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


Saudi Arabia records 12 COVID-19 deaths, 886 new cases

Saudi Arabia records 12 COVID-19 deaths, 886 new cases
Updated 17 May 2021

Saudi Arabia records 12 COVID-19 deaths, 886 new cases

Saudi Arabia records 12 COVID-19 deaths, 886 new cases
  • The Kingdom said 1,127 patients recovered in past 24 hours
  • 9 mosques temporarily closed after some people tested positive for coronavirus

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia recorded 12 new COVID-19 related deaths on Monday, raising the total number of fatalities to 7,174.
The Ministry of Health confirmed 886 new confirmed cases reported in the Kingdom in the previous 24 hours, meaning 433,980 people have now contracted the disease. 
Of the total number of cases, 7,892 remain active and 1,377 in critical condition.
According to the ministry, the highest number of cases were recorded in the capital Riyadh with 281, followed by Makkah with 250, the Eastern Province with 97, Madinah recorded 63 and Asir confirmed 51 cases.
The health ministry also announced that 1,127 patients had recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 418,914.

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 nine mosques in six regions after some people tested positive for coronavirus, bringing the total number of mosques closed to 1,210 within 100 days, 1,188 of which have reopened after being sterilized.
The coronavirus pandemic has affected over 163 million people globally and the death toll has reached around 3.39 million.

 


Saudi Red Crescent Authority declares success in Ramadan plan

Saudi Red Crescent Authority declares success in Ramadan plan
Updated 17 May 2021

Saudi Red Crescent Authority declares success in Ramadan plan

Saudi Red Crescent Authority declares success in Ramadan plan

MAKKAH: The Saudi Red Crescent Authority (SRCA) declared the success of its plan during Ramadan by being available in the central region and inside the Grand Mosque in Makkah, with the participation of 500 female and male volunteers who provided more than 49,000 volunteer hours, via the SRCA branch in Makkah, and on the roads leading to it.

SRCA said that during Ramadan, Makkah centers received 9,411 reports, most of which were for cases of sickness with 5,713 reports including respiratory diseases, diabetes, fainting and epilepsy, while accident reports reached 3,698 including car accidents, falls and burns.

SRCA receives reports via the free-toll number 997 or via the “Asefni” smartphone application.

On May 8, SRCA marked World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day by celebrating the efforts of humanitarian workers for “their inspiring role in pushing forward the wheel of development.”

SRCA President Dr. Jalal Al-Owaisi said that the authority was keen to consolidate and spread human values and enhance community awareness. 


Accredited labs to provide Saudi travelers with pre-travel PCR tests as flights resume

Accredited labs to provide Saudi travelers with pre-travel PCR tests as flights resume
Updated 17 May 2021

Accredited labs to provide Saudi travelers with pre-travel PCR tests as flights resume

Accredited labs to provide Saudi travelers with pre-travel PCR tests as flights resume
  • More than 11.5 million vaccine doses have been administered so far in Saudi Arabia
  • Fifteen deaths due to complications from COVID-19 were reported, raising the death toll to 7,162

JEDDAH: More than 100 Ministry of Health (MoH) accredited laboratories across Saudi Arabia are ready to provide Saudi travelers with pre-travel PCR tests as international flights resume.

Residents of the Kingdom can check the list available at https://covid19.cdc.gov.sa/ar/approved-covid-19-laboratories-ar/private-laboratories-ar/.

After weeks of fluctuating numbers, Saudi Arabia’s daily case counts are finally stabilizing again according to the MoH spokesman, Dr. Mohammed Al-Abd Al-Aly.

With a significant difference between daily case counts and recoveries of late, the MoH’s spokesman confirmed in Sunday’s press conference that the epidemiological curve could start declining if the daily case counts continue to record lower numbers in the next few weeks.

“The best way to ensure the decline is if members of the Saudi community continue to register and receive their COVID vaccine jabs, and the public’s continued adherence to following all health and safety precautionary measures and protocols,” said the spokesman.

More than 11.5 million vaccine doses have been administered so far at a rate of 33 doses per hundred, and 33 percent of the Kingdom’s 34.8 million population has received at least one jab so far.

A total of 825 new cases were reported on Sunday, raising the total number of cases to 433,094.

For the fourth day in a row, the number of recoveries continue to be reported above the 1,000-case mark with 1,028 recoveries reported, raising the total number of cases to 417,787. The Kingdom’s current recovery rate has increased to 96.4 percent.

With the rising recovery rate, there has been a significant decline in the number of active cases, with only 8,145 instances. The number of critical cases still remain a concern for authorities as 45 patients were admitted to ICUs in the past 24 hours, raising the number of critical cases to 1,376.

Of Sunday’s cases, only two regions recorded numbers in the triple digits, with Makkah leading for the first time in months with 263 cases followed by Riyadh with 231 cases. The Northern Borders reported only five cases and Jouf four.

Fifteen deaths due to complications from COVID-19 were reported, raising the death toll to 7,162.

A total of 54,049 new PCR tests were conducted in the past 24 hours, raising the total number of PCR tests in the Kingdom to more than 17.9 million so far.


Shopping attracts Saudis to Bahrain amid spread of COVID variant

Shopping attracts Saudis to Bahrain amid spread of COVID variant
Updated 17 May 2021

Shopping attracts Saudis to Bahrain amid spread of COVID variant

Shopping attracts Saudis to Bahrain amid spread of COVID variant
  • A coronavirus insurance certificate is required for travelers under the age of 18

RIYADH: As travel suspension for Saudis and the opening of land, sea and air ports is lifted starting May 17, some travelers are gearing up to visit the King Fahd Causeway linking Saudi Arabia and Bahrain for a vacation, while others remain cautious due to the Indian variant of the coronavirus disease.

Ten additional lanes have been installed in the departure area, bringing the total number of lanes to 27, as well as 36 lanes in the arrival area, said Duwaihi Al-Sahli, director of King Fahd Causeway Passports, in a statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency.

However, only those who have been vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19 will be allowed to leave the Kingdom, according to the Saudi authorities. Proof shall be presented via the Tawakkalna app.

A coronavirus insurance certificate is required for travelers under the age of 18.

Travelers will be required to carry any of the health applications approved in the GCC countries, which confirm whether they are vaccinated or have recovered from the virus, Bahrain’s News Agency BNA reported.

A negative PCR test taken within 72 hours before travel should  also be presented at the borders, the report added.

Barak Al-Barrak, owner of a Saudi commercial establishment who was a former partner in an advertising company, said that he used to head to Amwaj Island soon after entering Bahrain for shopping in the Chinese market, and the Laguna Resort located on the island of Muharraq (northeast of Bahrain).

He told Arab News that he will not travel to Bahrain during the current period for two main reasons: “To avoid crowding and for fear of the Indian mutated coronavirus.”

SPEEDREAD

• Ten additional lanes have been installed in the departure area, bringing the total number of lanes to 27, as well as 36 lanes in the arrival area, says senior official at King Fahd Causeway Passports.

• Only those who have been vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19 will be allowed to leave the Kingdom, according to the Saudi authorities. Proof shall be presented via the Tawakkalna app.

• Travel suspension for Saudis and the opening of Kingdom’s land, sea and air ports will be lifted from May 17.

Sharing the same sentiment, Meshaal Hamdan, a private-sector employee, said that he wants to see new entertainment projects in Bahrain soon, but he ruled out traveling in light of the spread of the Indian COVID-19 variant.

Bahraini journalist Najat Showaiter said that the welcoming campaigns from her country’s citizens to Saudis is an indication of the mutual love and friendship between the two peoples.

“We as Bahrainis welcome our brothers and the Saudi people love us, and we invite them to visit Bahrain,” she said.

She expected the Bahraini markets, especially the commercial malls, to revive. Films and entertainment games for children are likely to attract more arrivals to the country for the purpose of tourism, suggesting the revival of Bahraini restaurants that offer a variety of eastern and western foods.

Popular markets, including the markets of Muharraq and Manama, are usual attractions to Saudi tourists, especially for the food and Bahraini sweets they offer.

Gold markets and the real-estate market in Bahrain are also expected to see a higher turnout from tourists, she said, along with an increase in sales and the movement of real estate trading, along with the high rates of rents, especially in chalets and tourist resorts. She expected hotel rooms to be occupied by no less that 80 percent.

Meanwhile, young Bahrainis launched a tourism app titled “b4bhcom” or Gate of Bahrian, coinciding with the country’s preparations to receive Saudis after the lifting of the travel suspension.

The app allows users to learn about events taking place in the country and current and future projects in Bahrain. It also contributes to highlighting tourist sites, shopping destinations and points of interest. It offers the option for users to create and plan their trips by adding places and events included in their personal itinerary.


Saudi authorities ready to receive passengers as travel ban ends

Saudi authorities ready to receive passengers as travel ban ends
Updated 17 May 2021

Saudi authorities ready to receive passengers as travel ban ends

Saudi authorities ready to receive passengers as travel ban ends
  • Saudia airlines says it completed preparations to operate flights to 71 destinations from 95 airports
  • Interior ministry said a ban on travel to countries where the virus is not under control still stands

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s passport authority on Sunday said it was ready to operate international flights at full capacity at the Kingdom’s land border crossings, sea and air ports, as a travel ban is set to end on Monday.
The Ministry of Interior announced that citizens would be permitted to travel and all ports would reopen as of 1 a.m.
The General Directorate of Passports said those wishing to travel outside the Kingdom are required to follow the instructions issued by the interior ministry depending on what category they fall into.
The categories include those who have received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, those who received one dose at least two weeks prior to travel, those recovering from the virus within six months from the date of travel, and citizens under 18-years-old provided they present a travel insurance policy approved by the Saudi Central Bank (SAMA), covering the risks of COVID-19 outside the Kingdom before travel.
Saudi Arabian Airlines said it has completed preparations to operate flights to 71 destinations from 95 airports, including 28 domestic and 43 international destinations.
The airline said since the beginning of the pandemic, it has operated more than 100,000 flights and transported more than 10 million passengers.
Its fleet is regularly sterilized using UVC disinfection systems and all crew have been vaccinated.
The General Authority of Civil Aviation said that around 385 flights are expected to operate throughout the Kingdom’s airports on Monday.
Meanwhile, the interior ministry said travel to a number of countries, directly or via another country, is still banned without prior permission.
In January, the ministry banned travel to Libya, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Iran, Turkey, Armenia, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Belarus, and India were the outbreak is till not under control or were the mutated strain is being spread.