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.


Popstar Jason Derulo lauds AlUla’s unique ‘blend of worlds’

Popstar Jason Derulo lauds AlUla’s unique ‘blend of worlds’
Updated 18 min 21 sec ago

Popstar Jason Derulo lauds AlUla’s unique ‘blend of worlds’

Popstar Jason Derulo lauds AlUla’s unique ‘blend of worlds’
  • Singer says Saudi Arabia becoming world’s most attractive destination

ALULA: In the historical epicenter for cross-cultural exchange, between the majestic mountains of AlUla, popstar Jason Derulo took the stage to deliver a performance unlike any other at the second edition of the Azimuth music festival on Saudi National Day last weekend.

The American artist entranced the crowd with some of his most recent hits, including “Swalla” and “Jelebi Baby,” as well as some of his older fan favorites such as “Solo” and “In My Head.”

The concert took place in the same valley that hosted the contemporary art exhibition Desert X earlier this year, ensuring a special music experience for nationals and visitors alike in celebration of the Kingdom’s 92nd National Day.

American Popstar Jason Derulo performing to a Saudi audience in celebration of the 92nd National Day at the Azimuth festival in AlUla, which took pace from Sept. 22-24. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)

“Any time you can come to a place and have an experience … it makes the show so much better because it’s something that’s completely different that you can’t get anywhere else,” Derulo told Arab News in an exclusive interview.

Historically known as a strategic crossroads for trade and pilgrimage routes, the settlement conceals hidden gems such as the narrow valley oasis and the unique Elephant Rock. As part of the Madinah province, AlUla is a symbol of the cultural richness found throughout the eastern region of Saudi Arabia and beyond.

Any time that I can spread the word about how incredible this place is, I jump at the opportunity, and this is another one of those opportunities.

Jason Derulo

“Coming through the rock and all the sand, it’s almost like it’s a hideaway from everything, and to bring all of this luxury to the middle of the desert is unlike any other experience,” he said.

“Here you get to really see all the stars, you get to see all the rock, the mountains, you get a piece of that world. Then you bring the highest level of luxury to it and it’s just a blend of worlds that you can’t get anywhere else,” Derulo added.

American Popstar Jason Derulo performing to a Saudi audience in celebration of the 92nd National Day at the Azimuth festival in AlUla, which took pace from Sept. 22-24. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)

Derulo has performed throughout the region, headlining in Saudi for the first time in 2018 at the Saudia Diriyah E-Prix alongside Enrique Iglesias, The Black Eyed Peas, and Egypt’s Amr Diab.

“I’ve been performing for a very long time and I can say that this experience was unique, unlike any experience I’ve ever had. I’ve performed all over the world and even coming here today, I pulled out my phone — I was like, ‘this is amazing,’” he said.

The three-day Azimuth festival is one of several initiatives, forming part of Vision 2030, to position the Kingdom as a tourism hub.

FASTFACTS

• The American artist entranced the crowd with some of his most recent hits, including ‘Swalla’ and ‘Jelebi Baby,’ as well as some of his older fan favorites such as ‘Solo’ and ‘In My Head.’

• The concert took place in the same valley that hosted the contemporary art exhibition Desert X earlier this year, ensuring a special music experience for nationals and visitors alike in celebration of the Kingdom’s 92nd National Day.

• Jason Derulo commended the efforts made to globalize local talent and create new avenues for entertainment, recalling his performance during the professional LIV Golf tour, financed by the Public Investment Fund.

“I was actually one of the first performers, if not the first performer, that performed with an integrated crowd between men and women here, and I feel honored and blessed to be a small piece of history.”

“Any time that I can spread the word about how incredible this place is, I jump at the opportunity, and this is another one of those opportunities,” Derulo said.

“I love that people from across the world have come here and made this home because it really is a special place. They have a sense of pride, a small piece of ownership even, you would think that they were from here and they know so much about the history,” he added.

The artist believes that Saudi Arabia is on the verge of becoming one of the “biggest” attractions in the world.

“This is something that’s just starting, though people are just now starting to see it, I’m sure this has been in the works for such a long time. There’s still so much room for growth, but it’s already incredible,” he said.

Bringing in a diverse lineup of both local and international artists was a key goal for the event, collaborated by entertainment festival MDLBEAST and the Royal Commission for AlUla.

Ahmed Alammary, the Saudi DJ and chief creative at MDLBEAST, told Arab News that this celebration was a chance to create cultural exchange opportunities with international artists while also catering to a local audience.

Derulo commended the efforts made to globalize local talent and create new avenues for entertainment, recalling his performance during the professional LIV Golf tour, financed by the Public Investment Fund.

“This is becoming a melting pot, and it’s beautiful to see … I think Saudi is really pushing the envelope in terms of tourism and technology. When you think of arts when you think of entertainment, Saudi has become really high up on the list because they really took a stand and really took a giant leap in that world,” Derulo said.

 


Who’s Who: Mishaal Ashemimry, vice president of the International Astronautical Federation

Mishaal Ashemimry
Mishaal Ashemimry
Updated 15 sec ago

Who’s Who: Mishaal Ashemimry, vice president of the International Astronautical Federation

Mishaal Ashemimry

Saudi engineer Mishaal Ashemimry is the newly elected vice president of the International Astronautical Federation, becoming the first Saudi woman to hold the position after receiving 14 majority votes from international representatives.

Her role as one of the federation’s 12 vice presidents enables her to further the development of the space sector globally and consolidate the direction of the IAF.

As a Saudi woman and the first aerospace engineer in the Gulf Cooperation Council, her position strategically places the Kingdom at the forefront of the industry and highlights the country as a global leader in the field.

Since September 2021, Ashemimry has served as special advisor to the CEO of the Saudi Space Commission Mohammed Al-Tamimi, a position in which she consults on developing a national space strategy, creates and leads space programs, and advises leadership on direction and execution.

Ashemimry was previously a space nuclear technology consultant at the aerospace and defense company Northrop Grumman. She also conducted research funded by the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center during her time as a research assistant at the Florida Institute of Technology

At 26 years old, the engineer was also president and CEO of her own aerospace company, MISHAAL Aerospace, established in 2010. The company developed space rockets, designed and launched its own line of cost-effective rockets titled the “M-rocket” series, completed static tests for hybrid rocket propulsion systems and provided global consultation.

In 2015, Ashemimry won the Inspirational Woman of the Year Award at the Arab Women Awards and in 2018 was awarded for her scientific achievements by King Salman.

She received her bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics and aerospace engineering in 2006 and her master’s degree in aerospace engineering in 2007, both from the Florida Institute of technology.

She is a certified Nitrox, rescue and open water diver, a commercial pilot and is trained in real space flight conditions of zero-gravity.

Ashemimry is an expert in aerodynamics, missile and rocket stage separation analysis, vehicle design, wind tunnel testing, simulations and analysis, and computational tool development.

 


Volunteers clear litter from hiking routes near Jeddah

Volunteers collected over 4,000 plastic bottles, 1,000 cans, and glass shards collected from hiking trails in Asfan. (Supplied)
Volunteers collected over 4,000 plastic bottles, 1,000 cans, and glass shards collected from hiking trails in Asfan. (Supplied)
Updated 17 min 36 sec ago

Volunteers clear litter from hiking routes near Jeddah

Volunteers collected over 4,000 plastic bottles, 1,000 cans, and glass shards collected from hiking trails in Asfan. (Supplied)
  • Over 4,000 plastic bottles, 1,000 cans, glass shards collected
  • Earth Trails focuses on environmentally friendly life, says GM

JEDDAH: Volunteers from a local tourism group recently cleared heaps of garbage from hiking trails in Asfan as part of their social responsibility commitments, and to ensure a pristine environment for outdoor enthusiasts.

Asfan is a small city surrounded by hiking trails running through its unique terrain and striking rock formations, making it a favorite destination for people living in Jeddah.

The cleanup was undertaken by Earth Trails, a company licensed by the Saudi Tourism Ministry, that specializes in hiking tours and trips around the Kingdom.

Dr. Shadi Badawood, the general manager of Earth Trails, said: “Natural trails in Saudi Arabia need more attention by all nature enthusiasts and the public.” This initiative would hopefully inspire people to keep the country’s natural spaces clean, he said.

FASTFACT

Dr. Shadi Badawood, the general manager of Earth Trails, said plastic takes 450 years to decompose, aluminum 80 years, and glass one million years.

Earth Trails’ members collected more than 4,000 plastic bottles, over 1,000 aluminum cans, and a significant number of glass shards. Badawood said plastic takes 450 years to decompose, aluminum 80 years, and glass one million years.

“It is part of our responsibility to take the initiative to clean up these trails, and encourage other individuals to follow in our steps,” Badawood said. Many people do not realize how much they are harming the environment by littering, he said.

Around 25 volunteers participated in the initiative. Badawood said he was pleased with the turnout and hopes the next event will attract more participants.

“We do have a number of volunteering members who really love nature and we admire their actions (to) take care of the environment, and we encourage them to learn new ways to sustain the ecosystem around us,” said Sarah Fida, volunteer coordinator at Earth Trails.

Muath Al-Ahmadi, a volunteer, said: “I’m a nature enthusiast and I believe that one of the most significant points about the cleanup initiatives is awareness. The participation in such programs with hiking groups is a big step towards a more sustainable and environmentally friendly life.” Seeing the amount of waste on the trails should make people “rethink” their consumption, Al-Ahmadi added.

Another volunteer, Yousef Albouq, said: “When I joined … I felt excited and happy. I think events like this will contribute to reducing waste, and I hope such initiatives of Earth Trails will … raise people’s awareness of putting trash in the right place.”

He said those who willingly contributed their time showed how committed they are to protecting the environment.

 


Saudi Arabia takes part in World Tourism Day 2022

There will be many unique and futuristic offerings in Saudi Arabia as the country continues to develop. (SPA)
There will be many unique and futuristic offerings in Saudi Arabia as the country continues to develop. (SPA)
Updated 26 September 2022

Saudi Arabia takes part in World Tourism Day 2022

There will be many unique and futuristic offerings in Saudi Arabia as the country continues to develop. (SPA)
  • The ministry aims to raise awareness of the importance of tourism in Saudi Arabia as an axis and a fundamental pillar of development within the objectives of Vision 2030

RIYADH: The Saudi Ministry of Tourism is taking part in celebrations for World Tourism Day 2022 in Bali, Indonesia, on Sept. 27, to promote tourism as a key pillar of development.

The ministry aims to raise awareness of the importance of tourism in Saudi Arabia as an axis and a fundamental pillar of development within the objectives of Vision 2030.

Recognizing the importance of human capital development, the ministry launched the largest national strategy for capacity development and tourism competencies in the Kingdom, which aims to prepare qualified national cadres with the highest international standards.

The strategy also aims to empower entrepreneurs and owners of small and medium tourism establishments through a package of distinctive programs to bring about a qualitative leap that reflects the ambition of the tourism sector to enrich the experiences of tourists.

Zurab Pololikashvili, secretary-general of the UN World Tourism Organization, said: “This year, especially, we also recognize that we cannot go back to the old ways of working. The 2030 agenda for sustainable development remains our end goal.

“We must rethink tourism. As the world opens up again, we must learn the lessons of the past; through crisis, we have seen where we can build more resilience and deliver more fairness,” he added.

Furthermore, the Saudi ministry is paying attention to the tourism industry in the Kingdom in terms of its organization, development and promotion in a way that enhances the role of the sector and overcomes obstacles to its growth.

It is allowing registrations for the Tourism Pioneers Program, which provides training opportunities in 10 prestigious global universities and educational institutions specialized in the sector.

 


Saudi counter-extremism center works with Telegram to remove five million extremist posts in past two months

A general view shows the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology shortly before its inauguration in Riyadh. (AFP)
A general view shows the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology shortly before its inauguration in Riyadh. (AFP)
Updated 21 min 22 sec ago

Saudi counter-extremism center works with Telegram to remove five million extremist posts in past two months

A general view shows the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology shortly before its inauguration in Riyadh. (AFP)
  • Since the collaboration began in February, more than 7 million examples of extremist content have been removed from the instant messaging service

RIYADH: More than five million examples of extremist content were removed from instant messaging service Telegram in the space of just two months.

The Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology, also known as Etidal, on Monday said that between July 17 and Sept. 13, its work with a task force from Telegram to prevent and combat terrorism and violent extremism resulted in the deletion of 5,269,078 items from the platform. They included 3,012,489 messages relating to Tahrir Al-Sham, a militant group involved in the Syrian civil war, 1,168,447 about Al-Qaeda, and 1,088,142 about Daesh.

Mubarak Al-Aati, a Saudi writer and analyst. (Supplied)

Since the collaboration began on Feb. 21, Etidal said 7,146,016 examples of extremist content has been removed from Telegram to protect users from threats and damaging ideological influences. They include messages in Arabic that contained various types of media files, including PDFs, videos and audio recordings.

Mubarak Al-Aati, a Saudi writer and political analyst, said that Etidal is showing that it is efficient and serious in its efforts to confront the rhetoric of extremism and the ideas of terrorism. He told Arab News that the organization’s work to combat the threats on the local, regional and global levels is well known, and its work with high-profile partners such as Telegram will help to reduce the extremist influence on social media and in other public online spaces.

FASTFACT

Since the collaboration began in February, more than 7 million examples of extremist content have been removed from the instant messaging service.

“It will restrict the danger of such materials to society and make pertinent bodies address their responsibilities to preserve and maintain the security of society,” said Al-Aati.

Etidal is a global organization tasked with combating and rooting out examples of extremism, addressing them, and promoting a culture of tolerance and coexistence among peoples. It was established on May 21, 2017, during the Arab-Islamic-American Summit in Riyadh with the aim of promoting, monitoring and analyzing a culture of intellectual moderation in collaboration with regional and international networks. Its headquarters are located in the Saudi capital.

Al-Aati said the center has enjoyed a number of successes so far in its work to tackle the menace of extremism and terrorism. He stressed the importance of the continuation of its painstaking efforts, along with the role of the wider international community in adopting a firm stance in opposition to states that support and sponsor terrorism and extremism and try to use extremist ideologies as a way to spread havoc and chaos.