Czech Republic hopes to establish ‘strategic partnership’ with Saudi Arabia, Czech FM tells Arab News

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan meeting with Czech FM Jakub Kulhanek at his office in Riyadh. (SPA)
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Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan meeting with Czech FM Jakub Kulhanek at his office in Riyadh. (SPA)
FM Jakub Kulhanek wants Saudi investment companies to participate in the Czech-GCC Investment Forum in his country next year.  (Supplied)
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FM Jakub Kulhanek wants Saudi investment companies to participate in the Czech-GCC Investment Forum in his country next year.  (Supplied)
Saudi officials welcome Czech FM Jakub Kulhanek and his delegation in Riyadh ahead of a meeting. (Supplied)
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Saudi officials welcome Czech FM Jakub Kulhanek and his delegation in Riyadh ahead of a meeting. (Supplied)
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Updated 18 September 2021

Czech Republic hopes to establish ‘strategic partnership’ with Saudi Arabia, Czech FM tells Arab News

Czech Republic hopes to establish ‘strategic partnership’ with Saudi Arabia, Czech FM tells Arab News
  • Jakub Kulhanek says his country and KSA have much to offer each other in a number of fields
  • Czech companies see “great potential in delivering knowhow and technologies to” KSA mega-projects

Last week, Jakub Kulhanek, foreign minister of the Czech Republic, paid his first official visit to Saudi Arabia to hold meetings with Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir.

In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Kulhanek spoke on the discussions the two sides held on bilateral relations and the means to enhance them, as well as regional and international issues, notably Afghanistan.

“My official visit to Saudi Arabia lasted just some 30 hours, and the only city I visited was Riyadh,” he told Arab News. “For me, there is an obligation to come back once again in the future and enjoy visiting Jeddah, the futuristic megacity of NEOM and other famous places of interest.”

Q. How would you describe your meetings with Saudi officials during your just concluded visit?

A. First of all, I would like to thank the Saudi government and all my counterparts whom I was privileged to meet for their generosity and time they spent on preparing our visit. They set up a wonderful program. We had insightful meetings, and I am confident that we have together managed to take relations between our countries one level higher.

During my meeting with Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan, we reassured each other that our relations are friendly and that the general standing of our countries is in many ways complementary. We have much to offer each other in areas of trade, scientific cooperation, the energy sector, mining and the security industry.

The Kingdom, together with the UAE, belong to our top five trade partners in the Middle East. That is something we can build on, something we are obligated to develop. And that is also the reason why I was accompanied by a trade mission of more than 20 distinguished business people from various industrial fields.

At the same time, our cooperation is not limited only to business. We have a long run tradition of cooperation in the health sector. Many Saudis study at Czech universities. Saudi citizens are frequent fliers when it comes to our spa resorts.

With Prince Faisal, we agreed on the need to revitalize the Czech-Saudi Joint Commission, which has not met since 2011. It is a useful platform bringing together representatives of committed ministries to discuss specific issues of mutual interest.




Czech FM Jakub Kulhanek and his delegation visiting Diriyah heritage site in Riyadh. (Supplied)

Q. Did you discuss political cooperation with Saudi Arabia on regional and development issues?

A. It goes without saying that visiting the Kingdom and meeting its leaders gave me a unique chance to discuss issues of international politics and global issues alike. We agreed, both with Foreign Minister Prince Faisal and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir, my fellow Georgetown alumnus, that we want to formalize regular consultations between our foreign affairs ministries. We hope for an establishment of a strategic partnership in the near future.

We also shared with our Saudi hosts the need to intensify contacts at the highest political level. I hope that the foreign minister will come in the near future for a visit to the Czech Republic. I was also glad to hand over an invitation for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to visit the Czech Republic.




Czech FM Jakub Kulhanek with Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir at Diriyah heritage site in Riyadh. (Supplied)

Q. What kind of cross-investment flows do you envisage between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Czech Republic?

A. Thank you very much for that question, since I truly believe there is a great potential for bigger Saudi investments. Over the last 30 years, the Czech Republic has attracted many foreign investors, from both portfolio and green foreign direct investments, from Europe, the US and Asia.

So far, the Gulf investors have been slightly lagging behind, though we are already seeing that some of them are starting to discover existing opportunities for investments in Central Europe. Therefore, we plan on organizing an investment forum for representatives of sovereign funds from the Gulf region, at which they will have the chance to meet managers of foremost Czech financial groups.

The Czech-GCC Investment Forum will be held between May 30 and June 4, 2022, shoulder to shoulder with the presidency of the Czech Republic in the Council of the EU in the second half of 2022.

I would like to invite the managers of the Public Investment Fund and other important financial groups in the Kingdom to take part in the event.




FM Jakub Kulhanek wants Saudi investment companies to participate in the Czech-GCC Investment Forum in his country next year.  (Supplied)

Q. Do you see a greater role for Czech technology companies in the Kingdom’s ongoing development projects under Vision 2030? In what sectors would these mainly be and what impact would they have?

A. In my opinion, the ambitious Vision 2030, its goals and the projects it leans upon, provide Czech companies with numerous opportunities, mostly on subcontracting basis. We are truly interested in facilitating the access of the Czech companies to the tenders floated by Saudi state-owned enterprises. We see a great potential in delivering Czech knowhow, technologies and high-tech products to the government's megaprojects, be it NEOM, the Red Sea Resort, or the Green Riyadh initiative.

We are confident that Saudi enterprises, such as Saudi Aramco, SABIC and many others, would also benefit from it.

Q. Before your departure for the Gulf, you said that the Czech Republic will not recognize the Taliban. Can you kindly elaborate on your statement?

A. I think we have to distinguish carefully between two separate things. The first is communication with the Taliban, who are no doubt the new rulers of the country. It is clear that the EU and NATO will not avoid interacting with them just so that we can provide the Afghan people with the humanitarian aid that they are in dire need of now.

I am not talking about high-level and official contacts, but communication at the working level will have to take place. Another thing is official recognition of the Taliban government; great caution is necessary here. I believe the Taliban are far from fulfilling their promises. The media are informing us how they are behaving in the streets of Afghan cities and what atrocities are being committed.




FM Jakub Kulhanek says Czech companies are also ready to participate in Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030 programs. (AFP file photo)

Q. You have also said your country will accept the unhappy reality “as it is” that the Taliban are “the new masters of Afghanistan.” Can you deal with the Taliban without implicitly granting it recognition?

A. The EU and NATO must be pragmatic and accept the new reality in Afghanistan. Nevertheless, that does not mean that we will give up our effort to put pressure on the Taliban to maintain at least something of what has been achieved in Afghanistan over the past 20 years.

I am talking now, in particular, about the rights of women and girls. So yes, the international community can negotiate with the Taliban over that and, depending on the outcome, maybe the question of official recognition of the Taliban government would become topical in the future.

Q. What leverage does the EU have over the Taliban in your view? Are the Czech Republic and EU positions totally convergent?

A. The position of the Czech Republic is fully in line with EU policy. As you know, just recently EU foreign ministers agreed at their informal meeting in Slovenia that any substantive engagement with the Taliban is only possible if some conditions are met: Respect for human rights, in particular women’s rights, and the establishment of a representative inclusive government, are among them.




Afghan women's rights defenders and civil activists protest in Kabul on Sept. 3, 2021 to call on the Taliban for the preservation of their achievements and education. (REUTERS/File Photo)

I am not convinced that the Taliban would meet them sometime soon. We understand the necessity of keeping the EU’s presence in Kabul but the Czech Republic had to evacuate our diplomats and Afghan facilitators.

Communication with the Taliban is necessary, as we must try to influence the way they will rule the country, at least to prevent humanitarian and migration crises. The Taliban will seek international recognition and resources — that is our main leverage now.

Q. International organizations with offices in Afghanistan have repeatedly warned of an impending humanitarian disaster. There is rising hunger, little cash and very little health care. How can the international community help Afghans?

A. We are aware of the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Afghanistan. An international donors’ conference was held in Geneva last Monday under the auspices of the UN. The international community, including the Czech Republic, has pledged to continue humanitarian aid. The Czech Republic has declared its readiness to increase its contribution to humanitarian and development projects in Afghanistan and neighboring countries.


Saudi cabinet welcomes leaders ahead of Saudi and Middle East green initiative summits

The Council of Ministers holds its weekly meeting, chaired by King Salman remotely from NEOM on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021. (SPA)
The Council of Ministers holds its weekly meeting, chaired by King Salman remotely from NEOM on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021. (SPA)
Updated 19 October 2021

Saudi cabinet welcomes leaders ahead of Saudi and Middle East green initiative summits

The Council of Ministers holds its weekly meeting, chaired by King Salman remotely from NEOM on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021. (SPA)
  • The Cabinet hailed the government’s success and efforts in confronting the COVID-19 pandemic

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Cabinet on Tuesday welcomed world leaders, representatives and participants ahead of two environmental conferences that the Kingdom is set to host this week.
Saudi Arabia will host the inaugural Saudi Green Initiative Forum and the Middle East Green Initiative Summit in the capital, Riyadh, from Oct. 23 to 25.
The two initiatives were announced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in March and aim to reduce carbon emissions by 60 percent in the region and plant 50 billion trees in the world’s biggest afforestation project.
The Council of Ministers made the statement during its weekly meeting, chaired by King Salman remotely from NEOM.
At the beginning of the session, the king briefed the Cabinet on the content of a letter he had received from Oman’s Sultan Haitham bin Tariq, regarding the strong and solid relations that bind the two countries and peoples and ways to support and strengthen them in all fields.
The ministers reviewed the meetings and discussions that took place between the Kingdom and a number of countries over the last few days, to enhance aspects of joint and multilateral cooperation at various levels, and work to intensify coordination on regional and international issues.
Acting Minister of Media Essam bin Saad bin Saeed said that the Council of Ministers addressed the Kingdom’s statement during a G20 meeting held last week, of its interest in reforming the global economic system through the “Riyadh Initiative on the Future of the World Trade Organization,” which was approved by G20 leaders last year.
Ministers also stressed the Kingdom’s commitment “to continue supporting its business to achieve strong, sustainable, balanced and comprehensive growth that creates a prosperous and promising future for the region and the world.”
The Cabinet hailed the government’s success and efforts in confronting the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and limiting its effects on all aspects of life, due to the strict proactive and precautionary measures, the efficiency of the health sector, and the rapid progress in the immunization campaign, with almost 45 million doses administered throughout the Kingdom to date.
The Cabinet authorized the foreign minister to sign a cooperation agreement with Honduras, and the information minister and chairman of the Radio and Television Authority to sign a cooperation agreement with Vietnam.
Ministers also approved a memorandum of understanding between the Saudi Communications and Information Technology Commission and the Sudanese Communications and Postal Regulatory Authority in the field of communications, information technology and post.


Saudi Arabia’s King Salman receives letter from Bahraini counterpart on bilateral relations

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan meets with Bahrain’s ambassador to the Kingdom Sheikh Hamoud bin Abdullah in Riyadh on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021. (SPA)
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan meets with Bahrain’s ambassador to the Kingdom Sheikh Hamoud bin Abdullah in Riyadh on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021. (SPA)
Updated 19 October 2021

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman receives letter from Bahraini counterpart on bilateral relations

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan meets with Bahrain’s ambassador to the Kingdom Sheikh Hamoud bin Abdullah in Riyadh on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021. (SPA)
  • King Salman sends a letter to president of South Sudan regarding bilateral relations and ways to develop them in all fields

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman on Tuesday received a written message from his Bahraini counterpart King Hamad, regarding the strong and solid relations that bind the two countries and peoples, and ways to support and strengthen them in various fields and at all levels.
The message was received by Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan, during a meeting with Bahrain’s ambassador to the Kingdom Sheikh Hamoud bin Abdullah.
During the meeting, they discussed bilateral relations and exchanged views on regional and international issues of common interest.
Meanwhile, King Salman sent a letter to Salva Kiir, president of South Sudan, regarding bilateral relations and ways to support and develop them in all fields.
The message was delivered by the Saudi ambassador to Sudan and non-resident ambassador to South Sudan, Ali bin Hassan Jaafar, during a meeting with Kiir at the presidential palace in the capital, Juba.
The president praised relations with the Kingdom, stressing his keenness to strengthen and develop them. He also praised the Kingdom’s role and its regional and international influence and initiatives.


UN delegation briefed on Saudi agency’s reconstruction work in Yemen

UN delegation briefed on Saudi agency’s reconstruction work in Yemen
Updated 19 October 2021

UN delegation briefed on Saudi agency’s reconstruction work in Yemen

UN delegation briefed on Saudi agency’s reconstruction work in Yemen
  • SDRPY has undertaken more than 204 projects and initiatives in numerous Yemeni governorates

RIYADH: Mohammed Al-Jaber, general supervisor of the Saudi Development and Reconstruction Program for Yemen (SDRPY), met a high-profile delegation from the UN International Organization for Migration.

The IOM team included Christa Rottensteiner, chief of the organization’s mission for Yemen; Firas Budeiri, the mission’s senior coordinator in Yemen; and Fawzi Al-Zyoud, director of the IOM’s office in Saudi Arabia.

The meeting took place at the SDRPY’s headquarters in Riyadh and began with a presentation on the program which to date has undertaken more than 204 projects and initiatives in numerous Yemeni governorates.

The schemes have been concentrated in the health, education, water, agriculture, fisheries, and transportation sectors, helping to build the capacities of government institutions and development programs.


Saudi Arabia records 2 COVID-19 deaths, 49 new cases

Saudi Arabia records 2 COVID-19 deaths, 49 new cases
Updated 19 October 2021

Saudi Arabia records 2 COVID-19 deaths, 49 new cases

Saudi Arabia records 2 COVID-19 deaths, 49 new cases
  • Health ministry says 38 patients have recovered from the virus in the last 24 hours
  • Ministry of Commerce records 742 violations against precautionary measures in past two weeks

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia confirmed two new COVID-19 related deaths on Tuesday, raising the total number of fatalities to 8,767.
The Ministry of Health confirmed 49 new cases reported in the Kingdom in the previous 24 hours, meaning 548,018 people have now contracted the disease. Of the total number of cases, 90 remain in critical condition.
According to the ministry, the highest number of cases were recorded in the capital Riyadh with 16, followed by Jeddah with nine, Jubail with three, and Makkah and Al-Darb confirmed two cases each.
The health ministry also announced that 38 patients had recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 537,037.
Over 44.8 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered since the Kingdom’s immunization campaign started. More than 20.8 million people have been fully vaccinated.


Health ministry spokesman Mohammed Al-Abd Al-Aly praised the active role of the community in complying to the precautionary measures, which has led to a significant decrease in the number of critical cases and new daily infections throughout the Kingdom.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Commerce said it carried out 46,887 inspection visits during the past two weeks, to ensure that commercial establishments were adhering to coronavirus preventative measures. Authorities recorded 742 violations.
A fine of up to SR100,000 ($26,660) is imposed on first time offenders and the fine is doubled for repeat offenders and the facility risks closure.
Saudi municipalities have also ramped up efforts to monitor compliance with health and safety measures.
The municipality of the Eastern Province carried out 1,340 inspection tours of commercial centers and facilities on Monday, and found 78 businesses in violation of the precautionary measures.
Officials have also called on the public to report any suspected health breaches by phoning the 940 call center number or contacting authorities through the Balady app.
The coronavirus pandemic has affected over 242 million people globally and the death toll has reached around 4.92 million.


Saudi interior ministry’s high-tech revolution draws crowds at Dubai’s GITEX

Saudi interior ministry’s high-tech revolution draws crowds at Dubai’s GITEX
Updated 19 October 2021

Saudi interior ministry’s high-tech revolution draws crowds at Dubai’s GITEX

Saudi interior ministry’s high-tech revolution draws crowds at Dubai’s GITEX
  • Saudi pavilions have managed to steal the limelight, receiving the largest turnout of visitors and specialists in the field of technology and smart solutions
  • The ministry’s pavilion is showcasing a revolution in digital transformation and smart solutions in the Kingdom thanks to the Absher platform

DUBAI: The Saudi Ministry of Interior is taking part in the Dubai GITEX Technology Week 2021 held at the Dubai World Trade Centre by showcasing a myriad of entities and companies.

Saudi pavilions have managed to steal the limelight, receiving the largest turnout of visitors and specialists in the field of technology and smart solutions.

The ministry’s pavilion is showcasing a revolution in digital transformation and smart solutions in the Kingdom thanks to the Absher platform.

Eng. Abdullah Al-Rabiah, undersecretary of the Ministry of Interior for security capabilities and chairman of the supervisory committee of the Ministry’s pavilion at the exhibition, said that the ministry is taking part in the event for the seventh time.

This year’s slogan is “Technical Solutions for a Safe Homeland,” and the exhibition is focusing on a unified platform featuring various security and service authorities in the ministry through five main axes, he added.

The topics covered are: Digital enablers and their role in governance to serve customers, ministry services for pilgrims, dealing with events, crises and work procedures, the future of services and security operations, and the role of modern technology in combating crime and making cities safer.

The technology behind the Absher app is also showcased. The mobile service allows people in the Kingdom to use a variety of government services. The app helps ministry staff manage resources and digitally implement internal procedures and support services for employees.

The ministry’s role in preserving the environment and its initiatives in the field of innovation are also being highlighted at the pavilion, with topics and issues presented in interactive ways, introducing visitors to the efforts and achievements of participating sectors.

Al-Rabiah said that the Saudi government has invested in the Ministry of Interior to improve the quality of services provided in light of Saudi Vision 2030.

“Other projects launched under the umbrella of Vision 2030 include the Unified Security Operations Center 911 project, the Midan application, which has witnessed a big deal of digital transformation, as well as the services provided by the Absher platform, one of the largest government platforms in the Kingdom offering 333 services to some 23 million users and beneficiaries,” he added.

The Vision Realization Office in the Ministry of Interior submitted a working paper under the theme “The Ministry of Interior within Saudi Vision 2030” at the Leaders Vision conference held on the sidelines of GITEX Week.

Sultan Al-Mutairi, the head of the Vision Realization Office who submitted the working paper, told Arab News that the research shed light on the ministry’s efforts under the Quality of Life and Doyof Al-Rahman programs, in addition to the contributions of the ministry within Saudi Vision 2030, including the development of e-government and rollout of high-quality services to pilgrims.

“The paper also highlighted the Kingdom’s progress in international security indicators and the contribution of the Ministry of Interior to a number of initiatives and future projects within the Kingdom’s Vision 2030,” said Al-Mutairi.

Col. Adel Al-Asmari, director of the Unified Security Operations Center 911 project in Riyadh, said that the center not only highlighted technical shifts in receiving and passing security communications, but also its efforts in managing crises and disasters through a specialized section comprising all security, service and emergency sectors, which enables it to manage any crises — such as the COVID-19 pandemic — professionally and comprehensively.

The Saudi Export Development Authority is also taking part in GITEX Technology Week 2021 with the participation of more than 26 Saudi ICT companies.

It comes under the umbrella of the “Made in Saudi Arabia” program, a national initiative of the National Industrial Development and Logistics Program, which aims to increase domestic consumption and the market share of domestic goods and services, increase Saudi non-oil exports in priority export markets and enhance the attractiveness of the Saudi industrial sector to domestic and foreign investment.

The Saudi Technology and Security Comprehensive Control Co. Ltd. (Tahakom) is also taking part through a package of advanced technical programs and solutions. Tahakom’s pavilion showcases its capabilities in public safety and intelligent mobility by introducing new products and innovative technologies, such as smart city solutions, smart parking solutions, traffic safety software technologies as well as supercomputers.

The exhibition saw also the participation of various Saudi service agencies and companies, including the Sakani program, one of the most prominent technical programs launched in the Kingdom, which offers numerous technical solutions to beneficiaries and people seeking housing.