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)
1 / 3
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)
EU, Saudi Arabia ‘share same concerns, agree on way forward’ in Horn of Africa, bloc’s special envoy tells Arab News
2 / 3
EU, Saudi Arabia ‘share same concerns, agree on way forward’ in Horn of Africa, bloc’s special envoy tells Arab News
3 / 3
Short Url
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.”


Film Commission launches its strategy to develop Saudi film, cinema sector

The Film Commission launched its strategy at a ceremony in Riyadh, held under the patronage of Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan. (SPA)
The Film Commission launched its strategy at a ceremony in Riyadh, held under the patronage of Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan. (SPA)
Updated 28 November 2021

Film Commission launches its strategy to develop Saudi film, cinema sector

The Film Commission launched its strategy at a ceremony in Riyadh, held under the patronage of Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan. (SPA)
  • The strategy aims to increase direct GDP contribution, increase job opportunities, and increase the number of locally produced feature films

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Film Commission on Sunday launched its strategy to develop the Kingdom’s film and cinema sector at a ceremony in the capital, Riyadh.
The ceremony was held under the patronage of Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan, the minister of culture and chairman of the commission.
Hamed Fayez, the deputy minister of culture and vice chairman of the commission’s board of directors, said that the strategy, with its diverse and comprehensive programs and initiatives, represents a first step toward developing the sector and supporting and empowering Saudi filmmakers.
Fayez said the Kingdom has great potential in the industry due to creative Saudi talent winning awards at regional and international film festivals, Saudi films that have achieved remarkable recognition locally and internationally, and the growth of the production movement in recent years.
The Film Commission’s CEO Abdullah Al-Ayyaf said the strategy contributes to achieving the goals of the Ministry of Culture and the Kingdom’s Vision 2020 National Culture Strategy, by achieving growth in the Saudi film production sector and transforming it into a competitive industry.
It includes producing local cinematic content to attract Saudi and international audiences, and presenting the Kingdom as a leading global center for film production in the Middle East, he added.
The strategy was based on a benchmark comparison with the 20 most important countries in the film industry.
It includes six strategic pillars, including talent development, infrastructure, local production in the Kingdom, international production in the Kingdom, regulatory framework, film distribution and screening.
According to the strategy, the Film Commission will work on 19 strategic initiatives aimed at creating a large movement in the Saudi film sector, providing an infrastructure for film production, and empowering Saudi talents and capabilities.
The commission said its strategy was designed to increase direct contribution to the gross domestic product, increase the number of job opportunities in the film sector, and increase the number of locally produced feature films. 
The Film Commission is one of 11 cultural bodies affiliated with the Ministry of Culture and was established in February last year.


Kaspersky, Saudi Technology Control to combat cyberattack

Dr. Bandar Al-Haqbani, Dr. Abdulaziz Alhussain, Engineer Mohammad Alwashmi and Mohammad Hashem at the conference. (Supplied)
Dr. Bandar Al-Haqbani, Dr. Abdulaziz Alhussain, Engineer Mohammad Alwashmi and Mohammad Hashem at the conference. (AN photo by Rahaf Jambi)
Updated 28 November 2021

Kaspersky, Saudi Technology Control to combat cyberattack

Dr. Bandar Al-Haqbani, Dr. Abdulaziz Alhussain, Engineer Mohammad Alwashmi and Mohammad Hashem at the conference. (Supplied)
  • Saudi Arabia is currently developing digitization and advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, blockchain, fintech and 5G across its public and private sector

RIYADH: Global cybersecurity firm Kaspersky has signed a strategic agreement with Technology Control Company, a security services, digital services and big data company in Saudi Arabia, at the @Hack Infosec Conference 2021.
The managed security service provider agreement was marked at the conference, one of Saudi Arabia’s most anticipated information-security events of the year.
The move is in line with Technology Control Company’s commitment to providing its customers in Saudi Arabia with enhanced managed security services.
Mohamad Hashem, country manager at Kaspersky, told Arab News how new technologies increased the risk and exposure to cyberattacks by opening new avenues of attack.
“Taking this into account, Kaspersky is delighted to expand and strengthen Technology Control Company’s portfolio and offer customers in Saudi Arabia the most effective prevention, detection and response capabilities to the market,”  he said.

Dr. Abdulaziz Alhussain from TCC and Mohammad Hashem singing the agreement in @hack conference. (AN photo by Rahaf Jambi)

“Our innovative solutions and extensive expertise will ensure that our customers in the region receive the best data protection possible via a trusted local technology and service provider,”  he said.
Technology Control Company will be offering Kaspersky’s resources and services such as Security Operations Center consulting, security assessment, awareness and training.
The Kingdom is currently developing digitization and advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, blockchain, fintech and 5G across its public and private sector.

Taking this into account, Kaspersky is delighted to expand and strengthen Technology Control Company’s portfolio and offer customers in Saudi Arabia the most effective prevention, detection and response capabilities to the market.

Mohamad Hashem, Country manager at Kaspersky

As the country continues its road to digitization and adoption of these technologies, Kaspersky expects a steady rise in cyberattacks.
The partnership will play a key role in navigating these risks by helping Technology Control Company deliver security monitoring, incident response, threat hunting, threat intelligence, managed detection and response, security assessment and security awareness services in a cost-efficient, scalable and flexible way.
Technology Control Company’s customers in Saudi Arabia will be able to subscribe to next-generation SOC services based on solutions in line with global industry standards. Providing training such as incident response, malware analysis and digital forensics is another essential element of the alliance.
Hashem expressed his excitement about participation at @hack event and said that this was the first time the event was being held outside the US.
“Of course, we had to be a part of this great event because Kaspersky is one of the leading companies in the cybersecurity realm, and we are glad to be here,”  Hashem said.
He said that the company had signed an initiative with Cyberkids to help promote a better understanding of cybersecurity.
Muhammad Alwashmi, security services director at Technology Control Company, said that they were glad to partner with an international company with worldwide exposure and intelligence specific to the region.
“This agreement will support and provide our customers with premium protection to their businesses through the best solutions available in the market. Having Kaspersky on board will contribute to our success, and we are looking forward to a prosperous collaboration,”  Alwashmi said.


Saudi Arabia to chair anti-human trafficking forum

Awwad Al-Awwad. (Supplied)
Awwad Al-Awwad. (Supplied)
Updated 29 November 2021

Saudi Arabia to chair anti-human trafficking forum

Awwad Al-Awwad. (Supplied)
  • The forum will discuss the challenges and developments in the field in order to enable national committees to develop joint action plans to address crime

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia on Monday will chair the third government forum to discuss the challenges of combating human trafficking in the Middle East.

The two-day forum will be held virtually under the theme “National and international coordination on combating trafficking in persons in the light of the coronavirus pandemic.”

The forum will involve the heads of anti-human trafficking committees of Gulf Cooperation Council countries, a number of Arab states and international representatives.

It will be inaugurated by the president of the Human Rights Commission and chairman of the National Committee to Combat Trafficking in Persons, Awwad Al-Awwad.

The forum will discuss the challenges and developments in the field in order to enable national committees to develop joint action plans to address crime.

Saudi Arabia’s hosting of the forum affirms the important role of the Kingdom in tackling human trafficking and supporting victims. It comes as the Kingdom marks continued progress in the US Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report.


Who’s Who: Princess Haifa bint Abdulaziz Al-Mogrin, chair of the UNESCO Executive Board Program and External Relations Commission

Princess Haifa bint Abdulaziz Al-Mogrin. (SPA)
Princess Haifa bint Abdulaziz Al-Mogrin. (SPA)
Updated 29 November 2021

Who’s Who: Princess Haifa bint Abdulaziz Al-Mogrin, chair of the UNESCO Executive Board Program and External Relations Commission

Princess Haifa bint Abdulaziz Al-Mogrin. (SPA)

Princess Haifa bint Abdulaziz Al-Mogrin was recently elected to chair the UNESCO Executive Board Program and External Relations Commission for two years.
During the 213th session of the UNESCO executive board in Paris, the executive council named Princess Haifa, Saudi Arabia’s permanent representative to UNESCO, for the position.
The Kingdom’s presidency of UNESCO’s programs and external relations committee reflects its pivotal role in UNESCO to support the decision-making process in a systematic and fair way.
Commenting on the election, Princess Haifa posted on Twitter: “Glad to announce that Saudi Arabia will continue its pursuits to ensure a better future for all as chair of the Executive Board Program and External Relations Commission.”
Princess Haifa received a bachelor’s degree in economics from the Riyadh-based King Saud University in 2000 and a master’s degree in science in economics with reference to the Middle East from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London in 2007.
In 2009, she briefly took up a part-time role lecturing at King Saud University, before starting work with the UN Development Programme. In 2013, she was promoted to the role of program analyst there, covering social development and human rights.
She joined the Ministry of Economy and Planning as head of the sustainable development goals sector in 2016 and was appointed assistant deputy minister for sustainable development affairs in 2017.
She also served as the assistant deputy minister for G20 affairs under the Ministry of Economy and Planning from 2018. That same year, she was a speaker at the Second Urban Planning Forum — a testament to her expertise in the empowerment of youth and human rights advocacy.


Saudi falconry festival starts in Riyadh

Saudi falconry festival starts in Riyadh. (SPA)
Saudi falconry festival starts in Riyadh. (SPA)
Updated 28 November 2021

Saudi falconry festival starts in Riyadh

Saudi falconry festival starts in Riyadh. (SPA)
  • The festival holds a competition to select the most beautiful falcons in seven rounds, two are allocated for the Farkh category and five are for the Qirnas category

RIYADH: The King Abdulaziz Falconry Festival 2021 started on Sunday in Malham, north of Riyadh, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

It runs until Dec. 16 and is being organized by the Saudi Falcons Club, which has allocated more than SR25 million ($6.66 million) for winners.

The festival, the largest of its kind in the world, opened with the qualifying runs for Saudi falconers. These started with the Shaheen Farkh category of Saudi owners, with strong competition for a place in the final rounds for the King Abdulaziz Cup.

There will be runs for international falconers in the categories of owners and professionals.

The festival also holds a competition to select the most beautiful falcons in seven rounds, two are allocated for the Farkh category and five are for the Qirnas category.

Through these events, the festival aims to preserve Saudi heritage, pass on the hobby of falconry to future generations, educate children about their history and values, and enhance the spirit of competition among falconers.

The festival continues to register falcons in some categories until Dec. 9 to accommodate the largest number of falconers wishing to participate.