Erdogan's visit to the Kingdom is expected to usher in a new era of cooperation between the two countries

Erdogan's visit to the Kingdom is expected to usher in a new era of cooperation between the two countries
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Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman meets Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan upon his arrival in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, April 28, 2022. (Reuters)
Erdogan's visit to the Kingdom is expected to usher in a new era of cooperation between the two countries
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Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman meets Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan upon his arrival in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, April 28, 2022. (Reuters)
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Updated 30 April 2022

Erdogan's visit to the Kingdom is expected to usher in a new era of cooperation between the two countries

Erdogan's visit to the Kingdom is expected to usher in a new era of cooperation between the two countries

ANKARA: Following Thursday’s meeting in Jeddah between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and King Salman of Saudi Arabia, the strained relationship between the two countries is expected to dramatically improve.

The ice-breaking meeting — the highest-level diplomatic rendezvous between Turkey and Saudi Arabia since 2017 — is part of broader efforts by Turkey to improve its relationships with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in recent months, during which economic ties have been revived and Turkey has abstained from regional conflicts. Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia lifted its ban on Turkish goods, which had been in effect for four years. 

As a result of Erdogan’s visit, the two countries are set to boost bilateral cooperation in health, energy, food security, defense, agriculture and finance. Turkey’s emerging drone technology may also be of interest to Riyadh. 

Erdogan was received by Makkah Governor Prince Khalid Al-Faisal, who is also advisor to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, and several senior officials. Erdogan also met with Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.

The two-day visit is expected to signal a new chapter not only in economic terms, but also in regional politics — forming a bloc that will have greater influence over regional crisis points. 

Ahead of his visit, Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul: “My visit is a manifestation of our common will to start a new era of cooperation as two brotherly countries with historical, cultural and human ties. We attach as much importance to the stability and security of our brothers in the Gulf region as our own stability and security.”

On the first day of his visit, Erdogan said: “I believe we will take our relations to a level beyond what they were previously. My visit will open the doors of a new era with our friend (and) brother Saudi Arabia.”

A political alignment between the two countries will offer Ankara greater weight when it comes to issues including Syria, Egypt, Iraq and the Eastern Mediterranean. 

Oubai Shahbandar, a defense analyst, thinks that Erdogan’s visit is a major boost for natural partners who share common security interests. 

“Turkey’s defense industry will find an eager and valuable partner in Saudi Arabia,” he told Arab News. “And the Kingdom will benefit greatly from the wide variety of advanced tech expertise and products in Turkey’s defense sector that will be immeasurably valuable in Saudi’s ongoing counter-terror campaign against Iranian-backed proxies.” 

The Turkish-Saudi defense partnership reached its peak in 2016 when ASELSAN, one of the top Turkish defense companies, signed a tripartite memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Saudi defense companies TAQNIA and KACST.

According to Shahbandar, Riyadh-Ankara security cooperation will likely expand over time based on their common interests and shared understanding on how to achieve regional stability in light of Iranian activity.

Betul Dogan Akkas, an associate fellow at Al-Sharq Strategic Research, thinks that the visit indicates a joint desire for diplomatic reconciliation. 

“Erdogan referred to Houthi attacks on Saudi territory and condemned recent drone and missile attacks targeting Saudi land. His supportive comments to the Kingdom in respect to the war in Yemen are (significant). Although I don’t see that Saudi Arabia and Turkey will cooperate politically again in the short term in Libya or Syria, at least there will be some sort of narrative support,” she told Arab News. 

Akkas highlighted several potential areas of cooperation. 

“The initial chapter may be economic cooperation — this is not surprising, because the economy ranks top of Turkey’s agenda with the Gulf countries. Erdogan referred primarily to Turkish construction companies working and/or investing in the Kingdom,” she said. 

Following Erdogan’s landmark visit, Turkish construction companies are also expected to take part in development projects as part of Saudi Arabia Vision 2030 — a reciprocally lucrative move that would lure Gulf capital into cash-strapped Turkey. 

In 2020, Turkey’s exports to Saudi Arabia reached nearly $2.62 billion, while Saudi exports to Turkey — mostly fuel products — stood at about $1.8 billion.

A second area of cooperation, Akkas suggested, may be linked to the elimination of Ankara’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood. 

“The less Turkey emphasizes (that) in its foreign policy discourse, the less tension there will be when it comes to bilateral ties,” she said. 

Experts also underline that the rapprochement between Turkey and Saudi Arabia may lead to the formation of a common front against Iran. 

“Turkey has been a supportive partner for the Gulf countries (against) Iran in the region and (helped to) balance its power and political machinations. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is one part of it, but, in general, the Kingdom and Turkey will be cooperating over this ever-growing threat,” Akkas said. 

According to Akkas, the last area for potential cooperation is Syria — although Riyadh and Ankara initially took different positions regarding Syrian President Bashar Assad. 

“Middle Eastern countries have started an era of normalization with the Syrian regime, (with) Oman and the UAE following that path. When it comes to ‘accepting’ Assad or normalizing relations with the regime, Turkey-Saudi cooperation can help these countries politically,” Akkas said.


UAE’s moon rover launch delayed

UAE’s moon rover launch delayed
Updated 6 min ago

UAE’s moon rover launch delayed

UAE’s moon rover launch delayed
  • Rashid Rover is now scheduled to launch at 8:37 a.m. (GMT) on Thursday, Dec.1

DUBAI: The launch of the UAE’s moon rover has been delayed by one day for “additional pre-flight checks”, it was announced on Wednesday.

Rashid Rover, the Arab world’s first lunar mission, is now scheduled to launch at 8:37 a.m. (GMT) on Thursday, Dec.1, from Cape Canaveral in Florida, US, SpaceX said in a statement.

 

 

The UAE’s lunar mission is the product of a partnership with SpaceX and Japan-based ispace inc., which created the HAKUTO-R Mission 1 lunar lander aboard the Falcon 9 rocket.

The Emirati-made Rashid rover, weighing 10 kilograms and stored inside the Japanese lander, is due to land on around April 2023 on the visible side of the Moon, in the Atlas crater after a five-month journey.

Once launched, the integrated spacecraft will take a low-energy route to the moon rather than a direct approach.

If the lunar mission succeeds, the UAE will be the fourth country to land on the moon. The mission will also see the first spacecraft funded and built by a private Japanese firm to land on the moon.


US-Iran match mirrored a regional rivalry for many Arab fans

US-Iran match mirrored a regional rivalry for many Arab fans
Updated 30 November 2022

US-Iran match mirrored a regional rivalry for many Arab fans

US-Iran match mirrored a regional rivalry for many Arab fans
  • Critics of Iran say it has fomented war and unrest across the Arab world by supporting powerful armed groups in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and the Palestinian territories

BAGHDAD: The US team’s victory over Iran at the World Cup on Tuesday was closely watched across the Middle East, where the two nations have been engaged in a cold war for over four decades and where many blame one or both for the region’s woes.
Critics of Iran say it has fomented war and unrest across the Arab world by supporting powerful armed groups in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and the Palestinian territories. Supporters view it as the leader of an “axis of resistance” against what they see as US imperialism, corrupt Arab rulers and Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians.
The divide is especially intense in Lebanon and Iraq, where heavily armed Iran-backed political factions vie for political influence with opponents more oriented toward the West. In those countries, many believe Iran or the US are due for comeuppance — even if only on the pitch.
Others wished a plague on both their houses.
“Both are adversaries of Iraq and played a negative role in the country,” Haydar Shakar said in downtown Baghdad, where a cafe displayed the flags of both countries hanging outside. “It’s a sports tournament, and they’re both taking part in it. That’s all it is to us.”
A meme widely circulated ahead of Tuesday’s match between the US and Iran jokingly referred to it as “the first time they will play outside of Lebanon.” Another Twitter user joked that whoever wins the group stage “takes Iraq.”
The Iran-backed Hezbollah was the only armed group to keep its weapons after Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war. It says its arms are needed to defend the country from Israel and blames Lebanon’s economic crisis in part on US sanctions. Opponents decry Hezbollah as an “Iranian occupation,” while many Lebanese accuse both the US and Iran of meddling in their internal affairs.
In Iraq, the 2003 US-led invasion led to years of intense violence and sectarian strife, and Iran-backed political factions and militias largely filled the vacuum. While US forces and Iran-backed militias found themselves on the same side against the Islamic State extremist group, they have traded fire on several occasions since its defeat.
Both Lebanon and Iraq have had to contend with years of political gridlock, with the main dividing line running between Iran’s allies and opponents.
In Yemen, the Iran-aligned Houthi militia captured the capital and much of the country’s north in 2014. The Houthis have been at war since then with an array of factions supported by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, two US allies.
In Syria’s civil war, Iran supported President Bashar Assad’s government against rebels, some supported by the West. In the Palestinian territories, it backs Hamas and Islamic Jihad, militant factions that do not recognize Israel and have carried out scores of attacks over the years.
Interviews with soccer fans in Beirut and Baghdad revealed mixed emotions about the match.
In Beirut’s southern suburbs, a center of Hezbollah support, young men draped in Iranian flags gathered in a cafe hung with a “Death to America” flag to watch the match.
“We are against America in football, politics and everything else,” Ali Nehme said. “God is with Lebanon and Iran.”
Across the city on the seafront promenade, Beirut resident Aline Noueyhed said, “Of course I’m not with Iran after all the disasters they made. Definitely, I’m with America.” She added, however, that the US also was “not 100 percent helping us.”
The post-game reaction in the streets of Beirut after the US defeated Iran 1-0, eliminating it from the tournament and advancing to the knockout round, was far more subdued than after the previous day’s win by Brazil — a fan favorite in Lebanon — over Switzerland.
In Baghdad, Ali Fadel was cheering for Iran, because “it’s a neighboring country, an Asian country.”
“There are many linkages between us and them,” he added.
Nour Sabah was rooting for the US because “they are a strong team, and (the US) controls the world.”
In Irbil in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region in the north, fans also gave mixed reactions.
Twenty-seven-year-old Zainab Fakhri was rooting for the US to beat Iran “to punish the Iranian regime that has been oppressing the women’s revolution,” referring to recent protests there.
At the same cafe, Aras Harb, 23, was backing Iran. “We prefer them because my family were able to flee there during the war, and the Iranian people are kind.”
Saad Mohammad, 20, had been hoping for a tie, fearing that a win could worsen an already alarming security situation. If locals celebrate the win, he said, “I fear Iran will launch rockets at us.”
Although the Iran supporters were visibly upset at their loss, the crowd filed out after the game without incident.
Regional politics hovered over the last matchup, at the 1998 World Cup, when Iran famously defeated the US 2-1, eliminating it from the tournament. That came less than two decades after Iran’s Islamic Revolution toppled the US-backed shah and protesters overran the US Embassy, leading to a prolonged hostage crisis.
French riot police were on site at the stadium in Lyon that year, but they weren’t needed. The teams posed together in a group photo, and Iran’s players even brought white roses for their opponents.
In this year’s matchup, allegiances have been scrambled by the nationwide protests gripping Iran, with some Iranians openly rooting against their own team. The players declined to sing along to their national anthem ahead of their opening match, in what was seen as an expression of sympathy for the protests, but reversed course and sang ahead of their next one.
In some neighborhoods of Tehran, people chanted “Death to the dictator!” after the match, even though it was past midnight local time.
Danyel Reiche, a visiting associate professor at Georgetown University Qatar who has researched the politics of sports, said World Cup fandom is not necessarily an indicator of political affiliation, even in countries with deep divisions.
Local sports in Lebanon are “highly politicized,” with all the major basketball and soccer clubs having political and sectarian affiliations, he said. But when it comes to the World Cup — where Lebanon has never qualified to play — fans latch on to any number of teams.
That’s true across the region, where fans sporting Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo jerseys can be found from Gaza to Afghanistan.
“This is one of the few spheres where people have the liberty and freedom to choose a country that they simply like and not the country where they think there’s an obligation for them to be affiliated with it,” Reiche said.


Morocco and UNESCO to work together to protect Sub-Saharan heritage

Morocco and UNESCO to work together to protect Sub-Saharan heritage
Updated 29 November 2022

Morocco and UNESCO to work together to protect Sub-Saharan heritage

Morocco and UNESCO to work together to protect Sub-Saharan heritage
  • Under an agreement signed on Tuesday in Rabat, they will cooperate in efforts to combat the illegal trafficking of cultural property

RABAT: The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization will work with authorities in Morocco to protect heritage in Sub-Saharan African countries, under a partnership agreement signed in Rabat on Tuesday.

In particular they will cooperate in efforts to combat the illegal trafficking of cultural property. They will also share their expertise in the protection of cultural artifacts with specialists in museums, promote the role of museums in African societies, create inventories, and train heritage-conservation experts.

The agreement was signed on behalf of Mohammed Mehdi Bensaid, the Moroccan minister of youth, culture and communication, and Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO’s director-general.

 


Iraqi prime minister and Iranian president vow to fight ‘terror’

 Iraqi prime minister and Iranian president vow to fight ‘terror’
Updated 29 November 2022

Iraqi prime minister and Iranian president vow to fight ‘terror’

 Iraqi prime minister and Iranian president vow to fight ‘terror’

TEHRAN: Tehran and Baghdad Tuesday identified fighting “terrorism,” maintaining mutual security and extending economic cooperation as key priorities during the new Iraqi prime minister’s first official visit to Iran.

Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani was received by President Ebrahim Raisi, who expressed hopes of bolstering ties that have lately been hit by tensions over Iran carrying out cross-border strikes against exiled opposition groups.

Al-Sudani came to power last month, after a year-long tussle between political factions over forming a government following an October 2021 general election.

“From our perspective and that of the Iraqi government, security, peace, cooperation and regional stability are very important,” Raisi told a joint press conference.

“As a result, the fight against terrorist groups, organized crime, drugs and other insecurity that threaten the region depends on the common will of our two nations,” he said.

Al-Sudani said that “our government is determined not to allow any group or party to use Iraqi territory to undermine and disrupt Iran’s security.”

Since nationwide protests erupted in Iran more than two months ago, Iranian officials have accused Kurdish opposition groups exiled in northern Iraq of stoking the unrest and the Islamic republic has repeatedly launched deadly cross-border strikes.

Such strikes — targeting Iranian-Kurdish groups in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region — resumed this month, even after Iraq’s federal government summoned Iran’s ambassador in late September to complain about cross-border missile and drone hits that killed at least seven people.

Iraq has announced in the past week that it will redeploy federal guards on the border between Iraqi Kurdistan and Iran, rather than leaving the responsibility to Kurdish peshmerga forces — a move welcomed by Tehran.

Al-Sudani added that the two countries’ national security advisers would hold consultations to “establish a working mechanism for on-the-ground coordination to avoid any escalation.”

Al-Sudani also thanked Iran for its continued deliveries of gas and electricity, which have been in short supply in Iraq, while he also pointed to discussions on a “mechanism” to enable Iraq to pay Iran for these services.


Dubai's Careem celebrates 1bn rides

Dubai's Careem celebrates 1bn rides
Updated 29 November 2022

Dubai's Careem celebrates 1bn rides

Dubai's Careem celebrates 1bn rides
  • Family trip back home to India brings delight to employee
  • Super app had 10th anniversary in July

DUBAI: Hailing app Careem has celebrated the completion of 1 billion rides across the Middle East, North Africa and Pakistan.

The billionth journey was completed by Captain Razak Uppattil, who has completed 10,500 rides since joining Careem four years ago. 

To commemorate the milestone, the Dubai-based super app gave Uppattil a trip back home to visit his family in India.

He said: “It’s the people that I get to meet from all over the world that I really enjoy.

“I have three children back home in Kerala, India, and I am so excited I’ll see them soon.”

Genera Tesoro, who was Careem’s 1 billionth passenger, was given a year of ride-hailing trips to mark the milestone. 

Careem, which marked its 10-year anniversary in July, is now operating in more than 100 cities in 14 countries. It recently expanded its fleet in Qatar by more than 50 percent ahead of the World Cup.