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


Confronting crimes against humanity is route to justice, Saudi official tells UN committee meeting

Confronting crimes against humanity is route to justice, Saudi official tells UN committee meeting
Updated 17 October 2021

Confronting crimes against humanity is route to justice, Saudi official tells UN committee meeting

Confronting crimes against humanity is route to justice, Saudi official tells UN committee meeting
  • Mission also reaffirms Kingdom's commitment to help fight illicil financial flow

NEW YORK: Saudi Arabia has reiterated that confronting crimes against humanity and combating impunity from punishment is a noble objective to achieve justice and the rule of law because such crimes are among the most dangerous crimes for the international community.

This came during a speech delivered by Nidaa Abu Ali, head of the legal committee in the Kingdom’s permanent delegation at the UN, at the 76th session of the UN General Assembly.

Abu Ali stressed the need to implement the principle of accountability and put an end to the impunity from punishment of the perpetrators of these crimes. She stressed the Kingdom’s support for justice following the international agreements signed within the framework of the UN Charter and international law.

Regarding draft articles related to crimes against humanity, she said the Kingdom stresses the need to avoid developing new definitions that might cause confusion in interpreting these terms.

In addition, she stressed the importance of unifying the definitions stated in the relevant draft convention such as slavery, torture and forced disappearance of persons, following the relevant international conventions.

Reem Al-Omair, chairperson of the Economic and Financial Committee at the Kingdom’s permanent delegation at the UN, affirmed Saudi Arabia’s commitment to international cooperation to combat illicit financial flows and promote good practices regarding the recovery of financial assets.

Speaking in a general discussion of macroeconomic policies, she said that the programs and initiatives of the Saudi Vision 2030 contributed to enhancing transparency, developing policies and procedures and filling gaps to contain corruption.

Al-Omair said the Kingdom is keen to harness its potential and resources in the service of humanitarian issues in cooperation with the UN, its agencies and organizations and the international community.

Saudi Arabia has reiterated that confronting crimes against humanity and combating impunity from punishment is a noble objective to achieve justice and the rule of law because such crimes are among the most dangerous crimes for the international community.

This came during a speech delivered by Nidaa Abu Ali, head of the legal committee in the Kingdom’s permanent delegation at the UN, at the 76th session of the UN General Assembly. Abu Ali stressed the need to implement the principle of accountability and put an end to the impunity from punishment of the perpetrators of these crimes. She stressed the Kingdom’s support for justice following the international agreements signed within the framework of the UN Charter and international law.

Regarding draft articles related to crimes against humanity, she said the Kingdom stresses the need to avoid developing new definitions that might cause confusion in interpreting these terms.

In addition, she stressed the importance of unifying the definitions stated in the relevant draft convention such as slavery, torture and forced disappearance of persons, following the relevant international conventions.

Reem Al-Omair, chairperson of the Economic and Financial Committee at the Kingdom’s permanent delegation at the UN, affirmed Saudi Arabia’s commitment to international cooperation to combat illicit financial flows and promote good practices regarding the recovery of financial assets.

Speaking in a general discussion of macroeconomic policies, she said that the programs and initiatives of the Saudi Vision 2030 contributed to enhancing transparency, developing policies and procedures and filling gaps to contain corruption.

Al-Omair said the Kingdom is keen to harness its potential and resources in the service of humanitarian issues in cooperation with the UN, its agencies and organizations and the international community.


Who’s Who: Fahad Al-Jalajel, Saudi Arabia’s new health minister

Who’s Who: Fahad Al-Jalajel, Saudi Arabia’s new health minister
Updated 17 October 2021

Who’s Who: Fahad Al-Jalajel, Saudi Arabia’s new health minister

Who’s Who: Fahad Al-Jalajel, Saudi Arabia’s new health minister

Fahad Al-Jalajel has been appointed Saudi Arabia’s health minister following a royal decree issued on Friday. He replaces Dr. Tawfiq Al-Rabia, who has been appointed minister of Hajj and Umrah.

Al-Jalajel was previously deputy health minister and had been in this role since 2016. He has been a member of the board of directors at the Saudi Red Crescent Authority since May 2017 and a member of the board of directors at the Saudi Food and Drug Authority since July that same year.

He is a member of the executive council of the country’s medical cities, was a council member at the Saudi General Authority for Competition from 2011 to 2018, and a member of the board of directors at Saudia from 2015 to 2017.

Al-Jalajel was a member of the board of directors at the Saudi Grains Authority from 2013 to 2017 and a member of the board of directors at the Human Resources Development Fund from 2011 to 2016.

He was a member of the board of directors at the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (now the Ministry of Investment) from 2014 to 2016 and a member of the board of directors at the Saudi Standards, Metrology and Quality Organization from 2012 to 2016.

Al-Jalajel was deputy minister for consumer protection at the Ministry of Commerce and Investment from 2011 to 2016 and was also chief information officer and ministerial advisor there.

He was a member of the Riyadh Regional Council from 2010 to 2012 and a member of the board of directors at the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage from 2010 to 2012.

He was a member of the Saudi Energy Efficiency Program, a member of the board of directors at the Jeddah Urban Development Company, and an IT director at SAGIA.

He has a master’s degree in computer and information sciences from St. Joseph’s University in the US. He completed an executive program at MIT’s Sloan School of Management and has a bachelor’s degree in computer science from King Saud University.


Food security major objective of Saudi Vision 2030

Food security major objective of Saudi Vision 2030
Updated 17 October 2021

Food security major objective of Saudi Vision 2030

Food security major objective of Saudi Vision 2030
  • Eta’am food bank in KSA has given 100,464 food baskets to 82,653 needy families in Saudi Arabia as of Nov. 30, 2020

RIYADH: Food waste is one of the main issues threatening food security. Several studies have shown that the Kingdom wastes an average of 200-500 kg of food per capita. One of the key objectives of Vision 2030 is thus to implement food security strategies by preventing food waste.

World Food Day is celebrated annually and worldwide on Oct. 16 to commemorate the founding of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization in 1945, which aims to eradicate hunger across the world.

In November 1979, a Hungarian Delegation led by former Hungarian Agriculture Minister Dr. Pal Romany suggested celebrating the day worldwide. It has since been observed every year in more than 150 countries, raising awareness on the issues behind poverty and hunger.

This year’s theme is “Safe food now for a healthy tomorrow.”

Saudi Arabia’s arid lands and scarce water sources limit it from supporting mass-scale agriculture. Other efforts must therefore be made to ensure food security, including scaling up the food system, improving food safety, reducing food waste, lowering food costs, addressing poverty, and promoting healthy dietary patterns, said Mohammed Shamsul Ola, an associate professor at the department of biochemistry, King Saud University, and an associate editor of Saudi Journal of Biological Science and Frontiers in Ophthalmology.

In Saudi Arabia as well as worldwide, approximately a third of food is wasted. This results in considerable economic loss and is detrimental to global food security, he added. 

The Saudi Grains Organization in 2019 reported that almost 33 percent of total food is lost or wasted, which equates to a value of SR12,980 million ($3.5 million) per annum. Most of this waste occurs at the retailer and consumer levels.

The Kingdom’s traditions of hospitality, festivals, and celebrations imply large serving quantities of food that are ultimately not eaten due to poorly planned meals in households and at social events in hotels and restaurants. Ola explained that consumers often order large quantities of food at restaurants but do not finish them. The leftovers end up in the trash.

“Given the global hunger crisis, wasting food is a waste of natural resources that hurts the ecosystem and biodiversity. Consumers should buy food according to a meal plan, adopt better storage methods, and recycle leftover foods. They must ask for a reduced portion of food in restaurants. Doing so, customers can play a vital part in reducing food waste, allowing food to be used for meals rather than ending up in landfills,” said the professor. 

He underlined that the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and other government agencies have made significant efforts to reduce food waste by fostering awareness and passing legislation prohibiting food waste, which has resulted in the establishment of various food charity groups and food banks to assist people in need.

Thousands of food banks have been formed worldwide to help those in need, including Eta’am in Saudi Arabia, which has successfully given 100,464 food baskets to 82,653 needy families in the Kingdom as of Nov. 30, 2020.

Winnow Solutions has also aided in the reduction of food waste in Gulf Cooperation Council countries.

The Savola World Program, in collaboration with Saudi Grains Organization and the Saudi Food Bank, has established many online awareness-raising activities, including Eta’am, to minimize food and household waste. In Saudi Arabia, there are roughly 40 food banks that provide door-to-door food collection and distribution services.

Saudi citizens are also taking significant steps to reduce waste and make food available to the poor, including placing large refrigerators in front of their homes and inviting neighbors to donate food.

“World Food Day is celebrated to highlight issues related to global food security and nutrition. According to the FAO, more than 720 million people were hungry in 2020,” Ola told Arab News.

“On this occasion of World Food Day, it is of paramount importance to increase awareness of the worldwide hunger crisis and the reasons behind it and to find solutions to address those issues.”


Saudis welcome COVID-19 rule changes on social gatherings

Saudis welcome COVID-19 rule changes on social gatherings
Updated 17 October 2021

Saudis welcome COVID-19 rule changes on social gatherings

Saudis welcome COVID-19 rule changes on social gatherings
  • Social distancing will no longer be mandatory at social gatherings or in public settings including transport, restaurants, and cinemas

JEDDAH: The generous Saudi spirit has been sorely missed because of COVID-19 restrictions. Weddings, social gatherings, and parties had capacity limits, at times they were banned altogether, due to the spread of the disease.

For the longest time, people felt what functions they were able to have were lifeless and lacking their usual energy because of the cap on numbers and other anti-coronavirus measures.

But with more than 20 million people fully vaccinated and the Kingdom’s immunization campaign continuing at pace, not to mention an Interior Ministry announcement of a change in the rules, gatherings and get-togethers will be making a comeback after more than 18 months of curbs and lockdowns.

The ministry said on Friday the decision was based on the recommendation of health authorities, with precautionary measures on attendance, face masks and social distancing changing from this Sunday, Oct. 17.

There was a sigh of relief from retired school principal Hamid Sadiq Al-Bakri upon hearing the announcement. He had already prepared everything for his son’s wedding party — with a limited number of guests — set to be held next week at one of Jeddah’s wedding halls.

“I feel I’m on top of the world after hearing this decision as it means that my country has succeeded in confronting the unseen enemy of coronavirus,” he told Arab News. “It also means that residents and citizens have been big supporters of the great efforts exerted by the government to mitigate the effects of the pandemic to the least possible levels.”

He said the decision would save him the embarrassment of inviting just a few close family members and even closer friends, as he could now invite as many people as he wanted to help him celebrate such a special occasion.

“We in Saudi Arabia feel happier when all friends and relatives attend our parties and social gatherings. The more guests we receive, the happier we are. The Arabic proverb says: ‘Paradise without people is not worth going to.’ Those who are keen to be with you at your best are those who truly appreciate you.”

Salem Al-Zahrani’s daughter married eight months ago and he had been distraught to see so few relatives attending the wedding.

“If it weren’t for the pandemic and the restricted numbers issued by the authorities, I would have invited over a hundred of my friends and relatives to attend my daughter’s wedding,” he told Arab News. “It is part of our culture that a bride is taken to her husband-to-be accompanied by as many relatives as possible. It is a source of pride to the young girl.”

He said he was lucky that his daughter was wise enough to understand the complexity of the global situation.

“The social fabric of the Saudis is very strong, and that is why we usually see big numbers celebrating a social event. During a wedding party, hosts normally offer the best food they can to honor the family of the girl and those invited.

“With the end of the restriction, Saudis will rejoice and get back to their normal social gatherings during which they can freely gather and happily rejoice. I’m certain they will be careful about their health.”

Face masks will no longer be mandatory in outdoor settings, except for certain specific locations including the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah.

Social distancing will no longer be mandatory at social gatherings or in public settings including transport, restaurants, and cinemas. Wedding halls will also be allowed to return full capacity.

The new rules only apply to those who have been fully vaccinated, which is around 20.6 million people.


Saudi scouts share their experiences with global peers

Saudi scouts share their experiences with global peers
Updated 17 October 2021

Saudi scouts share their experiences with global peers

Saudi scouts share their experiences with global peers

RIYADH: The Saudi Arabian Scout Association is participating in the International Jamboree on the Air and the International Jamboree on the Internet, the Saudi Press Agency reported. 

Members connected with fellow scouts around the world through radio, audio and digital chats, and Morse code.

The Saudi scouts conveyed their experience of supporting the UN’s most prominent international days for October.

They also presented the association’s contribution to achieving the UN's Sustainable Development Goals and the initiatives undertaken by them to serve the community.

The JOTA and JOTI take place each year in October and connect millions of young people around the world for a weekend of activities that promote friendship and global citizenship online.