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


World events behind price spikes, says Saudi minister of commerce

Saudi Minister of Commerce Majid Al-Qasabi
Saudi Minister of Commerce Majid Al-Qasabi
Updated 15 sec ago

World events behind price spikes, says Saudi minister of commerce

Saudi Minister of Commerce Majid Al-Qasabi
  • After 13 months — specifically March 2021 — there were growing signs of economic recovery, Al-Qasabi said, but warning that there was an increase in demand versus supply

JEDDAH: Major events including the COVID-19 pandemic and war in Ukraine have caused price hikes around the world, Saudi Minister of Commerce Majid Al-Qasabi said in a periodic government communication conference on Tuesday.

The press conference discussed four key areas: Global events that led to price increases, the Saudi leadership’s guidance to address the effects of the hikes, repercussions of global events on prices, as well as a question and answer segment.

“Let us rewind two years and a half back to February 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic was an economic, social and mental tsunami. It was the biggest economic crisis in the world,” Al-Qasabi said.

“This pandemic affected the whole world all at once, and suddenly without any warning. We are still suffering from its effects,” he added.

“We stayed in the pandemic for 13 months, and after that, it was the beginning of recovery.”

After 13 months — specifically March 2021 — there were growing signs of economic recovery, Al-Qasabi said, but warning that there was an increase in demand versus supply.

“The demand was more than the supply, and this causes an imbalance in the market, when the demand exceeds the supply. Of course, the result will be that prices have risen,” he added.

Al-Qasabi pointed to the Suez Canal obstruction in March 2021 as another event that added to global economic woes.

“We saw the blockage of the navigational movement and the cessation of the navigational movement in the Suez Canal, then after three months — in July 2021 — the second variant of the virus appeared and imposed a curfew again, which caused the closure of some ports and some cities,” he said.

In February 2022, the Russia-Ukraine conflict began. The minister said that the war affected transportation, too.

“We had a crisis between Russia and Ukraine, and we still do not know how long this crisis will last. These events combined, overlapped and completed, leading to a crisis in transportation and supply chains,” he said.

The transportation and supply chain crisis includes the disruption of some transportation ports, such as the main port of Shanghai, a sixfold increase in the cost of transportation, as well as surging freight insurance rates.

Al-Qasabi hailed King Salman’s royal order on Monday that approved the allocation of SR20 billion ($5.32 billion) to help citizens mitigate the impacts of rising global prices.

Half of the allocated money will go to social insurance beneficiaries and the Citizen Account Program.


‘Magnetic attraction’ of Makkah inspires work of Saudi visual artist Ahmed Mater

‘Magnetic attraction’ of Makkah inspires work of Saudi visual artist Ahmed Mater
Updated 05 July 2022

‘Magnetic attraction’ of Makkah inspires work of Saudi visual artist Ahmed Mater

‘Magnetic attraction’ of Makkah inspires work of Saudi visual artist Ahmed Mater

RIYADH: Contemporary artist Ahmed Mater’s first visit to Makkah sparked a magnetic attraction to the holy site that would shape his creative outlook on life.

Similar to many Saudis, his initial interaction with the city was as a child, but his most vivid memories of visiting Makkah came during his medical university years.

He told Arab News that on one trip, surrounded by construction cranes, he felt that his “imagination was more powerful than reality. Sometimes, we dream about change. And it happens because the power of imagination creates all of this movement.”

On his parents’ promise to take him to Makkah for the first time, he said: “They told me I would face something different when in front of the Kaaba, and that I would feel a magnet attraction.”

That moment stuck with him, and he continued building on it to inspire his work through his imagination.

One of Mater’s most popular artworks, “Magnetism,” was constructed using thousands of iron particles surrounding a magnetic cuboid, a symbol of the Kaaba, which becomes the center of attraction to the small particles. “I create most of my artwork based on attraction,” he added.

The viewer’s eye is drawn toward the contrast and simplicity of the color palette, with the black elements set on white canvas and all the specs attracting simultaneously to the center. The exhibit is surrounded by four glass screens, signifying the holiness and sanctity of the performance of Hajj that should not be disturbed by outsiders.

His work also plays with the idea of repulsion.

In an essay, British writer Tim Mackintosh-Smith, said: “The Kaaba is magnet and centrifuge: going away, going back home, is the last rite of pilgrimage.”

Mater said: “I think it’s very important after the coronavirus pandemic that things come back to life. I spent more than four to five years attending Hajj as a photographer and researcher, and really, it’s one of the most beautiful scenes when you hear all of the people with one sound. And you feel it. It really cannot be described by words.”

While entrance to the city of Makkah and the Hajj performance itself is reserved strictly for those of Islamic faith, Mater caters to the curiosity of outsiders within the context of community and urbanism.

In his 2017 to 2018 exhibition, “Ahmed Mater: Makkah Journeys,” staged at the Brooklyn Museum in New York, he presented a series of multimedia artworks centering on working conditions, construction, and urban redevelopment that have characterized recent Hajj seasons.

“Sometimes it’s really about memory and about the way that our culture teaches about spirituality, imagination. Because we are a very spiritual culture, a very emotional culture, in our songs and our intimacy and families. So, I think that’s part of our life, and it’s created a lot,” he added.

In his work, “Leaves Fall in All Seasons,” a documentative on-ground video compilation, he focuses on the workers that contributed to the mass expansion of the metropolis. He noted that Makkah, as a city, had been nourished and built by Muslim immigrants and pilgrims of all backgrounds, bringing a lively and perplexing feel to the holy city.

“Everyone dreams about this Islamic world. It’s their dream to do it once in their life,” he said.

His care for the social well-being of individuals and communities, attributed to his background as a medical doctor, shows through his work as he provides audiences with a glimpse of what a journey to Makkah would be like for those unable to go.

“My opinion is that our work now represents our time now. Every time represents its moment. For example, in the 1950s and 1960s there were great artists. They represent their time, and they built this kind of beautiful history. We are now building our time and history,” Mater added.

The physician-turned-artist is a powerhouse in documenting untold stories, and he has played a leading role in establishing the Saudi art scene and legitimizing it locally and internationally.

In 2016, Mater became the first Saudi artist to hold a solo show in the US with his symbolic cities display at the Smithsonian museum’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington, D.C.

While most artists leave their work open to audience interpretation, Mater said he hoped the research and perception behind his art reached the viewer in some way. “My artwork has personal context, it’s personal. It’s my life,” he said.

The more the visual artist has delved into Islamic collective identity, the more appealing his work has become to global audiences.

“​​I think globally but act locally. We are in our timeline now, and it represents Saudi Arabia now,” he added.


British pilgrim completes 6,500km walk from the UK to Saudi Arabia for Hajj

British pilgrim completes 6,500km walk from the UK to Saudi Arabia for Hajj
Updated 05 July 2022

British pilgrim completes 6,500km walk from the UK to Saudi Arabia for Hajj

British pilgrim completes 6,500km walk from the UK to Saudi Arabia for Hajj
  • British pilgrim walks across Europe to reach Makkah

JEDDAH: British pilgrim Adam Mohammed has fulfilled his dream of traveling to Makkah on foot to perform the Hajj.

The 52-year-old pilgrim walked through the Netherlands, Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan to reach Saudi Arabia, covering a distance of almost 6,500 kilometers in 11 months and 26 days.

He walked an average of 17.8 km a day and reached Ayesha Mosque in Makkah on June 26.

He walked across Europe to complete his journey. (Supplied)

A huge crowd of pilgrims, local residents, and his two daughters who had flown from the UK welcomed him in the holy city.

Mohammed said: “I was so happy to finish my journey and I am overwhelmed by the great welcome, generosity, and love of Saudis and other nationalities. I am so eager to perform Hajj because Hajj has been my greatest dream.”

He spoke about what he would do when standing on Mount Arafat. 

“I will thank Allah for making this journey possible and for making my all-time goal come true to perform Hajj.  This was not an easy journey for me but I had to sacrifice everything for the sake of Allah and humanity.

“I have been preoccupied with reading the Holy Qur’an ever since restrictions were imposed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Suddenly, I woke up one day and something inside me told me to go to Makkah all the way by foot from my home. I could not ignore this voice and decided to go for it.”

It took him just two months to prepare for the arduous journey with help from a British organization and donations from his fellow countrymen.

(Supplied)

Mohammed, who is Iraqi-Kurdish, began his journey on Aug. 1, 2021, from his home in Wolverhampton.

He had a cart weighing up to 250 kilos for his personal belongings. “Actually, I built it myself. It is where I ate, slept, and cooked for the journey.”

He told Arab News that, except for weather and traveling, he did not face any other challenge on his way to Makkah.

***

Now read: How his journey began

***

“There were no big difficulties, except for a few stops by police authorities in several countries to inquire about my presence in their land. But they were surprised when they came to know about my unique journey.”

Many people came forward to help him during this journey, with some pushing his trolley and others offering him food and a place to rest.

He documented and live-streamed his experience through his channels on YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok, while also using his platform to spread messages of peace and equality.

Even with 2.8 million likes on TikTok, Mohammed said his journey was not for fame but religion.  


Saudi authorities treat over 43K pilgrims before Hajj

Saudi authorities treat over 43K pilgrims before Hajj
Updated 05 July 2022

Saudi authorities treat over 43K pilgrims before Hajj

Saudi authorities treat over 43K pilgrims before Hajj
  • From open-heart surgeries to dialysis sessions, Saudi Arabia’s health ministry offers pilgrims hope for a healthier Hajj experience

RIYADH: Health authorities in Saudi Arabia have treated 43,425 pilgrims ahead of this year’s Hajj season, which begins on Wednesday, the Saudi Press Agency reported Monday.

The ministry figures, between May 31 and July 3, show pilgrims received five open-heart surgeries, 66 cardiac catheterization, 182 dialysis sessions, two endoscopic procedures, and 95 surgeries.

Over 290 pilgrims were admitted to hospitals and one woman gave birth.

Four cases of stroke were also identified through the use of the health ministry’s virtual hospital and more than 740 pilgrims had consultations with healthcare workers through the Sehhaty health app.

In Makkah, Madinah and the ritual locations for Hajj, Saudi authorities have readied 23 hospitals and 147 clinics with a combined capacity of 4,654 beds, including 1,080 ICU beds.

As the Hajj is taking place in one of the hottest months of the year in Saudi Arabia, there will also be 230 beds set aside for pilgrims suffering from heat exhaustion.

An army of 25,000 health practitioners are on hand to serve worshipers during the annual religious event.
 


Legitimate fatwas reconfirm Islam’s flexibility, scholars tell Grand Hajj Symposium

Islam-based fatwas played a significant role in facilitating religious matters and raising awareness about the Hajj. (Supplied)
Islam-based fatwas played a significant role in facilitating religious matters and raising awareness about the Hajj. (Supplied)
Updated 05 July 2022

Legitimate fatwas reconfirm Islam’s flexibility, scholars tell Grand Hajj Symposium

Islam-based fatwas played a significant role in facilitating religious matters and raising awareness about the Hajj. (Supplied)
  • Participants underscored the role of the religious fatwa in achieving the Islamic objectives of the Hajj when it came to contemporary issues

JEDDAH: Fatwas based on genuine Islamic principles reconfirm the religion’s flexibility, scholars told delegates on the second day of the 46th Grand Hajj Symposium.

The event was inaugurated on Sunday by Hajj and Umrah Minister Dr. Tawfiq Al-Rabiah and features ministers and eminent Muslim scholars from different countries.

Participants underscored the role of the religious fatwa in achieving the Islamic objectives of the Hajj when it came to contemporary issues. They also praised the Kingdom’s efforts in facilitating the Hajj.

During a session titled “Islamic Jurisprudence System and Contemporary Calamities,” the speakers said that Islam-based fatwas played a significant role in facilitating religious matters and raising awareness about the Hajj.

Egypt’s Grand Mufti Shawki Allam touched on the importance of the Islamic jurisprudence system in adapting legal fatwas in facilitating Hajj rituals for Muslims, saying that flexibility in such situations confirmed that Islam was valid for every time and place.

Dr. Saad bin Nasser Al-Shithri, an adviser at the Royal Court and a member of the Saudi Council of Senior Scholars, said the Islamic jurisprudence system was capable of dealing with emerging challenges.

The secretary-general of the International Islamic Fiqh Academy, Dr. Koutoub Sano, referred to the factual nature of Islamic Sharia and its ability to deal with new problems to help people understand it.

He highlighted the role of institutes and academies devoted to fatwas in qualifying specialists and investing in Sharia studies to extract rulings from the appropriate texts. He also praised Saudi efforts to deploy all its capabilities to provide security and safety for pilgrims.

In Monday’s second session, “Caring for the Pilgrim’s Journey,” Malaysia’s Minister of Religious Affairs Dr. Datuk Idris Ahmad reviewed his country’s efforts in providing services and promoting awareness among pilgrims, including medicines, vaccines, and personal health follow-up programs.

Ahmed said the services provided in cooperation with the Ministry of Health were meant to ensure their pilgrims were free from infectious diseases. He also praised the care and attention paid by the Saudi government to pilgrims over the decades and the remarkable development achieved by the Hajj and Umrah system.

Deputy Minister of Hajj and Umrah Dr. Abdulfattah Mashat highlighted the Saudi ministries’ digital initiatives that contributed to the issue of more than 2 million e-visas through a portal that included all relevant authorities.

He also spoke about a luggage transport service that allowed pilgrims to focus on the duties of their rituals. He said pilgrims had received multilingual Hajj awareness guidelines before and after their arrival in the Kingdom.

Mashat added that the success of the Hajj and Umrah system was linked to a clear strategy derived from the Guests of God Service Program, one of the Saudi Vision 2030 programs, to enrich pilgrims’ Hajj experience and facilitate their spiritual journey.

“A pilgrim can electronically book all appointments and services, limiting negative practices such as stampeding. It can also ensure the flow of movement, smooth traffic, and easy grouping of pilgrims from one place to another.”

Dr. Ali Arbash, head of Turkish religious affairs, expressed his thanks to the Saudi government for its efforts in providing the appropriate pilgrimage environment in terms of hygiene and health to protect people.

Arbash also reviewed his country’s participation in the Green Hajj Initiative to raise awareness among pilgrims about reducing waste at the holy sites.

Saudi Assistant Minister of Health Dr. Mohammed Al-Abd Al-Aly underscored the efforts to provide the best health services to pilgrims.

He said these services, provided through the latest technology, were closely followed up by the Saudi leadership.

These services included 23 hospitals, 147 health centers, and 16 emergency centers on Jamarat Bridge. He added that more than 25,000 medical personnel were ready to provide all health services.

Dr. Hanan Balkhi, assistant director-general at the World Health Organization, described Saudi Arabia as an important strategic partner for the organization.

She praised the “bold decisions” taken by the Kingdom during the COVID-19 pandemic to protect pilgrims and limit the spread of coronavirus.

She said Saudi Arabia stood head and shoulders above all other countries due to its cumulative experience in crowd management.