humanitarian aid,” he said. “We touched on the situation in Somalia, which is also the burning issue as far as African matters are concerned.”

Haavisto sees plenty of possibilities for the Kingdom and the EU to work together. “We have of course been praising the important role of Saudi Arabia earlier on in the peace agreement between Eritrea and Ethiopia and also Saudi Arabia’s constant support to Sudan during its transition process. Saudi Arabia is a country that has good relations with all parties in the whole of Africa, so it’s important that the EU works with Saudi Arabia.”

The discussions in Riyadh explored the possibility of a period of calm in Yemen during Ramadan. Emphasizing that the holy month, only two weeks away, might see more negotiations for peace, Haavisto said: “The Saudi leadership mentioned many times how important it is to have peace in the coming month of Ramadan, and I think everybody is requesting that.

“I think it should be a united common message from the international community to also bring Houthis to the negotiation tables. We shouldn’t accept additional violence, and particularly people should think about the civilians and the fate of the civilians in Yemen.”

On March 7, more than 40 Ethiopian migrants burned to death in a Houthi-run detention center in Yemen. Commenting on the atrocity, Haavisto said: “We have condemned all of the attacks from the Houthis against (Yemeni) civilians and innocent civilians in Saudi Arabia, as well as the spreading of the war to other areas. It is totally unacceptable.

“We are supporting the US envoy Martin Griffiths’ work and his proposal on this issue. We have also noted the very positive initiative from the Saudi Arabia government on (reaching) a peace agreement.

“This is a moment when we should really ask all sides to refrain from any additional violence or any additional bombings, to come to the table to find a negotiated solution. I think this is a war that has been continuing for too long a time.”

On the topic of EU-Saudi relations, Haaavisto said: “First of all, it’s important to mention that the EU, I think, is the second biggest trading partner of Saudi Arabia. So, we have a lot of things in common in the private sector, a lot of common interests to be developed there.




Finnish diplomat Pekka Haavisto is visiting Saudi Arabia and the UAE before traveling to Ethiopia on his second mission as the EU envoy. (Supplied)

“We have been following very closely the (Saudi) Vision 2030 (plan), the reform of Saudi society — particularly regarding the role of women — the issues of human rights, the issues of the reform of labor laws, and so forth, which are positive steps toward the future.”

“We look for more close cooperation on regional issues. We are fully aware of the good initiatives of Saudi Arabia, such as the Red Sea Council, for cooperation on issues concerning the Red Sea. We also took very positive note of the new ‘green’ initiatives of Saudi Arabia.

“We at the European Union are preparing for the coming COP 26 climate conference in Glasgow and fulfilling the climate goals is very important. Also, new environmentally friendly technologies and energy products are something that interest both the EU and Saudi Arabia.”

He described relations between the EU and Saudi Arabia as “very good,” noting that Borrel intends to visit the Kingdom soon. “It is very important that we have these personal linkages between EU institutions and Saudi Arabia,” he said.

The global fight against the coronavirus was another topic addressed by Haavisto, who said it was not enough for individuals to be immunized if their neighbors were not.

“We sometimes use this kind of vaccine solidarity term, that it is not enough that you yourself are vaccinated,” he told Arab News. “You have to also get your neighbor vaccinated, the neighboring countries vaccinated and then finally the whole world vaccinated.”

Haavisto said that the world needs a common information campaign that drives home the importance of vaccination in fighting the pandemic. Additionally, the world cannot afford more new mutations of the coronavirus in countries where the public-health crisis is not under control.

“I have found a similar thinking here in Saudi Arabia that we should work on the conditions, because this is also an economic issue in some ways in the world currently — getting economies back to normalcy once the vaccination is working,” he said.

Explaining that mutations could only be halted once the world was fully vaccinated, he said that both the EU and Saudi Arabia could work together. “Field health diplomacy and health security are where Europe and Saudi Arabia can cooperate,” he said.

Talking about steps to mitigate the impacts of climate change, he said: “Water scarcity is a very, very important issue in this region. I remember several years ago, before the war in Yemen, I visited Sanaa and many people said the city might be one of the first capitals to totally run out of water in this region.

“I think already at that time people spoke about the need for new ways of saving water, and producing drinking water in environmentally friendly ways, using maybe solar and other technologies.”

Twitter: @NoorNugali


Exhibition displays key expansions at the Makkah Grand Mosque

Exhibition displays key expansions at the Makkah Grand Mosque
Updated 28 September 2021

Exhibition displays key expansions at the Makkah Grand Mosque

Exhibition displays key expansions at the Makkah Grand Mosque

MAKKAH: President General for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques Sheikh Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Sudais inaugurated the Field and Digital Saudi Expansions at the Grand Mosque Exhibition.

Al-Sudais said that the exhibition showcases the most prominent Saudi projects and expansions at the Grand Mosque. The exhibition also aims to enrich visitors’ experience and highlight the efforts of the Saudi leadership in this regard.


Saudi talent foundation awards 3,000 scholarships to youth

Saudi talent foundation awards 3,000 scholarships to youth
Updated 28 September 2021

Saudi talent foundation awards 3,000 scholarships to youth

Saudi talent foundation awards 3,000 scholarships to youth
  • The average time spent training and following up with students reached 7,000 hours for some students

JEDDAH: Three thousand scholarships were granted to students by King Abdulaziz and his Companions Foundation for Giftedness and Creativity (Mawhiba) during the foundation’s three-day Saudi National Day celebrations.
The educational and training scholarships covering various scientific fields are part of Mawhiba’s three-day photography exhibition, “A home for every talent ... a story for every passion,” held under the auspices of Dr. Saud bin Saeed Al-Mutahmi, secretary-general of the foundation, at Granada Mall in Riyadh.
Mawhiba students in the Kingdom who have undergone training programs have achieved significant international achievements: 453 international awards in scientific competitions and 83 awards at the International Science and Engineering Fair, the most important scientific competition in the world.
In cooperation with the Ministry of Education, students were granted scholarships after completing their training. The average time spent training and following up with students, from discovering their talent to their participation at an international level, has reached 7,000 hours for some students.
“The exhibition, which has witnessed a high turnout of visitors from different segments of society, chose to replace regular gifts and prizes by gifting participants opportunities to improve their future, raise the quality of their lives and work with them to discover, develop and guide their children’s talents properly,” Mawhiba said in an official statement.
The 91-picture exhibition followed the journey of some of the Kingdom’s talents, starting with scouting them to winning awards and the empowerment of talented students in institutions across
Saudi Arabia.
The Mawhiba exhibition was divided into three parts. The first is a photo exhibition for students who have won local and international competitions.
The second is an interactive theater with general competitions, various questions, and free scientific scholarships. The third included the “I am a talent” event for children, featuring activities on creative thinking skills, a drawing competition about the Kingdom, and documentaries by Mawhiba and its programs.


Who's Who: Dr. Mansour bin Abdullah Al-Zamil, secretary of the King Fahd National Library in Riyadh

Who's Who: Dr. Mansour bin Abdullah Al-Zamil, secretary of the King Fahd National Library in Riyadh
Updated 28 September 2021

Who's Who: Dr. Mansour bin Abdullah Al-Zamil, secretary of the King Fahd National Library in Riyadh

Who's Who: Dr. Mansour bin Abdullah Al-Zamil, secretary of the King Fahd National Library in Riyadh

Dr. Mansour bin Abdullah Al-Zamil was recently appointed as secretary of the King Fahd National Library in Riyadh following Culture Minister Prince Badr bin Abdullah’s decision.

Al-Zamil is the former supervisor of the Deanship of Library Affairs at King Saudi University in Riyadh, where he worked for the past 20 years.

He joined King Saudi University in 2008 as an associate professor at the Department of Library and Information Sciences. He was promoted to associate professor in 2011 and then to professor in 2018.

Prior to that, Al-Zamil worked at the King Faisal Air Academy in Riyadh, where he served as an associate professor between 2002 and 2008 and lecturer between 1991 and 1999.

Al-Zamil received his bachelor’s degree with a second-class honors in library and information studies from the Department of Literature at King Saud University. After that, he moved to the US to complete his higher education in library and information studies. He earned his master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee and his Ph.D. from the Public University of Florida. He participated in various regional and international conferences. His research interests include e-government, digital libraries, e-learning and distance learning, and research methodologies in the libraries and information field.

He is a member of several scientific and academic societies, including the Saudi Library and Information Association, the Saudi Computer Society, and the Beta Phi Mu International Honor Society for library and information studies.

The King Fahd National Library in Riyadh is one of the most prestigious libraries in Saudi Arabia. It was established as a monument on the occasion of King Fahd bin Abdulaziz ascending to the throne in 1982.

The library is one of the most important cultural buildings in Saudi Arabia and an architectural masterpiece. It was designed by Professor Eckhard Gerber and his Gerber Architekten team in cooperation with the Riyadh Municipality, which provided the land and technical, architectural, and administrative supervision.


Makkah’s museums open their doors again to visitors for a cultural journey

Makkah’s museums open their doors again to visitors for a cultural journey
Updated 28 September 2021

Makkah’s museums open their doors again to visitors for a cultural journey

Makkah’s museums open their doors again to visitors for a cultural journey
  • They show how people of the city shaped a wealth of human knowledge through various epochs

MAKKAH: Ten museums in Makkah have opened their doors to showcase Makkah’s unique identity throughout history.

The museums house some of the rarest artifacts, illustrations, and collections that reveal the human experiences of the city.

They show how the people of Makkah managed to shape a wealth of human knowledge through various epochs and the progress made after the prophecy and its noble teachings came into existence.

The museums also contribute to raising cultural and humanitarian awareness with all their cognitive messages and elaboration of the life of fathers and grandfathers.

The Culture Ministry’s Museums Commission told Arab News that it is giving Al-Zaher Palace Museum special attention, hoping to reopen the museum to visitors as soon as possible after it was closed due to the pandemic.

The director of the Makkah History Center, Dr. Fawwaz Al-Dahhas, told Arab News that the museums have put in extraordinary efforts to further the Islamic, civilizational and cultural heritage of the city. 

The museums include Byzantine and Roman coins of all kinds and the Islamic dinar, silver, and gold used during the Umayyad era.

He added: “It’s best that the efforts are united under the auspices of one national museum called ‘Makkah throughout history,’ where visitors can expand what they needed to know about Makkah.” 

Al-Dahhas said that developing the Al-Saqaf Palace in the Maabad neighborhood would combine heritage and culture through its restoration. Once completed, it will become an Islamic museum.

In his book “The Presidential Palace in Maabad,” Al-Dahhas described the surface area of the palace and its rooms still have their original furnishings and design.

Saad Al-Sharif, a researcher in Makkah’s history, said museums are essential to educate societies and advance science and evolution. “A student can leave a museum knowing that they would like to become a scientist, a leader, a musician or a writer,” he said.

FASTFACT

The Two Holy Mosques Architecture Exhibition is one of the most prominent museums in Saudi Arabia and is home to treasures and artifacts dating back more than 1,400 years. Opened in 2000 during the reign of the late King Fahd, it contains seven main halls highlighting Islamic civilization.

“Our society’s knowledge must be consolidated and presented through the museums to form a harmonious cultural structure. Some museums teach what the classrooms students do not teach,” Al-Sharif added.

The researcher said tourists always look for museums in new countries as “we believe them to be the true wealth of any people; ancient collections in those museums constitute an important source for society, as well as economic, social and cultural support, as they provide a rich and different experience for visitors, and express a person’s identity, existence and depth and authenticity of their culture.”

Al-Sharif said that Saudi museums inspire delight and that they illustrate a history they could only learn about through museums and their evidence, tools, places, and names.

Majdouh Al-Ghamdi, owner of the Museum of Human Heritage, said that Makkah’s museums complement each other and exhibit their rare heritage artifacts for all visitors.

Its exhibits include household appliances used in Makkah before electricity was introduced, a section on Saudi tribes, and displays on the role of the city’s residents in serving pilgrims and the history of the ancient Madrasah Al-Sawlatiyah, one of the oldest schools in the Arabian Peninsula.

It also includes Byzantine and Roman coins of all kinds and the Islamic dinar, silver, and gold used during the Umayyad era. Visitors will also discover weapons such as cannons, knives, daggers, swords and guns.

Al-Ghamdi said that museums offer full knowledge and satisfy people looking to feel passion about heritage. They feel content in the historical depth and wealth of Makkah in particular, he added. He said that all those museums seek to occasionally develop their exhibits by buying rare stamps, newspapers, maps, coins, rifles, swords, old household items, spears, and traditional clothes.


Saudi foreign minister invited by UAE counterpart to attend world decision-makers’ forum

Saudi foreign minister invited by UAE counterpart to attend world decision-makers’ forum
Updated 28 September 2021

Saudi foreign minister invited by UAE counterpart to attend world decision-makers’ forum

Saudi foreign minister invited by UAE counterpart to attend world decision-makers’ forum

RIYADH: Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan has received an invitation from his UAE counterpart Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan to attend the 12th edition of the annual world decision-makers’ Sir Bani Yas Forum.

The invite was received on behalf of the prince by Saudi Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Waleed bin Abdulkarim Al-Khuraiji when he met with the Emirati ambassador to the Kingdom, Sheikh Nahyan bin Saif Al-Nahyan, at the ministry’s headquarters in Riyadh.

The Sir Bani Yas Forum brings together senior decision-makers from across the Middle East and around the world to discuss some of the most crucial issues facing the region.