Sultan Haitham’s visit set to deepen Omani-Saudi ties, open up new vistas of cooperation

Finding new ways to expand the partnership between the Kingdom and the sultanate will feature high on the agenda during Sultan Haitham bin Tariq’s two-day visit to Saudi Arabia at the invitation of King Salman. (Supplied)
Finding new ways to expand the partnership between the Kingdom and the sultanate will feature high on the agenda during Sultan Haitham bin Tariq’s two-day visit to Saudi Arabia at the invitation of King Salman. (Supplied)
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Updated 11 July 2021

Sultan Haitham’s visit set to deepen Omani-Saudi ties, open up new vistas of cooperation

Finding new ways to expand the partnership between the Kingdom and the sultanate will feature high on the agenda during Sultan Haitham bin Tariq’s two-day visit to Saudi Arabia at the invitation of King Salman. (Supplied)
  • Visit to forge partnerships and cement economic relations between the two countries
  • It is the sultan’s first foreign trip since becoming Oman’s leader in January 2020

RIYADH: For over half a century, relations between the governments of Saudi Arabia and Oman have been characterized by cooperation, mutual respect and understanding on various regional and international issues.

Likewise, connections at the people-to-people level run deep thanks to bonds of history, shared Arab customs and traditions, and a common Gulf Arab heritage.

The two countries coordinate their actions under the umbrella of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in accordance with the bloc’s common visions and strategic goals, with a view to achieving integration between member states in different fields.

A similar cooperative spirit informs their roles at the Arab League, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the UN and various international bodies.

Finding new ways to expand the partnership between the Kingdom and the sultanate will be high on the agenda during Sultan Haitham bin Tariq’s two-day visit to Saudi Arabia at the invitation of King Salman. The Omani ruler arrived in Neom on Sunday for wide-ranging talks.




A handout picture released by the Omani News Agency shows newly sworn-in Sultan Haitham bin Tariq (R) receiving Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz in the capital Muscat on January 13, 2020. (AFP via ONA/File Photo)

“The visit comes within the framework of strengthening the historical and fraternal relations between the leaderships of the two countries,” the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said. “It also aims to expand the prospects of joint cooperation and ways to develop them in various fields for the interest and steady progress of the peoples of the two countries.”

The SPA added that the visit is intended to “strengthen the deep historical bonds” between the two countries, “and to explore new areas of cooperation — particularly in the fields of trade, infrastructure and development.”

Sultan Haitham is being accompanied by senior ministers and diplomats, notably Deputy Prime Minister for Defense Affairs Sayyid Shihab bin Tarik Al-Said, Interior Minister Sayyid Hamoud bin Faisal Al-Busaidi, and Foreign Minister Sayyid Badr bin Hamad bin Hamoud Al-Busaidi.

The delegation also includes Said bin Hamoud bin Said Al-Maawali, minister of transport, communications and information technology; Qais bin Mohammed bin Moosa Al-Yousef, minister of commerce, industry and investment promotion; and Abdulsalam bin Mohammed Al-Murshidi, chairman of the Oman Investment Authority.

“Saudi Arabia is the largest economy in the Arab world and its leading economic engine, home to a quarter of the world’s petroleum reserves and the largest free market in the Middle East and North Africa region. It’s a key, valued trading partner of Oman,” Sayyid Faisal bin Turki Al-Said, Oman’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia who will be accompanying the sultan’s delegation, told Arab News.

Sultan Haitham’s assumption of power, in January 2020, came at a critical moment in the sultanate’s history. He took over the reins when large parts of the world, including the Arab region, faced challenges on multiple fronts: political, economic, social and health.

The sultan opted for a path of modernization and change without delay, introducing reforms to fulfil the hopes and aspirations of the Omani people while taking measures to preserve the stability and security of the country.

His visit to Saudi Arabia marks his first foreign trip since becoming his country’s leader, testifying clearly to the importance of the Saudi-Omani relationship.




Sultan Haitham bin Tariq’s visit to Saudi Arabia marks his first foreign trip since becoming his country’s leader, testifying clearly to the importance of the Saudi-Omani relationship. (Oman News Agency/File Photo)

Ties between the two Gulf states have remained strong in part thanks to regular bilateral meetings and shuttle diplomacy, a tradition established after the signing of the March 1990 agreement that finally delineated their 658 km border.

The border agreement signed at Hafr Al-Batin in Saudi Arabia solidified the relationship, sweeping away territorial disputes of the past and giving both states equal access to the area’s bountiful water resources.

Over the decades that followed, relations have grown from strength to strength, yielding ambitious economic partnerships and joint action on the GCC, which has seen a merging of strategic aims and a shared vision for economic diversification.

Indeed, trade talks involving representatives from the public and private sectors of both countries were underway long before Sultan Haitham’s arrival in Saudi Arabia, with many more business forums already scheduled.

“The Saudi-Omani Business Council will have a very important complementing role with regards to identifying both trade and investment opportunities during its first official virtual meeting that was held recently,” said Faisal Al-Said, referring to just one of the latest collaborations.

“Both sides agreed to exchange visits and identify key priority areas. Currently the council comprises some 40 members representing various key sectors in both countries.”

In 2006, Saudi Arabia and Oman agreed to open a new border crossing to help facilitate expansion of trade.

Their engineers teamed up to build a Saudi-funded highway through Rub Al-Khali (the Empty Quarter), connecting Al-Ahsa in the Kingdom’s Eastern Province to Ibri in Oman, shaving some 16 hours off the journey time between the two countries.




Sayyid Faisal bin Turki Al-Said, ambassador of Oman to Saudi Arabia, said “the road link between Saudi Arabia and Oman is progressing well.” (Supplied)

Officials expect to be able to open the road to civil and commercial traffic by the end of 2021, which will potentially inaugurate a new era of business activities.

“The road link between Saudi Arabia and Oman is progressing well and will soon be open for both travelers and businesses alike,” said Faisal Al-Said.

“The road holds immense importance when it comes to the new expected business and economic partnership between the two nations.”

Once open, the new highway will cut the cost of import-export logistics, especially for merchants operating out of Oman’s ports of Sohar and Duqm, not to mention the potential boost to tourism — a sector both countries are keen to expand.

In particular, the Omani side hopes the new road — and perhaps even a future rail link — will encourage more joint investments at the Sohar Industrial Estate and the Special Economic Zone in Duqm.

Other partnerships include the development of Khazaen Economic City, the Salalah 2 gas-fired power station and the Salalah desalination plant. Saudi Arabia is also a big importer of Omani fish, making the development of the sultanate’s fisheries a matter of tremendous common interest.

“Many business owners on both sides see the road link as a major contributor and a catalyst for growing bilateral trade,” said Faisal Al-Said. “The important link will provide other businesses an opportunity to explore the much-required supporting services and logistics as well.”

Another core area of cooperation is the environment, with the two states pulling together to cut carbon emissions by 60 percent, plant billions of trees, and make the Saudi and Middle East Green initiatives a reality.

READ MORE

Before he became sultan of Oman, Haitham bin Tariq Al-Said was widely seen as the continuity candidate when he was named the preferred successor to his cousin and ruler of almost 50 years, Qaboos bin Said. Find out more.

Sultan Haitham has welcomed the initiatives in previous talks with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The two countries have also begun sharing expertise in industrial development, city planning and mineral extraction, with ministerial delegations recently meeting via video link to discuss new collaborations.

High-level delegations have crisscrossed the region in recent months with the aim of integrating Oman’s Vision 2040 and Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 — two development and economic diversification agendas designed to create vibrant, modern economies that offer young citizens exciting new career paths and improve overall quality of life.

“Under the wise leadership of His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tariq, as part of Vision 2040, we’re capitalizing on our strategic strengths in sectors such as manufacturing, logistics, fisheries, mining, tourism and technology,” said Faisal Al-Said.

“And with the announcement earlier this year of the economic stimulus package, His Majesty’s government is empowering our private sector and encouraging the birth and growth of small businesses, particularly those run by our young entrepreneurs,” he added.

“And just as the Saudi government is investing in its national infrastructure, we too have carried out successful high-profile infrastructure projects in Duqm, Sohar, Salalah and Muscat — projects that are adding significant value to Oman’s growth, growing economy, as well as attracting considerable international interest.”


Saudi Arabia announces return of in-person schooling for double-jabbed intermediate, secondary students

Saudi Arabia announces return of in-person schooling for double-jabbed intermediate, secondary students
Updated 01 August 2021

Saudi Arabia announces return of in-person schooling for double-jabbed intermediate, secondary students

Saudi Arabia announces return of in-person schooling for double-jabbed intermediate, secondary students
  • Primary, kindergarten pupils will return to classrooms once 70% of population has been double-jabbed or October 30

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced on Sunday the return of in-person schooling for intermediate and secondary school students who have received both doses of a coronavirus vaccine.

Primary school and kindergarten pupils will return to their classrooms once seventy percent of the Kingdom’s population has been inoculated with two doses or October 30, 2021, whichever comes first.

Over 27 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine have been administered in the Kingdom to date.

Saudi Arabia's Food and Drug Authority has so far approved the AstraZeneca, Pfizer-​BioNTech, Johnson & Johnson, and Moderna vaccines.

The Kingdom announced 12 deaths from COVID-19 and 1,084 new infections on Sunday.


Saudi Arabia announces 12 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 12 more COVID-19 deaths
Updated 01 August 2021

Saudi Arabia announces 12 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 12 more COVID-19 deaths
  • The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom has increased to 507,374
  • A total of 8,249 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced 12 deaths from COVID-19 and 1,084 new infections on Sunday.
Of the new cases, 235 were recorded in Riyadh, 207 in Makkah, 154 in the Eastern Province, 94 in Asir, 69 in Madinah, 64 in Jazan, 58 in Hail, 40 in Najran, 23 in Tabuk, 17 in the Northern Borders region, 13 in Al-Baha, and three in Al-Jouf.
The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom increased to 507,374 after 1,285 more patients recovered from the virus.
A total of 8,249 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far.
Over 27 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine have been administered in the Kingdom to date.


Cocoa bean drug smuggling attempt thwarted at Jeddah port

Cocoa bean drug smuggling attempt thwarted at Jeddah port
Updated 01 August 2021

Cocoa bean drug smuggling attempt thwarted at Jeddah port

Cocoa bean drug smuggling attempt thwarted at Jeddah port
  • The pills were found hidden inside bags of cocoa beans during an inspection
  • The authority stressed that it will continue to tighten customs controls over all imports, exports and travelers in order to combat smuggling

JEDDAH: The Zakat, Tax and Customs Authority at Jeddah Islamic Port has foiled an attempt to smuggle 8.7 million Captagon pills.
The pills were found expertly hidden inside cocoa bean bags during an inspection. Three people were arrested by the General Directorate of Narcotics Control.
The authority stressed that it will continue to tighten customs controls over all imports, exports and travelers in order to combat smuggling by land, sea and air, and put an end to smugglers and their organized crimes.
The Zakat, Tax and Customs Authority called on everyone to contact the Security Reports Center on 1910 to report any information related to smuggling and customs violations in strict confidentiality. It said that whistle-blowers will receive a financial reward if their information is correct.


Unvaccinated people rush to receive COVID-19 vaccine in Saudi Arabia

Unvaccinated people rush to receive COVID-19 vaccine in Saudi Arabia
Updated 01 August 2021

Unvaccinated people rush to receive COVID-19 vaccine in Saudi Arabia

Unvaccinated people rush to receive COVID-19 vaccine in Saudi Arabia
  • One dose or virus recovered must to attend events and enter establishments

JEDDAH: The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in Saudi Arabia has increased in the past 10 days with the arrival of the Aug. 1 deadline that means unvaccinated residents are prohibited from entering establishments.

The acceleration comes as residents of the Kingdom are required to receive at least one jab or have recovered from COVID-19 to attend social, cultural, sports and entertainment gatherings, and enter private, government or commercial establishments. Health authorities have called on residents to register for the vaccine, and centers across the Kingdom have been urged to provide more time-slots to accommodate the growing numbers.
So far, 27 million vaccine doses have been delivered at a rate of 77 doses per hundred. More than 8.1 million so far have received two doses and more than 77.5 percent of the Kingdom’s 34.8 million have been vaccinated so far.
More than 1.46 million of the Kingdom’s elderly have been vaccinated to date.
Health officials continue to urge residents to receive the vaccine, adhere to social distancing measures and take precautionary measures to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Meanwhile, a Saudi research team has successfully developed the first Saudi vaccine against COVID-19 and is ready to carry out clinical trials after receiving the required approvals.

INNUMBERS

525,730 Total cases

506,089 Recoveries

8,237 Deaths

Led by Dr. Iman Almansour, the research team from the Institute for Research and Medical Consultations (IRMC) at the Imam Abdulrahman bin Faisal University in Dammam published the findings, “Immunogenicity of Multiple Doses of pDNA Vaccines against SARS-CoV-2,” in the  Pharmaceuticals Journal on MDPI, an open-access publishing website for academics.
On Saturday, 1,146 new cases were reported by Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Health, raising the total number to 525,730.
Three regions reported numbers above the 100 case mark, Riyadh leading with 243 cases, the Eastern Province with 209 and Makkah with 196 cases. Jouf continues to be the region with the lowest count with only eight cases on Saturday.
There are currently 11,404 active cases, 1,377 of which are in critical care, a decline of 18 in the past 24 hours.
A total of 1,086 new recoveries were reported, raising the total number of recoveries to 506,089. The Kingdom’s recovery rate is currently holding steady at 96.2 percent.
Riyadh led the cities with the highest recovery count as 232 recoveries were reported, Taif with 99 and Jeddah with 64 recoveries.
A total of 11 new fatalities due to complications from COVID-19 have been reported, raising the death tally to 8,237.
A total of 113,300 PCR tests have been conducted in the past 24 hours, raising the total number to more than 25 million tests so far.
Meanwhile, Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development’s control teams in Makkah region carried out 20,137 inspection tours in July on private sector enterprises, to ensure abidance by the precautionary and preventive measures against the coronavirus disease and compliance with nationalization and labor regulations.
During the inspections, 3,755 violations of labor regulations and precautionary measures were found, and 813 warnings issued.
The ministry urged owners of enterprises to abide by all precautionary measures at workplaces to curb the spread of the virus, and to abide by the ministry’s regulations to avoid incurring penalties.
Inspection tours will continue across businesses in all regions of the Kingdom, the ministry addedd, calling on everyone in the region to report breaches and violations through its call center (19911) or its Ma3an lil Rasd app.


British-Nigerian photographer gaining popularity in the Saudi art scene for her black and white photographs of KSA

Monochromatic photographs add a timeless quality to an image. With the help of social media, Saudi Arabia is in the spotlight as outsiders finally look in. (Supplied)
Monochromatic photographs add a timeless quality to an image. With the help of social media, Saudi Arabia is in the spotlight as outsiders finally look in. (Supplied)
Updated 01 August 2021

British-Nigerian photographer gaining popularity in the Saudi art scene for her black and white photographs of KSA

Monochromatic photographs add a timeless quality to an image. With the help of social media, Saudi Arabia is in the spotlight as outsiders finally look in. (Supplied)
  • British-Nigerian photographer gaining popularity in the Saudi art scene for her black and white photographs of the Kingdom’s varied architecture, cultural scene, street life and more
  • Saudi Arabia through Folake’s eyes

JEDDAH: With the thousands of pictures coming out of Saudi Arabia in full color these days, it is refreshing to find calm in monochromatic photographs, especially when they have been snapped by expats who see beauty through a lens.
Monochromatic photographs add a timeless quality to an image. With the help of social media, Saudi Arabia is in the spotlight as outsiders finally look in.
British-Nigerian photographer Folake Abbas, a lecturer teaching academic writing and research methods to engineering students at Jeddah’s King Abdul Aziz University since 2013, has been taking photographs for as long as she can remember, and is gaining popularity in the Saudi art scene for her black and white photographs of the Kingdom’s varied architecture, cultural scene, street life and more.
She started taking photographs in the Kingdom “almost immediately after I arrived in Jeddah. A friend took me to Al-Balad and I fell in love with the place immediately, and I’ve had a very strong connection to Al-Balad ever since,” she told Arab News.

I will always remember Saudi Arabia with a lot of fondness, for it was here that I discovered myself as a photographer.

Folake Abbas

“A lot of people there know me because I take their photographs most of the time — it’s a place that I’m drawn to and that I feel very comfortable photographing. I’ve been there many times and have taken thousands and thousands of photographs to attest to that,” she added.
Abbas has developed her style through the years, experimenting with different tones of gray and shadows ever since she, alongside a group of fellow Nigerian photographers while visiting home, challenged each other to switch from colored to monochrome as an experiment for the whole of 2019, participating in the hashtag #2019ayearinblackandwhite on Instagram, and she’s never looked back.
She told Arab News that she’s been inspired by some of the greatest black and white photographers of all time such as Ansel Adams, Vivian Maier, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Mary Ellen Mark and Dorothea Lange.

HIGHLIGHT

Abbas has developed her style through the years, experimenting with different tones of gray and shadows ever since she, alongside a group of fellow Nigerian photographers while visiting home, challenged each other to switch from colored to monochrome as an experiment for the whole of 2019, participating in the hashtag #2019ayearinblackandwhite on Instagram, and she’s never looked back.

With time, she began wondering about what more the Kingdom has to offer and what hidden gems can be discovered. She’s frequented nearby Taif, Dammam and a few other cities throughout the years but it was only after the coronavirus disease pandemic hit did she realize she needed to see more.
“I hadn’t really moved around that much, it wasn’t until last year after the lockdown was lifted, knowing I couldn’t leave the country I thought, you know what? this is my time to start to explore Saudi Arabia, there’s something more for it and I’ve got to get around,” she said. “The idea of having to stay cooped up in my apartment for the whole summer was just something I wasn’t ready to entertain.”
She then started traveling around the Kingdom as a conscious decision, booking trips, connecting with people, and taking different tours.
“When you live in a concrete jungle, there isn’t much greenery around here, and it’s very rugged, you just have no idea of what a country looks like. It’s not until you hit the road and go deep into a valley or around a bendy road such as in Taif that you really get to appreciate the country that you live in,” said Abbas.
She said it was in Saudi Arabia that she identified as a photographer the most. “I will always remember Saudi Arabia with a lot of fondness, for it was here that I discovered myself as a photographer. As I mentioned, I’ve always taken photographs but being in Saudi Arabia really solidified that for me. All I want to do is take photographs here, that’s all I want to do.”

Monochromatic photographs add a timeless quality to an image. With the help of social media, Saudi Arabia is in the spotlight as outsiders finally look in. (Supplied)

Folake participated in two group exhibitions, the first in November 2017 in Jeddah, and January 2021 in Riyadh and has had three solo exhibitions — October 2018, December 2019, both in Jeddah and the third in Riyadh in February 2020.
She visited AlUla in March and said the artwork she composed there is the closest to her heart, highlighting that it is a majestic and timeless place.
“What I love about the photos that I took there is the fact that the whole place itself sort of makes you feel like you are in a time that is long forgotten and so to be in this place that is absolutely dripping with so much history going back thousands and thousands of years, to be in that space in itself was nothing short of spectacular. The photos that I took and loved the most (were of) the tomb in Hegra; it’s just a majestic building.”
She said she experienced Saudi hospitality firsthand throughout her adventures in the Kingdom and highlighted their polite traits.
“I’m very impressed as to how open the people I meet when I travel are. They will give you directions, they will get people to come and help you, they will even take you to where you want to go,” she said. “That is really endearing to me.” She added: “I’ve traveled a lot around the world and I’ve had wonderful experiences, but nothing quite like this.”