Exclusive: Patriot missile deal to help boost Saudi defenses, secure world energy supplies, says Greek FM

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Updated 22 April 2021

Exclusive: Patriot missile deal to help boost Saudi defenses, secure world energy supplies, says Greek FM

Exclusive: Patriot missile deal to help boost Saudi defenses, secure world energy supplies, says Greek FM
  • Nikos Dendias told Arab News he sees Saudi Arabia’s development plans as “historic” and would like Greece to be a part of it
  • He said Turkey has unintentionally brought Eastern Mediterranean and Gulf countries together by highlighting their common principles

JEDDAH: The Patriot air defense system that will be provided by Greece to Saudi Arabia will not only bolster the Kingdom’s security but also secure global energy supplies, Nikos Dendias, the Greek foreign minister, has told Arab News.

He made the remark during an exclusive interview on Tuesday, after signing an agreement on draft arrangements for the legal status of the Greek armed forces in Saudi Arabia that will be supporting the Kingdom’s defense capabilities.

Earlier, Dendias and Nikos Panagiotopoulos, the Greek defense minister, met Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. According to a Saudi Press Agency report, during the meeting they reviewed Greek-Saudi bilateral relations, joint cooperation in different fields and ways to support and develop such cooperation, besides current regional issues.

The meeting was also attended by Saudi Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman and Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan.




Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias (L) meets with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh. (Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

“The reason I'm here today is to sign an agreement with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia according to which a (battery) of Greek Patriot missiles will be stationed in Saudi Arabia in order to help the defenses of the Kingdom, but also secure the energy supply of the world,” Dendias told Arab News.

He said “the sky is the limit” as far as cooperation between Greece and Saudi Arabia is concerned, adding that “it is a new era and we are progressing rapidly.

“There’s lots that we can achieve in defense, there’s lots that we can achieve in creating a climate which would secure energy and would secure cooperation between like-minded countries. We have done quite a lot but there’s lot to be done.”

Discussions between the two sides extended to other areas besides defense. Saudi Arabia has been opening its doors to international companies and foreign investors to contribute to the Kingdom’s transformation and development plans.

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Asked whether Greek companies were looking forward to participating in the upcoming projects, Dendias said he saw the opportunity as something much bigger than a matter of business.

“It is not just money; it is not just exporting services. It is not just good for my country and good for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” he said.

“This is a project that I have to say has a historical component. It's a huge change and I would like my country to be a part of it.”




Nikos Dendias, Greek foreign minister, told Arab News the Patriot air defense system that will be provided by Greece to Saudi Arabia will bolster the Kingdom’s security. (AN Photo/Huda Bashatah)

On April 16, Dendias was in the news when he and his Turkish counterpart clashed openly at a joint news conference in Ankara. Seeking to ease months of tensions over territorial disputes in the Eastern Mediterranean, he met Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. But the news conference, which began with hopes of improved relations, quickly descended into acrimonious accusations from both sides.

“Unintentionally Turkey pushed towards that direction in the sense that made everybody else realize that they act in a different way … they have an understanding … based on international law, based on international law of the sea, based on good neighborhood relations,” Dendias told Arab News.

“But what I wish that will happen in the future is that Turkey will understand that this, this is the right way forward and Turkey will eventually join this understanding between countries. But of course, being an optimist does not mean turning blind. There's a long way to go before we can see that.”




Nikos Dendias spoke to Arab News after signing an agreement on draft arrangements for the legal status of the Greek armed forces in Saudi Arabia that will be supporting the Kingdom’s defense capabilities. (AN Photo/Huda Bashatah)

Elaborating on the disputes embroiling Turkey, Greece and Cyprus over oil and gas drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean he said: “Greece believes in renewables. Greece is not going to start digging the bottom of the sea of the Mediterranean in order to find gas, in order to find oil, for a very, very simple reason. 

“We need 10 or 20 years to find it and exploit it, and cost-wise it would be so much more expensive than, for example, in Saudi Arabia. So, economically I don’t envision Greece becoming an oil-producing country.

“And with all due respect, the Aegean (Sea), for example, is a paradise on earth. We are not planning to turn into a Gulf of Mexico. So, Greece wishes to have energy supplies. Greece wishes to have very good relations with the Saudi Kingdom, but Greece does not plan in the foreseeable future to become an oil- and gas-producing country.”

According to UNWTO, Greece broke an all-time record by welcoming 33 million international visitors in 2019, making it a leader in global tourism and has been high on the top of many tourists’ list.

Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al-Khateeb announced that the Kingdom was aiming to attract new investments worth $58 billion by 2023 in tourism infrastructure. The sector currently contributes 3.5 percent of the total GDP; the goal is to raise this figure to 10 percent.




Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias is received by his Saudi Arabian counterpart Prince Faisal bin Farhan in Riyadh. (Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Dendias believes Saudi Arabia has a lot of potential to develop its tourism sector, and with Greece’s vast experience in the sector, the people of the two nations have a lot to offer to one another and “many people would like to see what I’m seeing (here in the Kingdom).”

He rejected the notion that the Eastern Mediterranean and the Gulf are two geographically different regions with different threat perceptions, and asserted that they both face common challenges.

He said the challenges for the two regions come from two fronts with like-minded visions, which are moving away from peaceful relations and are in search of ways to create more challenges instead of being “good neighbors.”

“Globalization is here and threats and challenges are rather more common than they used to be,” Dendias told Arab News. “I believe that in this globalized world, things have become much closer than we believed in the past. Most countries, both the Gulf countries and the Eastern Mediterranean countries, face common challenges and common answers were required.”

Dendias said Saudi Arabia and Greece have both been in alignment on the most pressing issues, rejecting extremism and favoring stability. “We have to try to achieve this common understanding for the region,” he said. “All countries in the region should act according to international law, (the UN Convention on the) Law of the Sea, the United Nations Charter and good neighborly relations.”




Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias meets with his Saudi Arabian counterpart Prince Faisal bin Farhan in Riyadh. (Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Achieving good neighborly relations “should be our target,” he said, adding: “Is it easy? Probably not. Is it feasible? I would say yes.”

Dendias also touched on the thorny issue of refugees and the challenges that Greece faces as the transit point for tens of thousands of migrants and refugees trying to reach Europe from Africa and the Middle East.

In March 2016, the European Union entered into a landmark agreement with Turkey, through which hundreds of thousands of migrants had transited to reach EU soil, to limit the number of asylum seeker arrivals.

Under the deal, irregular migrants attempting to enter Greece would be returned to Turkey, and Ankara would take steps to prevent new migratory routes from opening. In exchange, the EU agreed to resettle Syrian refugees from Turkey on a one-to-one basis, reduce visa restrictions for Turkish citizens, pay 6 billion euros in aid to Turkey for Syrian migrant communities, update the customs union, and re-energize stalled talks regarding Turkey’s accession to the European Union.

However, tensions arose in spring 2020, when Ankara threatened to let hundreds of thousands of migrants into Greece before backing off.




Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias during a meeting with Saudi Arabia’s Adel Al-Jubeir in Riyadh. (Saudi Press Agency)

Dendias said the migration and refugee crisis will be very difficult to resolve, especially with new tensions and crises in the Eastern Mediterranean region.

“There are countries that have instrumentalized the refugee crisis in order to apply pressure both to Greece and to the European Union for their own reasons and that is not acceptable,” he said.

He added: “It will be much easier if countries around the Mediterranean are stabilized and become functional states. I’m speaking about Syria and Libya, and we also have to address the challenge (arising) from Lebanon.

“Yet again, what we’re trying to achieve now is within our European family. Greece, with the European Union, is to create a new regime to address the huge challenge of migration and the refugee problem.”

For the whole year 2015 the number of sea arrivals to Greece from Turkey amounted to 856,723. According to the UNHCR, last year 15,696 migrants crossed into Greece.

“The refugee crisis and the migration crisis is here to stay with us,” Dendias said. “We will be dealing with this issue in the foreseeable future. And we will have to be prepared for it.”

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Twitter: @Rawanradwan8


Stunning French soprano enthralls Jeddah audience

Clara Barbier Serrano performed arias by composers such as Purcell, Handel, Mozart and Puccini. Her journey into opera began 10 years ago when she was 16 years old. (Photos/ Hayy Jameel)
Clara Barbier Serrano performed arias by composers such as Purcell, Handel, Mozart and Puccini. Her journey into opera began 10 years ago when she was 16 years old. (Photos/ Hayy Jameel)
Updated 24 January 2022

Stunning French soprano enthralls Jeddah audience

Clara Barbier Serrano performed arias by composers such as Purcell, Handel, Mozart and Puccini. Her journey into opera began 10 years ago when she was 16 years old. (Photos/ Hayy Jameel)
  • Clara Barbier Serrano performs arias taking audience on a special journey through European history
  • To be in this place in this Maraya concert hall was just incredible, because it’s beautiful; it’s so magical how we can bring this music to the whole world, and then people will somehow connect to it

JEDDAH: The first recipient of the Andrea Bocelli Foundation-Community Jameel Scholarship, French soprano Clara Barbier Serrano, thrilled a Jeddah audience with her stunning performance on the Hayy Jameel stage on Jan. 22.

Serrano performed arias by composers such as Purcell, Handel, Mozart and Puccini, taking the Jeddawi audience on a special journey through European history from the 17th to the 20th centuries, via Italian opera, Mozart and finishing with French songs, accompanied by a pianist to complete a beautiful, intimate recital.
This event is considered the first classical music performance at Hayy Jameel.
In an exclusive interview at Hayy Jameel, Serrano told Arab News that she was lucky to receive the scholarship as it created chances for her, including the opportunity to perform next to Bocelli at different locations throughout the world.
“I had my first performance next to Bocelli after I received the Bocelli-Jameel scholarship, it is really always a pleasure to sing next to him,” she said.
“Now I feel more at ease when we’re on the stage together. I’m more relaxed than before because I know him a little bit. There is very nice energy that he gives on stage.”
The talented young singer performed the day before with Bocelli at one of the Kingdom’s prominent cultural destinations, the award-winning Maraya in AlUla.
“To be in this place in this Maraya concert hall was just incredible, because it’s beautiful; it’s so magical how we can bring this music to the whole world, and then people will somehow connect to it,” she said.
As a child, Serrano said that she did not know much about opera. “My family also didn’t listen to classical music, I was not particularly into it. I was listening more to jazz and things like that.”
Serrano’s journey into opera began 10 years ago when she was 16 years old. “I played the violin as a kid, and I took so many musical classes, singing in the choir, and playing the violin, I got more and more interested in the voice and then my teachers would tell me, you have a nice voice you should think solo, and that’s how I got interested in opera or more in lyrical singing.”
“At the time, I hadn’t seen many operas in my life. And it’s a very particular form of art actually. However, this interest in the voice just led me to practice this kind of singing,” she said.
Serrano said that when an opera is performed on stage a great narrative combination happens. “When we are on stage, it is like a story and a plot, it is like a theater piece being performed in a music style. The technique and the way we use our body to make the sound are very emotional. You have to take people with you in something very personal.”
Serrano received the Andrea Bocelli Foundation-Community Jameel Scholarship in 2020; she was rewarded with a two-year diploma in opera and a chance for her to be fully immersed in the opera world.
“I have been studying opera classical singing for six years, including my four years of bachelor in art and music in Germany, and now I am doing a special kind of postgraduate studies at the Royal College of Music in London,” she said.
Serrano performed with Bocelli in the 2020 “Believe in Christmas” concert at the Teatro Regio di Parma, at the annual Concerto di Natale in Assisi in 2020, and in 2021 at the Teatro di Silenzio in Bocelli’s Tuscan hometown of Lajatico.
The opera scholarship is open to students from around the world. Community Jameel, which supports the scholarship, and Art Jameel, which runs Hayy Jameel, are sister organizations founded by the Jameel family of Saudi Arabia.
The Andrea Bocelli Foundation and Community Jameel scholarship were established in 2019, with the aim of supporting up-and-coming singers to study opera at the Royal College of Music in London. The second Bocelli-Jameel Scholar was awarded to Egyptian talent Laura Mekhail in 2021.


Saudi Arabia and Romania sign defense cooperation agreement

Saudi Assistant Minister of Defense for Executive Affairs Khalid Al-Bayari and Romanian State Secretary and Chief of the Department for Defense Policy, Planning and International Relations Simona Cojocaru sign the agreement. (SPA)
Saudi Assistant Minister of Defense for Executive Affairs Khalid Al-Bayari and Romanian State Secretary and Chief of the Department for Defense Policy, Planning and International Relations Simona Cojocaru sign the agreement. (SPA)
Updated 25 January 2022

Saudi Arabia and Romania sign defense cooperation agreement

Saudi Assistant Minister of Defense for Executive Affairs Khalid Al-Bayari and Romanian State Secretary and Chief of the Department for Defense Policy, Planning and International Relations Simona Cojocaru sign the agreement. (SPA)

RIYADH: The Saudi and Romanian governments signed an agreement for cooperation in the defense field, state-run SPA news agency reported on Monday.
The agreement covered a number of defense fields between the two countries, most notably training, exchanging expertise, technologies, developing communications systems, medical services, military history, archives, publications and museums, among others.
“The agreement comes within the commitment of the two governments to promote and encourage international peace and stability,” the statement said.
The deal was signed by Saudi Assistant Minister of Defense for Executive Affairs Dr. Khalid bin Hussein Al-Bayari and Romanian State Secretary and Chief of the Department for Defense Policy, Planning and International Relations Simona Cojocaru.


Internal Audit Conference to start today in Riyadh

The conference will be held under the patronage of Hussam Al-Anqari. (SPA)
The conference will be held under the patronage of Hussam Al-Anqari. (SPA)
Updated 25 January 2022

Internal Audit Conference to start today in Riyadh

The conference will be held under the patronage of Hussam Al-Anqari. (SPA)
  • The conference will host 30 local and international leaders and experts specialized in internal auditing and control systems

RIYADH: The activities of the 8th annual internal audit conference starts in Riyadh on Tuesday.

Organized by the Saudi Institute of Internal Auditors, the conference will be held under the slogan “The Future of Internal Audit,” under the patronage of Hussam Al-Anqari the president of the General Auditing Bureau and chairman of the board of directors of Institute of Internal Auditors.

The two-day conference aims to review the developments of the internal audit profession and control systems globally, chart the future of the profession according to worldwide developments and enhance the characteristics of flexible leadership for the profession in accordance with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plan.

The conference will host 30 local and international leaders and experts specialized in internal auditing and control systems, in addition to a number of representatives of international organizations and companies, led by the president and CEO of the International Institute of Internal Auditors , Anthony Pugliese.

The conference will include dialogue sessions, presentations and specialized workshops, discussing the new trends in internal auditing and risk tools in leading control systems in enterprises, as well as role of governance in crisis management and business continuity and growing demand for internal auditing in the Kingdom.


Saudi Arabia assumes presidency of GCC Commercial Arbitration Center

Saudi Arabia assumes presidency of GCC Commercial Arbitration Center
Updated 25 January 2022

Saudi Arabia assumes presidency of GCC Commercial Arbitration Center

Saudi Arabia assumes presidency of GCC Commercial Arbitration Center
  • Saudi Arabia takes over the presidency from Bahrain

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has assumed the presidency of the Gulf Cooperation Council’s Commercial Arbitration Center and will be headed by the Kingdom’s representative Fahd bin Ali Al-Omari, Saudi Press Agency reported on Monday.
Saudi Arabia takes over the presidency from Bahrain following a decision made during a board of directors meeting in December.
Tariq Yousef Al-Shammari, the center’s secretary-general, said that Al-Omari is regarded as one of the most prominent legal figures in the Kingdom, and holds a leading position in the Federation of Saudi Chambers.
He also served as vice chairman of the disciplinary committee in the Saudi Arabian Football Federation, and participated in several research projects on economic systems.
Bahrain’s representative and former president, Sami Zainal, praised the GCC’s accomplishments over the past year and the efforts made by the General Secretariat to achieve the center’s strategic objectives.
Oman’s Ali bin Salem Al Kasbi assumed the position of vice president.


Cirque du Soleil to debut major international shows in Saudi Arabia

Cirque du Soleil to debut major international shows in Saudi Arabia
Updated 24 January 2022

Cirque du Soleil to debut major international shows in Saudi Arabia

Cirque du Soleil to debut major international shows in Saudi Arabia
  • The Kingdom will host a brand new Cirque du Soleil resident show unique to Saudi Arabia
  • The deal also says the two parties will establish a regional Cirque du Soleil academy and office

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Culture has signed an agreement with the Canadian entertainment group Cirque du Soleil to enable it to put on its renowned creative performances in the Kingdom.
The agreement was signed by Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan, minister of culture and chairman of the Theater and Performing Arts Authority, and Gabriel de Alba, co-chairman of Cirque du Soleil, at a meeting held in New York City.
The agreement will see Cirque du Soleil present a number of award-winning circus shows for the first time in the Kingdom, including touring shows such as “The Illusionist,” “Now You See Me,” “Paw Patrol Live,” “Race to Rescue,” “Trolls Live,” and the Blue Man Group’s world tour. The Kingdom will also host a brand new Cirque du Soleil resident show unique to Saudi Arabia.
The agreement also says the two parties will establish a regional Cirque du Soleil academy and office, to provide a curriculum of high standards led by the best global circus experts. Students from all over the Kingdom and abroad will have the opportunity to hone their performance skills through the circus’ international school exchange and artist-in-residence programs, and will also be awarded internationally recognized certificates.

Cirque du Soleil has presented six shows in Saudi Arabia since 2018, the last of which was the “Messi 10” show, which was held in November during the Riyadh Season and shed light on the life of the famous Argentine footballer Lionel Messi.
The agreement comes with the performing arts witnessing greater development in the Kingdom, especially after the establishment of the Theater and Performing Arts Authority, which announced its strategy to further improve the sector last year.
The plan includes better infrastructure for theater and performing arts, providing job opportunities, building partnerships, and providing educational and training opportunities for about 4,500 playwrights and more than 4,000 trainees by 2030.