Turkey to send delegation to Egypt in May, foreign ministers to meet later

Turkey to send delegation to Egypt in May, foreign ministers to meet later
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu says ‘conditions’ between Ankara and Cairo ‘have matured and meetings could continue. (AFP)
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Updated 15 April 2021

Turkey to send delegation to Egypt in May, foreign ministers to meet later

Turkey to send delegation to Egypt in May, foreign ministers to meet later
  • Ankara ramps up a push to repair strained ties with Cairo after years of animosity

ANKARA: Turkey will send a delegation led by its deputy foreign minister to Egypt in early May, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday, as Ankara ramps up a push to repair strained ties with Cairo after years of animosity.
Last month, Turkey said it had resumed diplomatic contacts with Egypt and wanted to further cooperation, eight years after ties crumbled over the Egyptian army toppling a Muslim Brotherhood president close to Ankara in 2013.
A thaw in ties between the regional powerhouses could have repercussions around the Mediterranean. They have backed rival sides in the war in Libya and sealed conflicting maritime deals with other coastal states. But Cavusoglu said on Wednesday that a new period was beginning in Turkey-Egypt ties.
Speaking in an interview with broadcaster NTV, Cavusoglu said Cairo had invited the Turkish delegation to visit Egypt in the first week of May to discuss ties. He added that a meeting with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, whom he spoke to at the weekend, would take place after those talks.
“The Egyptian side invited a delegation from Turkey to their country in the first week of May. The conditions between us have matured, meetings could continue,” Cavusoglu said.
Cairo has said Turkey’s actions “must show alignment with Egyptian principles” to normalize ties. Last month, Ankara asked Egyptian opposition TV channels operating in Turkey to moderate their criticism of Cairo, in the first concrete step aimed at easing diplomatic tensions.


A’Arif Fort, in Saudi Arabia’s Hail built from stone and clay before 1840

A’Arif Fort, in Saudi Arabia’s Hail built from stone and clay before 1840
Photo/SPA
Updated 1 min 13 sec ago

A’Arif Fort, in Saudi Arabia’s Hail built from stone and clay before 1840

A’Arif Fort, in Saudi Arabia’s Hail built from stone and clay before 1840
  • The A’Arif Fort features an archaeological museum visited by the region’s tourists and guests that reveals Hail’s historical deep-rootedness

The famous A’Arif Fort in Hail is distinguished by its heritage and historical features. Its architectural style simulates similar defense buildings seen in the architecture of the central region in the Kingdom.
The hilltop location of the fort, which was built from stone and clay before 1840, overlooks the city from the south.
Its cannon was previously fired seven times to herald the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan to the citizens of Hail. It announced the breaking of the fast at the sunset prayers (prayers of Maghrib) and the starting of the fast at sunrise (Fajr). It was also fired seven times to announce Eid.
The A’Arif Fort features an archaeological museum visited by the region’s tourists and guests that reveals Hail’s historical deep-rootedness. It shows the capability of its ancient residents in building distinct types of architecture that survived throughout the ages, proving the strength of its structures.


Opportunities for mutual benefit beckon as Pakistan PM Imran Khan begins Saudi Arabia visit

Opportunities for mutual benefit beckon as Pakistan PM Imran Khan begins Saudi Arabia visit
Updated 8 min 5 sec ago

Opportunities for mutual benefit beckon as Pakistan PM Imran Khan begins Saudi Arabia visit

Opportunities for mutual benefit beckon as Pakistan PM Imran Khan begins Saudi Arabia visit
  • Energy, economy and welfare of overseas Pakistanis expected to top the agenda during Khan’s three-day visit to Saudi Arabia
  • Remittances sent home from the Kingdom are an important source of foreign capital for Pakistan as it fights to stabilize its economy

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has long enjoyed warm relations with Saudi Arabia, deeply rooted in their common faith, shared history and mutual support in times of crisis. More than 2 million Pakistanis work in the Kingdom, contributing to its prosperity and sending home billions in remittances. Trade, meanwhile, continues to blossom between the two nations.

With an eye to boosting their mutual cooperation, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan arrived in Saudi Arabia on Friday at the invitation of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to begin a three-day official visit, with energy, economy and the welfare of overseas Pakistanis expected to top the diplomatic agenda.

“We believe this is a very important visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to Saudi Arabia with respect to our historic bilateral relationship, trade and economic ties,” Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri, a spokesman for the Pakistani foreign office, told Arab News.

Pakistan's PM Imran Khan and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman riding in a carriage during a welcome ceremony in Islamabad on Feb. 18, 2019.  (Photo by Bandar Al-Jaloud / file photo)

“The two sides will discuss economy, trade, investment and job opportunities for the Pakistani workforce in Saudi Arabia, besides signing a number of agreements on energy and infrastructure related projects.”

Indeed, the Kingdom is an extremely important trade destination for Pakistan and both countries have been searching for ways to boost their partnership along with the volume of imports and exports.

At present, the trade volume between both countries stands at $3.6 billion, with imports from Saudi Arabia worth $3.2 billion and exports to the Kingdom worth $316.3 million, according to the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

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“Our exports to Saudi Arabia have increased this year after our companies were allowed to export halal meat and livestock, and we are trying to further boost it,” Shahid Ahmed Leghari, chairman of the Pak-Saudi Business Council, told Arab News.

Pakistani companies had also started exporting spices and garments to the Kingdom, he said, but there is room for improvement. “We can boost our bilateral trade to $20 billion per annum if we are allowed to export rice, fruits, vegetables, wheat flour and dairy products to the Kingdom,” Leghari said.

Khan’s visit to Saudi Arabia will help “open new business opportunities” for Pakistani businessmen and exporters, he added.

Ahead of the visit, Pakistan’s Cabinet on Tuesday approved the establishment of the Supreme Coordination Council between the country and Saudi Arabia to “remove hurdles” to investment deals signed during the crown prince’s visit to Pakistan in February 2019. 

During the crown prince’s 2019 visit, officials of both countries signed key memorandums of understanding worth $20 billion in the fields of energy, petrochemicals, minerals, agriculture and food processing. 

Khan will be accompanied on his Saudi visit by a high-level delegation, including the foreign minister and other members of the Cabinet.

Pakistan's PM Imran Khan walk along with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the Nur Khan Pakistan Air Force (PAF) base in Islamabad on Feb. 18, 2018. (Photo by Bandar Al-Jaloud / file photo)

He will also meet Dr. Yousef Al-Othaimeen, secretary general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation; Mohammad bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa, secretary general of the World Muslim League; and the imams of the Two Holy Mosques in Makkah and Madinah.

Khan will also meet with members of Pakistan’s diaspora community in Jeddah during his stay in the port city. The Kingdom remains the largest source of overseas remittances to Pakistan, with Pakistani workers sending home $6.6 billion in the last fiscal year and $5.7 billion from July to March this fiscal year, according to the State Bank of Pakistan.

These remittances are an important source of foreign capital for Pakistan as it fights to stabilize its economy, crippled by the coronavirus pandemic.

“This visit is important because Pakistan is facing real financial challenges where we have to maintain our foreign exchange reserves,” Qamar Cheema, a Pakistani foreign-relations analyst, told Arab News.

“Pakistan is also facing challenges since the UAE visa (for Pakistanis) has not been resumed and at the same time the Pakistani diaspora is very much important. So, Pakistan wants its strategic partnership with Saudi Arabia to remain the same.”

Just weeks after Khan assumed office in August 2018, Saudi Arabia helped Pakistan stave off its looming balance of payments crisis by extending a $3 billion interest-free loan and another $3 billion deferred payment facility for the import of oil.

In exchange, “Pakistan wants to share its experiences with Saudi Arabia, making Saudi Arabia green. And Pakistan also wants to share its (military) experience to protect the security of Saudi Arabia,” said Cheema.

“We are going to nudge forward from where we left off back in 2019 when the crown prince came here.”

Pakistan's PM Imran Khan and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman speak to the media in Islamabad on Feb. 18, 2018. (Photo by Bandar Al-Jaloud / file photo)

The Kingdom has often stood by Pakistan during difficult times, extending financial support during wars and natural disasters.

“Pakistan cannot forget the extensive Saudi financial support in the form of oil supply and cash during our difficult times, such as the earthquake in 2005 and flash floods in 2010 and 2011,” Javed Hafeez, a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, told Arab News.

The presence of Pakistan’s army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa in the Kingdom ahead of the prime minister’s visit indicates both countries are interested in “enhancing defense cooperation” and economic ties, he said.

“Saudi Arabia is a time-tested and trusted friend of Pakistan, and the prime minister’s visit will definitely help open new vistas of economic cooperation,” Hafeez said.

 


Farasani people find summer solace in ancient Saudi getaway

Farasani people find summer solace in ancient Saudi getaway
Al-Qassar village consists of old buildings and is located in the south of Farasan Island. (Supplied)
Updated 25 min 53 sec ago

Farasani people find summer solace in ancient Saudi getaway

Farasani people find summer solace in ancient Saudi getaway
  • Al-Qassar village becomes a top destination for those seeking moderate climates and potable water

MAKKAH: The village of Al-Qassar — located 5 kilometers away from the Farasan governorate — has long been a hub for the people of the Farasan Islands who are always in connection with the place.

This is especially noticeable during summer, when people migrate to the village to escape from the heat.
For more than 50 years, Al-Qassar’s historic homes have witnessed vibrant ceremonies, as their walls were built with stones, roofed from palm tree fronds, and adorned with seashells and beautiful Arabic inscriptions.
Saudi historian and poet Ibrahim Moftah said that Al-Qassar is one of the first villages that was inhabited in the Arabian Peninsula hundreds of years ago. The village enjoys moderate weather, is covered with palm trees, and is full of fresh wells and rich in history and events, he added.
“Farasan was a deserted island on all levels and the love of change is in the nature of Jizani people, so they used to go to Al-Qassar for change,” he told Arab News.
He said that at the beginning of the month of April, the village becomes a top destination for those seeking moderate climates and potable water. “Water in Al-Qassar can be found at a depth of six meters, whereas it can only be found in Farasan at a depth of 23 meters.”
Previously, most travel and trips to Al-Qassar village were during what Farasani people call the “Shaddah” season, where families ride camels to travel.
People of Farasan would postpone their wedding ceremonies in order to travel to Al-Qassar in summer, where the weather is cool during the Shaddah season.
Those trips to the village were done in two phases: One morning trip for a bride, who rides a camel carrying water and boxes with accompanying music, and another second trip during the afternoon for families.
“The Farasan people used to celebrate new brides in Al-Qassar in a unique way, especially if the bride was in the first year of her marriage, amid the chants and songs of joy,” said Moftah. “A calm and trained camel is chosen, then they decorate the camels with beads, pearls and silk, and copper bells that are fixed to its ankles to make sounds as it walks.”

HIGHLIGHTS

• For more than 50 years, Al-Qassar’s historic homes have witnessed vibrant ceremonies, as their walls were built with stones, roofed from palm tree fronds, and adorned with seashells and beautiful Arabic inscriptions.

• Previously, most travel and trips to Al-Qassar village were during what Farasani people call the ‘Shaddah’ season, where families ride camels to travel.

• People of Farasan would postpone their wedding ceremonies in order to travel to Al-Qassar in summer, where the weather is cool during the Shaddah season.

Moftah said that before a bride’s trip to Al-Qassar, “young women gather at the bride’s house and start singing, then they start their trip with the bride in the forefront. The camels would also be carrying wooden boxes that used to arrive from Aden and are made in India, loaded with expensive clothes and perfumes. The bridesmaid accompanies the bride, and she is usually of a similar weight. Men and women would stand on the sides to wave goodbye to the bride’s procession.”
The bride is then received in Al-Qassar with jugs of water and chants.
However, Moftah said that “nowadays, there are no more camels in Farasan” and that “life has changed and these traditions ended 50 years ago,” as cars, modern homes and air-conditioners have become common and Al-Qassar is no longer an escape or a shelter for anyone, now only home to “deserted houses and souvenirs.”
According to the Saudi historian, official festivals and a surge in tourism “was not fair” to the history of Al-Qassar village, as older traditions were not properly represented. “The region has lost one of the most beautiful cultural traditions.”
Saudi tourist guide Yahya Abbas said that Al-Qassar village consists of old buildings and is located in the south of Farasan Island, and includes almost 400 houses fixed with tree fronds, small stones and sand “to prevent water leaks.”
He added: “The history of this village dates back to the Roman era, and there are writings and drawings dating back to the Himyarite era.
“The village is considered the largest palm oasis in the region, with plenty of fresh wells.”
Abbas said that Al-Qassar has now become an area for tourists and visitors who want to discover its history and that of the Farasan Islands, as well as view the ancient houses in the village.


Saudis shun online shopping, flock to malls for Eid despite virus warnings

Saudis shun online shopping, flock to malls for Eid despite virus warnings
Ordering online has pros and cons. (Supplied)
Updated 34 min 18 sec ago

Saudis shun online shopping, flock to malls for Eid despite virus warnings

Saudis shun online shopping, flock to malls for Eid despite virus warnings
  • Ordering online has pros and cons

RIYADH: Hordes of Saudis have ignored government warnings to avoid crowded public areas and flocked to the shops in the run-up to Eid Al-Fitr holidays.
Many would rather head to the malls than buy online despite concerns about the dangers of spreading the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Teacher Fawaz Abdulwahab told Arab News that although internet shopping was easier, he and his wife preferred to go to stores in person so that they could check the quality and size of products, especially shoes and clothes, before purchasing.
He said: “Some of my friends bought products off the internet and had problems such as delays in delivery, wrong sizes, and getting different products from those they had ordered.
“I’m not worried about getting infected with COVID-19 while shopping in crowded places, because I have already received a first dose of vaccine. Besides, I have been infected with the coronavirus.

‘I’m not worried about getting infected with COVID-19 while shopping in crowded places, because I have already received a first dose of vaccine.’

Fawaz Abdulwahab

“Also, many people have received the vaccine and are protected. Added to this, no one can enter a mall unless they have shown their status on the Tawakkalna app and had their temperature checked,” he added.
Saudi housewife, Haifa Dayed, said she liked to spruce up her house prior to Eid Al-Fitr and buy new candles and furniture items from her local market. If she could not find what she wanted in store, she would order online.
However, last year, due to the virus curfew and lockdowns, she had no choice but to order almost everything online.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Teacher Fawaz Abdulwahab said that although internet shopping was easier, he and his wife preferred to go to stores in person so that they could check the quality and size of products, especially shoes and clothes, before purchasing.

• Saudi housewife, Haifa Dayed, said she liked to spruce up her house prior to Eid Al-Fitr and buy new candles and furniture items from her local market. If she could not find what she wanted in store, she would order online.

“Ordering online has pros and cons. It saves you from the risk of getting COVID-19 but on the negative side there can be delays in delivery and wrong sizes. I use online shopping when I don’t find my size at the mall,” she added.
Although initially fearful of contracting the virus at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, Dayed said she was no longer worried. “People now seem to be a lot more aware of the gravity of the situation and wear face masks all the time and use sanitizers at the mall.”
Saudi businessman Mohammed Al-Qahtani said that while online shopping had its advantages, physical shopping was more fun.
“When one orders online, the price is fixed, and you cannot bargain with the seller. When
the COVID-19 pandemic started, it was dangerous to go out to the mall but today after millions of people have been vaccinated and with precautionary measures in place, I think many people prefer to go out to the mall than order online,” he added.


Libyan coastguard vessel that shot Italian fisherman was gift from Rome

The Libyan patrol boat Ubari approaches an Italian trawler. (Photo: Italian Navy)
The Libyan patrol boat Ubari approaches an Italian trawler. (Photo: Italian Navy)
Updated 43 min 6 sec ago

Libyan coastguard vessel that shot Italian fisherman was gift from Rome

The Libyan patrol boat Ubari approaches an Italian trawler. (Photo: Italian Navy)
  • Italy and Libya signed cooperation deal in 2017 to stem flow of migrants from North Africa
  • Italian navy intervened to escort fishing vessels, which were searching for red prawns, to safety

LONDON: A Libyan coastguard vessel involved in the shooting of a Sicilian fisherman on May 6 was given to Tripoli by Italy to stop the flow of migrants across the Mediterranean, it has emerged.

Col. Massoud Abdalsamad of the Libyan coastguard told Italian media that the ship “fired warning shots into the air against vessels which had allegedly trespassed into Libyan waters.” Three Italian fishing boats had entered its territorial waters without permission in search of red prawns.

Giuseppe Giacalone, captain of one of the fishing boats, told Italian news agency ANSA: “It is a miracle we are alive. We were shot at. The cabin of our boat is full of holes.

“It was 2 p.m. on Thursday when it happened. While we were sailing towards the northeast, a Libyan patrol boat caught up with us and started shooting. The shots hit us and the dashboard glass shattered.”

An Italian navy vessel intervened in the skirmish, escorting the fishermen to safety and rescuing one who had been shot in the arm. The Italian navy later confirmed that the ship involved in the shooting, formerly known as the Ubari, was given to Libya in 2018.

READ MORE

The Libyan coast guard on Thursday fired on three Italian fishing boats, injuring the captain of one of the vessels, Italian authorities said. Click here for more.

In 2017 former Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti and the head of Libya’s UN-backed government, Fayez Al-Sarraj had signed a deal in which Italy agreed to train and equip Libyan authorities in an effort to prevent migrants and refugees traveling from North Africa to Europe.

But several agencies have warned many people who attempt to flee Libya face human-rights abuses — and have accused officials of complicity.

In April the Guardian revealed Abdalsamad had been wiretapped by Italian prosecutors investigating people-smuggling operations. In June 2017, he reportedly told Italian coastguard officials who called to ask for his help to rescue a group of migrants in distress: “It’s a day off. It’s a holiday here. But I can try to help. Perhaps, we can be there tomorrow.”

The International Organization for Migration said 126 people died in the waters of the Mediterranean that weekend.

And on April 22 this year, the Ubari allegedly ignored a distress call from a vessel before 130 asylum seekers died.

Skirmishes between Libyan authorities and Italian fishermen searching for prized red prawns have been common since the 1990s. They intensified after former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi unilaterally extended the boundary of his country’s territorial waters from 12 to 74 miles offshore in 2005.

According to the Distretto della Pesca fishing cooperative, more than 60 Italian boats have been seized or confiscated by Libya in the past 25 years, with at least 40 people detained and several injured.

In September 2020, two Sicilian fishing boats, the Antartide and the Medinea, were intercepted and escorted to Benghazi. The 18 crew members, including eight Italians, six Tunisians, two Indonesians and two Senegalese, were held for more 100 days, causing a major diplomatic incident.