Saudi Arabia’s top diplomat in India talks amid fears of new Taliban repression

Saudi FM Prince Faisal bin Farhan and India’s FM Subrahmanyam Jaishankar meet in New Delhi. (@DrSJaishankar)
Saudi FM Prince Faisal bin Farhan and India’s FM Subrahmanyam Jaishankar meet in New Delhi. (@DrSJaishankar)
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Updated 20 September 2021

Saudi Arabia’s top diplomat in India talks amid fears of new Taliban repression

Saudi Arabia’s top diplomat in India talks amid fears of new Taliban repression
  • Expert says Prince Faisal’s visit “very significant” amid political changes in the region
  • New Delhi urges Riyadh to resume flights as two officials discuss COVID-19 challenges, trade and bilateral ties


NEW DELHI: Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan held talks with the Indian foreign minister in New Delhi on Sunday amid growing fears of a return to a repressive Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

The two men had what India’s Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar described as a “very useful exchange of views on Afghanistan” in a “cordial and productive meeting.”

Saudi Arabia's top Saudi diplomat arrived in New Delhi for a two-day visit on Saturday and is expected to call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday.

It was the first high-level visit by a Saudi minister to India since the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent travel curbs early last year.

“(It) was a cordial and productive meeting with (the) Saudi foreign minister,” Jaishankar said in a Twitter post on Sunday after the meeting at Hyderabad House in New Delhi.

Prince Faisal’s visit comes amid the recent political changes in Afghanistan after the Taliban’s return to power last month, marking the first official interaction between the two allies.

“Very useful exchange of views on Afghanistan, the Gulf and the Indo-Pacific,” Jaishankar said.




Saudi FM Prince Faisal bin Farhan and India’s FM Subrahmanyam Jaishankar meet in New Delhi. (@DrSJaishankar)

New Delhi had previously cultivated a close relationship with Ashraf Ghani, the Afghan president who fled the country when the Taliban swept into Kabul on Aug. 15.

“Saudi Arabia and India have shared concerns as to whether Afghanistan will become a sanctuary for extremists because then it would become extremely dangerous for the neighborhood as a whole,” Talmiz Ahmad, former Indian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, told Arab News.

“It’s natural that both the close partners would discuss Afghanistan. It reflects very close relations that India and Saudi Arabia have established with each other.

“We now have a strategic council at the apex level. Therefore, the relationship that began with cooperation on counterterrorism has now become a very strong and deep strategic partnership.”

Return to repression

Despite promises by the Taliban that their new administration would be different from their hard-line Islamist regime in the late 1990s, a series of rulings by their interim government has raised fears of a return to repression, particularly of women.

About two dozen female activists protested outside the former women’s ministry on Sunday after it was closed by the Taliban and replaced by the Ministry for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, the group’s moral police.

Female staff said they had been trying to return to work at the ministry for several weeks, but had been told to go home. 

“The Ministry of Women’s Affairs must be reactivated,” said Baseera Tawana, one of the protesters. “The removal of women means the removal of human beings.”
Another protester, Taranum Sayeedi, said: “The women of Afghanistan today are not the women of 26 years ago.”

The new Taliban mayor of Kabul on Sunday ordered female city employees to stay at home, except those whose work could not be done by men.

Marzia Ahmadi, a rights activist and government employee, demanded that the Taliban reopen public spaces to women. “It’s our right,” she said. “We want to talk to them. We want to tell them that we have the same rights as they have.”




Afghan activists demonstrate in front of the former Ministry of Women Affairs in Kabul on Sept. 19, 2021, to demand better rights for women. (Photo by Bulent Kilic / AFP)

Strategic partnership

The two officials also reviewed progress in implementing the Strategic Partnership Council Agreement, signed during PM Modi’s visit to Saudi Arabia in October 2019, and bilateral cooperation at multilateral forums such as the UN, the G20 and the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Jaishankar congratulated Prince Faisal for Saudi Arabia’s successful presidency of the G20 last year, at the pandemic’s peak, a statement by India’s Foreign Ministry said.

“Both sides discussed further steps to strengthen their partnership in trade, investment, energy, defense, security, culture, consular issues, health care and human resources,” it added.

The foreign ministers also agreed to “work closely” to deal with pandemic-related challenges, with Jaishankar thanking Saudi “for the support provided to the Indian community during the COVID-19 pandemic,” urging the Kingdom to relax travel restrictions for visitors from India further.

In July, Riyadh imposed a travel ban on 13 countries, including India, to curb the spread of the coronavirus and its new variants, but removed the UAE, Argentina and South Africa from the list and re-allowed citizens to travel to the three countries starting Sept. 8.

According to Indian foreign ministry data, more than 2 million Indians are living and working in the Kingdom, employed in various sectors of the Gulf state. However, the COVID-19 pandemic rendered thousands jobless, with a majority unable to return to work due to travel curbs.

Jaishankar urged an early resumption of direct flights to Saudi Arabia while both nations “agreed to work closely on all COVID-19 related challenges.”

In April and May, Saudi supplied more than 140 tons of medical oxygen to Indian to help the South Asian nation tide over a health crisis amid a deadly second wave of the coronavirus that claimed the lives of more than 400,000 in a country of 1.36 billion people.


Pakistan’s Imran Khan arrives in Saudi Arabia for Middle East green initiative summit

Pakistan’s Imran Khan arrives in Saudi Arabia for Middle East green initiative summit
Updated 1 min 34 sec ago

Pakistan’s Imran Khan arrives in Saudi Arabia for Middle East green initiative summit

Pakistan’s Imran Khan arrives in Saudi Arabia for Middle East green initiative summit
  • Libyan president and Morocco’s prime minister also arrived in Riyadh to attend the regional summit
  • The inaugural summit will see world leaders and representatives gather on Monday to define green policy solutions

RIYADH: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and his accompanying delegation arrived in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, on Sunday, to participate in the Middle East Green Initiative Summit.
Khan was received at King Khalid International Airport by Prince Mohammed bin Abdulrahman, acting governor of Riyadh, and other Saudi officials.
The inaugural summit will see world leaders and representatives gather on Monday to examine green policy solutions to climate challenges, as part of a regional initiative launched by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman earlier this year.

Later on Sunday, Chairman of the Libyan Presidential Council Mohamed Al-Menfi, Moroccan Prime Minister Aziz Akhannouch, and Tunisian Prime Minister Najla Bouden also arrived at King Khalid International Airport and were received by Prince Mohammed bin Abdulrahman.
The Middle East Green Initiative aims to apply a number of ambitious programs that will reduce carbon emissions by 60 percent in the region and plant 50 billion trees in the world’s biggest afforestation project.


Saudi Arabia registers 2 COVID-19 deaths, 47 new infections

Saudi Arabia registers 2 COVID-19 deaths, 47 new infections
Updated 24 October 2021

Saudi Arabia registers 2 COVID-19 deaths, 47 new infections

Saudi Arabia registers 2 COVID-19 deaths, 47 new infections
  • Ministry of Interior records 824 violations against precautionary measures in the past week
  • Municipalities close three businesses and issue fines to 500 others for violating precautionary measures

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia confirmed two new COVID-19 related deaths on Sunday, raising the total number of fatalities to 8,778.
The Ministry of Health confirmed 47 new cases reported in the Kingdom in the previous 24 hours, meaning 548,252 people have now contracted the disease. Of the total number of cases, 79 remain in critical condition.
According to the ministry, the highest number of cases were recorded in the capital Riyadh with 13, followed by Jeddah with nine, Makkah with four, and Madinah recorded three cases.
The health ministry also announced that 36 patients had recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 537,282.
Over 45.2 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered since the Kingdom’s immunization campaign started. More than 21.1 million people have been fully vaccinated.


Saudi authorities continued their monitoring campaigns to ensure compliance with the precautionary measures imposed to stem the spread of the disease.
The Ministry of Interior reported 824 violations in the past week, compared to 22,746 the previous week. The highest number of breaches was recorded in Riyadh with 344, followed by Makkah with 298, Madinah with 59, and the Eastern Province with 56. Al-Jawf recorded the lowest number of violations with three.
The ministry called on citizens and residents to abide by the preventive protocols and the instructions issued by authorities in this regard.
Saudi municipalities have also ramped up efforts to monitor compliance with health and safety measures.
The municipality of the Eastern Province carried out 8,872 inspection tours of commercial centers and facilities during the past week. Authorities found 475 violations and closed three businesses for not adhering to the precautionary measures.
Rafha Municipality in the Northern Borders Province also carried out 280 inspection tours of commercial centers and facilities during the last week and authorities issued fines to 25 commercial outlets for breaching protocols.
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 244 million people globally and the death toll has reached around 4.96 million.


Saudi Arabia to extend residency, visitor visas

Saudi Arabia to extend residency, visitor visas
Updated 24 October 2021

Saudi Arabia to extend residency, visitor visas

Saudi Arabia to extend residency, visitor visas
  • The foreign ministry said visas would be automatically extended until Nov. 30 without any charge

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced on Sunday it will extend residency and visitor visas for people still unable to reach the Kingdom due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
The foreign ministry said visas would be automatically extended until Nov. 30 without any charge.
The ministry said the move, which was done in cooperation with the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority (National Information Center), the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Interior, comes as part of the Saudi government’s efforts to mitigate the effects of the pandemic.
The ministry added that the beneficiaries have been notified of the extension via email, which includes an attached e-visa form.


King Salman to head Saudi Arabia’s delegation at G20 meeting in Italy

King Salman to head Saudi Arabia’s delegation at G20 meeting in Italy
Updated 24 October 2021

King Salman to head Saudi Arabia’s delegation at G20 meeting in Italy

King Salman to head Saudi Arabia’s delegation at G20 meeting in Italy
  • The decision comes in response to an invitation from Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman is set to head the Kingdom’s delegation at the annual G20 summit in the Italian capital, Rome, next week, state news agency SPA reported on Sunday.
The king’s decision to head the delegation virtually comes “in response to the kind invitation received by King Salman from Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi to attend the G20 Leaders’ Summit to be held on Oct. 30-31,” the statement said.
“The Kingdom expresses its appreciation for the efforts made by Italy to ensure the work of the G20 presidency succeeds this year through joint collective action,” it added.
As a member of the group’s Troika, Saudi Arabia also reaffirmed its keenness to continue efforts to make the summit a success.
The current members of the Troika include Saudi Arabia, former president of the G20, Italy, the current president and Indonesia, next year’s president.


Saudi and US officials discuss climate change initiatives

Saudi and US officials discuss climate change initiatives
Updated 24 October 2021

Saudi and US officials discuss climate change initiatives

Saudi and US officials discuss climate change initiatives

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir on Sunday met with the US envoy for climate, John Kerry, on the sidelines of the Saudi Green Initiative forum, which is being held in the capital, Riyadh.
During the meeting, they discussed the Kingdom’s efforts to confront climate change and the qualitative initiatives it has launched to protect the planet and nature. 
The two sides also discussed regional and international developments of common interest. the Kingdom’s foreign ministry said.