Turkish foreign minister visits Saudi Arabia in move to mend ties

Turkish foreign minister visits Saudi Arabia in move to mend ties
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 10 May 2021

Turkish foreign minister visits Saudi Arabia in move to mend ties

Turkish foreign minister visits Saudi Arabia in move to mend ties
  • Turkey’s policy shift was driven by its desire for more investment and trade opportunities, its realization of the limits of unilateralism and desire to hedge against its increasingly erratic relationships with great powers

ANKARA: Turkey’s Foreign Affairs Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu began an official two-day visit to the Kingdom on Monday in a bid to improve relations seriously undermined since 2018 by the Jamal Khashoggi case.

The visit followed a recent phone call between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz on May 4.

In a Reuters interview last month, presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin said that Turkey, trying to bring about a positive agenda and a change of discourse regarding the Kingdom, respects the outcome of the Saudi trial about the journalist’s killing.

During the visit, bilateral relations, trade and regional issues, including Libya, are expected to be discussed, especially during Cavusoglu’s meeting with Saudi counterpart, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud.

“Since the fall of 2020, Turkey has been concertedly working to repair its relationships with regional powers in the Middle East,” Samuel Ramani, a Middle East expert at the University of Oxford, told Arab News.

“Turkey’s policy shift was driven by its desire for more investment and trade opportunities, its realization of the limits of unilateralism and desire to hedge against its increasingly erratic relationships with great powers, such as Russia, the United States, Europe and China,” he said.

The recent decision by Saudi Arabia to close eight out of 26 Turkish schools by the end of the 2020-2021 academic year drew anger from Ankara, which claimed that 2,256 Turkish students would face challenges in education elsewhere as they are not fluent in Arabic.

Ankara will also raise the issue of lifting the Saudi unofficial boycott of Turkish goods since 2019, which has resulted in a significant fall in Turkish exports to the Kingdom.

Experts consider this decision a signal that Saudi Arabia has some prerequisites for launching normalization with Turkey, particularly on its policies toward the Arab world — especially ties with the Muslim Brotherhood and its military presence in Libya, Somalia, Qatar, Iraq and Syria.

In the meantime, Turkish exporters have allegedly removed “Made in Turkey” tags on their products to bypass the blockade.

Turkish exports to Saudi Arabia dropped by 94 percent year-on-year and stood at about $75 million in the first three months of this year, while during the same period imports from Saudi Arabia rose from $430 million to some $600 million.

Cavusoglu will also pay a visit to Egypt after his meeting in the Kingdom to normalize ties with another regional actor after a long period of enmity.

“Turkey has reached out to Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia and even the UAE to de-escalate tensions. These outcomes have had mixed results, as these powers still remain on opposite sides of the Eastern Mediterranean dispute, but Turkey has succeeded in de-escalating tensions with Egypt on Libya and this is seen in Ankara as an encouraging sign that could be replicated in Saudi Arabia,” Ramani said.

According to Ramani, the main issues that Saudi Arabia and Turkey will discuss are regional ones.

“The first is the eastern Mediterranean, but Saudi Arabia won’t budge from its alignment with Greece or accept Turkey’s 2019 energy deal with Libya. The second is Israel-Palestine, where both Turkey and Saudi Arabia will likely criticize Israel’s recent conduct in Al-Aqsa,” he said.

Experts note that this latest normalization drive by Turkey with the Gulf and Middle Eastern countries may be linked to an adjustment strategy with the new Biden administration in the US.

Galip Dalay, CATS fellow at SWP and non-resident fellow at Brookings Doha, expects a partial normalization of relations between Ankara and Riyadh.

“There is no meaningful conflict of interest between the parties and they are likely to take steps to partially de-escalate the tensions in the medium term,” he told Arab News.

“During the Arab Spring, Turkey and the Kingdom had ideological divergences as they took opposing sides. But they did not have any significant conflict in geopolitical terms. Turkey even supported to a certain extent Saudi Arabia’s policy choices in Yemen. However, with the Qatar crisis and Khashoggi case, the tensions escalated,” Dalay said.

Dalay anticipates rising tension between Turkey and Iran as they clash on geopolitical interests.

“Therefore Turkey wants to mend ties with the Arab camp to consolidate its position and adjust to the new reality in the region,” he said.


Residents in Saudi Arabia above 50 set for second vaccine dose

Residents in Saudi Arabia above 50 set for second vaccine dose
Updated 25 June 2021

Residents in Saudi Arabia above 50 set for second vaccine dose

Residents in Saudi Arabia above 50 set for second vaccine dose
  • More than 48 percent of the country’s population has received at least 1 dose

JEDDAH: The Saudi Ministry of Health (MoH) announced that residents in the Kingdom above the age of 50 will now be able to receive their second dose of the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine after completing more than 40 days from their first dose.

More than 17 million doses have been administered as 48.8 percent of the country’s population has been inoculated with at least one dose.

The Kingdom recorded 1,255 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 479,390.

Most new cases were in the Makkah region with 340, followed by the Eastern Province (282) and Riyadh (203) while Jouf had only six people who tested positive.

There are 11,322 active cases while the number of critical cases dropped to 1,451 compared to the day before. Fourteen new COVID-19-related deaths have raised the total number of fatalities to 7,730.

The MoH said that a further 1,247 patients had recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 460,338. The country’s recovery rate is currently at 96 percent and holding steady.

In addition, 91,021 new polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests conducted in the past 24 hours have raised the number of tests conducted in the Kingdom to over 21.3 million.

Testing hubs and treatment centers set up throughout the country have dealt with hundreds of thousands of people since the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak.

Among them, Taakad (make sure) centers provide COVID-19 testing for those who show no or only mild symptoms or believe they have come into contact with an infected individual. Tetamman (rest assured) clinics offer treatment and advice to those with virus symptoms such as fever, loss of taste and smell, and breathing difficulties.

Appointments for both services can be made via the ministry’s Sehhaty app.

Meanwhile, Jeddah authorities closed 32 commercial outlets for breaching COVID-19 protocols.

Municipalities in the Kingdom have stepped up their efforts to ensure compliance with COVID-19 safety measures designed to protect public health.

The municipality of Jeddah governorate carried out 3,899 inspection tours of commercial centers and facilities in one day, identifying 57 violations.

The violations varied between noncompliance with social distancing and wearing a mask, leniency in measuring the temperature of customers, overcrowding issues and failure to effectively use the Tawakkalna app.

Officials have urged the public to report any suspected health breaches by phoning the 940 call center number or using the Balady app.


Saudi Arabia reports 120% jump in research published in major journals

Saudi Arabia reports 120% jump in research published in major journals
Updated 25 June 2021

Saudi Arabia reports 120% jump in research published in major journals

Saudi Arabia reports 120% jump in research published in major journals
  • The ministry has contributed to defining the national priorities in scientific research and innovations by organizing scientific events in cooperation with national authorities and industrial sectors

JEDDAH: The number of scientific research papers and innovations from Saudi Arabia’s government universities has increased dramatically in the past year.

The number of scientific publications from Saudi universities published in international refereed magazines and journals rose by 120 percent in 2020. The number of research papers rose to 33,588, almost doubling the target set last year at 18,000 publications. 

The Kingdom ranked first in the Arab world and second in the Middle East and North African region for the quality of published research papers for the third consecutive year according to the Nature Index 2020, one of the world’s most important international indexes for institutional research performance, evaluating and comparing international academic institutions. 

Saudi Arabia also ranked 14th worldwide in the publication of distinguished research papers and provision of solutions for the coronavirus pandemic. Saudi Arabia’s Education Ministry has supported scientific research and innovation across governmental universities. 

Its efforts have ensured that the universities keep up with contemporary changes, improve learning outcomes and support the innovation-based national economy through setting the Kingdom’s research priorities.

The ministry has also developed a strategy for scientific research, including a special research identity for each university, to improve the rate of publishing and optimize its impact in line with national needs and Vision 2030’s goals.

Several programs have also been launched to support research and innovation across universities, such as the institutional funding initiative to support scientific research serving the national priorities and needs of the industrial sector. 

The ministry has contributed to defining the national priorities in scientific research and innovations by organizing scientific events in cooperation with national authorities and industrial sectors. These efforts have allowed the ministry to define 12 priorities.


Historic palace inspires Saudi design blueprint for the future

Historic palace inspires Saudi design blueprint for the future
Updated 25 June 2021

Historic palace inspires Saudi design blueprint for the future

Historic palace inspires Saudi design blueprint for the future
  • The wide-ranging blueprint reflects the authority’s ambitions to launch a fresh and innovative start for the Saudi architectural sector

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Culture has unveiled a comprehensive strategy to take the architecture and design sector in the Kingdom “to the next level” by empowering talented architects and designers.

The Murabba strategy, announced by the ministry’s Architecture and Design Authority, takes its name from the historic palace in Riyadh.

The wide-ranging blueprint reflects the authority’s ambitions to launch a fresh and innovative start for the Saudi architectural sector, going beyond traditional limits, and serving members of the sector through a range of initiatives and programs.  

Sumaya Al-Sulaiman, CEO of the Architecture and Design Authority, said that the strategy will develop the sector and help its members meet the aspirations of the Culture Ministry, led by Minister Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan. 

“The strategy covers multiple themes and aspects, such as the legislative and regulatory aspects, as well as supporting and enabling an educational and practical environment related to the targeted sector, along with a set of initiatives and programs aimed at supporting architects and designers across the Kingdom,” she said.

Under the slogan “the north star,” the authority’s strategy has defined its vision and mission to reflect its major objectives.

The authority has also elaborated its own vision of the sector, which it defined as “the creative expression of designing the built environment, products and communicating ideas with aesthetic and functional value, and includes the disciplines of architecture, interior design, urban planning/urban design, landscape architecture, graphic design, and industrial design, as well as all activities, professions, products, and services related to these practices.”  

The strategy covers six strategic objectives: Developing the sector through promoting its integration, contributing to the Kingdom’s gross domestic product by developing the sector of innovative industries and design services, building the skills and talents of present and future professionals, obtaining global recognition for the Kingdom’s architecture and design sector, achieving environmental sustainability in the built environment, and finding a local community for research and innovation in architecture and design fields.   

The authority is planning 33 initiatives that fall under six programs to achieve its strategic objectives, set to be implemented in the five next years.  The first program, titled “architecture and design sector regulation,” focuses on setting the guidelines, laws and regulations of the commercial and professional practices in the sector and includes two initiatives.

The second program, titled “development of the architecture and design sector” focuses on promoting the development of the sector and empowering practitioners to make a greater and broader impact on the architecture and design community, and includes seven initiatives.

The third program, titled “professional development and education,” focuses on supporting local practitioners throughout a comprehensive professional journey, from education to professional excellence, and includes seven initiatives.

The fourth program, titled “content development,” aims to contain, collect, create and promote the cultural content of architecture and design to enrich cultural practices, and includes eight initiatives.

The fifth program focuses on the societal participation and communication, where it aims to set the schedules for cultural events and awards of the authority provided for the local and international community. It includes four strategic initiatives.

The sixth program, titled “activating the architecture and design authority” aims to activate the authority while focusing on internal initiatives and communication to implement the operational model. It includes five strategic initiatives.


Saudi Arabia to announce approved Hajj pilgrims on Friday

Saudi Arabia to announce approved Hajj pilgrims on Friday
Updated 25 June 2021

Saudi Arabia to announce approved Hajj pilgrims on Friday

Saudi Arabia to announce approved Hajj pilgrims on Friday
  • Due to the pandemic, 60,000 pilgrims will be allowed to perform pilgrimage as registration was only open to citizens and residents of the Kingdom
  • Electronic portal for domestic pilgrims received more than 540,000 applications before registration closed on Wednesday

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah will announce on Friday the names of the 60,000 pilgrims selected to perform the Hajj pilgrimage this year.
The ministry said that the electronic portal for domestic pilgrims received more than 540,000 applications from Saudi citizens and residents before registration closed on Wednesday, adding that there was no priority for early registration.
The ministry also said that the selected pilgrims will be able to start booking and purchasing packages at 1 p.m. on Friday.
Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the emergence of new mutations, the Ministries of Health and Hajj announced earlier this month they would cap the total number of people allowed to perform the pilgrimage this year at 60,000. 
Registration was only open to citizens and residents of the Kingdom.
Males accounted for 59 percent of the registered pilgrims, according to the Hajj Ministry, while the age group ranging between 31 and 40 years old occupied the most registration slots at 38 percent. Registered pilgrims aged 60 and over represented the lowest age group at two percent.
Those wishing to perform Hajj must be free of any chronic diseases, and be within the ages of 18 to 65 years for those vaccinated against the virus, according to the Kingdom’s vaccination measures. 
Hajj pilgrims should be fully vaccinated, or those who took one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at least 14 days before, or those who are vaccinated after recovering from coronavirus infection.


Saudi security officials arrest national in possession of over 7,000 amphetamine pills, firearm

Saudi security officials arrest national in possession of over 7,000 amphetamine pills, firearm
Updated 25 June 2021

Saudi security officials arrest national in possession of over 7,000 amphetamine pills, firearm

Saudi security officials arrest national in possession of over 7,000 amphetamine pills, firearm

RIYADH: Security officials in Saudi Arabia arrested a citizen who was found with a large quantity of amphetamine pills and a firearm in his possession, Saudi Press Agency reported on Thursday.
Spokesman for Najran police, Maj. Abdullah bin Mohammed Al-Ashwi said that officials from the Special Forces for Road Security in the region managed to arrest a Saudi national in his thirties, who was found in possession of 7,160 amphetamine tablets and an unauthorized pistol-type firearm with live ammunition.
He added that he had been arrested, initial legal measures have been taken against him, and he was handed over to the competent authority, in preparation for his referral to the Public Prosecution.