Saudi deputy defense minister discusses Yemen, Horn of Africa with US officials 

Saudi deputy defense minister discusses Yemen, Horn of Africa with US officials 
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Saudi Arabia's Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman met with top US officials to discuss developments in Yemen and the Horn of Africa. (Courtesy: @kbsalsaud)
Saudi deputy defense minister discusses Yemen, Horn of Africa with US officials 
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Saudi Arabia's Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman met with top US officials to discuss developments in Yemen and the Horn of Africa. (Courtesy: @kbsalsaud)
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Updated 08 July 2021

Saudi deputy defense minister discusses Yemen, Horn of Africa with US officials 

Saudi deputy defense minister discusses Yemen, Horn of Africa with US officials 
  • Prince Khalid bin Salman held bilateral talks with Blinken
  • He also met US envoy to Yemen and US envoy for the Horn of Africa

RIYADH: Saudi Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman met on Wednesday with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the State Department in Washington.
“I had a great meeting with US Secretary of State Blinken to discuss the strategic Saudi-US partnership, review the latest developments in the region, and explore ways to strengthen Saudi-US ties,” Prince Khalid said following the meeting.
He also held talks with US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland during his visit, where they reviewed the coordination between their two countries and discussed opportunities for cooperation over a wide range of issues, Prince Khalid added.

The State Department said during talks between Prince Khalid and Nuland, the two sides discussed regional security and support for Saudi Arabia to defend itself from cross-border attacks. 
“Blinken joined the group for part of the meeting to discuss efforts to achieve a comprehensive, nationwide cease-fire and transition to a political process in Yemen, the need for economic reform and humanitarian relief for the Lebanese people, and other key bilateral issues,” it added in a statement.
Earlier on Wednesday, the deputy defense minister met with National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan to review international efforts and joint coordination between Saudi Arabia and the US, including “confronting extremism, violence and terrorism, and the related dangers that threaten the security, capabilities, stability and coexistence of peoples,” Saudi Press Agency reported.
They also discussed other aspects of bilateral cooperation and joint work between the two countries in various fields.

Prince Khalid also met US Envoy to Yemen Tim Lenderking, US National Security Council’s coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa Brett McGurk, and US Envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman.
In a series of tweets on Wednesday, Prince Khalid said that in his meeting with Lenderking they discussed developments in Yemen. 
He affirmed the Kingdom’s continued support for the Yemeni people and their legitimate government.
He also discussed with the Lenderking the latest efforts to reach a political resolution to the conflict that will achieve stability and security in Yemen.

The US envoy “stressed the need for continued Saudi engagement on Yemen,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said, adding: “Lenderking recognized Saudi Arabia for its efforts to improve implementation of the Riyadh Agreement, and he agreed that both the Yemeni government and the Southern Transition Council must continue to negotiate so that the Yemeni government can return to Aden to provide the essential services the Yemeni people need and deserve.”
Prince Khalid discussed the latest developments in the Horn of Africa in his meeting with Feltman, as well as “the situation in Ethiopia, in areas where the US and Saudi Arabia could potentially cooperate to address the crisis and to mitigate instability in the broader region. They also agreed to continue a dialogue on mechanisms to promote peace, security, and prosperity in the Red Sea,” Price said in a press briefing.
Prince Khalid also reviewed the Kingdom’s efforts to support the security and stability of the African continent, and its efforts to aid its progress and development.
Saudi Ambassador to the Washington Princess Reema Bint Bandar was also present in the meetings.


Saudi Arabia confirms first omicron COVID-19 case

Saudi Arabia confirms first omicron COVID-19 case
Updated 5 sec ago

Saudi Arabia confirms first omicron COVID-19 case

Saudi Arabia confirms first omicron COVID-19 case
  • The passenger, along with those he was in contact with, has been isolated, according to SPA

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia confirmed Wednesday its first case of the COVID-19 omicron variant on a passenger coming from Africa, state news agency SPA reported. 
The passenger, along with those he was in contact with, has been isolated, SPA added. 
The spread of the latest strain comes as Saudi Arabia’s ban on direct travel from several countries ended, with the Kingdom continuing to relax pandemic-related travel restrictions.
Travelers from six countries — India, Egypt, Pakistan, Indonesia, Brazil and Vietnam — can now arrive in the Kingdom without having to spend 14 days outside those countries before entering Saudi Arabia.


Saudi Arabia’s flight ban ends for travelers from India, Egypt, Pakistan

Saudi Arabia’s flight ban ends for travelers from India, Egypt, Pakistan
Updated 01 December 2021

Saudi Arabia’s flight ban ends for travelers from India, Egypt, Pakistan

Saudi Arabia’s flight ban ends for travelers from India, Egypt, Pakistan
  • Travelers will need a valid PCR certificate and register on the Qdoom platform 72 hours before their flight

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s ban on direct travel from several countries ended on Wednesday, as the Kingdom continues to relax pandemic-related travel restrictions.

Travelers from six countries — India, Egypt, Pakistan, Indonesia, Brazil and Vietnam — can now arrive in the Kingdom without having to spend 14 days outside those countries before entering Saudi Arabia.

The travelers will need a valid PCR test certificate and must register on the Qdoom platform 72 hours before their flight departs.

They will also need to enter institutional quarantine for five days when they arrive, regardless of their immunization status outside of the Kingdom, and will need to take tests on the first and fifth days of their quarantine.

Though Saudi Arabia has eased travel from some destinations, it has been forced to implement new restrictions on some African countries after a concerning new COVID-19 variant, omicron, was detected in South Africa last week.


What’s on in December as Saudi Arabia’s busy cultural season kicks off

What’s on in December as Saudi Arabia’s busy cultural season kicks off
Updated 16 min 56 sec ago

What’s on in December as Saudi Arabia’s busy cultural season kicks off

What’s on in December as Saudi Arabia’s busy cultural season kicks off
  • First up will be Misk Art Week, annual weeklong program to be held at the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Arts Hall in Riyadh
  • Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale is probably the biggest attraction of the Kingdom’s upcoming cultural season

DUBAI: In common with other parts of the world, art, culture, and entertainment took a back seat in Saudi Arabia during the worst phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But now, with infection rates under control in the Kingdom thanks to a successful immunization campaign, a two-year period of event closures and cancellations has finally ended.

Take December, which promises to be an especially action-packed month in the Saudi cultural calendar, with events running the gamut from in-person exhibitions and concerts to grand openings, many of which had been rescheduled since the onset of the pandemic.

The exterior of Hayy Jameel, Art Jameel’s new center in Jeddah. (Supplied)


First up will be Misk Art Week, opening at the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Arts Hall in Riyadh on Dec. 1. This annual weeklong program of exhibitions is being staged by the Misk Art Institute, operating under the auspices of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Then comes the first edition of Riyadh Art, billed as the largest public civic arts initiative of its kind in the world. Running from Dec. 5 to 8, it will feature 12 programs launched by the Royal Commission for Riyadh City to transform the Saudi capital into “a gallery without walls.”

Meanwhile, over in the Red Sea coastal city of Jeddah, the Jameel Art Center is scheduled to open its long-awaited, multidisciplinary arts complex, Hayy Jameel, on Dec. 6.

Also coming to Jeddah in December is the annual Red Sea Film Festival. The Dec. 6 to 15 event, first launched in 2019, prides itself on featuring emerging talents from Saudi Arabia, the Arab region, and the developing world.
 

Aya Albakree is the CEO of the Thunaiyat Ad-Diriyah Foundation. (Supplied)

Then, to crown it all, the Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale opens on Dec. 11 in the new JAX district of Diriyah, home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site At-Turaif, the first capital of the House of Saud dynasty founded in the 15th century. The event — Saudi Arabia’s first — will run until March 11.

Culture is an integral part of the Saudi Vision 2030 reform plan, launched five years ago to diversify the Kingdom’s economy away from oil as well as to embrace sectors such as tourism, technology and the creative industries.

Philip Tinari, director and chief executive officer of the Beijing-based UCCA Center for Contemporary Art and the lead curator behind the Diriyah biennale, told Arab News: “This is an art scene on the brink of greatly increased prominence and much of that has to do with government initiatives at all kinds of levels.

“Another big part of it has to do with this generation of artists who, maybe before these changes, were living abroad and have now decided to move home where they are finding new vectors of support.”
 

An installation by Lowrence Lek, who will feature at the Diriyah art biennale. (Supplied)

Before the COVID-19 outbreak morphed into a pandemic in early 2020, Saudi Arabia was gearing up to become a global destination for the arts.

Seasonal festivals were already popping up throughout the country and the ancient northwestern city of AlUla was staging a variety of concerts, conferences, and open-air exhibitions.

The cultural explosion was triggered partly by the Kingdom’s decision to open up to foreign tourists in September 2019 with a new electronic visa scheme. However, as the health crisis went global a few months later, the country was forced to close its doors once again.

Now that international travel has resumed with COVID-19 protocols in place, the cultural floodgates are open once more and visitors to the Kingdom are spoilt for choice.

FASTFACTS

• The Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale is the biggest attraction of Riyadh’s crowded cultural season.

• Hayy Jameel, designed by architectural studio waiwai, is Art Jameel’s new dedicated home for the arts in Jeddah.

Hayy Jameel is among the most hotly anticipated openings of the year. Designed by the multi-award-winning architectural studio waiwai, Art Jameel’s new dedicated home for the arts in Jeddah has been billed as a dynamic, creative hub for the community.

Antonia Carver, director of Art Jameel, told Arab News: “Hayy Jameel has been in the planning for more than 20 years, but it couldn’t have come to fruition at a timelier moment.

“The launch of our creative neighborhood accompanies an incredibly exciting calendar of events. The opening season opens to the public from Dec. 6 and unfolds through the spring, as cultural partners launch their spaces and we open the indie Hayy Cinema, making the complex Jeddah’s true home for the arts.”

In any event, the creative arts environment in Saudi Arabia is maturing fast, boosting demand for dedicated spaces for exhibitions, screenings and performances.

Carver said: “It needs independent, community-oriented endeavors working alongside the larger-scale government-led initiatives.
 

At-Turaif in Diriyah will host part of the Diriyah art biennale. (Supplied)

“The Ministry of Culture and other government entities are actively encouraging the not-for-profit sector and organizations like Art Jameel, given our mandate to give back to Saudi and support artists and nurture creative communities.

“To balance out the current breakneck pace of development, and demands on Saudi artists, we’re also aiming to foreground opportunities to develop long-term research, ideas, and skills; to explore and document local histories; develop contextual learning resources in Arabic; and to cross-pollinate the various creative art forms, bringing together visual arts, film, performance, architecture, design, and more.”

While Jeddah positions itself as one of the region’s foremost cultural destinations, Riyadh refuses to be outdone. First up in the Saudi capital’s cultural calendar is Misk Art Week.

Reem Al-Sultan, CEO of Misk Art Institute, told Arab News: “The fifth edition of Misk Art Week unites emerging and established artists in Saudi Arabia and across the globe with experts in critical and cultural discourse.

“Misk Art Institute offers an insightful array of multidisciplinary practices and international perspectives, providing a unique, educational experience to both the participating creatives and to the public engaging with these compelling conversations.”

Opening just a few days later will be Riyadh Art, staged by the Royal Commission for Riyadh City, of which the Tuwaiq International Sculpture Symposium is part. The program includes an awards ceremony and will convene 20 sculptors from Saudi Arabia, the Arab region, and around the world.

Khalid Al-Hazzani, an architect and the RCRC’s director of projects, told Arab News: “Riyadh Art continues to transform the city into a gallery without walls with the launch of the Tuwaiq International Sculpture Symposium, its second initiative.
 

Philip Tinari, director of the Beijing-based UCCA Center for Contemporary Art and the lead curator of the Diriyah art biennale. (Supplied)

“As art and culture reflect the spirit of a city, we look forward to contributing to Riyadh’s vibrant art season this December and offering a platform for cross-cultural dialogue and exchange.”

The Riyadh Art Project is just one of the city’s four mega-projects launched by King Salman on March 19, 2019. Dubbed a milestone in Riyadh’s mission to become one of the world’s most livable cities, the initiative will involve the installation of more than 1,000 artworks across the metropolis.

The Diriyah biennale is undoubtedly the biggest attraction of the crowded cultural season. Developed by a team of international curators led by Tinari, the event will feature works by around 70 artists examining the theme, “Feeling the Stones.”

The biennial event will alternate each year between a contemporary art and an Islamic art exhibition under the auspices of the Diriyah Foundation, chaired by Prince Badr Al-Saud.

“I think the Diriyah biennale will consolidate much of the progress that has been made,” Tinari said, referring to Saudi Arabia’s cultural awakening.

“What is really special about it is the scale — spread across 12,000 square meters of newly converted warehouse space that will be dedicated to this event moving forward.

“I hope that the Diriyah biennale will become a benchmark for the scene more generally and that other kinds of art events will congregate around it.”

Twitter: @rebeccaaproctor


Red Sea Fund announces support for 26 Saudi films

Red Sea Fund announces support for 26 Saudi films
Updated 01 December 2021

Red Sea Fund announces support for 26 Saudi films

Red Sea Fund announces support for 26 Saudi films
  • In its first cycle, the fund carefully selected 90 ‘game-changing’ films from over 650 submissions

JEDDAH: The Red Sea Fund will support 26 Saudi films in a list of 90 carefully selected projects from the Arab World and Africa.
Following over 650 submissions, the fund on Tuesday announced its final selection of the much-anticipated projects, aiming to create a game-changing generation of filmmakers.
The grants will be given to 37 films in development, 33 live projects, and 28 films in post-production.
Of the projects to receive funding, 11 hail from Africa, 60 from the Arab region, and 26 from Saudi Arabia.
The exciting and unique selection includes 59 feature fictions, 18 feature documentaries, 10 short fictions, five feature animations, three episodic series, and two short animations.
The fund will also back 28 talented Saudi film directors, 54 percent of whom are female.
The Red Sea Film Festival Foundation established the fund in June to back 100 feature films, short projects, and episodics by directors from the Arab world and Africa.
The fund was supported earlier this year by the Saudi Film Commission to help a larger pool of talented filmmakers from the Kingdom and the Arab region bring their work from script to screen.
Three committees of industry professionals were formed for each section of the funding: Development, production, and post-production support.
Edouard Waintrop, artistic director of the Red Sea International Film Festival and head of the committee awarding funds for post-production, said: “There is a wealth of undiscovered talent in Saudi Arabia and across the Arab world. As pioneers and believers in the importance of cinema and film in driving inspiration, creativity, and innovation, we are very proud to enable these brilliant artists to showcase their work by investing in their talents and empowering them to realize their dreams through the Red Sea Fund.
“These exceptional cinematic works will challenge people’s perceptions of traditional cinema and revive the film industry in KSA and the region.”
He continued: “We truly cannot wait to see these selections come to fruition and find their way to the big screen.”


Erdogan: Turkey will work to enhance relations with Saudi Arabia

Erdogan: Turkey will work to enhance relations with Saudi Arabia
Updated 01 December 2021

Erdogan: Turkey will work to enhance relations with Saudi Arabia

Erdogan: Turkey will work to enhance relations with Saudi Arabia
  • The Turkish president also promised developments with Egypt

RIYADH: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey will work to enhance its relations with Saudi Arabia, Al Arabiya reported.

In May, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan received his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu in Makkah.

They agreed to “work on positive issues on our common agenda and to hold regular consultations,” Cavusoglu said, adding: “Our close cooperation will contribute to stability, peace and prosperity in the region.”

The president’s remarks were made on Tuesday during an interview on state-owned news channel TRT World.

Commenting on recent improvement in Turkish-UAE relations, Erdogan said: “The step we took with the UAE is important and historic, and I will visit the UAE in February.”

Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed visited Ankara last week in his first official trip to Turkey since 2012.

The UAE announced a $10 billion fund for investments in Turkey, after the crown prince held talks with the Turkish president.

Erdogan also said in the interview: “We will witness developments with Egypt in the near future.”