Frankly Speaking: Saudi ambassador to UN urges more efforts to expose Houthis’ terror role

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Updated 13 December 2021

Frankly Speaking: Saudi ambassador to UN urges more efforts to expose Houthis’ terror role

Frankly Speaking: Saudi ambassador to UN urges more efforts to expose Houthis’ terror role
  • Abdallah Al-Mouallimi rules out reset in ties with Israel unless the latter accepts the 2002 Saudi peace initiative
  • He spoke on a wide range of issues on “Frankly Speaking,” the series of video interviews with policymakers

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia is “not convinced” by the arguments put forward by the administration of US President Joe Biden to keep the Houthis of Yemen off the list of international terrorist organizations, the Kingdom’s ambassador to the UN told Arab News.

Abdallah Al-Mouallimi, permanent representative from Saudi Arabia to the UN, said he had taken the issue up with US diplomats in New York following the decision of President Biden last year to remove the Iranian-supported militia from the list.

“They explained to us that the reason they did that is purely technical, because they have staff in Yemen that are working with humanitarian organizations and they have Yemeni people who are also working with these organizations and they said that if the Houthis are designated as a terrorist organization the Yemeni parties would not be able to deal with them, and that would put the lives and safety of the American parties in jeopardy,” he said.

“We’re not quite convinced that there is a good argument,” he added.

Al-Mouallimi, who has been head of the Saudi mission to the UN since 2011, gave his comments on the hot issue of the Houthis’ terrorist status in an interview on Frankly Speaking, the series of video interviews with leading policymakers.

He also spoke of the “intractable” nature of the Yemen conflict, the role of Iran in stoking the hostilities there, the possibility of Saudi Arabia normalizing relations with Israel, and the Kingdom’s progress on human rights over the past decade.

He pledged to continue working with US and other diplomats over the terrorism designation issue. Former President Trump put the Houthis on the list toward the end of his administration, only for new President Biden to immediately remove them — on the same day the Iran-backed Houthis attacked a civilian airport at Abha in Saudi Arabia.

“We need to do more to present the facts as they are. We have been trying to do that, but we need even more effort in that direction. Besides, there are those in the UN or in the Security Council who are reluctant to proceed with designating the Houthis as a terrorist organization for various reasons.

“We need to overcome these reservations and we need to be able to demonstrate that that designation will not interfere with the delivery and supply of humanitarian support and humanitarian goods and services,” he said.

He called on the UN to take action to halt the flow of arms and munitions coming from Iran to Yemen. “What the UN should do more of is tighten the grip on the supply routes to Yemen, particularly the sea routes that have been used to smuggle arms and ammunitions into Yemen,” he said.

The five permanent member nations of the Security Council — China, France, Russia, the UK and the US — need to provide the UN with the means to interdict the flow of Iranian weapons, he insisted.

Al-Mouallami also accused Tehran of “playing games” with Arab diplomats in various rounds of talks taking place around the Middle East. “There have been talks in Baghdad under the auspices of the Iraqi government, but no major results have been achieved there. The Iranians take a long-term attitude towards these talks. We are not interested in talks for the sake of talks, or for the sake of photo opportunities,” he said.

One big issue of his decade as UN ambassador has been the future of Palestine, thrown into the spotlight by moves from some Arab countries to normalize relations with Israel. He defused speculation that the Kingdom might be about to reset relations with Tel Aviv.

“The official and latest Saudi position is that we are prepared to normalize relations with Israel as soon as Israel implements the elements of the Saudi peace initiative that was presented in 2002. That calls for the end of occupation of all Arab territories occupied in 1967 and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, and granting the Palestinian people the right of self-determination,” he said.

“As soon as that happens, not only Saudi Arabia but the entire Muslim world, all 57 countries of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, would follow suit in terms of recognizing the state of Israel and establishing relations with her,” he added.

“Time does not change right or wrong. The Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories is wrong no matter how long it lasts. Israeli practices in the West Bank and Gaza — with regards to settlements and with regards to the siege and with regards to denying the Palestinians their dignity and their rights — is wrong, and that doesn’t change,” Al-Mouallimi insisted.

Saudi Arabia served two five-year terms on the UN Human Rights Council in the decade up to 2020, and the ambassador praised the Kingdom’s record in advancing the cause of human rights.

“Inside Saudi Arabia, we have progressed our commitment to all human rights and to the rule of law, to the participation in international treaties and agreements. Outside we have been committed to cooperating and working with other countries towards the achievement of the noble objectives of the human rights body. So, we have proven to be a committed member of the Human Rights Council,” he said.

The big reforms in the Kingdom of recent years — like allowing women to drive, changing the guardianship laws, and fostering greater religious tolerance — have not had the recognition they deserve in the outside world, he said.

“I think many in the international community think of them as insufficient, or not far enough, or they probably don’t believe that we have gone as far as we have done already. This is why we’re encouraging people in the West to come and visit — opening up visas, opening up tourism and opening up official delegations coming in and going out to other countries,” Al-Mouallimi said.

But he warned that some parts of the international media would continue to project a negative image. “I think that there are certain quarters who look for the negative coverage just because it suits their agenda, and their desires and their objectives. But by and large, the international community, and the international media, will be able to report on a positive picture once they see it,” he said.

On two other issues that have risen to the top of the UN global agenda — climate change and the response to the pandemic — he said that Saudi Arabia was playing a leadership role.

“Saudi Arabia has taken a leading role, especially when it was chair of the G20, towards allocating funds and allocating vaccines to the developing countries. We have contributed more than $500 million on our own, and we continue to contribute hundreds of millions more dollars both in cash and in kind to developing countries in various parts of the world,” he said.

Al-Mouallimi highlighted the role of the recent Saudi Green Initiative in helping to tackle the challenge of global warming but said that the big polluting countries like China, India and the US had to make real commitments to curb emissions if the world was to stand any chance of meeting the Paris Agreement targets.

“Saudi Arabia has come forward for the first time with very ambitious targets regarding carbon emissions…and we hope that that will give the world an example of a country that is dependent on carbon energy but nevertheless is willing to make the commitments that it had made towards the benefit of the world environment,” he said.


Saudi and British ministers discuss developing cooperation

Saudi Deputy Foreign Minister Waleed Al-Khuraiji holds talks with UK Minister of State for the Middle East and North Africa James Cleverly. (SPA)
Saudi Deputy Foreign Minister Waleed Al-Khuraiji holds talks with UK Minister of State for the Middle East and North Africa James Cleverly. (SPA)
Updated 28 January 2022

Saudi and British ministers discuss developing cooperation

Saudi Deputy Foreign Minister Waleed Al-Khuraiji holds talks with UK Minister of State for the Middle East and North Africa James Cleverly. (SPA)

LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Waleed Al-Khuraiji held talks with British Minister of State for the Middle East and North Africa James Cleverly, via video conference.
During the meeting, they reviewed aspects of cooperation between the two kingdoms and ways to enhance and develop them in all fields, in addition to discussing regional and international developments and the importance of strengthening joint coordination.
Cleverly also held a phone call with the Saudi ambassador to Yemen, Mohammed Al-Jaber, to discuss developments in the Yemeni crisis and the efforts made to establish security and peace in Yemen, and the region in general.
The call comes a day after Cleverly and Al-Jaber met in person on the sidelines of a UK-hosted conference on Yemen, with senior representatives from the UAE, Oman, the US and the UN.

 


137,000 Saudis benefit from tourism sector human capital development initiative

Ministry of Tourism celebrates training 137,000 Saudi men and women as part of the tourism human capital development program during 2021. (Ministry of Tourism)
Ministry of Tourism celebrates training 137,000 Saudi men and women as part of the tourism human capital development program during 2021. (Ministry of Tourism)
Updated 28 January 2022

137,000 Saudis benefit from tourism sector human capital development initiative

Ministry of Tourism celebrates training 137,000 Saudi men and women as part of the tourism human capital development program during 2021. (Ministry of Tourism)
  • The initiative helped 2,614 Saudis to gain professional qualifications and enhance their leadership skills
  • The Ministry of Tourism will launch more quality training and education programs this year

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Tourism hosted an event on Wednesday to celebrate its Your Future is Tourism education and training initiative, as part of its human capital development strategy for the tourism sector.
The participants included leaders from the public and private sectors, along with some of the initiative’s beneficiaries, who shared their stories to help motivate and inspire the young people who will be the future leaders of the sector in the Kingdom.
The initiative, launched by the ministry last year, has so far benefited about 137,000 employees and job seekers, and helped 2,614 Saudis to gain professional qualifications and enhance their leadership skills. About 226,000 people have registered with the digital educational platform since launch.
“We have a strategic goal in the Ministry of Tourism, which is to attract the largest number of Saudi men and women to work in the tourism sector and qualify them in the best possible way,” said Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al-Khateeb.
“Yesterday, we celebrated the success of the Your Future is Tourism initiative in 2021, and about 137,000 Saudis benefited from it, but the future will be much better and more beautiful,” he added in a message posted on Twitter on Thursday.

Mohammed Bushnag, the deputy minister for human capital at the Ministry of Tourism, said that the ministry is working to develop the capabilities of local human capital in the sector, and that investing in future generations contributes to the development of competency and diverse skills within the tourism industry, which is a major provider of jobs worldwide. He also stressed the importance of motivating employees and job seekers to take advantage of the quality training and education programs that the ministry will launch this year.
The Saudi cabinet recently approved plans for establishing a global tourism academy, in cooperation with the World Tourism Organization, that will provide professional academic programs that support those working in the local and international tourism sectors, and develop national competencies to compete globally.


Saudi, Italian officials discuss cultural ties

Saudi, Italian officials discuss cultural ties
Updated 28 January 2022

Saudi, Italian officials discuss cultural ties

Saudi, Italian officials discuss cultural ties

RIYADH: Saudi Heritage Commission CEO Dr. Jasser Al-Harbash on Thursday met Italian Cultural Attache in Saudi Arabia Tommaso Claudi in Riyadh.

Al-Harbash praised the ongoing cultural cooperation between the Kingdom and Italy, and reviewed with Claudi the results of the Italian mission’s archaeological excavations in the Kingdom.

They discussed areas of heritage cooperation and ways to enhance them, and touched on scientific archaeological teams and their pivotal role in archaeological discoveries in the Kingdom. 


How a culture of recycling can reduce waste generation in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia produces around 15 million tons of garbage every year, with 95 percent ending up in landfill, and just 5 percent of total waste recycled. (Shutterstock)
Saudi Arabia produces around 15 million tons of garbage every year, with 95 percent ending up in landfill, and just 5 percent of total waste recycled. (Shutterstock)
Updated 47 min 38 sec ago

How a culture of recycling can reduce waste generation in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia produces around 15 million tons of garbage every year, with 95 percent ending up in landfill, and just 5 percent of total waste recycled. (Shutterstock)
  • Culture of consumerism in GCC countries has created mountains of trash, most of the content of which is nonbiodegradable
  • “Circular economy” opens up huge opportunities for Saudis to reduce, reuse and recycle the waste they generate

JEDDAH: As is the case in many other parts of the world, a combination of population growth, urbanization and economic expansion has not only increased personal consumption across the Middle East but is also generating colossal amounts of waste.

Five Gulf Cooperation Council countries — Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar and Kuwait — rank in the top 10 worldwide in terms of per capita generation of solid waste.

Thanks to their oil wealth, consumer spending in these countries has grown over recent decades to become a key driver of domestic economies. But as in many advanced countries, a culture of consumerism has created mountains of trash, most of the content of which is nonbiodegradable and extremely harmful to the environment.

Saudi Arabia alone produces about 15 million tons of garbage a year, 95 percent of which ends up as landfill, polluting the soil and releasing greenhouse gases, including methane, into the atmosphere for decades.

What is not buried often ends up as litter on city streets, in the form of discarded polythene bags, fast-food containers, plastic bottles and empty soda cans.

Between the start of 2020 and the first half of 2021, Saudi Arabia recycled only 5 percent of its total waste, including plastic, metal and paper.

To reduce waste generation, protect fragile ecosystems and make the most of reusable materials, Saudi Arabia can rely on the “circular economy” concept, a closed-loop system that involves the 3-R approach: Reduce, reuse and recycle.

The leading agent of change in this effort is the Saudi Investment Recycling Company, which was established in 2017 as a wholly owned subsidiary of the Public Investment Fund.

FASTFACTS

* Plastic takes more than 400 years to degrade.

* Only 12 percent of plastic is incinerated worldwide.

SIRC seeks to divert 85 percent of hazardous industrial waste, 100 percent of solid waste, and 60 percent of construction and demolition waste away from landfills by 2035. The only types of waste not covered by its remit is that created by the military and nuclear energy, both of which are handled by specialist organizations.

The circular economy model opens up huge opportunities, whether in terms of products, energy creation or services, which can make a major contribution to the diversification of the Saudi economy away from oil and its derivatives, in line with the aims of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reforms strategy.

Saudi Arabia aims to invest almost SR24 billion ($6.4 billion) in the recycling of waste by 2035 as it attempts to switch to a more sustainable waste-management system. It will invest about SR1.3 billion in construction and demolition waste, and about SR900 million in industrial waste. Investments in municipal solid waste will exceed SR20 billion, while investments in other types of waste will amount to more than SR1.6 billion.

There are several ways to create value in a circular economy. One of them is “waste-to-energy,” which involves drying and incinerating garbage, raw sewage and industrial sludge to power steam turbines.

Volunteers in Saudi Arabia removing waste from beaches to stop its flow back to the waters. (Supplied/World Clean Up Day)

Burning waste produces carbon dioxide but leaving it to decompose in landfill sites results in 20 to 40 times the amount of greenhouse-gas emissions, in the form of methane, over a period of many years.

Unsurprisingly, the circular economy approach is catching on. In 2020, when Saudi Arabia held the presidency of the G20, the Kingdom proposed to allies the concept of a circular carbon economy as a means of mitigating the accumulation of carbon in the atmosphere.

But a circular economy model cannot succeed without the active involvement of big companies, small-business entrepreneurs and the general public.

Experts say that the construction of recycling facilities in the Kingdom is only part of the solution; it must go hand in hand with efforts to instill in the Saudi population a culture of household recycling and responsible consumption.

“We have to invest in the infrastructure but, equally, we have to provide education and create outreach programs,” Ziyad Al-Shiha, the CEO of SIRC, told Arab News in October. “Once we achieve 25-35 percent recycling, we can say to the public: ‘Look, this is your effort and this is the result that we’re bringing back to you.’”

TIMELINE OF SAUDI ENVIRONMENTAL PROGRESS

2016: Launch of Saudi Vision 2030.

2017: National Renewable Energy Program announced.

2018: Launch of the National Environment Strategy.

2019: Saudi Arabia joins International Solar Alliance.

2020: Launch of Environmental Fund.

March 27, 2021: Launch of Saudi Green Initiative and Middle East Green Initiative.

Sept. 16, 2021: Farasan Islands added to UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves.

Oct. 23, 2021: Saudi Arabia announces goal of Net Zero greenhouse-gas emissions by 2060.

Oct. 23, 2021: Saudi Arabia joins Global Methane Pledge.

Progress has already been made in fostering environmentally conscious behavior at the community level. Saudi highways are better maintained now than before. Even in cities, drains are no longer clogged with cigarette butts, tissue paper, paper cups and discarded food packaging.

In part, such improvements are as a result of the introduction of penalties; the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing can now impose fines of $133 on anyone caught littering or spitting in a public place.

But concern about the environment and public interest in recycling and reducing household waste have also increased markedly, thanks to campaigns conducted by civil society groups.

One such group, Mawakeb Alajer, has worked for 17 years to encourage community-level recycling in Jeddah by providing sorting facilities where the public can drop off a wide range of recyclables, from scrap paper and waste plastic to unwanted furniture and even old wedding dresses.

“As a second-hand shop, we encourage people to give away what they don’t need to charity, which helps protect the environment by reducing waste,” Sara Alfadl, a spokesperson for Mawakeb Alajer, told Arab News.

“We believe that everyone plays a part in the community and we’re providing a service everyone can benefit from. We sort out everything we receive. This takes a lot of time, requires a lot of manpower and is hard. Thankfully, most of the items we receive, whether clothes or recyclable waste, are in good condition.”

In cooperation with local businesses, truckloads of recyclable materials are brought to Mawakeb Alajer’s facility where they are sorted and then sold, donated, or sent to be reused, recycled or repurposed. In the process, the group is helping to gradually change public attitudes.

“Awareness is still in its infancy but spreading nonetheless,” Alfadl said.

Schools have begun to play an important part in shaping attitudes among the next generation, by adopting “environmental literacy” projects that give pupils the chance to learn by participating in school-based recycling schemes and science projects.

Saudi mayor honors British expat, Neil Walker, for 27 years of beach cleaning and who inspired creative environmental initiatives in Alkhobar. (Supplied)

For their part, many Saudi businesses are adjusting to the circular economy model, in line with the Kingdom’s pursuit of sustainable-development goals.

Mona Alothman, the co-founder of Naqaa, a local provider of business-to-business environmental-sustainability solutions, said that many companies are now integrating recycling and waste reduction into their business models.

“It’s not just a phase,” she told Arab News. “Many Saudi companies are adopting ingenious ways to reduce, reuse and recycle their office supplies and better manage their waste, among other things.

“A lot has changed in recent years. Regulations have become stricter in order to adhere to international standards. Our company’s core ethos revolves around sustainability, and recycling is one part of the picture.

“Companies today are not only applying our recommended solutions to office waste but also initiating campaigns to promote and encourage people to be more conscious of how they throw away their trash.”

This multi-pronged approach, encompassing education, charity schemes, stricter rules and penalties, is encouraging the Kingdom’s business establishments to adopt eco-friendly practices and communities to think more about the effects of lifestyle on the environment.

Alfadl and her colleagues at Mawakeb Alajer believe there is a lot that Saudis can do to encourage their employers, neighbors and local authorities to implement more environmentally responsible practices in homes and workplaces.

“I believe that recycling will pick up fast here in Saudi Arabia,” Alfadl said. “With growing awareness, what was once a project or short-term initiative has become a necessity.

“Our approach was always bottom-up. When employees join the sustainability drive with their actions, it won’t be long before others do the same and create a community of people who follow the same approach.”


Saudi project clears 3,640 Houthi mines in Yemen

Saudi project clears 3,640 Houthi mines in Yemen
Updated 27 January 2022

Saudi project clears 3,640 Houthi mines in Yemen

Saudi project clears 3,640 Houthi mines in Yemen

RIYADH: The Saudi Project for Landmine Clearance in Yemen dismantled 3,640 Houthi mines in the third week of January.

This figure includes 2,994 anti-tank mines, 505 unexploded ordinances and 141 other explosive devices.

The project is one of several initiatives undertaken by Saudi Arabia to help ease the suffering of the Yemeni people.

The demining took place in Marib, Aden, Jouf, Shabwa, Taiz, Hodeidah, Lahij, Sanaa, Al-Bayda, Al-Dhale and Saada.

A total of 311,658 mines have been cleared since the start of the project.