Saudi Crown Prince says differences with US minimal, suggests peace with Houthi still possible

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during the interview aired Tuesday night. (Photo by Bandar AlJaloud)
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Updated 28 April 2021

Saudi Crown Prince says differences with US minimal, suggests peace with Houthi still possible

Saudi Crown Prince says differences with US minimal, suggests peace with Houthi still possible
  • Mohammed bin Salman says US is longstanding strategic partner and Kingdom disagrees with less than 10% of Joe Biden's policies
  • Saudi Arabia’s problem is with ‘Iran’s negative behavior’, crown prince says

JEDDAH: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Tuesday laid out his vision for the Kingdom’s foreign policy, with the US as a strategic partner and working with allies to find solutions to Iran’s “negative behavior.”

In a 90-minute TV interview to mark the fifth anniversary of Vision 2030, the ambitious social and economic blueprint for diversification from dependence on oil, the crown prince devoted a large part of his remarks to the Kingdom’s place in the world.

He said the Saudi government agreed with the Biden administration in the US on most issues, and they were working together to find common ground on their disagreements.

“Like every family, brothers do not agree 100 percent on all issues and matters. This is similar when it comes to governments,” the crown prince said.

As US administrations changed, “the margin of difference may increase or decrease but we are in agreement throughout 90 percent of the policy of President Biden and we hope to enhance it one way or another.

“And for the things we have some differences with them, about 10 percent, we try to neutralize the risk and reach an understanding about them. They are our partners for more than 80 years.”

 The crown prince said Iran was a neighbor and “we hope to have a good relationship, we want it to grow and prosper. Our issue is with the negative influences such as their nuclear program, their support for their regional proxies and their ballistic missiles program. We’re working with our partners to find solutions to these issues.”

As the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen continues its fight to restore the country’s legitimate government, the Iran-backed Houthi militia have rejected a Saudi peace plan, and continue to bombard civilian and energy infrastructure targets in the Kingdom with armed drones and ballistic missiles.

“No country in the world accepts militias on its borders,” the crown prince said. “We hope that the Houthis will sit at the negotiating table to reach solutions that guarantee rights for all.

“While there is no doubt that the Houthis have a close relationship with the Iranian regime, there is no doubt that the Houthis are Arabs at the end of the day, and it is inevitable that they will have to work with their brothers to end this conflict.”

The crown prince said the Kingdom itself had been a victim of extremism. “Saudi Arabia has been a main target for extremist projects and terrorist acts in the world,” he said. “Every extremist, when they are thinking of where to start to target, they think of Saudi Arabia.”

There was no place for extremism in the Kingdom because it was incompatible with economic growth, attracting tourists and creating jobs, he said.

When asked to define his main foreign policy doctrine, the crown prince replied simply: “Our foreign policy interest is that of Saudi Arabia’s interests.”

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Saudi foreign ministry condemns comments made by Lebanon foreign minister

Charbel Wehbe, Lebanon's caretaker foreign minister at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beirut, Lebanon in 2020. (Reuters/File Photo)
Charbel Wehbe, Lebanon's caretaker foreign minister at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beirut, Lebanon in 2020. (Reuters/File Photo)
Updated 17 min 39 sec ago

Saudi foreign ministry condemns comments made by Lebanon foreign minister

Charbel Wehbe, Lebanon's caretaker foreign minister at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beirut, Lebanon in 2020. (Reuters/File Photo)
  • In a statement, Saudi foreign ministry said comments were inconsistent with the most basic diplomatic norms

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia's foreign ministry on Tuesday summoned the Lebanese ambassador to the Kingdom to express condemnation of comments made by Lebanon's foreign minister.

The ministry said it strongly condemned the comments made in a television interview by caretaker Lebanese Minister of Foreign Affairs, Charbel Wehbe, against the Kingdom, its people, and the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

In a statement, the ministry also said the comments were inconsistent with the simplest diplomatic norms and were not consistent with the historical relations between the two brotherly peoples.

“Due to any consequences that may develop because of the Lebanese minister’s disparaging statement, the Kingdom’s ministry of foreign affairs summoned the Lebanese ambassador to express and relay its strict censure and rejection to those statements and handed him an official note of protestation,” the statement added.

Saudi Arabia summoned Lebanon's ambassador to the kingdom over the remarks, handing over a memorandum about what were described as Wehbe's "offences".

The six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) asked Wehbe to make a formal apology to Gulf states.

The UAE denounced the statements, describing them as “disgraceful and racist.”

Lebanese politicians also criticised Wehbe.

Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun said Tuesday Wehbe’s comments on Gulf countries reflected his personal opinion and not the opinion of the state.

“The presidency assures the depth of the brotherly relationship between Lebanon and Gulf countries and at the forefront Saudi Arabia,” a statement by the presidency said.

“What was said by the foreign minister last night is his personal opinion and does not reflect in any way that of the Lebanese state.”


Saudi family infected with COVID-19 evacuated from India 

Saudi family infected with COVID-19 evacuated from India 
Updated 18 May 2021

Saudi family infected with COVID-19 evacuated from India 

Saudi family infected with COVID-19 evacuated from India 

RIYADH: A Saudi family infected with coronavirus has returned to the Kingdom from India, the Saudi Press Agency reported late Monday.
The family was airlifted by the Air Medical Evacuation Department of Health Services at the Saudi Ministry of Defense in an implementation of directives issued by Saudi King Salman.  
The plane arrived at King Salman Air Base in Riyadh, with all precautionary measures taken by crew members to combat the spread COVID-19.
Previously, Saudi Arabia transported more than 74 cases infected with COVID-19 through its medical air evacuation planes without infecting the medical and aircrews with the virus.


Saudi Arabia’s King Salman receives phone call from Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman receives phone call from Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa
Updated 18 May 2021

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman receives phone call from Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman receives phone call from Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa
  • King Hamad congratulated King Salman on the re-opening of the King Fahd Causeway
  • King Salman thanked Bahrain’s ruler for his efforts to further strengthen the relations between both Kingdoms

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman discussed in a phone call with Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa issues of common interest and relations between both Kingdoms, state news agency SPA reported.
King Hamad further congratulated King Salman on the re-opening of the King Fahd Causeway, following the coronavirus lockdown, Bahrain’s news agency BNA reported.
Only those who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 or those who have recovered from the disease are allowed to leave the Kingdom.
Meanwhile King Salman thanked Bahrain’s ruler for his efforts to further strengthen the relations between both Kingdoms.


Saudi passengers flock to airports as foreign travel resumes

Saudi passengers flock to airports as foreign travel resumes
About 385 international flights took off from nine Saudi airports on Monday, including 225 departures from Riyadh, 75 from Jeddah, 66 from Dammam, and 19 from the other airports. (AN photos by Huda Bashatah)
Updated 18 May 2021

Saudi passengers flock to airports as foreign travel resumes

Saudi passengers flock to airports as foreign travel resumes
  • About 385 flights to international destinations took off from nine airports in the Kingdom on Monday

JEDDAH: The terminals at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah were once again bustling with passengers on Monday, as international travel resumed more than a year after it was suspended to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Arrivals and departures resumed at the Kingdom’s air, land and sea ports at 1 a.m., with Saudi citizens who have been vaccinated, or have recovered from the virus within the past six months, free to travel.
As passengers flocked to the airport from early Monday morning, the flow of traffic was well-organized and smooth. Entry to terminals was restricted to people with valid tickets and helpers accompanying disabled travelers.
As part of the latest rules implemented by authorities, Saudis younger than 18 must also provide proof that they have a health insurance policy, approved by the Saudi Central Bank, that will cover the cost of treatment for COVID-19 in other countries.
Saudi Arabia’s General Authority for Civil Aviation also issued updated travel guidelines, including requirements for the use of the country’s Tawakkalna COVID-19 tracking app. The conditions apply to all travelers, regardless of whether their trip is for leisure, study, work or to receive medical treatment.
About 385 international flights took off from nine Saudi airports on Monday, including 225 departures from Riyadh, 75 from Jeddah, 66 from Dammam, and 19 from the other airports. In addition, about 300 vehicles crossed land borders into Qatar during the morning.
The Kingdom’s national carrier, Saudia, resumed flights to 43 destinations in 30 countries. It said it will operate 178 scheduled flights each week from Jeddah and 153 from Riyadh.

As part of the latest rules implemented by authorities, Saudis younger than 18 must also provide proof that they have a health insurance policy.

Ibrahim Al-Omar, the airline’s director general, said that Saudia has implemented more than 50 precautionary measures throughout all stages of the flight process, and has been ranked among the Top-10 safest airlines in the world by the Airline Passenger Experience Association. He added that since the pandemic began, the airline has operated more than 100,000 flights, transporting more than 10 million passengers.
The destination of the first international flight to depart from Riyadh on Monday was Hyderabad in India, while the first flight of the day from Jeddah was bound for Dhaka in Bangladesh. The first international flight to land in Riyadh on Monday was from Cairo, and the first arrival in Jeddah was from the Indonesian capital, Jakarta.

INNUMBERS

More than 18,000 people traveled from King Abdulaziz Airport on Monday.

More than 47 flights operated from the Kingdom within 6.

Despite the resumption of international flights, the Saudi Interior Ministry said that a ban remains on direct or indirect travel to 13 countries without prior permission to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The countries this applies to are: Libya, Yemen, Armenia, Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, Somalia, Belarus, India, Lebanon, Turkey, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Venezuela.
In addition, the ministry said travelers heading to Bahrain must have received two doses of a vaccine, and children under the age of 18 are not eligible to travel there. Diplomats and individuals accompanying them, air navigation and ship crews, workers in companies that are part of the health supply chain, and truck drivers are exempt from these rules. People who arrived at the King Fahd Causeway, on the border with Bahrain, but did not meet the requirements were turned away on Monday.
Travelers returning to the Kingdom after visiting a foreign country will be required to quarantine at home for seven days. However foreign visitors, including members of diplomatic missions arriving by air from most countries, will no longer need to quarantine if they have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Those who are not vaccinated must provide proof of a negative PCR test, issued by an approved laboratory within 72 hours of flying to the Kingdom, otherwise they will not be allowed to board the plane.
With the exception of Saudi citizens, resident expats and GCC citizens, all people arriving in Saudi Arabia must have medical insurance that will cover the costs of COVID-19 treatment in outpatient clinics, emergency rooms and hospitals.
On Jan. 29, Saudi authorities postponed the reopening of air, sea and land ports and extended the travel ban from Mar. 31 to May 17. Further information about international travel, including the rules and requirements, is available at www.saudia.com.


Covid rule violators warned as cases decline in Saudi Arabia

Covid rule violators warned as cases decline in Saudi Arabia
Hundreds of individuals were fined for breaking social gathering protocols in different part of Saudi Arabia. (SPA)
Updated 18 May 2021

Covid rule violators warned as cases decline in Saudi Arabia

Covid rule violators warned as cases decline in Saudi Arabia
  • Saudi Arabia has administered more than 11.7 million COVID-19 vaccines so far at a rate of 33.5 doses per hundred

JEDDAH: More than 250 people have been fined for breaking social distancing rules in 24 hours, including 72 women attending a wedding where both guests and the host were fined.
For the fourth day in a row, the number of people infected with the coronavirus in Saudi Arabia remained below 1,000 with a significant rise in recoveries.
There were 886 new cases recorded in the Kingdom on Monday – a total of 433,980 people have been infected with the disease in Saudi Arabia since the start of the pandemic.
Meanwhile a further 1,127 people have recovered, taking the total number of recoveries to 418,914, meaning the Kingdom’s recovery rate has increased to 96.5 percent, marking a significant decline in the epidemiological curve.
There were 7,892 active cases, 1,377 of them critical, an increase of just one patient in the past 24 hours.

FASTFACTS

• A total of 886 new cases were recorded in the Kingdom on Monday.

• The highest number of cases was recorded in the Riyadh region.

• More than 250 individuals fined for violating health protocols.

The regions with the highest number of infections were Riyadh with 281 cases and Makkah with 250. Twelve new COVID-19 related deaths were reported, raising the death toll to 7,174.
Saudi Arabia has administered more than 11.7 million COVID-19 vaccines so far at a rate of 33.5 doses per hundred. Of the Kingdom’s 34.8 million people, 33.6 percent have now been vaccinated with at least one jab.
On Monday, the Ministry of Islamic Affairs closed nine mosques temporarily in six regions, after cases of COVID-19 were detected among worshipers.
The ministry stated that the total number of mosques that had been closed now amounted to 1,210, with 1,188 subsequently reopened after the completion of disinfection.