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 dialogue sessions to stimulate creativity and innovation in Hajj and Umrah

Saudi dialogue sessions to stimulate creativity and innovation in Hajj and Umrah
Updated 20 May 2022

Saudi dialogue sessions to stimulate creativity and innovation in Hajj and Umrah

Saudi dialogue sessions to stimulate creativity and innovation in Hajj and Umrah
  • Challenges faced by the Hajj and Umrah sector were discussed

MAKKAH: Saudi Arabia hosted a two-day session of virtual dialogue this week, aimed at “stimulating creativity and innovation in the field of Hajj and Umrah.”

The discussions addressed the challenges faced by the Hajj and Umrah sector, pioneering ideas in this field, and ways of promoting innovation within the sector.

Hisham Saeed, spokesman and undersecretary for Hajj and Umrah services at the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, stressed that creativity and innovation are key pillars of Saudi Vision 2030.

“We aspire to impress the pilgrim throughout his journey, thanks to a creative and innovative work system in the field of Hajj and Umrah,” he said.

“If we want to innovate, we must have an ambitious vision founded on excellence and quality,” said Mohammed Saati, spokesman for the Hajj Smart Card Project. “The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah hopes to make the Hajj smart card a key tool in all pilgrims’ journey in the Kingdom.”

Dr. Naeem Al-Bihani, associate professor of entrepreneurship and head of business administration at Umm Al-Qura University, said the best ideas are generated in a stimulating culture and environment. “Innovation is not just about techniques and systems, it’s a way of life for individuals and institutions in all disciplines,” he noted.

Sami Sarhan, head of industrial partnerships at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, said it is vital to develop services provided to pilgrims from their arrival in the Kingdom until their safe return home.

Dr. Ammar Attar, CEO of Manaafi Consulting, stressed that a culture of innovation is essential for the Hajj and Umrah system.
 


Djibouti becomes 10th member of Digital Cooperation Organization

Djibouti becomes 10th member of Digital Cooperation Organization
Updated 20 May 2022

Djibouti becomes 10th member of Digital Cooperation Organization

Djibouti becomes 10th member of Digital Cooperation Organization
  • Saudi initiative aims to promote social prosperity through more inclusive participation and growth across the digital economy

RIYADH: Djibouti has officially joined the membership of the Digital Cooperation Organization, a Saudi initiative that brings together nations, businesses, civil society groups, academics, and R & D institutions to promote social prosperity through more inclusive participation and growth across the digital economy. 

Djibouti Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Dya-Eddine Said Bamakhrama signed the DCO’s founding charter in a ceremony organized at the embassy in Riyadh, and in the presence of the DCO’s secretary-general, Deemah Al-Yahya, and Omar Al-Nimr, director of governmental and international relations in the organization.

“I signed the foundation charter of the DCO for Djibouti to be a member of this new organization focusing on digital prosperity for all. Deemah Al Yahya, secretary-general of the DCO, was present during the signing at the Djibouti Embassy,” the ambassador tweeted on Wednesday.

With the signing of the charter, Djibouti becomes the 10th member country and the fourth in Africa to join the membership of the organization, which includes Saudi Arabia (the headquarters country), Jordan, Bahrain, Pakistan, Rwanda, Oman, Kuwait, Morocco and Nigeria.

HIGHLIGHT

Founded by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait and Pakistan, the Digital Cooperation Organization is driven by the vision of a digital future for all. It aims to empower women, youth and entrepreneurs, expanding the digital economy and advancing with innovation.

Morocco joined as the ninth member state of the DCO last month. The DCO was launched after Saudi Arabia’s G20 presidency at the G20 Summit in November 2020, where there was great focus on the digital economy, especially in education and health in response to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Founded by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait and Pakistan, the DCO is driven by the vision of a digital future for all. It aims to empower women, youth and entrepreneurs, expanding the digital economy and advancing with innovation.

Bamakhrama told Arab News on Thursday: “The DCO is interested in digitization in the field of administration and the economy, and works with governments, civil society, international organizations and the private sector in promoting comprehensive digital transformation within member states by adopting initiatives focused on the digital economy and supporting women, youth and entrepreneurs in this field.”

Bamakhrama added that countries in the DCO are part of a broader network for building global partnerships that develop common digital ambitions.

The ambassador said that the organization aims to achieve diversification and economic and social prosperity, thanks to the growth opportunities provided by the digital transformation of the public sector.

“Djibouti joining the organization comes within the framework of an ambitious national will to adopt digitization, with the aim of responding to many challenges and finding sustainable solutions to them, and providing an exceptional environment for work, living and prosperity in Djibouti,” said the ambassador.

Djibouti’s entry to the DCO comes after Minister of State in charge of Digital Economy and Innovation Maryam Hamdo Ali visited Saudi Arabia in late March, when she met with many senior officials specialized in information technology and digitization.

“In Djibouti, digital technology occupies an important place in the program of President Ismail Omar Guelleh to promote national development at various levels,” said the ambassador.


Saudi, Belgian artists showcase women-centric artworks

Saudi, Belgian artists showcase women-centric artworks
Updated 19 May 2022

Saudi, Belgian artists showcase women-centric artworks

Saudi, Belgian artists showcase women-centric artworks
  • Skna Hassan’s artwork is colorful while Andrea Hulsbosch’s is mysterious with dark colors

RIYADH: For Europe Month 2022, Belgian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Dominique Mineur invited visitors to an art exhibition titled “Belgian and Saudi Face to Face” at Lar’t Pur Gallery, which commenced on May 17 and will last for a week.

“The Belgian Embassy is delighted to collaborate with the EU and Saudi Arabia to hold an exhibition featuring Belgian and Saudi artists in conjunction with the European Union month,” Mineur told Arab News.

The exhibit features abstract women-centric art pieces by Belgian artist Andrea B. M. Hulsbosch and Saudi artist Skna Hassan.

“Both artists are portraying women in their respective contexts, and I think the dialogue between them is inspiring, and there is no better way than art to create links between two countries,” Mineur said.

Hassan’s artwork is colorful and showcases Arabian women dressed in traditional yet modern attires on large-scale canvases, while Hulsbosch’s artwork is mysterious with dark colors on small canvases. 

“I believe that Skna and I are very complementary. Her artworks are large and bright while mine are intentionally smaller and more sober. My work requires a symbiotic connection with my collaborators and a level of intimacy with the audience which generates a sense of mystery, while Skna’s art makes an immediate impression. But both focus on women, and I feel that’s what connects us — telling stories as women and about women transcends borders,” Hulsbosch said.

Hassan is known for her female representations in her artwork as she always shows traditions, especially Najdi culture in her artworks.

“My work represents the Saudi woman and her life and culture. I am glad they called me and that the Belgium Embassy chose me to represent the Saudi woman. I feel that it was convenient to do it with Andrea because her pieces are about women and their cultures,” said Hassan.

Europe Month celebrates the founding of the EU on May 9 to celebrate peace and unity in Europe and cooperation with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The celebration runs until June 9, and is centered around the exchange of cultural experiences and encouragement of further communication between Europe and the Kingdom to improve mutual understanding and strengthening relations.


Jeddah Pier attraction adds to thrills of city’s festival season of activities

Jeddah Pier attraction adds to thrills of city’s festival season of activities
Updated 19 May 2022

Jeddah Pier attraction adds to thrills of city’s festival season of activities

Jeddah Pier attraction adds to thrills of city’s festival season of activities
  • Musical parades including acrobats, and people dressed as trees, zombies, and track-suited monkeys are an integral part of the zone’s events
  • A fireworks display backed by US rapper Pharrell Williams’ song ‘Happy’ was another of the Jeddah Pier attractions

JEDDAH: Visitors to the Jeddah Season of activities now have a new entertainment attraction to add to the growing list of festival events.

Mobile amusement park Jeddah Pier is the latest zone to open to fun seekers in the Red Sea port city.

Located on the Jeddah shoreline, it offers 39 rides, a variety of games some with soft-toy prizes, along with shops, and an array of cafes and restaurants.

For adrenaline junkies there is a roller coaster, plus a swing carousel, Ferris wheel, and pendulum ride. 

Located on the Jeddah shoreline, mobile amusement park Jeddah Pier offers 39 rides, a variety of games some with soft-toy prizes, along with shops, and an array of cafes and restaurants. (Supplied/Mohammed Al-Manea)

Shah Hussain, an English actor, was playing fictional pirate Long John Silver from Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel “Treasure Island” in one of the zone’s experience areas, the Abandoned Island.

He said: “The pier itself has so many attractions, but the Abandoned Island is one of the most thrilling for visitors to experience. It is not for the faint-hearted.”

However, Hussain pointed out that he had been struggling to adjust to temperatures in the city. “I have only just acclimatized to Jeddah. I came from 17 degrees weather to 44 degrees. People should come well-equipped with water, and we will also be ensuring that because we want everyone to have fun.” 

Located on the Jeddah shoreline, mobile amusement park Jeddah Pier offers 39 rides, a variety of games some with soft-toy prizes, along with shops, and an array of cafes and restaurants. (Supplied/Mohammed Al-Manea)

Madda Rashwan, 22, was visiting Jeddah Pier with her friends and family, and said the attraction offered a welcome distraction from work while reminding her of childhood experiences.

“I wanted to see how good it was, as my family and I have a thing for amusement parks. To be fair the amusement park scene in the city was not too good but the pier offers a lot of great rides,” she added.

Musical parades including acrobats, and people dressed as trees, zombies, and track-suited monkeys are an integral part of the zone’s events. 

Located on the Jeddah shoreline, mobile amusement park Jeddah Pier offers 39 rides, a variety of games some with soft-toy prizes, along with shops, and an array of cafes and restaurants. (Supplied/Mohammed Al-Manea)

Friends Yosuf Kutbi, 14, and Abdullah Alharbey, 15, visited Jeddah Pier on its opening day.

“I was looking forward to the Ferris wheel the most, even when the place was under construction, and that was the first ride I went to when we entered,” Kutbi said.

Alharbey said: “This place is one hour away from where I live, but because my friend was visiting, I came with him, and so far, coming here was worth the time.”

He added that he was looking forward to visiting other Jeddah Season events.

A fireworks display backed by US rapper Pharrell Williams’ song “Happy” was another of the Jeddah Pier attractions.


KSrelief delivers $3.2 million worth of aid to the Philippines

KSrelief delivers $3.2 million worth of aid to the Philippines
Updated 19 May 2022

KSrelief delivers $3.2 million worth of aid to the Philippines

KSrelief delivers $3.2 million worth of aid to the Philippines
  • Aid includes medical and protective equipment and devices with a value of $1.7 million to fight COVID-19
  • Filipino officials praised the Saudi support, extending their sincere appreciation to the Kingdom

RIYADH: The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief) delivered humanitarian assistance worth $3.2 million to the Philippines on Thursday.
The aid included medical and protective equipment and devices with a value of $1.7 million to fight COVID-19.
A further $1.5 million is earmarked to support the Philippine’s Ministry of Health alleviate the impacts of the Typhoon Rai that recently hit the country, and to help health relief and emergency works in Marawi City.
Director of the Department of Health and Environment Assistance at KSrelief Dr. Abdullah Al-Muallem handed over the financial and in-kind support to the Philippines in the presence of the Kingdom’s ambassador to the country Hisham Al-Qahtani.
Filipino officials praised the Saudi support, extending their sincere appreciation to the Kingdom for its generous support and solidarity with the Philippines in addressing health and natural crises in the country.