‘We oppose violence against any sovereign country,’ Mexico’s Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard tells Arab News

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Updated 27 March 2022

‘We oppose violence against any sovereign country,’ Mexico’s Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard tells Arab News

‘We oppose violence against any sovereign country,’ Mexico’s Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard tells Arab News
  • Mexico’s top diplomat condemns invasion of Ukraine, but opposes use of sanctions in conflicts
  • He looks forward to stronger economic ties between Mexico and Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: Mexico opposes any kind of violence against a sovereign country, be it the invasion of Ukraine or missile attacks targeting Saudi Arabia, the country’s top diplomat has said.

Marcelo Ebrard, Mexico’s foreign affairs secretary, made the point forcefully during an exclusive interview with Arab News in Riyadh after arriving on Wednesday on the first stop of a four-country tour that will also take him to Qatar, the UAE and India.

The visit comes as Saudi Arabia and Mexico prepare to mark the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. Both countries are major energy producers, but there is a lot more to the relationship than just hydrocarbons. Both are diversifying their economies, investing in the knowledge economy and developing agendas for climate action.

At the outset of the interview, Ebrard made Mexico’s position on the Russia-Ukraine conflict clear. “We condemn the invasion, because this is an invasion by one country of another,” he said.

“Mexico suffered, as you probably know, four invasions during its history. So, we understand clearly what we are talking about when one country invades another. We condemn this (way) of solving political differences.”

However, in the context of the Russian invasion, Ebrard cast doubt on the effectiveness of economic sanctions as a panacea.

“We have a very strong position against sanctions, because usually it doesn’t work, as in the case of Cuba,” he said, referring to the US trade embargo, believed to the longest sanctions regime in modern history.




Noor Nugali, Arab News Assistant Editor in Chief, with Marcelo Ebrard, Mexico’s foreign affairs secretary. (AN photo/Huda Bashatah)

“They have maintained a blockade for 60 years now. It doesn’t work. Only the people suffer. As far as Mexican foreign policy is concerned, we are against sanctions. Not only in this (Cuban) case, but always.”

Commenting on the discussions this week between Prince Faisal bin Farhan, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, on the situation in Ukraine, as well as diplomatic efforts to end the crisis, Ebrard said that any mediation attempt is worth trying.

After calls with the leaders of Ukraine and Russia on March 3, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had said Saudi Arabia was ready to exert all efforts to mediate between the warring parties.

“If Saudi Arabia can reach some kind of agreement, we are going to be very happy to hear about that,” Ebrard said. “The political solution is the only one, because the other (solution), violence, is only going to create huge suffering for society.”

At a time of global energy shortages and soaring geopolitical tensions, Saudi oil facilities, as well as population centers, are being targeted by Yemen’s Houthi militia. How does Mexico view the situation?

“We are against any use of violence as I mentioned. It is the same case with these kinds of attacks on Saudi Arabia,” he said.

“So, we need to support Saudi Arabia and its case for respect for its integrity and the (security of) its people. We condemn such kinds of violence against this country.”

As for Houthi terror attacks on civilian areas, he reiterated the Mexican government’s condemnation. “We did it in the past and are doing it right now. We are against those kinds of attacks and that kind of violence, any kind of political violence.”

Elaborating on the issue, Ebrard said: “In our constitution, (we support peaceful) resolution of conflicts. We support the UN and we are against violence. We learned from our history that violence is a bad idea.

“We suffered four invasions from France, the US and Spain before. So, we learned that it’s the worst thing to do.”

Moving on to Saudi-Mexico bilateral relations, Ebrard said he foresees a bright future. “Bilateral relations will be at a higher level. We are not superpowers, but we are part of G20, who are the biggest economies of the world,” he said.

“So, we can really work together in order to improve the world and to improve our relations for the benefit of our peoples. We have 70 years without differences, which is quite unique. It is quite a good relationship right now.”

Ebrard said as the Saudi-Mexico economic relationship, anchored in trade and investments, becomes deeper and stronger, there will be practical benefits.

“Increase of tourism and development in Mexico and Saudi Arabia (benefits) both together. Increase in investment, means more opportunity for the people,” he said.

Ebrard said the Kingdom and Mexico have similar policy priorities, especially in the field of knowledge. “We have similarities. (We both want to) increase tourism and accelerate development.

“So, we have similar priorities, we are working on the same issues. So, why not join efforts, to benefit other people, for instance, to have new vaccines or medicine, solutions or pharmaceutical ideas (become reality) in the short term? Why not? We are going to try to do it.”

Asked about his views on Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 reform strategy, Ebrard described it as “a very interesting and very advanced” idea.

“The reforms are very interesting. And you are advancing very fast,” he said. “This is the impression that we have from Mexico. The reforms, the new vision, are an inspiration for all countries. I recognize that this is a very important initiative.”

Ebrard said that he was impressed by a visit to King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology in Riyadh. “They have 60 facilities. It is amazing. And I think more than 2,000 researchers,” he said. “So, they showed us several very interesting projects. We are going to follow up this conversation for joint efforts.”

He expressed satisfaction with a meeting with Saudi Arabia’s Tourism Development Fund. “They gave a presentation to representatives of the Mexican private sector, who form the business part of my delegation, on the new developments coming up in Saudi Arabia in the coming years,” he said.

“Then I had a conversation with the foreign affairs minister (Prince Faisal bin Farhan), who is a very smart and good friend of mine.”

During Prince Faisal’s visit to Mexico in November last year, the two had noted the “excellent synergies between Mexico and Saudi Arabia within the G20 and the UN for promoting initiatives that more broadly benefit developing countries.”




Marcelo Ebrard, Mexico’s foreign affairs secretary. (AN photo/Huda Bashatah)

Ebrard said: “We have similar ideas about reforestation, in Mexico and Saudi Arabia. We are promoting ideas about how to recover, in Mexico, tropical forest, and how to expand the green belt.

“This is a concrete expression of the similarities of our ideas on climate action. Then there are similarities in our positions on multilateral organizations, the search for peaceful settlement of disputes around the world, and other issues for which we are promoting solutions.

“We are together not only on the issue of climate action, but also on the transition between the energy of the present and the energy of the future. It is like flying a plane where you are going to change the engine and, at the same time, keep flying. So, few countries understand this. As Saudis and Mexicans, we understand the challenge.”

Ebrard identified tourism and infrastructure as two major fields in which the governments can work together. “We have brought representatives of the private sector as part of the Mexican delegation. We are going to receive private-sector representatives from Saudi Arabia next month,” he said.

He also listed certain sectors that he considers most attractive for investments, especially by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund.

“Agriculture, fisheries, automobile industry, the new economy including e-commerce. There are several fields where our priorities converge. So why not try to increase investments and trade between us?”

Ebrard acknowledged that distance posed a challenge to growth of trade and investment, as also the absence of a direct air route between Saudi Arabia and Mexico. “You should be able to take a flight from here and arrive in Mexico City,” he said.

“This is going to be an objective for the next six months or something. It’s going to be very important.”

As a final note, Ebrard said: “We are going to follow up this conversation (we had with our Saudi counterparts) in order to see results and answers in the short term. A conversation that influences ideas and culture is the first step to change the world.”


Arab hip-hop culture takes center stage at BeatRoots in Riyadh

BeatRoots is a creative experience developed by Museland’s founder, Ali Al-Saeed. (Supplied)
BeatRoots is a creative experience developed by Museland’s founder, Ali Al-Saeed. (Supplied)
Updated 06 July 2022

Arab hip-hop culture takes center stage at BeatRoots in Riyadh

BeatRoots is a creative experience developed by Museland’s founder, Ali Al-Saeed. (Supplied)
  • Hip-hop artist and rapper Dattune told Arab News: “We already had a hip-hop culture (in the Kingdom) but we didn’t have enough spaces to either perform or connect with each other

RIYADH: The Saudi hip-hop music scene was in the spotlight at the weekend when local talent took to the stage in Riyadh at BeatRoots, a special music event that took place on Friday at AlMashtal Creative Space, in collaboration with Bahraini record label Museland.

The event, inspired by New York-style block parties, featured live performances by six Saudi and Bahraini artists, plus graffiti artists, b-boy dancing, and a market selling sneakers, street fashion and vinyl records.

AlMashtal, a creative incubator, regularly hosts collaborations with creators of various kinds, including musicians, visual artists and fashion designers. Its goal is to provide a platform to help creative talents to develop their crafts, grow and showcase their work.

“We really like to focus on these local talents, these up-and-coming artists that need a space to express themselves, to have their own audience, a chance to showcase themselves in front of an intimate audience; the right type of audience, the right type of space,” Elham Ghanimah, AlMashtal’s creative labs curator, told Arab News.

The night began with a mellow performance by Bahraini musician and graffiti artist Du$t. His music is inspired by diverse elements such as B-boy dancing, graffiti and surrealist art. He explained that it is important for his craft that he thinks outside of the box when creating his music, and said that he is pleased to see his style of music building a following in Saudi Arabia.

“It’s amazing to see it growing here as well,” he told Arab News. “In Bahrain (we’ve done) the same event there, so to bring it here and to see that everyone is involved brings a nice feeling.”

BeatRoots is a creative experience developed by Museland’s founder, Ali Al-Saeed. It is already a regular event in Bahrain and now the label is expanding to other parts of the region.

“Everyone’s happy; the energy is really good, everything is positive, the crowd is really enjoying it,” Ghanimah said. “I think at the end, that’s really what matters.”

Many people assume the hip-hop scene is relatively new to Saudi Arabia but its origins can be traced back at least as far as the early 2000s, with interest in the genre fueled by the growth of the internet.

“In general, everyone focuses on hip-hop in English … It’s OK to get inspiration from the West but it’s also good to see what you have here, to connect with your own culture, with your roots,” Ghanimah said.

Hip-hop artist and rapper Dattune told Arab News: “We already had a hip-hop culture (in the Kingdom) but we didn’t have enough spaces to either perform or connect with each other. That’s what I love about these kinds of events. I’ve met a lot of people that I wouldn’t have met if we didn’t have these spaces. The talent is already there; all we need is a chance to perform.”

In addition to Dattune and Du$t, the BeatRoots lineup included Fizzy, Septemba, Str8tup Rkls, and hip-hop artist, rapper, and crowd-favorite Albakri, who gave a hardcore yet heartfelt performance that included two as-yet-unreleased songs.

Albakri said his inspiration comes from looking inward, citing his culture and personal identity as huge influences on his work.

“I’m a guy of mixed identity: I’m Jordanian, I’m Palestinian and I’m Saudi. I’m all of these. So it’s just about how I can connect with those three cultures,” he told Arab News.

When it comes to his unique sound, he said his main inspirations come from around Riyadh, in particular his producers Leo, Mufasa and Dice, as well as DJs and friends such as Bucky Grooves, Vinylmode and Baloo. The rapper said he hopes to establish his own record label one day.

“I’m very happy that someone from Bahrain looked into (Riyadh) and was digging for artists … Seeing people open up to the genre, seeing collaborations between the hip-hop genre, the dance/house/minimal genre … and having a space, being a collective — all of that matters to the genre and the music in general,” he said.

AlMashtal’s stated aim with cultural events such as BeatRoots is to open the doors for discussions, cultural and artistic exchanges, and the promotion of creative ventures across the Arab region.

“We wanna do more collaborations just to put everything forward in a positive way,” Ghanimah said.

“Not everyone gets a chance and if people do get a chance, not everyone gets the right chance and the right type of support.

“So, you’re getting to showcase yourself not just at any space but at a creative incubator where the whole goal is to nurture these creatives and help them reach their goals.”


Saudi Transport Ministry carries out work to improve roads leading to holy sites

Saudi Transport Ministry carries out work to improve roads leading to holy sites
Updated 06 July 2022

Saudi Transport Ministry carries out work to improve roads leading to holy sites

Saudi Transport Ministry carries out work to improve roads leading to holy sites

RIYADH: The Saudi Ministry of Transport and Logistic Services has been carrying out maintenance work in Makkah on roads leading to holy sites to help ensure the safety of pilgrims, improve travel to and from the holy sites, and help make Hajj experience easier, officials said.

The work includes installing protective barriers, fences, road signs and concrete curbs, and repainting road markings. Roads and buildings are also being repaired. The maintenance efforts have focused on improving the Hijrah route, along with the Jeddah and Makkah highways, but have also taken in parts of Makkah and the holy sites.

Some projects are already complete, including lighting along the Hijrah route and the extension of some Makkah highways.

The Ministry of Transport is responsible for planning and implementing air, land and sea transport in the Kingdom, including the maintenance of roads and coordination of the nation’s transportation system.


Officials unveil seven special events designed to enrich the Hajj experience

Officials unveil seven special events designed to enrich the Hajj experience
Updated 06 July 2022

Officials unveil seven special events designed to enrich the Hajj experience

Officials unveil seven special events designed to enrich the Hajj experience
  • The program includes three exhibitions related to the holy sites and four religious and cultural initiatives
  • They were launched on Tuesday by the Royal Commission for Makkah City and Holy Sites, represented by Kidana Development Company

JEDDAH: A series of special exhibitions and enrichment initiatives will take place at the holy sites during Hajj to provide pilgrims with enhanced spiritual and cultural experiences as part of an unforgettable Hajj journey.

The program was launched on Tuesday by the Royal Commission for Makkah City and Holy Sites, represented by the Kidana Development Company.

In a message posted on its official Twitter account, Kidana said: “To achieve the #Saudi_Vision_2030 through enriching the religious journey, the cultural experience and caring for the #Pilgrims, #Kidana launches seven initiatives to enrich the experience of the pilgrims with the participation of governmental and private sectors.”

The seven events include three exhibitions related to the holy sites and four religious and cultural initiatives.

The Covenant Exhibition in Arafat will introduce pilgrims to the most prominent characteristics of Makkah and its residents. The Water Story Exhibition, also in the Arafat area, highlights the history of water provision during Hajj and the honor of the mission. It is presented in cooperation with the Al-Zamazemah Company, which is responsible for supplying and distributing water at the holy sites during Hajj and Umrah, and throughout the year.

The third exhibition, in Mina, focuses on the Kiswa, the cloth that covers the Kaaba. It will tell the history of the Kiswa, explain how it is made, and highlight the efforts made by the Kingdom to provide and develop all Kaaba-related services. The exhibition is being organized by the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, the House of Islamic Arts, and The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Institute for Hajj and Umrah Research.

The other four initiatives cover various cultural, Islamic and social topics, and will be presented in a variety of locations in collaboration with a number of specialist associations.

Coffee represents a strong element of Saudi culture that is closely linked to the identity and traditions of the country. In cooperation with the Ministry of Culture’s Year of Saudi Coffee initiative, coffee will be served to pilgrims in Mina. As part of the Hajj initiative, the pilgrims will also have a chance to learn about the distinctive characteristics of Saudi coffee, along with ways of preparing and serving it.

The second initiative, which will take place beside the Aqaba Hill Mosque in collaboration with the Saudi Tour Guides Association, aims to share the history of the location and the events that took place there.

The Kidana Development Company is organizing an initiative called A Photo and a Memory to help pilgrims remember and treasure the highlights of their Hajj experience, as part of which visitors will be presented with gifts.

Finally, the Aroma of the Holy Sites, which will take place at Mina during Eid Al-Adha, is a unique initiative designed to capture and share the essence of the holy sites.


AlUla unveils new summer schedule for flights and activities

AlUla unveils new summer schedule for flights and activities
Updated 06 July 2022

AlUla unveils new summer schedule for flights and activities

AlUla unveils new summer schedule for flights and activities
  • There are regular local flights to the UNESCO World Heritage site from Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam, and also from Dubai

DHAHRAN, Saudi Arabia: As part of the latest efforts to promote AlUla as an increasingly popular summer vacation destination, new schedules have been announced for direct flights from within the Kingdom and the UAE.

Under the theme Live the World’s Masterpiece Summer Untold, the campaign also highlights the world-class tourism and entertainment offerings at AlUla, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, along with special activities and excursions in the coming months and accommodation options.

Beginning this month, Saudia will offer three weekly direct flights from Riyadh to AlUla, increasing to five a week from Aug 1. As of July 4, flights are operating from Jeddah to AlUla every day of the week except Fridays. And beginning on Aug. 1, visitors from Dammam can fly direct to AlUla on weekdays. Meanwhile, Flynas offers flights between Riyadh and AlUla every Sunday.

Flynas also offers flights to AlUla from the UAE. They depart from Dubai on Fridays and return flights depart every Sunday. The airline has said it plans to increase the frequency of the flights by September. In addition, Flydubai offers two flights a week to AlUla, on Thursdays and Sundays.

One of the attractions of AlUla is its weather, which is is slightly cooler than many other parts of the country during the scorching Saudi summer. As a result, it is a popular location for visitors keen to enjoy outdoor activities such as cycling, camel riding, swimming or hiking during the day and stargazing at night.

Unique attractions include Jabal Al-Fil, or Elephant Rock, a stunning natural rock formation. Meanwhile fans of local culture and heritage can sign up for guided tours of historic locations such as Hegra, AlUla Old Town, and about half a dozen other options in and around around Dadan, Jabal Lkmah and other locations.

More adventurous or active visitors might consider having a go at ziplining, rock climbing, hiking on the hidden valley trail, or taking in the views from the air on a helicopter tour. For those who prefer to relax and enjoy a slower-paced vacation, stargazing remains a favorite activity for many, and there are also live concerts and other performances to enjoy in the Old Market Town.

In the Old Town of AlUla, visitors can chat and haggle with local vendors or tour the handicraft pavilions, where nature is the main component of traditional crafts.

When it is time to rest and recharge, visitors can sample the menus at many local restaurants, including Tama at Habitas, Suhail Old Town, Pink Camel Pastry Boutique and Circolo.

For businesses looking for an unforgettable location for a conference or team-building retreat, spaces at the majestic Maraya are available to rent. Recognized in 2020 by Guinness World Records as the world’s largest mirrored building, it offers capacity of up to 500 seats and stunning scenery all around.

The accommodation options include the popular Shaden, a four-star resort 32 minutes from the airport that offers 125 rooms and villas; and Habitas, a five-star resort 45 minutes from the airport that will reopen on July 25 after maintenance work. In addition, Caravan by Habitas offers 22 recreational vehicles.

“We will turn AlUla into a living museum, creating memories that visitors will share with the world,” Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman once said. “Heritage is the main asset of AlUla. We have to use this asset to offer visitors a unique journey through time where they can enjoy a living museum.”


Saudi Arabia participates in UN sustainable development goals forum

Saudi Arabia participates in UN sustainable development goals forum
Updated 06 July 2022

Saudi Arabia participates in UN sustainable development goals forum

Saudi Arabia participates in UN sustainable development goals forum

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia on Tuesday took part in the High Level Political Forum (HLPF) 2022, which is concerned with the sustainable development goals and working to accelerate their progress.
The forum, which is the main UN platform to follow up on the progress of the 17 SDGs and review its plans for 2030, is being held under the title: “Building back better from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) while advancing the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”
The Kingdom’s delegation is headed by the Ministry of Economy and Planning, with the participation of representatives from the ministries of education, finance, health, human resources and social development, environment, water and agriculture, communications and information technology, and the General Authority for Statistics.

 


The Kingdom’s delegation to the forum is led by the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Economy and Planning for Policies and Economic Planning Ayman bin Ishaq Afghani.
The forum, which will continue until July 15, will address goals aimed at rebuilding better after the pandemic, and a global outlook on developing the full implementation of the 2030 SDG agenda.
It will also focus on the goals of quality education, gender equality, life under water and on land, establishing partnerships to achieve the goals, and the importance of international cooperation and commitment to achieving the SDGs, taking into account low-income and least developed countries.
Afghani stressed the critical importance of the forum, saying: “The world is currently going through an important phase that requires all of us to cooperate and know what we need right now, and where we should be in the next stage, so that efforts can yield real results that will benefit the local and global levels.”
During the forum’s activities, the Kingdom’s representatives will highlight the roadmap plan developed by the country in coordination with stakeholders to achieve the SDGs, and the progress made through programs, initiatives and projects in line with the goals of the Saudi Vision 2030.
The 17 SDGs center around a call for all countries to work to promote prosperity and economic growth, and these goals include a range of social needs including education, health, social protection and employment opportunities, while addressing climate change and environmental protection.