Saudi Shoura delegation visits UK for first time in years to boost relations and investment

A Saudi Shoura Council delegation participated in an event hosted by the Arab British Chamber of Commerce in London. (AN Photo/Hasenin Fadhel)
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A Saudi Shoura Council delegation participated in an event hosted by the Arab British Chamber of Commerce in London. (AN Photo/Hasenin Fadhel)
A Saudi Shoura Council delegation participated in an event hosted by the Arab British Chamber of Commerce in London. (AN Photo/Hasenin Fadhel)
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A Saudi Shoura Council delegation participated in an event hosted by the Arab British Chamber of Commerce in London. (AN Photo/Hasenin Fadhel)
A Saudi Shoura Council delegation participated in an event hosted by the Arab British Chamber of Commerce in London. (AN Photo/Hasenin Fadhel)
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A Saudi Shoura Council delegation participated in an event hosted by the Arab British Chamber of Commerce in London. (AN Photo/Hasenin Fadhel)
A Saudi Shoura Council delegation participated in an event hosted by the Arab British Chamber of Commerce in London. (AN Photo/Hasenin Fadhel)
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A Saudi Shoura Council delegation participated in an event hosted by the Arab British Chamber of Commerce in London. (AN Photo/Hasenin Fadhel)
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Updated 20 May 2022

Saudi Shoura delegation visits UK for first time in years to boost relations and investment

A Saudi Shoura Council delegation participated in an event hosted by the Arab British Chamber of Commerce in London. (AN Photo/H
  • The visit aims ‘to highlight the huge changes taking place in the Kingdom as part of Vision 2030, and the opportunities they bring,” said Ghazi Binzagr, who heads the delegation
  • During the week-long visit, Saudi delegates have met government ministers, representatives of the British Defense Committee, MPs and members of political subcommittees and business organizations

LONDON: A high-level delegation from Saudi Arabia’s Shoura Council is visiting the UK for the first time in years, to share the Kingdom’s latest development and investment plans, enhance relations and exchange expertise.

“Our visit (aims) to highlight the huge changes taking place in the Kingdom as part of Vision 2030, and the opportunities they bring, and also to underscore the importance and the significance of the umbrella strategic agreement between Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom, with all the various areas that it intends to build,” Ghazi Binzagr, a member of the Shoura Council, told Arab News.

Binzagr, who is heading the delegation and is the chairman of the Shoura Council’s Saudi-British Parliamentary Friendship Committee, said an objective of the visit is to deepen and widen the bilateral relationship, specifically in the fields of investment and commerce, to provide more opportunities for British companies and organizations to participate in Vision 2030 initiatives.

“We are underscoring the importance of the Vision in bringing new directions to areas that are going to be important to both countries, things such as health, financial services, tourism, energy, culture, sports,” he said. “These are all new opportunities that we believe will be important for joint ventures to emerge (and) joint investments.”

He added that they also hope to gain from the “benefit of the many years of knowledge and expertise that British society has had in many of these areas, some of which are now new to the Kingdom.”

The members of the Saudi delegation, who arrived in the UK on Sunday, have held meetings with Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Kwasi Kwarteng and members of the British Defense Committee, along with MPs and members of various subcommittees during their week-long visit.

“In the area of defense, we explored the strong relationship that has always been there between Saudi Arabia and the UK, and dialogue over issues of mutual concern with the shared commitment to a stable region, and the importance of that for stable trade, investment and prosperity, not just for the region, but the globe at large,” Binzagr said.

He added that the “response has been great” and both sides agree on the need to increase the frequency of mutual visits because they recognize that such face-to-face meetings and engagement creates a form of bilateral friendship that is very difficult to develop without in-person exchanges. They are now discussing dates for a British parliamentary delegation to visit the Kingdom after the summer recess in the UK, with more to follow.

“We were able to learn more deeply about how the British Parliament works, and there is a keenness and eagerness from the British side to also learn about how the Shoura Council works and to see how both bodies can help enable and support the efforts of both governments, which are quite strong in strengthening their relationship with each other,” said Binzagr.

The visit has also included tours of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, in which the delegation observed parliamentary sessions. It also met former sports ministers Lord Moynihan and Tracey Crouch to learn about the sports ecosystem overseen by the UK parliament and how its best practices might be applied to the expanding sports sector in the Kingdom, Binzagr said.

On Tuesday delegates took part in a roundtable discussion, organized by the Arab British Chamber of Commerce, with British executives and investors during which they talked about the transformation of the Kingdom’s commercial environment and introduced the Invest in Saudi initiative launched by the Ministry of Investment.

“We both believe that these visits are vital, not just for our own individual understandings, but we both play a role in the oversight of the performance of the government, we can both … better follow the development of the components of the strategic agreement between both countries,” Binzagr said.

Another important development highlighted by the visit is the recent easing of visa requirements for travel between the two countries, which authorities say will contribute to the strengthening of the bilateral relationship.

Alia Aldahlawi, a member of the Shoura Council and the friendship committee, said it was important for the members of the Saudi delegation to learn about the nature of legislation within the British Parliament and that they had benefited from the meetings that have taken place. A common topic that was raised, she added, was the role of women in the Kingdom.

“We addressed the woman issue in several meetings, especially the empowerment of women and how women now have become engaged in the political decision making and in higher positions in Saudi Arabia, and also the increased participation of women in the labor market, because it’s one of the major objectives of Vision 2030,” Aldahlawi said.

The government and private sectors have been working to increase female participation in the labor force, she added, and already have not only achieved but surpassed the percentage targets set for 2030.

For example, 30 members of the 150-person Shoura Council — 20 percent — are women, she said, which is a larger proportion than in many other regional and international parliaments.

The empowerment of women in Saudi Arabia is a clear and obvious goal, Aldahlawi said, and the Kingdom has always offered equal opportunities in terms of education and scholarships to men and women. She herself obtained a doctorate from King’s College London many years ago, she added.

“We (women) are qualified to engage in our economy, we are human capital that is educated and have full experience,” she said.

“So this empowerment (leads to more) females in the labor market, in higher positions, and a lot of diverse types of job opportunities.”


Saudi Arabia participates in UN Ocean Conference for first time

Saudi Arabia participates in UN Ocean Conference for first time
Updated 29 June 2022

Saudi Arabia participates in UN Ocean Conference for first time

Saudi Arabia participates in UN Ocean Conference for first time
  • ‘Blue Saudi’ pavilion sheds light on Kingdom’s efforts in ocean regeneration

JEDDAH: June 28 marked the opening of the Saudi pavilion at the 2022 UN Ocean Conference, which takes place in Lisbon, Portugal, and runs until July 1.

The Saudi pavilion, titled “Blue Saudi,” is aimed at shedding light on the health of the Red Sea and the Kingdom’s leading role in researching its unique habitats and ecosystems, and protecting and regenerating the region.

The 2022 UN Ocean Conference, in its second edition, got underway on June 27 and is co-organized by the governments of Portugal and Kenya.

It aims to inspire a global effort to rebuild marine life, emphasizing the critical role that the oceans play in stabilizing climate systems.

The first edition of the conference was in 2017 and took place at the UN’s headquarters in New York.

This year’s conference theme is “Scaling Up Ocean Action Based on Science and Innovation for the Implementation of Goal 14: Stocktaking, Partnerships, and Solutions.”

According to the UN website, Sustainable Development Goal 14 is about “Life below water” and is one of the 17 SDGs established by the UN in 2015. The official wording is to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development.

In line with the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development 2021-2030, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stressed the importance of international unity to help oceans and marine life survive. 

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Guterres said in a statement during the opening ceremony of the conference: “The ocean connects us all — sadly we have taken the ocean for granted and today we face what I would call an ocean emergency.”

He added: “We must turn the tide. Global warming is pushing ocean temperatures to record levels, creating fiercer and more frequent storms … Much more needs to be done by all of us together.”

Saudi Arabia has previously announced several key commitments as part of broader ambitions to drive sustainability, including increasing the percentage of marine protected areas to 30 percent of its waters and planting 100 million mangroves by 2030.

Dr. Mohammad Qurban, head of the Saudi delegation to the UN Ocean Conference, said: “Our presence at this globally significant conference demonstrates our commitment to not only taking part in the conversation but sharing the lessons learned about our coastline and oceans.

“The goal is to play a connecting role, bringing together countries who border these waters, to ensure a comprehensive approach to protecting the Red Sea is developed and successfully delivered.”

Qurban, who is also the CEO of the Saudi National Center of Wildlife, said: “Ultimately, the Kingdom hopes to export the scientific learnings discovered and the positive application of innovative solutions, with the rest of the world, as we all unite together to confront some of the biggest challenges facing people and planet today.”

The “Blue Saudi” pavilion showcases many ambitions and ongoing efforts in the field of ocean regeneration.

Since the Red Sea is the world’s warmest and saltiest ocean, and provides a home to extensive coral reef banks and a narrow deep central axis as large in area as the Great Barrier Reef, the Kingdom is highly focused on researching these unique habitats to provide a better understanding of their challenging conditions.

It is also aiming to develop technologies to help expand coral habitats and to enable biodiversity to flourish.

On the opening day, the pavilion hosted an event to facilitate conversations around the role of science and innovation in enabling regenerative development of the Red Sea, and how meaningful partnerships and collaboration, coupled with good governance, are driving positive action in the marine environment.

To register interest and attend the event visit: www.bluesaudi.com


King Salman receives written message from Qatar emir

King Salman receives written message from Qatar emir
Updated 29 June 2022

King Salman receives written message from Qatar emir

King Salman receives written message from Qatar emir
  • Kingdom’s FM and Qatari ambassador to Saudi Arabia discussed bilateral relations and ways of enhancing them

RIYADH: King Salman received a written message from the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani on Wednesday, Saudi Press Agency reported.

The message touched on “brotherly relations” between the two countries and was received by the Kingdom’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan during a meeting with the Qatari ambassador to Saudi Arabia Bandar bin Muhammad Al-Attiyah.

The two officials discussed bilateral relations between their countries and ways of enhancing them in various fields during the meeting in Riyadh.

They also exchanged views on regional and international issues of common interest.


Diplomatic Quarter: Palestinian ambassador praises KSA generosity over decades

Diplomatic Quarter: Palestinian ambassador praises KSA generosity over decades
Updated 29 June 2022

Diplomatic Quarter: Palestinian ambassador praises KSA generosity over decades

Diplomatic Quarter: Palestinian ambassador praises KSA generosity over decades

RIYADH: Palestine’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia has praised the Kingdom for its financial assistance and support over several decades.

Basem Abdullah Al-Agha met Ahmed bin Ali Al-Baiz, assistant supervisor general for operations and programs at the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center, to discuss issues of common interest related to humanitarian affairs.

Al-Agha told Arab News on Wednesday that the talks followed on from previous meetings with KSrelief, and were “an extension of our gratitude to the Kingdom, King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and to the generous Saudi people for their ongoing support and the assistance over decades.”

Support from KSrelief reaches about 80 countries, he said.

The center offered assistance to Palestine’s Ministry of Health during the pandemic, including the provision of vaccines.

“It’s our duty to give our gratitude to the center,” Al-Agha added.

He also expressed hope that further assistance will be provided to meet Palestinians’ health needs, including support for hospitals in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.

Saudi Arabia remains one of the top providers of financial aid for Palestine.

Between 2000-2018, the Kingdom provided more than $6.4 billion in aid to Palestine, according to the Kingdom’s humanitarian groups.

Khaled Manzlawiy, Saudi Arabia’s deputy permanent representative to the UN, said in May 2020 that the Kingdom is proud to be one of the largest donors to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.

“Knowing the role the agency serves for more than 5 million Palestinian refugees — and because of its belief in the (importance) of the Palestinian cause — the Kingdom has supported UNRWA with more than $1 billion since 1994, which the humanitarian organization described as clear evidence of the Kingdom’s wish to ensure Palestinian refugees enjoy dignity and well-being,” Manzlawiy said during a virtual briefing on the investigations of the Office of Internal Oversight Services and various UNRWA initiatives.

Saudi Arabia on April 27 this year reaffirmed to the UN its stance over Palestine, calling for end to the Israeli occupation, the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as capital, and the guaranteed right of return for refugees.

Mohammed Al-Ateeq, charge d’affaires of the permanent mission of Saudi Arabia to the UN, highlighted the Kingdom’s position during a UN Security Council session on the Middle East and Palestinian situation.


Dul Hijjah crescent moon sighted; Eid Al-Adha to begin on July 9

Dul Hijjah crescent moon sighted; Eid Al-Adha to begin on July 9
Updated 29 June 2022

Dul Hijjah crescent moon sighted; Eid Al-Adha to begin on July 9

Dul Hijjah crescent moon sighted; Eid Al-Adha to begin on July 9
  • Hajj will start on July 6 and end on July 10, with Arafat Day falling on July 8

RIYADH: Following the sighting of the crescent moon on Wednesday evening, it has been announced that the five-day Eid Al-Adha celebration will begin on July 9. This will be the 10th day of Dul Hijjah, the 12th month of the Islamic Hijri calendar.

The Eid Al-Adha celebrations commemorate the Prophet Ibrahim’s devotion to Allah. As a test of Ibrahim’s commitment to obeying his Lord’s command without question, Allah ordered him to sacrifice his son, Ismail. Ibrahim was willing to do what was asked of him but at the last moment Allah replaced Ismail with a ram. Eid Al-Adha is therefore known as the festival of sacrifice.

Dul Hijjah, which begins this year on June 30, is the month during which the Hajj pilgrimage takes place. Hajj will start on the 7th day of Dul Hijjah (July 6), and end on the 11th day of the month (July 10). Arafat Day falls on the 9th day of Dul Hijjah (July 8).

Pilgrims’ tents at Arafat, as well as accommodation in Mina and Muzdalifah, have been inspected and are fully prepared to receive the guests of God for Hajj, authorities said.

On June 4, Saudi Arabia welcomed the first foreign pilgrims to arrive in the country for Hajj since the start of COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020.

The pilgrims, who flew to Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz International Airport in Madinah from Indonesia, were presented with flowers, dates and Zamzam water.


‘Exciting time’ for renewable energy collaboration between UK and Saudi Arabia, experts tell London forum

‘Exciting time’ for renewable energy collaboration between UK and Saudi Arabia, experts tell London forum
Updated 29 June 2022

‘Exciting time’ for renewable energy collaboration between UK and Saudi Arabia, experts tell London forum

‘Exciting time’ for renewable energy collaboration between UK and Saudi Arabia, experts tell London forum
  • UK-Saudi Renewable Energy Forum on June 28, organized by Saudi British Joint Business Council, brought together Saudi and UK investors and business leaders

LONDON: It is an “exciting time” to be working with Saudi Arabia and “exploring collaboration” in renewable energy, experts said at a joint UK-Saudi panel on Tuesday.

The UK-Saudi Renewable Energy Forum on June 28, organized by the Saudi British Joint Business Council, brought together Saudi and UK investors and business leaders to discuss clean energy programs in both countries and the finance available to support decarbonization and the energy transition.

Attended by a high-level Saudi official delegation, as well as a private sector delegation, the event built on the success of SBJBC’s Sustainable Investment Forum in July last year.

The event followed the recent launch of the Saudi Green and Middle East Green initiatives and the ongoing commitment from both the Saudi and British governments to invest in carbon capture, hydrogen and clean fuels in order to address climate change and meet net-zero emission targets.

“There’s been a strong regulatory evolution [in this field] across the GCC, so I think it’s a really exciting time to be getting involved in Saudi Arabia,” managing partner at Ashurst Middle East David Charlier said.

Orral Nadjari, founder and CEO at Britishvolt, agreed now was the time to be working closely with the Kingdom in the sector.

“We need to localize manufacturing and reinvent outdated supply chains, so we’re very interested in exploring collaboration with Saudi Arabia,” he said.

UK Minister for Investment Lord Grimstone was a key speaker at the event, and he said the global political will to enact change has been visible in recent years.

“We need to see more partnership between our countries. There’s a real desire for change,” he said.

“From hosting COP26 in Glasgow to welcoming key investors to the Global Investment Summit in London, the UK is deeply committed to tackling climate change at all levels.

“Investment is crucial to this, through nurturing technological developments and propelling our economy towards a cleaner, greener future.

“I’m looking forward to working with Saudi Arabia and countries the world over to commit to increasing cooperation in green technology and clean energy to work towards a more sustainable future for all,” he added.

Ahead of the forum, Lord Mayor of the City of London Vincent Keaveny said: “As we pass the halfway point between COP26 and COP27, this forum will be essential for driving progress towards global net-zero. As the world’s largest oil exporter, it’s vital that Saudi Arabia is part of the solution towards tackling climate change.”