Frankly Speaking: Saudi Arabia, US ‘working closely on multiple fronts’ to resolve Middle East conflicts, says Fahad Nazer

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Updated 12 July 2021

Frankly Speaking: Saudi Arabia, US ‘working closely on multiple fronts’ to resolve Middle East conflicts, says Fahad Nazer

Frankly Speaking: Saudi Arabia, US ‘working closely on multiple fronts’ to resolve Middle East conflicts, says Fahad Nazer
  • Spokesperson for KSA embassy in Washington, DC says US-Saudi relations continue to strengthen, deepen and broaden
  • Appearing on Frankly Speaking, he set out the Kingdom’s view on many aspects of US policy vis-a-vis Middle East

DUBAI: Relations between Saudi Arabia and the US are strong and enduring, despite differences of opinion on some issues between the Kingdom and the administration of President Biden, Fahad Nazer, the chief spokesman of the Saudi embassy in Washington, told Arab News.

“Saudi-US relations are long-standing; they have endured for the past 75 years. Not only have they endured but they have continued to deepen and to strengthen and to broaden under both Republican and Democratic administrations,” he said.

But he cautioned that the Kingdom had concerns about some aspects of the Biden administration’s policy in the Middle East, notably the approach toward Iran.

“We’ve always had some concerns about the ‘sunset clauses’ of the agreement which in effect render it temporary in nature. We want something more permanent. And we also had concerns about the missile program in Iran, and perhaps most importantly we’ve always had concerns about not addressing Iran’s support of militant and non-state actors in the region,” he said.




The Iranian flag is shown in Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant during an official ceremony to kick-start works on a second reactor on November 10, 2019. (File/AFP)

Nazer, who has been the spokesman for Ambassador Princess Reema bint Bandar since 2019, was appearing on Frankly Speaking, the series of video interviews with leading policy-makers.

In a wide-ranging conversation, he also set out the Kingdom’s view on many aspects of US policy toward the region, including the conflict in Yemen, the recent withdrawal of some Patriot air defense systems from Saudi Arabia, and the possibility of normalization of relations with Israel.

Nazer, a former journalist with Arab News in the US, also spoke of the need to have “open channels of communication” with the American media, which has sometimes been critical of Saudi Arabia.

He discussed the “multi-dimensional” relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia.

“There’s a political component to it, there’s a military and security component, there’s an economic component and there’s a very much — somewhat underrated — people-to-people component as well, which explains why it has endured and withstood the test of time for so long,” he said.

In Yemen, Nazer said the two countries were cooperating on efforts to end the conflict, despite the Biden administration’s early decision to remove the Houthi rebels from the international terror designation.

“Saudi Arabia and the US are actually working very closely on multiple fronts to resolve a number of conflicts in the region, and the conflict and ongoing crisis in Yemen is certainly at the top of our agenda.




The Hashed al-Shaabi in Iraq is one of the militias supported by Iran, posing a threat to regional stability. (File/AFP)

“I think that our policies align to a great extent; we are both supportive of the UN efforts to resolve this conflict. We both are trying to advance a political resolution of the conflict. We are also both providers of humanitarian aid. In fact Saudi Arabia is the top provider of humanitarian aid to Yemen,” he said.

Prince Khalid bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s deputy defense minister, had meetings with top US officials on a recent visit to Washington. According to Nazer, “it’s very clear from our engagements with the administration and from the statements, especially from the Yemen envoy Tim Lenderking, that the US understands the threat that the Houthis present.”

He said that the recent removal of some Patriot air defense systems from the Kingdom did not amount to the US “turning its back” on Saudi Arabia.

“The cooperation on the security and military front remains a pillar of this relationship. I think the US appreciates and understands the real threat that Saudi Arabia faces on his southern border from the Houthi militia,” Nazer said.

“We also work very closely on countering the threat that the international community and the region faces from non-state actors and terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda and Daesh.”




An Iranian delegation attends a meeting of the Joint Commission on Iran's nuclear program (JCPOA) in Vienna, Austria, on December 6, 2019. (File/AFP)

The Kingdom and the US have had “ongoing and robust dialogue” about the negotiations with Iran over renewing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on nuclear policy. “We have made our concerns known about the JCPOA back when it was first signed, even though ultimately we did support it,” he said.

“We will support anything that ensures that Iran does not possess the knowhow or the technology to produce nuclear weapons.”

He added that Saudi Arabia maintains good relations with both ruling Democrats and Republicans in Congress over Iran. “It’s become clear to us over the past few months that the leadership in Congress understands the very serious security concerns that Saudi Arabia faces in Iran,” he said.

Normalization of relations between more Arab countries and Israel, following last year’s Abraham Accords, remained a possibility, he said, but would depend on progress toward the conditions of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative — a two-state solution and recognition of the 1967 borders.

“That deal is still on the table. We believe that once that core dispute is resolved and peace is reached between Israelis and Palestinians, that certainly opens the way not only for peace with Saudi Arabia but with the rest of the members of the Arab League,” Nazer said.

A recent visit by John Kerry, the US special envoy on climate, resulted in a joint statement by the US and the Kingdom on the need for international cooperation to achieve the Paris Agreement goals.

“Saudi Arabia is fully committed to sustainable development. We have embraced it. We’re taking the threat to our climate very seriously. We also believe that harnessing the power of science and technology will enable us to meet some of these challenges, including the challenges to our climate,” Nazer said.

He pointed out that the Kingdom has “competitive advantages” in technologies like wind and solar power, as well as advanced programs to develop carbon capture and other techniques to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

Nazer also underlined the cooperation between the Kingdom and the US in the initiative to stabilize international energy markets after dramatic fluctuations in the price of oil since the pandemic struck.

Saudi foreign policy in recent years has made a feature to reach out to countries other than traditional allies in the West, like China, Russia and India. However, Nazer does not believe this will not be to the detriment of older alliances. “We do not see our foreign policy through a zero-sum prism,” he said.

Aside from political work in Washington, Nazer has been involved in a program of public diplomacy outside the capital, meeting business and civic leaders across the US and undertaking a series of media interviews around the country.




Saudi Embassy spokesman Fahad Nazer says much of his time is spent engaging with the US news media, which has not always given the Kingdom the easiest ride. (File/AFP)

“We have always obviously realized that the US is a big country and it’s become very clear to us that there are other groups outside Washington that are very much interested in developments in the Kingdom,” he said.

“They are interested in Vision 2030. So, we’re talking about whether it’s academic institutions, civil society groups and certainly the business community. We have made it a point to engage with all these communities, because it’s become clear that many of them want to maintain long-standing relationships.”

But the majority of his time is spent engaging with the US news media, which has not always given the Kingdom the easiest ride, especially over human-rights issues.

“Obviously the American press is a very big institution and — since your show is called Frankly Speaking — I will say, frankly speaking, some media outlets I think are perhaps more balanced than others. But we are genuinely open to engaging with any media outlet that is interested in anything Saudi related,” Nazer said.

He has had a chance to witness up close the diplomatic style of Princess Reema, the Kingdom’s first female ambassador and the daughter of legendary Saudi diplomat Prince Bandar bin Sultan, who was the ambassador in Washington for more than two decades.

“It has certainly been a privilege and an honor to work under the leadership of Princess Reema. She maintains excellent relations with officials here in Washington, but as you said she has also been speaking to all sorts of Americans outside of the capital over the past couple of years.

“I think she likes the US and I think she certainly feels passionately about the relationship,” Nazer said, adding: “I think that comes through in all her engagements.”

 

 

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Twitter: @frankkanedubai


New era of afforestation takes flight in Saudi Arabia

New era of afforestation takes flight in Saudi Arabia
Updated 19 sec ago

New era of afforestation takes flight in Saudi Arabia

New era of afforestation takes flight in Saudi Arabia
  • Campaign to use drones for seed distribution over an area of 2 million square meters launched

RIYADH: Birds have always been a significant factor in the lifecycle of plants through their ability to transport seeds to new locations by unintentionally carrying them on their wings or claws.  

Today marks the beginning of a new era of afforestation as the Imam Turki bin Abdullah Royal Natural Reserve in Saudi Arabia launched a new seed distribution project that will utilize drones instead of relying on birds. It is in line with the Kingdom’s Green Initiative announced earlier this year by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The campaign aims to meet the initiative’s goals and confirms that Saudi Arabia is serious about enriching the country’s natural environment.

“The afforestation campaign will use drones to spread seasonal seeds over an area of 2 million square meters, creating a qualitative leap in the path of afforestation used in the Kingdom,” the Imam Turki bin Abdullah Royal Natural Reserve told Arab News in a statement on Friday. 

According to the reserve, the drones will distribute the seeds in substantial amounts over areas where rainwater accumulates to ensure that the seeds are watered naturally, seasonally, and annually.  

The reserve is working to keep up with the latest international technologies and innovations linked to irrigation and seed disposal processes while working to adopt factors that serve the environment and guarantee sustainability in plant cultivation and afforestation techniques.  

According to the reserve’s statement: “The use of drones, characterized by the presence of high-resolution cameras, contributes to monitoring the health of the plants and providing quick treatments to preserve them in case they are exposed to health risks. 

“It will also follow up on the health of the soil and the conditions of agricultural areas. The utilization of artificial intelligence techniques will, additionally, serve to study and analyze seasonal patterns of plants through the use of unique algorithms and software.”

HIGHLIGHT

Today marks the beginning of a new era of afforestation as the Imam Turki bin Abdullah Royal Natural Reserve in Saudi Arabia launched a new seed distribution project that will utilize drones instead of relying on birds. It is in line with the Kingdom’s Green Initiative announced earlier this year by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Representatives from the local community, along with government agencies and volunteers also attended the launch, Eng. Mohammed Al Shaalan, the CEO of the Royal Natural Reserve, said.

“Today, the Kingdom is leading a global movement towards protecting the environment, promoting sustainability, and launching continuous initiatives towards afforestation and the establishment of a green environment,” Al Shaalan said.

“We will strive to keep up with this goal publicized by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and are working hard to defy the obstacle of time by applying the best standards and techniques in developing the reserve and assisting the environment.”

Manzer H. Siddiqui, an associate professor at the botany department at King Saud University, also praised the campaign. 

“This is a much-appreciated campaign towards afforestation and green initiative for environment protection,” he told Arab News.

Siddiqui said the citizens’ participation in preserving the environment is one of the most successful ways to reach green sustainability. 

The Imam Turki bin Abdullah Royal Natural Reserve, previously known as the Al Taysiyah Natural Reserve, was founded in 2018 by a royal order to provide an organized and systemic approach to preserving and maintaining the area.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced the “Saudi Green” and the “Middle East Green” initiatives in April to help protect nature and overcome environmental challenges.

These Initiatives aim to chart a path for Saudi Arabia and the region in protecting the planet by clearly defining an ambitious road map that rallies the region and significantly contributes to achieving global targets in confronting climate change.

The Kingdom will work through the Saudi Green Initiative to raise vegetation cover, reduce carbon emissions, preserve marine life, while also combating pollution and land degradation. The ambitious initiative includes the planting of 10 billion trees within the Kingdom in the upcoming decades.

The Saudi Green Initiative also aims to reduce carbon emissions by more than 4 percent of global contributions through a renewable energy program that will generate 50 percent of the Kingdom’s energy from renewables by 2030.


AlUla Dates Festival spreads sweetness in ancient Saudi city

AlUla Dates Festival spreads sweetness in ancient Saudi city
Updated 18 min 51 sec ago

AlUla Dates Festival spreads sweetness in ancient Saudi city

AlUla Dates Festival spreads sweetness in ancient Saudi city
  • The festival kicked off with the first date auction of the season early Friday morning

ALULA: The second edition of the AlUla Dates Festival is underway at the Kingdom’s famous ancient city. 

The three-week date festival takes place in the Al-Fusan area directly opposing the famous Elephant Rock, and is split into two segments: The dates auction and the dates souq, both only open during the weekends of Oct.15-Nov. 1. 

Many know AlUla to be a maze of history and breathtaking desert terrain, but not many people know that hidden between the curves of the desert terrains are over 2.3 million palm trees that produce 90,000 tons of dates annually. 

The AlUla dates market has recently seen an increase in demand, and the festival facilitates growth for local harvests into the international market by connecting local farmers to international visitors and investors.

Felix Riess, a strategy consultant visiting AlUla from Germany, said: “It’s a beautiful and historic place, it’s great to see the ambitions for AlUla. It’s currently at the crossroads of something very historical, towards something that keeps the history in mind while building for the future, it’s a great mix.” 

The festival kicked off with the first date auction of the season early Friday morning. As the sun rose, farmers unloaded their harvests off their trucks and onto the auction site. 

Crowds gathered around to take part in the dates auction, that happens three times during the festival. The bids differ from harvest to harvest depending on quality and size of crop. 

Not too long after the first announcement, the bids began rolling in. Chants of numbers and outbuildings were shouted through the air as boxes of dates were shifted around. 

The early dates auction is definitely a great place for buyers and sellers to connect, but it is also an exciting experience for families and tourists to witness. 

“What we saw today was a really authentic experience of how local wholesalers get the dates from this well known place in AlUla. It was very cool and I have never seen anything like this before and we enjoyed it,” Riess told Arab News.

Christian Keller, another German strategy consultant, added: “It’s always nice to see the combination of the old world and the new world and keeping up with it. Culture is about the people coming to AlUla and viewing it and the residents still valuing and carrying on what they have done years before, and now that you bring in new people like the tourist and visitors, they can experience it. Its culture was brought to life.” 

Following the dates auction, in the early hours of the morning, is the souq, which consists of separate booths of local farmers and bakers selling their wares. There are also sections dedicated to investment and international collaboration for information. 

The souq offers many family activities for locals to enjoy including the traditional Saudi Ardah dance to ring in the celebrations, as well as a children’s theater performances. 

These two events only take place once in the evening of the souq, but throughout the shopping experience guests will be able to listen to a live oud player in the center of the souq. 

The festival also serves another purpose alongside sharing culture. His Highness Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan, governor of the Royal Commission for AlUla Governorate, aims to promote the important role agriculture plays in economic development of the region in line with the Vision 2030 goals. 

The event not only highlights the work of the AlUla’s farmers but also promotes and inspires commercial opportunities for farmers and buyers alike. 

Behind the festivities are dozens of hardworking AlUla natives who have spent generations harvesting dates. 

The festival creates a hub for exchanging expertise, and growing collaborations that will in part diversify the economy and create more job opportunities for young people in tourism, hospitality and the cultural sectors. 

AlUla is undiscovered history in its purest form. Visitors have the opportunity to experience the beauty and tradition of the area, from the festival to the desert to the nearby Old Town. 

The Old Town is a treasure trove filled with all things AlUla from historical and handmade crafts to souvenirs to take back to loved ones. 

One of the more infamous stores located in the Old Town is Desert Designs.  

“We have had a very positive response from the international public, we have had a lot of good responses from Japanese, American, Chinese, Europeans. All sorts of people seem to like our store and the items we provide,” Radi Bukhari, Desert Designs general manager, said.

“We take old silver Bedouin pieces, give them a new life and then we frame them for appreciation. We take Saudi culture and try to give it new life and appreciation not just for foreigners but for Saudis as well,” Bukhari said.


Who’s Who: Abdullah bin Kadasa, executive director of communications and PR at Ahmed AlKhateeb Executive Office

Who’s Who: Abdullah bin Kadasa, executive director of communications and PR at Ahmed AlKhateeb Executive Office
Updated 23 October 2021

Who’s Who: Abdullah bin Kadasa, executive director of communications and PR at Ahmed AlKhateeb Executive Office

Who’s Who: Abdullah bin Kadasa, executive director of communications and PR at Ahmed AlKhateeb Executive Office

Abdullah bin Mansour bin Kadasa was appointed executive director of communications and public relations at Ahmed AlKhateeb Executive Office  in September 2021.

Bin Kadasa is an international communications and media professional and advisor, who has been responsible for a number of ground-breaking strategies and leadership of strategic communications plans and media campaigns.

He was previously an advisor and general manager at the General Administration of Corporate Communication at the Ministry of Finance between April 2020 until May 2021. He worked closely with the executive leadership there to develop the ministry’s corporate mission statement.

Bin Kadasa served as general director of the Media and Strategic Communications General Directorate at the Saudi Development & Reconstruction Program for Yemen between June 2018 until March 2020, managing a large team across SDRPY’s provincial offices and ensuring that its activities were aligned with the Kingdom’s communication strategy and foreign policy priorities regarding Yemen.

He is the co-founder of Deem Communications Technology Co., where he was CEO from August 2016 to June 2018. He worked as a faculty member at the Media and Communication College of Al-Imam Muhammad Ibn Saud University between August 2014 and June 2018, and before that served as the director of the Marketing & Communications Directorate at the Arabian Printing and Publishing House from May 2013 to July 2014.

Bin Kadasa worked as a journalist at Dar Al-Hayat newspaper from April 2009 to June 2013 and as an interactive communication and television production coordinator at Al Baraheen International Company from 2005 to 2009.

He received his Masters in International Media from the School of Communication/International Service at the American University at Washington DC. He also holds a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication from the Department of Mass Communication at King Saud University, and international diplomas from prestigious universities including the University of London, the University of California at Irvine, and Duke University.


Attempt to smuggle Captagon pills into Saudi Arabia thwarted

Attempt to smuggle Captagon pills into Saudi Arabia thwarted
Updated 22 October 2021

Attempt to smuggle Captagon pills into Saudi Arabia thwarted

Attempt to smuggle Captagon pills into Saudi Arabia thwarted
  • More than 5.2 million pills were found hidden in a consignment at Al-Haditha crossing on Friday
  • Port authorities said the pills were found “crushed” and hidden in a consignment of “carbonate powder” bags

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s Zakat, Tax and Customs Authority has prevented an attempt to smuggle Captagon amphetamine pills.

More than 5.2 million pills were found hidden in a consignment at Al-Haditha crossing on Friday.

Port authorities said that after an inspection of a suspicious truck and its cargo, the pills were found “crushed” and hidden in a consignment of “carbonate powder” bags.

One person was arrested by the General Directorate of Narcotics Control. The Zakat, Tax and Customs Authority confirmed that it is continuing to tighten control over the Kingdom’s imports and combat smuggling attempts.


Saudi Arabia announces one more COVID-19 death in record low

Saudi Arabia announces one more COVID-19 death in record low
Updated 22 October 2021

Saudi Arabia announces one more COVID-19 death in record low

Saudi Arabia announces one more COVID-19 death in record low
  • The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom has increased to 537,208
  • A total of 8,774 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced one death from COVID-19 and 51 new infections on Friday.

Of the new cases, 13 were recorded in Riyadh, 11 in Jeddah, three in Makkah, two in Qatif, two in Dhahran, two in AlUla, and two in Hafar Al-Batin. Several other cities recorded one new case each.

The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom increased to 537,208 after 59 more patients recovered from the virus.

A total of 8,774 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far.

Over 45 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine have been administered in the Kingdom to date.