There’s a ‘mutual wish to further intensify EU-Saudi cooperation,’ EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell tells Arab News

Josep Borrell used a blog post to describe his visit to Riyadh, with stops in Doha and Abu Dhabi for the World Policy Conference (pictured). (Supplied)
Josep Borrell used a blog post to describe his visit to Riyadh, with stops in Doha and Abu Dhabi for the World Policy Conference (pictured). (Supplied)
Short Url
Updated 03 October 2021

There’s a ‘mutual wish to further intensify EU-Saudi cooperation,’ EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell tells Arab News

Josep Borrell used a blog post to describe his visit to Riyadh, with stops in Doha and Abu Dhabi for the World Policy Conference (pictured). (Supplied)
  • Main objective of visit to GCC capitals is “to advance EU’s strategic cooperation with Gulf partners” 
  • Borrell expresses EU’s “support for ongoing normalization of relations within the Gulf family” 

RIYADH: A trained aeronautical engineer, economist and professor of mathematics, Josep Borrell entered politics in the 1970s during Spain’s turbulent transition to democracy. Before he was appointed high representative of the European Union for foreign affairs in December 2019, he held a number of ministerial posts in the socialist governments of Felipe Gonzales.

In a blog post on Thursday, Borrell described his visit to Riyadh, with stops in Doha and Abu Dhabi, as an opportunity to explore the response to “significant political change” in “a dynamic region” and “develop new forms of cooperation” between the EU and the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Below is the full transcript of an interview he gave to Arab News on the eve of his visit.

Q: Can you tell us about the main issues on the agenda of your visit to the GCC and, in particular, your meetings with the Saudi leadership?

A: Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE are very important partners for the EU. I already met or spoke to many of my counterparts from the Gulf, but this my first visit to the region as EU high representative.

My main objective is to advance the EU’s strategic cooperation with Gulf partners on global, regional and bilateral matters of common interest. This includes climate change, but also global access to vaccines and supporting the “green economy.”

I also want to stress the EU’s unwavering support for the ongoing normalization of relations within the Gulf family after a rift that lasted three long years and ended last January at the AlUla summit.

The GCC is one of our oldest partners. After more than 30 years of EU-GCC partnership, we should use the current momentum to give our cooperation a more strategic orientation.

Borrell during a press briefing in Doha on September 30, 2021. (AFP)

In my meetings with Gulf partners in New York last week on the margins of the UN General Assembly, I shared my intention to convene a joint cooperation council at ministerial level early next year — during the Saudi presidency of the GCC.

My meetings in Riyadh will be an essential part of my visit. Saudi Arabia is an important actor on the global and multilateral stage, and I trust that its robust commitments at the upcoming COP26 will inspire other energy producers.

We will discuss how best to support Saudi Arabia’s domestic transformation and economic diversification, in line with the objectives of Vision 2030 and with the involvement of European companies.

With Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud, I intend to sign a cooperation arrangement that reflects our mutual wish to further intensify our cooperation, and will be a useful instrument to do so.

Q: You recently met Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in New York. What assurances did he give you about Iran’s compliance with the 2015 nuclear pact?

A: As coordinator of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), I have always been clear: We must go back to full implementation of the deal, which means a return of the US into the agreement with the lifting of related US sanctions and Iran’s full compliance with its nuclear commitments.

The nuclear deal remains a key security achievement. Without it, Iran could have developed nuclear weapons by now, adding yet another source of instability to the region.

Obviously, I am concerned about the negative trajectory of Iranian nuclear activities. That is why it is crucial to resume negotiations in Vienna as soon as possible and from where we left off on June 20.

My message to Foreign Minister Amir-Abdollahian in New York City was simple: Diplomacy is the solution; let’s go back to Vienna without delay.

Borrell, seen here in September, told Arab News he was concerned about the negative trajectory of Iranian nuclear activities. (AFP/File Photo)

Q: Do you get a sense that the new Iranian government, despite its hardline reputation, wants to improve its relations with its Gulf Arab neighbors as well as the West?

A: Diplomacy offers the only real path to address the open issues in the Gulf and among neighbors. I cannot speak for the intentions of other governments, but I have noted more dialogue between countries in the region.

The Baghdad Conference (for Cooperation and Partnership) on August 28 and the bilateral talks between Saudi Arabia and Iran are such examples. These are welcome developments and I was happy to participate in the follow-up event to the conference in New York recently.

The EU is ready to support the countries in the Gulf region to build a shared sense of security and cooperation. In this sense, the (Iran) nuclear deal is also crucial.

I am still convinced that if we do manage to preserve the JCPOA and ensure its full implementation, it can become a stepping stone toward addressing other shared concerns, including those related to regional security.

Q: AUKUS — the recently formed trilateral security pact between Australia, the UK and the US — was badly received by some in the EU. How could it have been handled better?

A: There was clear disappointment in Europe about the way this issue was handled. We are friends and allies. And friends and allies talk to each other.

Since the announcement of AUKUS, we have talked to our US partners. I had a good meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken last month in New York City.

We now consider this situation clarified. Proof of this is the joint statement between (French) President (Emmanuel) Macron and US President (Joe) Biden, in which the US acknowledged that the situation would have benefited from open consultations among allies.

Josep Borrell used a blog post to describe his visit to Riyadh, with stops in Doha and Abu Dhabi for the World Policy Conference (pictured). (Supplied)

We now have to move forward. The EU and the US cannot afford to be divided. We are unique partners working side by side on many important global topics such as health and climate change, working for our democracies.

These recent events also clearly underline the strength of European unity and remind us once again of the need to reflect on how to build, strengthen and advance European strategic autonomy.

Europe must be more united in terms of security and defense. If the European Union pooled its defense capabilities, and avoided overlaps, we would be a lot more efficient in many of the world’s crises.

Q: The chaotic military withdrawal from Afghanistan has created an image of the West as uncoordinated, divided and unreliable. Do you think the solution lies in higher European defense spending instead of continued reliance on American firepower?

A: It is not a question of choosing one or the other, but, certainly, Afghanistan has shown in a striking way that deficiencies in EU capacity to act autonomously come at a price.

I want to be clear: Acting autonomously does not equal moving away from our transatlantic partnership. On the contrary, a stronger European Union in defense means a stronger partner for the US and for NATO. It means being more capable of acting together with partners wherever possible, and alone when necessary if our interests and values we stand for are at stake. The only way forward is to combine our forces and strengthen not only our capabilities, but also our will to act.

During his interview with Arab News, Borrell said Saudi Arabia remains an important actor on the global and multilateral stage. (AFP/File Photo)

This means enhancing our capacity to respond to hybrid challenges, covering key capability gaps, including logistic transport, raising the level of readiness through joint military training and developing new tools.

We have discussed these kinds of proposals for many years. I hope that, paired with recent developments, this will create enough common understanding of the challenges and threats we are facing to mobilize the common will of the member states.

Q: You have said there is still ‘a wide demand and compelling need for Europe to speak up and back up its positions with the instruments and forms of leverage we have.’ Has such an approach worked in Libya, for instance? Will it work with the Taliban?

A: Libya and Afghanistan are very different. With regard to Libya, the EU and its member states agree on the need to hold elections on December 24 and to implement the ceasefire agreement, including the withdrawal of all foreign forces. To this end, we have aligned a number of instruments, including technical support for elections and civilian missions in support of the ceasefire agreement and to implement the arms embargo.

Afghanistan finds itself at a crossroads after decades of conflict. We have to provide strong support to the Afghan people, including those present in the region. EU countries have set clear conditions that will determine the level of engagement with the Taliban. Talks with the Taliban are necessary to prevent a humanitarian tragedy and assist in the protection of the vulnerable.

Those talks do not equal recognition. This will be an operational engagement and how much we engage will depend on the behavior of this caretaker government.

Q: Do you think the EU and the GCC are more or less on the same page on the major Middle Eastern and Central Asian issues of the day — from Iran and Middle Eastern refugees to Yemen and Afghanistan?

A: I think we all are interested in the stability, security and well-being of our own citizens and our neighbors. This should be a common objective of all our efforts and cooperation.

When it comes to Yemen, the international community, including the GCC, is unanimous: We want to see an end to the fighting and to the suffering of the Yemeni people. I will engage thoroughly on Yemen during my (Riyadh) visit.

On Afghanistan there is a broad international consensus that the country cannot become an exporter of instability, terrorism and migration flows. And it is the countries in the region who are affected first by any negative spillover of the situation (in Afghanistan).

This is why the EU tries to engage and coordinate its engagement and activities with partners in affected regions. Big challenges can be effectively and sustainably solved only by joint efforts.

UK honors ‘inspirational’ Saudi alumni at Riyadh awards ceremony

UK honors ‘inspirational’ Saudi alumni at Riyadh awards ceremony
Updated 21 October 2021

UK honors ‘inspirational’ Saudi alumni at Riyadh awards ceremony

UK honors ‘inspirational’ Saudi alumni at Riyadh awards ceremony
  • The Study UK Alumni Awards 2022 call for applications is open until Oct. 29, 2021

RIYADH: The British Embassy and British Council announced the recipients of the Study UK Alumni Awards 2020-2021Study UK Alumni Awards 2020-2021 in Saudi Arabia at an awards ceremony hosted by British Ambassador in Riyadh, Neil Crompton, on Wednesday.

UK alumni from Jeddah, Riyadh, Dhahran, Qassim and Thuwal were recognized for their outstanding achievements as business professionals, entrepreneurs and community leaders, and for their important contributions in strengthening collaborative ties between the UK and Saudi Arabia.

The Study UK Alumni Awards 2022 call for applications is open until Oct. 29, 2021.

The awards were developed by the British Council and UK universities, and are open to alumni residing in any country outside the UK who have studied in the UK, at an officially recognized provider of UK university degree level study for a minimum of a term or semester, or who have been awarded a full UK degree level qualification (or higher) by a UK university in the past 15 years.

Speaking at the awards ceremony the British envoy said: “I am delighted to host the 7th Study UK Alumni Award ceremony in person this year, and have the chance to meet many of bright Saudi women and men who are driving economic success and social impact through their work, in their professions, and in their communities to achieve the vision set out by their leadership.”

He added: “This prestigious international award celebrates UK higher education and the achievements of outstanding Saudis who studied in the UK and are using their education to make a positive impact. It reflects the wider partnership between our two countries.  My congratulations to all our finalists and winners. I encourage many more Saudis who have studied in the UK to apply to the awards so that more of these amazing stories can be shared, not only to celebrate their success but also to inspire others.”

Eilidh Kennedy McLean, British Council country director, said: “The remarkable individuals we celebrated today at the awards have all taken their UK education as a starting point to excel in their chosen careers and shape the world around them. This year’s awards ceremony is testimony not only to the diversity of UK alumni and their endeavours, but also to the transformative impact of a UK education. With more than 100,000 alumni of a UK education, there is much to celebrate.”

The award received around 1,300 applications from international UK alumni in more than 100 countries, representing more than 120 UK higher education institutions across the UK. Following interviews with a judging panel, recipients were selected for the three award categories: Professional achievement, entrepreneurial, and social impact.

The professional achievement award, which recognizes alumni who have displayed exemplary leadership in their professional field, was presented to Dr. Roua Alsubki , alumna of University College London. 

Roua is vice dean of skills and development deanship at King Saud University, the first woman to hold this position.

The social impact award, which acknowledges alumni who have made an exceptional contribution to creating positive social change, was presented to Dr. Bandar Alosaimi for establishing COVIDAT, a website that provides scientific information on COVID-19 in Arabic. 

He saw a need to translate developments in medical research to the everyday Arabic reader to avoid misinformation and misconceptions about the coronavirus. 

A graduate of University of Manchester and University of Salford, where he earned his master’s and Ph.D degrees, Alosaimi is assistant professor of virology at the faculty of medicine, the head of the virology research team and chairperson of Research Laboratories at King Fahad Medical City.

The entrepreneurial award was presented to Dr. Wail Mousa, graduate of the University of Leeds. 

Mousa is the founding dean of the Entrepreneurship Institute and professor of electrical engineering at King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals. He was the first Saudi to be sponsored by Dhahran Techno Valley for a Ph.D in electronics and electrical engineering from the University of Leeds.  

Sir Steve Smith, the UK prime minister’s special representative for education, attended the awards ceremony and told Arab News: “I am here for strategic partnership between the UK and Saudi Arabia in the education sector. The role was set up following a meeting between the two governments in 2018 and the aim is to build on over 60 years of collaboration between our two countries.”

He added: “Since I was appointed a year ago, we have started lots of initiatives, some really exciting announcements in areas of special educational needs and skills in colleges and universities.”

On progress of the Saudi-UK education partnership, Smith said that the partnership is developing well. 

“The key is to have deep relationship. We are trying to make sure we have momentum for the activities, and get the partners in the UK and Saudi Arabia to see it can benefit each other.”

Saudi Education Minister Dr. Hamad bin Mohammed Al Al-Sheikh and Smith discussed ways to enhance educational, academic and research cooperation, and share best practices and expertise between the two countries.

The meeting addressed efforts by Saudi Arabia and the UK in education, fields of cooperation in public education, developing curricula, the program of the courses system for the secondary education, in addition to the education of talented students and students with disabilities.

The talks also covered cooperation in the university education, scientific research, accrediting academic qualifications, as well as academic and research partnerships among both countries’ universities, and enhancing cooperation in integrated education and remote education.

He said that universities from the two countries are coming closer to work together. The University of Birmingham on Tuesday signed an agreement with King Saud University, he added.

$250k Saudi-backed UN science award launched

$250k Saudi-backed UN science award launched
Updated 21 October 2021

$250k Saudi-backed UN science award launched

$250k Saudi-backed UN science award launched

PARIS: A Saudi-backed global award to encourage young talents in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics has been launched at the UN.
Al-Fozan Foundation, in cooperation with the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, and with the support of the Saudi permanent delegation to UNESCO, made the announcement during the 212th session of the organization’s executive council.
The first international award at UNESCO to be offered by the Kingdom, it will celebrate the outstanding achievements of five young researchers from the UN agency’s five regions around the world and will offer prize money totaling $250,000.
Five jurors specializing in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, will oversee the selection process and winners will be announced every two years.

Saudi women empowerment conference to focus on 7 themes

Saudi women empowerment conference to focus on 7 themes
Updated 21 October 2021

Saudi women empowerment conference to focus on 7 themes

Saudi women empowerment conference to focus on 7 themes
  • Imam Mohammad bin Saud Islamic University will host the 2-day event, which will bring together more than 60 experts and ministers

RIYADH: Imam Mohammad bin Saud Islamic University will hold a two-day conference to shed light on how Saudi Arabia has helped empower women through national reforms, government policies, and private initiatives.
The conference, which will be held on Nov. 22-23, will bring together more than 60 experts, ministers, and Saudi universities. It will explore seven themes and indicators of women empowerment in local and international organizations.
Prof. Nouf bint Abd Al-Aly Al-Ajmi, the vice-rector of Female Student Affairs, who is also the head of the organizing committee, told Arab News that many prominent female figures will participate in the conference.
“Saudi women have taken great strides towards empowerment, thanks to the legislation and laws issued to enhance women’s position and protect their social and personal rights and ensure their participation as decision-makers,” Al-Ajmi said.
The themes will focus on legislative reforms in the era of King Salman and how they have helped meet the demands and needs of women towards more vital social participation.
There will be an emphasis on national identity and citizenship through women’s empowerment in education and training.
The rector of the Imam Mohammad bin Saud Islamic University, Prof. Ahmed Salim Al-Amiri, said the royal approval to organize this conference reflected the interest and support of the Kingdom’s leadership for Saudi women.
“Saudi women have enjoyed many rights while many historic and key decisions were issued to enhance women’s role in society and empower them to be an active partner in national development,” Al-Amiri said.
The rector said various governmental and non-governmental sectors will participate in the event, including Saudi universities, to explore women’s empowerment on different levels.
The conference will also focus on government projects and initiatives that support the empowerment of Saudi women, key indicators of women’s empowerment, and new functional areas.
The successes and achievements of women in the era of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques will also be highlighted.

Who's Who: Waleed Al-Khayyat, head of marketing and corporate communication at LogiPoint

Who's Who: Waleed Al-Khayyat, head of marketing and corporate communication at LogiPoint
Updated 21 October 2021

Who's Who: Waleed Al-Khayyat, head of marketing and corporate communication at LogiPoint

Who's Who: Waleed Al-Khayyat, head of marketing and corporate communication at LogiPoint

Waleed Al-Khayyat is head of marketing and corporate communication at LogiPoint, the Kingdom’s pioneering logistics real estate company, which builds and operates bonded and re-export zones, logistics parks and economic zones across Saudi Arabia.

Simultaneously, Al-Khayyat holds the portfolio of the head of communications and PR at the Red Sea Gateway Terminal, which is recognized among the most state-of-the-art container terminals not only in the Kingdom, but also across the region.

He joined the RSGT team as workplace service manager in March 2013 and won the employee of the year award the same year.

Al-Khayyat spent five years immersed in the logistics ecosystem at RSGT and gained hands-on practical experience in leadership, logistics, facilities management and operations.

He was entrusted with the portfolio of head of marketing and corporate communication at LogiPoint in October 2016 and took on the additional mantle of head of communications and PR at RSGT in February 2020.

He relishes the challenge of his dual roles and has spent the past eight years making his mark in the Kingdom’s logistics and supply chain industry, during which he has developed a passion for engaging with internal and external clients.

Al-Khayyat’s remit is to ensure that both companies communicate their value proposition to the local and international markets effectively, consistently and comprehensively.

Al-Khayyat completed his bachelor’s degree in business administration from Cape Breton University, Canada, in 2010 and attained a master’s degree in engineering management from the Catholic University of America, US, in 2012.

He believes in the value of growth through constant learning and has attended a variety of training, workshops and short courses which have enabled him to evolve as a professional.

Saudi Arabia to lead presidency of UNOCHA donor countries in 2022

Saudi Arabia to lead presidency of UNOCHA donor countries in 2022
Updated 21 October 2021

Saudi Arabia to lead presidency of UNOCHA donor countries in 2022

Saudi Arabia to lead presidency of UNOCHA donor countries in 2022
  • The UNOCHA work will aid advocacy, coordination, policy, and information management

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia will lead the upcoming presidency of the group of donor countries for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs from 2022-2023.
Assistant Supervisor General Director for Planning and Development at the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center Dr. Aqeel Al-Ghamdi met with Saudi Arabia’s permanent representative to the UN in Geneva, Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Wasel, to discuss the Kingdom’s presidency, its plan, and upcoming meetings in Geneva.
The two sides also discussed issues of common interest in humanitarian and relief affairs.
Along with the Kingdom’s humanitarian aid and rapid response efforts, the UNOCHA work will aid advocacy, coordination, policy, information management, and humanitarian financial tools and services.
During the meeting, Al-Ghamdi highlighted the role of the Saudi government in leading humanitarian and relief work around the world, focussing on KSRelief’s 1,700 projects in 75 countries at a total cost of $5.5 billion. Neighboring Yemen receives the most aid provisions due to its current political turmoil, with Palestine, Syria and Somalia following as top beneficiaries.
Last March, Supervisor-General of KSRelief Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah announced the Kingdom’s pledge of $430 million to fund the UN Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan for 2021. The Kingdom has been the leading donor of humanitarian assistance to Yemen for the past six years.
Al-Wasel praised KSRelief and its vital role in serving those affected around the world.