EU, Saudi Arabia ‘share same concerns, agree on way forward’ in Horn of Africa, bloc’s special envoy tells Arab News

Special Annette Weber, the EU’s special representative for the Horn of Africa, spoke to Arab News during her recent visit to Saudi Arabia. (AN Photo/AFP)
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Annette Weber, the EU’s special representative for the Horn of Africa, spoke to Arab News during her recent visit to Saudi Arabia. (AN Photo/AFP)
Special EU, Saudi Arabia ‘share same concerns, agree on way forward’ in Horn of Africa, bloc’s special envoy tells Arab News
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Special EU, Saudi Arabia ‘share same concerns, agree on way forward’ in Horn of Africa, bloc’s special envoy tells Arab News
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Updated 24 November 2021

EU, Saudi Arabia ‘share same concerns, agree on way forward’ in Horn of Africa, bloc’s special envoy tells Arab News

Annette Weber, the EU’s special representative for the Horn of Africa, spoke to Arab News during her recent visit to Saudi Arabia. (AN Photo/AFP)
  • Annette Weber, EU’s special representative, describes discussions with Saudi ministers and humanitarian officials as “very fruitful”
  • Her visit to Riyadh was to understand better the Saudi position on the Red Sea and exchange views on Sudan and Ethiopia

RIYADH: A combination of natural resources, lucrative consumer markets and a strategic maritime location makes the Horn of Africa an attractive location for investment, as well as an important geostrategic space. Concomitantly, the region, including the Red Sea, faces challenges that go beyond national borders, including conflict, violent extremism, human trafficking, forced displacement, COVID-19 and environmental stresses.

As the EU’s special representative for the Horn of Africa, Annette Weber’s main job is to promote the bloc’s policies and interests in the region, including the Red Sea, and the individual countries there. Special representatives play an active role in efforts to consolidate peace, stability and the rule of law and support the work of the office of the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy.

During her visit to Saudi Arabia this week, her first to the Kingdom since being appointed to her post on July 1, Weber had what were described as “very fruitful discussions” with Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir; Minister of State for African Affairs Ahmed Abdul Aziz Kattan; Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, supervisor general of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center; and Sultan Al-Marshad, the CEO of the Saudi Fund for Development.

“The reason for my mission here to Saudi Arabia is to have a better understanding of the Saudi position on the Red Sea and to exchange views on the current situation in Sudan and Ethiopia,” Weber said during an exclusive interview with Arab News.

“I think we are aligned on almost everything. We share the same concerns but we also (agree on) the way forward, what we need to do and how to engage. We had very fruitful, very positive meetings.”

But does Saudi Arabia, the backbone of the Gulf Cooperation Council, have any role to play in the EU’s pursuit of its goals in the Red Sea and the Horn of Africa?




During her visit to Saudi Arabia this week, her first to the Kingdom since being appointed to her post on July 1, Weber had what were described as “very fruitful discussions” with Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir. (KSAMOFA)

Absolutely,” said Weber, citing the Council of Arab and African Countries Bordering the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, which was set up in January 2020 with the objective of securing the waterways. The council, which in addition to Saudi Arabia includes Egypt, Jordan, Eritrea, Yemen, Sudan, Djibouti and Somalia, aims to increase cooperation between the countries in efforts to tackle piracy, smuggling and other threats to international shipping routes.

“The council is a flagship and I hope that we can find common interest there,” said Weber. “For us in Europe this is the main trade route to Asia, carrying 23 to 30 percent of our trade. We have a common interest in ensuring maritime security, checking piracy and fighting jihadists who operate from the shores.

“We have more than one common interest. The Red Sea is really much more a connector than a divider. It is very interesting to see that also in the relations between the Gulf states, specifically Saudi Arabia, and the Horn of Africa.”

On her way to Riyadh, Weber stopped in Bahrain to take part in the International Institute for Strategic Studies’ Manama Dialogue, an annual high-level forum at which the Middle East’s most pressing security challenges are discussed.

She spoke during a session titled “Security Dynamics in the Red and Mediterranean Sea,” a topic of considerable importance now that the Council of the European Union intends to reinforce its partnership with the Horn of Africa and establish a new strategy for the region.

“My mandate as an EU special representative is to connect the dots between the countries of the Horn of Africa and the Red Sea area,” Weber said. “It is not just about crisis diplomacy but more about (expanding) the potential of the region, about bringing together the main countries in the Horn and the main countries of the Gulf.

“This depends on what kind of issues we are dealing with. When the matter is a negotiated ceasefire, for example, we work very closely with the Americans but also with the Gulf states, the African Union and the UN. So the multilateralism is dynamic in this region. This is where my interest (as the special representative) lies, very well reflected in our common reading of the situation but also in the potential solutions.”




Sudanese protesters walk past burning tyres during a demonstration calling for a return to civilian rule in 40th street in the capital's twin city of Omdurman. (AFP)

Since 2011, the EU has been one of the world’s largest donors of humanitarian assistance to the Horn of Africa, pouring millions of euros into projects in five countries besides Sudan. Weber said the bloc would rather move on from humanitarian to development projects.

“When I look at Ethiopia, there is no reason for it to have humanitarian aid because it has good education,” she said. “The potential is good. We have been investing in reforms. If there was no war, if there was no conflict, we would be extremely happy to move on from humanitarian (aid) to investment, to bring what is necessary, what they choose for themselves, offer the people a future.




Annette Weber poses for a photo with the Saudi Fund for Development team. (Supplied)

“We are not satisfied that there is so much need for humanitarian aid. But we see, for example in Somalia, indeed in the entire Horn of Africa region, climate change, locust infestation and a number of other triggers for humanitarian aid that are not man-made but specifically related to conflict.

“This is where we are not satisfied. It’s man-made hunger, man-made needs that shouldn’t be there where we would be happy to invest. We are happy for the money to be used but we would be really happy to see it used for something for the future. From my discussions today, this is very much the sense I get from my counterparts in Saudi Arabia as well: We would all like to invest in green energy and a better economy.

“In the future the economy will be about smart technology, about efficient water management, rather than about humanitarian assistance. But we cannot judge people who have been displaced by war, so this is where we need to come in and help.”

FASTFACTS

* In Sudan, more than 13.4 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, including 1 million registered asylum-seekers and refugees.

* Since November 2020, the Tigray conflict in Ethiopia and border tensions in Al-Fashaga have resulted in thousands of new refugees.

On the specific issue of the war in Ethiopia, Weber regards a peaceful resolution as the only desirable outcome.

“If it does not happen, we are then seeing a civil war that will bring the entire region down,” she said. “There is a sense of urgency on Ethiopia, that if the (warring sides) do not come to a negotiated ceasefire, if they don’t stop hoping they can win militarily, we will see the disintegration of the biggest country in the region.

“This will have repercussions across the Red Sea, across this whole region, affecting Europe and Saudi Arabia. The political dimension of the dialogue in Ethiopia is something that the Ethiopians have to deal with. The ceasefire is something that we all have to engage with.”

On a brighter note, Weber said she is “very happy that the African Union has appointed a chief mediator” to help broker a resolution and “very happy and encouraged by the regional engagement.” Nevertheless, she said the EU, the US and Saudi Arabia must remain engaged with the process. If the conflict continues, she cautioned, “we will see a disintegration along ethnic lines that will take decades to heal.”

Another country high on Weber's agenda during her talks in Riyadh was Sudan, where a crisis has been defused by an agreement, signed on Sunday, that paves the way for the formation of a transitional civilian government. The military reinstated Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and promised to release all political detainees after weeks of deadly unrest triggered by a coup in October.




Weber spoke with the KSrelief about the mutual concern surrounding the effects of conflict in the Horn of Africa, as well as discussions about opportunities for further KSA-EU cooperation in the region. (@KSRelief_EN)

“It’s a very positive step,” Weber said. “Our understanding, as the EU, has been clear throughout: We saw stability in cooperation between the two sides and in taking into account the declarations of the people in the streets during the 2019 protests.

“We saw stability in having the young generation for the first time being reflected in the future. We saw stability in a mixed government comprising Hamdok and the military. We did not consider the military making its own decisions and disregarding the civilian side as a stable future of Sudan; absolutely not.

“We should not confuse Sudan with other countries in the region. This was not the first time they took to the streets; they have been very clear in their political positions. For them to lamely accept a military takeover was absolutely not acceptable.

“Now the work starts again because they have to convince the civilians on the street that this is actually not a loop, that this is not going back to whenever the military feels they are a bit tired of the civilians it can just move in without them.”

Do external powers, such as the EU, have any leverage or influence over the political and military forces involved in the situation in Sudan?

“We need to have a much more consensus-based understanding because others in the region have more leverage. This is where we need to have a common vision,” said Weber.




The UN has warned of a growing risk of mass deaths from starvation among people living in conflict and drought-hit areas of the Horn of Africa. (AFP/File Photo)

“We all have different channels of communication and ways. If we are not the strongest in (engaging with) one side, we might be stronger in (engaging with) the other side. This is why it’s important to have a common understanding of where we want to get to, and use all our (tools of) engagement.”

A German national with more 25 years of experience in the Horn of Africa and Red Sea region, Weber has facilitated peace talks at the highest political levels. She has an established track record of advising the UN, the EU and the German government on the region and has spoken at the Munich Security Conference on regional issues.

Given her background, does she believe the EU realistically can make a difference, given the daunting array of challenges the Horn of Africa faces?




Annette Weber with Assistant Editor-in-Chief of Arab News Noor Nugali. (AN photo)

“The countries of the Horn of Africa have faced such challenges for decades, even centuries, but we should not overlook that we had two transitions in this region in the past two years,” Weber said. “We had Sudan and we had also a very hopeful transition in Ethiopia. So, to me, things are possible.

“This is where we are supportive of change, where we see a long-lasting strengthening of cooperation, of people feeling they can shape their future and where we can make a difference. But we also have an obligation to ease the pain of the people who are caught up in conflicts.

“I wish we could bring more of a positive engagement, investment (and) energy to these transitions rather than just ease the pain. It’s the people of the (Horn of Africa) countries who have an interest in their own future, in stabilizing and strengthening the region, in interconnecting the region. Not playing against each other but connecting economically, politically and culturally. This is something not for us to do, but we can provide support. This is where I see our role.”


Saudi man allegedly killed by brother-in-law

Saudi man allegedly killed by brother-in-law
Updated 17 August 2022

Saudi man allegedly killed by brother-in-law

Saudi man allegedly killed by brother-in-law
  • The embassy expressed its full confidence in the Tunisian judiciary

RIYADH: A Saudi man has allegedly been killed by his Tunisian wife’s brother in Bizerte, Tunisia.

This is according to a statement released by the Kingdom’s embassy in Tunis, the Saudi Press Agency reported early Wednesday.

“The embassy would like to clarify that it has followed up on the details of the tragic incident since its occurrence with the concerned authorities in Tunisia.”

The embassy stated that the Kingdom was confident the Tunisian courts would deal effectively with the matter.

The body of the citizen has been returned to the Kingdom.

The embassy extended condolences to the family of the deceased.


Saudi crown prince discusses relations, joint cooperation with German chancellor Scholz

Saudi crown prince discusses relations, joint cooperation with German chancellor Scholz
Updated 17 August 2022

Saudi crown prince discusses relations, joint cooperation with German chancellor Scholz

Saudi crown prince discusses relations, joint cooperation with German chancellor Scholz

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman received a phone call on Tuesday from German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
During the call, they reviewed aspects of bilateral relations between the Kingdom and Germany, opportunities for joint cooperation between the two countries, and ways to develop them.
They also discussed the latest regional and international developments and efforts exerted to achieve peace and stability, in addition to reviewing the most prominent issues of common interest.


Saudi fashion brand Hindamme returns with new luxury collection

Saudi fashion brand Hindamme returns with new luxury collection
Updated 16 August 2022

Saudi fashion brand Hindamme returns with new luxury collection

Saudi fashion brand Hindamme returns with new luxury collection
  • Ready-to-wear Saudi fashion label launches “SEASON V”

RIYADH: Ready-to-wear Saudi luxury label Hindamme launched its new collection, “SEASON V,” that explores relationships to families, communities, and the Earth.

The brand, established by designer Mohammed Khoja, became well known for successfully fusing Eastern and Western cultures through modern, opulent apparel in forward-thinking, creative designs.

“Autobiographical in its spirit, the brand’s latest offering investigates the deeper and more meaningful connections in life,” said Khoja.

“What inspired this collection is bringing together the community and building new connections and reconnecting with nature. It has a very positive theme, and the reason why I wanted to create it was because I felt it was therapeutic for myself, and also the need to focus on our planet,” he added.

Through its aesthetic, “SEASON V” applies the science of color theory, with pieces that feature mood-inducing gradients as well as futuristic and nature-inspired motifs in fabrics like velvet, nylon, and satin. A joyful ode to new beginnings, “SEASON V” reflects themes of resilience, aspiration, and gratitude.

“Every time I wear the bomber jacket from (the) ‘SEASON V’ collection, people stop me and ask me where did I get it from, which is rewarding for me. The jacket has an attractive lavender color with the calligraphy of the Arabic word for ‘Earth’ on the back,” Khoja said.

HIGHLIGHT

Through its aesthetic, ‘SEASON V’ applies the science of color theory, with pieces that feature mood- inducing gradients as well as futuristic and nature-inspired motifs in fabrics like velvet, nylon, and satin. A joyful ode to new beginnings, ‘SEASON V’ reflects themes of resilience, aspiration, and gratitude.

Indeed, much of the collection reflects the designer’s love of calligraphy, with the Arabic ‘Earth’ motif applied in embossed, padded embroideries throughout several items.

“SEASON V” also introduces a specially commissioned collaboration with Kyoto-based Japanese artist Ikegami Yorikyuki, that features prints of a mural entitled “A Certain Planet” in several pieces throughout the collection.

The most recent editorial lookbook of “SEASON V” also brought together a number of Middle Eastern multi-disciplinary artists to produce a collection of prints that reflect an NFT-inspired universe that honors nature and denotes both our current connection to, and disconnection from it.

“I collaborated with a number of Arab creatives. I really look up to producing a series of artistic photography as an editorial for the new collection. It was beautiful, in a sense, as it produced a diverse fusion of art, photography and fashion within these visuals,” said Khoja.

About naming the collection “SEASON V” Khoja told Arab News: “From the beginning of establishing my brand, I decided to do drops, as what they refer to in the fashion world, rather than follow a season, and I felt like the easiest way to document each season was by giving it a number, and in this case, it was in Roman format, but I also do smaller collections between each season.”

In each of its collections, Hindamme, which in the old Arabic dialect means “to possess perfect harmony,” frequently combines different genres.

Khoja spoke about the importance of connecting young Saudi designers to investors for support, putting Saudi fashion brands in malls and showrooms.

Through Hindamme, Khoja has been a trailblazer in influencing and advancing Saudi Arabia’s fashion and cultural landscape with his “East meets West” philosophy.

He launched Hindamme in 2016, incorporating patterns like “Al-Qatt Al-Aseeri” from his native land and highlighting frequently ignored elements of heritage to a new audience in a contemporary and forward-thinking format.

He was inspired by reflecting elements of his everyday life and larger cultural and social themes through his designs.

Many of his pieces have also won recognition on a global scale and are now part of permanent collections at a number of museums.


Saudi embassy in UK honors outgoing employees

Saudi embassy in UK honors outgoing employees
Updated 16 August 2022

Saudi embassy in UK honors outgoing employees

Saudi embassy in UK honors outgoing employees

LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s embassy in the UK held a ceremony on Tuesday to honor a number of employees who have ended their work term at the mission in the capital, London.
The Kingdom’s ambassador to Britain, Prince Khalid bin Bandar, expressed his thanks and appreciation to the employees for their effort and dedication in serving their religion, king and country, wishing them more success in their endeavors inside and outside the Kingdom, in the interest of the nation in various fields.


Saudi Arabia’s regions provide healthcare to thousands of patients

Saudi healthcare sector provided medical services to thousands of patients. (SPA)
Saudi healthcare sector provided medical services to thousands of patients. (SPA)
Updated 16 August 2022

Saudi Arabia’s regions provide healthcare to thousands of patients

Saudi healthcare sector provided medical services to thousands of patients. (SPA)
  • In Riyadh, the emergency departments and outpatient clinics of Dawadmi General Hospital provided their services to around 86,434 people

JEDDAH: Clinics and hospitals in the Kingdom’s central and eastern regions provided medical services to thousands of patients in the first half of 2022, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

In Buraidah, the blood clinic at the Prince Sultan Cardiac Center in Qassim helped more than 1,870 people.

The services included medical consultations, guiding patients on how to get medicines from the pharmacy, and delivering patient medication to homes in cooperation with Saudi Post.

It also held a virtual clinic through the Anat app to help healthcare officials interview patients remotely, follow up on their appointments, or get them tested by the nearest healthcare center without the patient visiting the center.

In Riyadh, the emergency departments and outpatient clinics of Dawadmi General Hospital provided their services to around 86,434 people. It performed 836 surgeries, 17,073 radiological examinations, and 366,469 laboratory tests.

Hafr Al-Batin Central Hospital, represented by the Cardiac Surgery and Catheterization Unit, performed 39 successful cardiac catheterization operations during July.  

Hafr Al-Batin Health Affairs said seven emergency cases of high-risk heart attacks were treated.

An advanced and complex cardiac catheterization was carried out on a patient suffering from chronic obstruction in the coronary arteries using the CTO technique, in addition to three cardiac catheterizations for patients suffering from coronary artery blockage using the internal imaging technique by intravascular ultrasound.

Hafr Al-Batin Central Hospital provided services to 237 beneficiaries last year. It also dealt with 150 emergency cases, 80 diagnostic and therapeutic cases, four implantable cardioverter-defibrillators, and seven electrocardiography.