UN food agency director hails Saudi Arabia’s ‘most important’ aid efforts in Yemen

Exclusive Yemen is ‘unfortunately going to have the biggest impact because you are already looking at an economy that’s anemic, a population that has almost no buying power. (AFP)
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Yemen is ‘unfortunately going to have the biggest impact because you are already looking at an economy that’s anemic, a population that has almost no buying power. (AFP)
Exclusive UN food agency director hails Saudi Arabia’s ‘most important’ aid efforts in Yemen
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WFP Country Director in Yemen Richard Ragan speaking to Arab News. (AN photo Ali Mohammad Aldhahri)
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Updated 11 May 2022

UN food agency director hails Saudi Arabia’s ‘most important’ aid efforts in Yemen

There are over 4 million people who have been internally displaced because of the conflict. (AFP)
  • Truce gives hope for future with Yemen at crossroads after 7 years of war: World Food Program’s Richard Ragan

RIYADH: The UN World Food Program’s representative in Yemen has hailed crucial Saudi efforts in helping the organization to meet the war-torn country’s urgent sustenance needs.

In an exclusive interview, Richard Ragan told Arab News that the Kingdom had played a vital part in maintaining food supplies to the Yemeni people.

The country director said: “The role of Saudi Arabia is one of the most important if not the most important, it’s a neighbor. So clearly, it’s in the interest of Saudi Arabia to have a stable border.

“The humanitarian assistance that we have been provided with by the Saudis in the past has been critical. They are essential in terms of financial partner, humanitarian partner, political partner.




WFP Country Director in Yemen Richard Ragan speaking to Arab News. (AN photo by Ali Mohammad Aldhahri)

“We really can’t do the kind of program that we need to effectively run in Yemen without the partnership with Saudi Arabia. So that’s why I am in the Kingdom. It’s the first country I have visited since I took charge three months ago. For me, it’s the most important place,” he added.

Ragan also singled out the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center for special praise.

He said: “KSrelief is important in the humanitarian world; they are unique. Most of our partners just give money, but the KSrelief is different; they do projects. They are present in Yemen and very knowledgeable about the dynamics that are going on, particularly in the southern part of the strife-torn country.”

The UN official noted that the WFP viewed the center important in two ways, “as partners to do the work, who are very knowledgeable about how to execute effective programs, and also as very good financial partners.”




Richard Ragan noted that among major donor countries, Saudi Arabia had always been one of the most generous. (Supplied)

He added: “After seven years of war, nothing works in Yemen, the state has in many ways ceased to function. So, without the kind of work that KSrelief does in the healthcare sector, millions of people would go without healthcare. So, it’s one of the real fundamental things.”

On the current situation in Yemen, he said: “For the UN World Food Program, we are feeding slightly over half of Yemen’s population. For us, it’s the biggest program in the world, it’s the biggest program that, historically, WFP has ever run. So, the scale of what we have been trying to do, to keep people alive with food in Yemen, is pretty immense.”

Ragan noted that he had been living in Yemen for three months. “But the one thing I think that is most evident is that there is hope because of the truce. I think Yemen is at a crossroads after seven years of war. And that crossroads is either to return to war, strife, and conflict or to take the other path and move toward peace.

“We really can’t do the kind of program that we need to effectively run in Yemen without the partnership with Saudi Arabia. So that’s why I am in the Kingdom. It’s the first country I have visited since I took charge three months ago. For me, it’s the most important place”

Richard Ragan, UN World Food Program’s representative in Yemen

“So far, it seems like the truce is holding; there are small incidents where there’s conflict. There was an unfortunate attack three days ago in Taiz, where people were celebrating, a building was attacked next to a park, and some people were killed. That’s the sort of thing that’s not good for a truce,” he added.

He pointed out the progress of confidence-building measures negotiated between parties in the UN.

“Fuel ships are discharging in the port, so that the gas shortages that were evident from Jan. 1 through to the end of March have abated, which for us at the WFP was also critical because we weren’t really able to do our work without fuel.”

A two-month ceasefire was announced in April as agreed by warring parties in Yemen.

Ragan said: “We needed fuel, so that part of the puzzle has been answered. I would say our ability to kind of function in the country and deliver food, even during the conflict, has been pretty good. We are feeding between 10 and 15 million people per month.”

In addition to providing people with food, he highlighted the work going on to run the airport for humanitarian needs.

“We have something called the UN humanitarian air service, including for NGO (non-governmental organization) partners and UN agencies. It’s a really big part of what air traffic is going into the country. We also have vessels that we move back and forth from Jeddah that carry humanitarian supplies for people.

“We do a broad range of things that aren’t just about food. We run the telecommunication services for the UN agencies and NGO partners. So, it’s big and it’s an expensive program for the WFP.

“It’s about the equivalent of $200 million per month to do our complete body of work. The funding, part of our operations this year, has not been as generous. So far, we have raised 25 percent of what we need. So, we have to start cutting rations into groups,” he added.

Ragan noted that among major donor countries, Saudi Arabia had always been one of the most generous, besides the US and Germany. “The GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) states have been there with us so far, and we are hopeful that it’s coming pretty soon for the future.”

The UN’s Humanitarian Response Plan, recently announced for this year, was seeking around $4 billion in contributions, of which the WFP makes up half.

He said: “In previous years, we have made up more than half of it because food is clearly the most important, and we are feeding people, we bring in wheat in the port. We mill it as fast as we get it. And then it’s out, so we don’t even have stocks that we can store. The requirements are so big.

“I have been in the WFP for 22 years and have managed some of our biggest operations in the world, but nowhere nearly as big and complicated as what we are doing in Yemen.”

Ragan pointed out that the conflict in Ukraine was having an impact on the entire world.

“Yemen is, unfortunately, one of the places that it’s going to have the biggest impact because you are already looking at an economy that’s anemic, you are looking at a population that has almost no buying power. There are over 4 million people who have been internally displaced because of the conflict.

“My most urgent message to the world is please don’t forget Yemen. It’s still one of the potentially biggest catastrophes on the planet. The world’s attention is shifted to Ukraine. But don’t forget Yemen because there is a real opportunity for peace.

“This is the first time since the conflict started, where there is more hope for peace, the people that I have talked to, that’s what they want.

“Certainly, the citizens of Yemen want it. They are tired of conflict, they are tired of bombings, they want to be able to educate their kids, and they want to be able to visit their relatives.

“They are desperate to be able to move, just to do the basic things that we enjoy that they can’t. So, I think there is a lot of hope on the part of the average Yemeni that this conflict is going to stop,” Ragan added.


Saudi Arabia condemns ‘provocative’ Qur’an burning in Denmark

Saudi Arabia condemns ‘provocative’ Qur’an burning in Denmark
Updated 29 January 2023

Saudi Arabia condemns ‘provocative’ Qur’an burning in Denmark

Saudi Arabia condemns ‘provocative’ Qur’an burning in Denmark

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia on Saturday strongly condemned the burning of copies of the Qur’an by extremists in the Danish capital, Copenhagen, “in a new provocative step to the sentiment of millions of Muslims around the world.”

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs reiterated the Kingdom’s position, which “strongly rejects all these blatant acts that have unfortunately been repeated in several European capitals recently, under the pretext of freedom of expression, without a clear reaction toward stopping these practices.”

The Kingdom called on all European governments in which these extremist violations occurred, to urgently address all these practices that contribute to fueling hatred and conflict between followers of religions, the ministry said in a statement.

Rasmus Paludan, a far-right activist who holds both Danish and Swedish citizenship, already infuriated the Muslim world by staging a Qur’an-burning protest in Sweden on January 21. On Friday, Paludan replicated the stunt in front of a mosque as well as the Turkish Embassy in Copenhagen and vowed to continue every Friday until Sweden is admitted into NATO.

Several regional and international organizations, including the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Muslim World League, Arab Parliament and Gulf Cooperation Council, also issued statements strongly denouncing the incident, along with Pakistan, Jordan, Turkiye and Oman.


Saudi Arabia, France discuss peaceful atomic energy cooperation

Saudi Arabia, France discuss peaceful atomic energy cooperation
Updated 29 January 2023

Saudi Arabia, France discuss peaceful atomic energy cooperation

Saudi Arabia, France discuss peaceful atomic energy cooperation
  • They also discussed opportunities in renewable energy, clean hydrogen, and electrical interconnection

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Energy Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman held a meeting on Saturday with French Minister of Economy, Finance, and Industrial and Digital Sovereignty Bruno Le Maire in the capital, Riyadh, the state-run SPA news agency reported.

The two ministers praised the relations between their two countries and discussed prospects for cooperation in the peaceful uses of atomic energy.

They also discussed future opportunities in various energy fields, including areas of cooperation in renewable energy, clean hydrogen, and electrical interconnection.


Body of Saudi student killed in US to be flown home

Al-Waleed Abdullah Al-Gheraibi
Al-Waleed Abdullah Al-Gheraibi
Updated 29 January 2023

Body of Saudi student killed in US to be flown home

Al-Waleed Abdullah Al-Gheraibi
  • The victim’s uncle, Mohammed Al-Gheraibi, told Saudi media outlet Sabq that the accused lived in the same building as his nephew and fled the scene after the attack

RIYADH: The body of a 25-year-old Saudi student stabbed to death in Philadelphia in the US will be returned home to his family, the Saudi Embassy in Washington has said.

Al-Waleed Al-Gheraibi died after an attack alleged carried out by 19-year-old US citizen Nicole Marie Rodgers on Jan. 23 in a shared property in Germantown, Philadelphia.

Police said that the student’s valuables were stolen along with his mobile phone.

Rodgers faces charges of theft, murder and possession of a weapon, police said.

HIGHLIGHT

Al-Waleed Abdullah Al-Gheraibi died after an attack allegedly carried out by 19-year-old US citizen Nicole Marie Rodgers on Jan. 23 in a shared property in Germantown, Philadelphia.

The victim’s uncle, Mohammed Al-Gheraibi, told Saudi media outlet Sabq that the accused lived in the same building as his nephew and fled the scene after the attack.

Princess Reema bint Bandar, Saudi ambassador to the US, extended her condolences to Al-Gheraibi’s family and offered “full assistance to them during this painful time.”

In a statement on Friday, the Washington embassy said that it “has followed with great sadness and sorrow, from the first day, in coordination with the Kingdom’s Consulate General in New York, the circumstances of the killing of citizen Al-Waleed Abdullah Al-Gheraibi.”

The embassy said that the accused is under investigation, and expressed its appreciation for US security authorities’ help since the incident.

 

 


Sri Lankan foreign minister’s trip to Saudi Arabia yields ‘positive vibes’

Sri Lankan Minister Ali Sabry met with several Saudi officials and ministers during his recent visit to the Kingdom. (AN photo b
Updated 28 January 2023

Sri Lankan foreign minister’s trip to Saudi Arabia yields ‘positive vibes’

Sri Lankan Minister Ali Sabry met with several Saudi officials and ministers during his recent visit to the Kingdom. (AN photo b
  • Sri Lanka, Saudi Arabia sign double tax avoidance deal to boost trade, investment
  • Framework agreement with GCC in the works

RIYADH: Sri Lankan Minister of Foreign Affairs Ali Sabry has held talks with ministers and senior officials in Saudi Arabia, as the crisis-hit island nation seeks to boost cooperation with the Kingdom and other Gulf countries.

Sabry met with his Saudi counterpart Prince Faisal bin Farhan, Secretary-General of Organization of Islamic Cooperation Hissein Brahim Taha, Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council Nayef Falah M. Al-Hajraf, and CEO of the Saudi Fund for Development Sultan Al-Marshad, as well as officials from the Islamic Development Bank.

Sabry said that his visit to the Kingdom was “successful and that it will further cement and strengthen the bilateral relationship between our two countries as we see a lot of positive vibes that have been infused into our relations.”

Talks between the two foreign ministers covered enhancement of bilateral relations, increased investment with Sri Lanka as a gateway to South Asia, and employment for Sri Lankans in the Kingdom.

HIGHLIGHT

Ali Sabry, the Sri Lankan minister of Foreign Affairs, signed the double tax avoidance deal with the Kingdom’s Zakat, Tax and Customs Authority to boost trade and investment. Sri Lanka is said to be facing the worst economic crisis since its independence in 1948.

“Saudis have identified Sri Lanka as a very important geographical location, so (there are) investment opportunities in renewable energy, petroleum and hospitality industries,” Sabry said.

“We are interested in getting Saudi investment into the renewable energy sector for development, energy security and making Sri Lanka a regional energy hub.”

Discussions also took place around resuming airline services between Saudi Arabia and Sri Lanka following their suspension during the global pandemic.

In a bid to enhance trade and investment relations between both countries, the visiting minister “signed a double tax avoidance agreement with the Zakat and Income Tax Authority here” to prevent fiscal evasion on income.

Sri Lanka is facing its worst economic crisis since independence in 1948, with the government battling a shortage of foreign earnings, runaway inflation and recession.

The Sri Lankan minister thanked the Kingdom for its help with debt restructuring at the International Monetary Fund and Paris Club.

The Paris Club of creditor nations has proposed a 10-year debt moratorium on Sri Lankan debt and 15 years of debt restructuring as a formula to resolve the island nation’s currency crisis.

Sri Lanka is also in discussions with the IMF to secure a $2.9 billion bailout seen as vital to getting its economy back on track.

Sabry highlighted Saudi Arabia and Sri Lanka’s long-standing relations and the former’s support in international forums.

“Sri Lanka and Saudi Arabia have been traditional friends for a long period of time. To strengthen bilateral relationship, particularly in the multilateral fora — the UN and other agencies — we have to support each other,” he said.  

“They (Saudis) have been supporting us when we have been cornered unfairly by some powers for no reason. They have stood by us time and again. So we need to strengthen that relationship.”

Sabry and Al-Marshad discussed development issues of common interest, and the Sri Lankan minister praised the Kingdom’s efforts in developing infrastructure in Sri Lanka through SFD projects.

The minister’s meeting with Al-Hajraf focused on ties between Sri Lanka and the GCC.

“GCC is very important. We are looking at signing a framework agreement with the GCC, we want to expedite it as soon as possible,” Sabry said.

On his discussions with Taha and OIC observer status, Sabry said: “They are exploring the possibility of observer status, but we haven’t made the decision yet. Traditionally, we have had good relationships.”

Sabry also reassured Taha about the conditions of the Muslim community in Sri Lanka.

 


Sensational Pakistani singer delights Jeddah audience with hit songs

Pakistani music star Kaifi Khalil performed at a concert held on Jan. 26 at the WA Hotel in Jeddah. (Supplied)
Pakistani music star Kaifi Khalil performed at a concert held on Jan. 26 at the WA Hotel in Jeddah. (Supplied)
Updated 29 January 2023

Sensational Pakistani singer delights Jeddah audience with hit songs

Pakistani music star Kaifi Khalil performed at a concert held on Jan. 26 at the WA Hotel in Jeddah. (Supplied)
  • Speaking to Arab News, Khalil said: “My excitement hit the roof when I first learned that I will be performing in Saudi Arabia. I cannot describe this moment and the love I have received from the time I stepped into the country”

JEDDAH: Rising Pakistani music star Kaifi Khalil captivated audience members at a concert held on Jan. 26 at the WA Hotel in Jeddah.

The singer enjoyed a rapid rise to fame thanks to his mesmerizing vocals and soulful music. During the concert, he performed recent release “Kahani Suno 2.0” — which hit global world charts last year — along with other desi, folk and Sufi songs.

Speaking to Arab News, Khalil said the amount of love and warmth shown from the audience in Jeddah at his first international concert was “spectacular,” adding: “I had promised myself to fill the evening with a rendition of all my songs and tried my best to make sure every single person had a good time.”

Pakistani music star Kaifi Khalil performed at a concert held on Jan. 26 at the WA Hotel in Jeddah. (Supplied)

He said: “My excitement hit the roof when I first learned that I will be performing in Saudi Arabia. I cannot describe this moment and the love I have received from the time I stepped into the country.”

Although he has performed many times back in Pakistan, Khalil was overwhelmed to see the response from an international audience, which has inspired him to return to the Kingdom.

The constant cheering from the crowd was pure magic. When the performance was coming to an end, it dawned on me that everything that I felt was so precious that I will cherish it forever.

Kaifi Khalil

“The constant cheering from the crowd was pure magic. When the performance was coming to an end, it dawned on me that everything that I felt was so precious that I will cherish it forever,” he said.

After Khalil’s music went viral last year, the singer became an inspiration to many, with children, teenagers and adults attending in the Jeddah concert.

One concertgoer described the event as a “magical night,” adding: “I don’t know how many times I have listened to Kaifi Khalil’s songs. To watch him perform live was a dream come true moment. He has such a soulful voice that made the entire hall sing along with him.”

Mohammed Abdullah, another fan, said: “I was so excited to experience the vibe and music of Kaifi Khalil. He is totally a gem in the music industry. Besides, I would like to extend gratitude to the organizers for the very well executed event as we could watch him clearly from our seats.”

Alongside Khalil, the event also included versatile singers Abida Hussain and Saleem Rifiq.

Nosheen Waseem, founder of Nosheen Arts Culture Center, which oversaw the concert, said that the center aim to take the entertainment industry in the Kingdom to the “next level.” The event was organized to mark the successful completion of the first year of NACC, which involved organizing a range of nonprofit events.

Salman Lodhi and Talha Abdul Ghafoor, who organized the event, said: “The turnout was incredible — around 300 people attended the musical night. The atmosphere was electric. Everyone had a great time and the audience was on their feet for the entire performance.”