Queen Elizabeth’s platinum jubilee: A reminder of the special bonds between Saudi and British royal families

Special Queen Elizabeth’s platinum jubilee: A reminder of the special bonds between Saudi and British royal families
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Special Queen Elizabeth’s platinum jubilee: A reminder of the special bonds between Saudi and British royal families
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In this photo taken on June 02, 1953 Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (C) sits in Westminster Abbey on London during her coronation. (Intercontinentale / AFP)
Special Queen Elizabeth’s platinum jubilee: A reminder of the special bonds between Saudi and British royal families
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Queen Elizabeth watches as King George VI salutes well-wishers on June 26, 1938 in London. (AFP)
Special Queen Elizabeth’s platinum jubilee: A reminder of the special bonds between Saudi and British royal families
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Queen Elizabeth II speaks with Emirati Minister of State Reem al-Hashemi during a visit to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi on Nov.24, 2010. (WAM via AFP)
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Updated 03 June 2022

Queen Elizabeth’s platinum jubilee: A reminder of the special bonds between Saudi and British royal families

Queen Elizabeth’s platinum jubilee: A reminder of the special bonds between Saudi and British royal families
  • Cables sent by King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bespeak a friendship dating back decades
  • Since Elizabeth came to the throne in 1952, there have been four state visits to Britain by Saudi monarchs

LONDON: As congratulations flooded into London this week from heads of state around the world, two messages in particular served as reminders of the special relationship that has flourished between the Saudi and British royal families throughout the 70-year reign of Queen Elizabeth II.

Behind the formality of the cables sent by King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, wishing her “sincere felicitations and best health and happiness” on the occasion of her platinum jubilee, is a history of friendship dating back to the earliest days of her reign, which began on Feb. 6, 1952.

 

 

That day, her father King George VI died while the 25-year-old Elizabeth and her husband Philip, duke of Edinburgh, were in Kenya on a tour of Africa.

Having left England a princess, she flew home in mourning as Queen Elizabeth II. Her coronation took place on June 2 the following year.

Among the guests at the coronation were members of four royal families from the Gulf: The rulers or their representatives of the then-British protectorates of Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar, and Prince Fahd bin Abdulaziz, representing the 78-year-old King Abdulaziz, Saudi Arabia’s founder and first monarch, who had only five months left to live.

The bonds between the Saudi and British monarchies cannot be measured by the frequency of formal occasions alone, although an examination of the record of state visits held by Buckingham Palace reveals an illuminating distinction.

Since the queen succeeded her father, there have been no fewer than four state visits to Britain by Saudi monarchs, a number matched by only four other countries, including the UK’s near-neighbors France and Germany.

The first to travel to London was King Faisal, greeted with all the pomp and ceremony of a full British state welcome at the start of his eight-day visit in May 1967.




Queen Elizabeth II with Saudi Arabia’s King Faisal in 1967. (AFP/Getty Images)

Met by the queen, members of the British royal family and leading politicians — including then-Prime Minister Harold Wilson — King Faisal rode to Buckingham Palace with Elizabeth and Philip in an open horse-drawn state carriage, drawn through London streets lined with cheering crowds.

During a busy eight-day schedule, the king found time to visit and pray at London’s Islamic Cultural Centre.




Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II with Saudi Arabia’s King Khaled in 1981. (Alamy)

His son Prince Bandar, who that year graduated from the Royal Air Force College Cranwell, deputized for his father on a visit to inspect English Electric Lightning fighter jets being readied for shipment to Saudi Arabia. Later, the prince would fly Lightnings as a fighter pilot in the Royal Saudi Air Force.

King Faisal was followed on state visits to Britain by his successors King Khaled in 1981, King Fahd in 1987 and King Abdullah in 2007. 




Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II with Saudi Arabia’s King Fahd in 1987. (AFP/Getty Images)

In February 1979, traveling on board the supersonic jet Concorde, Queen Elizabeth visited Riyadh and Dhahran during a Gulf tour that also took her to Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the UAE and Oman.

In Saudi Arabia, she was hosted by King Khaled and enjoyed a series of events, including a desert picnic and a state dinner at Maathar Palace in Riyadh.




Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II with King Hussein of Jordan in 1955. (AFP)

In return, she and her husband hosted a dinner for the Saudi royal family on board Her Majesty’s Yacht Britannia.

Poignantly, Britannia would return to the Gulf one last time, in January 1997, during its last tour before the royal yacht was decommissioned in December that year.

However, the relationship between the two royal families has not been limited to the great occasions of state.




Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II with Oman’s Sultan Qaboos bin Said in 2010. (AFP/Getty Images)

Analysis of the regular Court Circular published by Buckingham Palace shows that members of Britain’s royal family met with Gulf monarchs more than 200 times between 2011 and 2021 alone — equivalent to once a fortnight. Forty of these informal meetings were with members of the House of Saud.

Most recently, in March 2018, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had a private audience as well as lunch with the queen at Buckingham Palace. 




Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2018. (AFP/Getty Images)

Later, he dined with the prince of Wales and the duke of Cambridge during a visit to the UK that included meetings with then-Prime Minister Theresa May and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

Serious topics, such as trade and defense agreements, are often the subjects of such meetings. But good-natured fun, rather than stiff formality, is frequently the hallmark of private gatherings between the royal families, as Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, the British ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 2003 to 2006, would later recall.

In 2003, Crown Prince Abdullah, Saudi Arabia’s future king, was a guest of the queen at Balmoral Castle, her estate in Scotland.




Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II with Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah in 2007. (AFP/Getty Images)

It was his first visit to Balmoral and, happily accepting an invitation to be taken on a tour of the large estate, he climbed into the passenger seat of a Land Rover, only to discover that his driver and guide was to be the queen herself.

Having served during the Second World War as an army driver, she has always driven herself at Balmoral, where locals are used to seeing her out and about behind the wheel of one of her beloved Land Rovers.

She is also known for having great fun at the expense of guests as she hurtles one of the vehicles along the narrow lanes and across the rugged terrain of the estate.




Queen Elizabeth (2nd R) and Prince Philip (L) receive Qatar's Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani (R) and his wife Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser at Windsor Castle on Oct. 26, 2010. (AFP)

By Sir Sherard’s account, Prince Abdullah took the impromptu fairground ride well, although at one point, “through his interpreter,” he felt obliged to “implore the queen to slow down and concentrate on the road ahead.”

Aside from the commonality of their royalty, the queen and the monarchs of the Gulf have always bonded over their mutual love of horses, a shared interest that dates back to at least 1937, when Elizabeth was an 11-year-old princess.

To mark the occasion of her father’s coronation that year, King Abdulaziz presented King George VI with an Arabian mare.

A life-size bronze statue of the horse, Turfa, was unveiled in 2020 at the Arabian Horse Museum in Diriyah, where it has pride of place today.

At the time of the unveiling, Richard Oppenheim, then-Britain’s deputy ambassador to Saudi Arabia, highlighted how the two royal families had always bonded over this common interest.

“The queen has many horses, and King Salman and the Saudi royal family also have a long-held love of horses,” he said.

The queen also shares that love with Sheikh Mohammed Al-Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai and vice president of the UAE, who owns the internationally renowned Godolphin horse-racing stables and stud farm in Newmarket, the home of British horse racing.




Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II with Dubai’s Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum in 2010. (AFP/Getty Images)

The two have often been seen together at great events on the horse-racing calendar, such as the annual five-day Royal Ascot meeting, regarded as the jewel in the crown of the British social season, which this year runs from June 14-18.

Team Godolphin has had several winners at Royal Ascot, where the queen’s horses have won over 70 races since her coronation.




Britain's Queen Elizabeth with the Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah. (Toby Mellville/Pool/AFP)

This weekend, as flags fly from homes and public buildings, thousands of events are taking place across Britain to mark her platinum jubilee, including street parties; the traditional Trooping the Colour at the Horse Guards Parade; gun salutes; a fly-past by the Royal Air Force, watched by the queen from the balcony of Buckingham Palace; and the lighting of more than 3,000 beacons nationwide.

At the age of 96, Elizabeth — queen of the UK and the Commonwealth, and monarch to more than 150 million people — has reached a royal milestone rare not only in Britain, but across the world.

By Friday, she will have reigned for 70 years and 117 days, putting her within nine days of becoming the second-longest-serving monarch in world history.

Bhumibol Adulyadej, king of Thailand from 1946 until his death in 2016 at the age of 88, ruled for 70 years and 126 days.

Only Louis XIV of France was on the throne for longer, ruling between 1643 and 1715, for 72 years and 110 days.

The secret to Elizabeth’s longevity, perhaps, lies in the words of the British national anthem “God Save the Queen,” which will be sung heartily at events across the UK this weekend: “Long live our noble queen … Happy and glorious, long to reign over us, God save the queen.”

 


10 dead, hundreds hospitalized after toxic gas leak at Jordan’s Aqaba port

10 dead, hundreds hospitalized after toxic gas leak at Jordan’s Aqaba port
Updated 31 min 43 sec ago

10 dead, hundreds hospitalized after toxic gas leak at Jordan’s Aqaba port

10 dead, hundreds hospitalized after toxic gas leak at Jordan’s Aqaba port
  • Specialized teams dealing with the leak
  • Local authorities call on Aqaba citizens to close, seal doors and windows and to avoid going out

AMMAN: At least 10 people have died and more than 250 were being treated in hospital after a toxic gas leak from a storage tank in Jordan's Aqaba port, according to government spokesman Faisal Al-Shaboul.

Specialized teams were dealing with the leak after a tank filled with toxic gas fell during its transportation, leading to a leak at the site, Petra said, citing the spokesperson of the Public Security Directorate.

Video carried by state-run media showed a crane hoisting a large tanker from a truck and then dropping it on the deck of a ship, causing an explosion of yellow smoke and sending dock workers racing away.

The area was immediately evacuated, according to Aqaba Governor Mohammad Al-Radayaa, who said the situation “had been controlled.”

Local authorities also called on Aqaba citizens to close and seal doors and windows and to avoid going out.

The Director of Aqaba Health Department, Dr. Jamal Obeidat, announced the city's hospitals are full after they reached the maximum capacity in addition to opening a field hospital to receive injuries.

Obeidat added that cases of gas suffocation are referred to health centers, noting that the health condition of the injured is between medium and critical.

Chest diseases consultant, Dr. Mhammed Al-Tarawneh, said the gas leaked from the tank, believed to be chlorine, is a very toxic substance, which may significantly affect the surrounding areas.

Al-Tarawneh added that contact with this gas leads to irritation of the mucous membranes and the occurrence of a red rash in the flesh, in addition to pneumonia, pointing out that the gas entering the mouth also leads to burning in the esophagus and the occurrence of cases of diarrhea, headaches, impairment, and loss of consciousness.

The Minister of State for Information Affairs, Al-Shaboul, said that Prime Minister Dr. Bishr Al-Khasawneh instructed the formation of an investigation team, headed by the interior minister, into the accident and explosion.


Saudi Arabia, Egypt hold talks on increasing investment

Saudi Arabia, Egypt hold talks on increasing investment
Updated 27 June 2022

Saudi Arabia, Egypt hold talks on increasing investment

Saudi Arabia, Egypt hold talks on increasing investment
  • The meeting followed the visit of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Egypt,

CAIRO: A delegation from the Saudi National Real Estate Committee has held talks with the General Authority for Investment and Free Zones in Egypt on how to boost investment cooperation between the two countries.

The talks were led by Mohamed Abdullah Abdel Aziz Al-Murshed, who chairs the Saudi committee, and Mohamed Abdel-Wahab, CEO of the Egyptian investment authority. Also present were Tariq Shukri, who chairs Egypt’s real estate development chamber, and representatives of 27 leading Saudi companies in the fields of real estate development, industry, agriculture and building materials.

The meeting followed the visit of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Egypt, on the sidelines of which 14 investment agreements were signed between the two nations, according to a press release.

Abdel-Wahab stressed the “importance of strengthening investment relations between the two countries, especially in light of what the current period is witnessing in providing unprecedented support to the private sector, and encouraging Arab and foreign companies to pump more investment into the Egyptian market, including the construction sector.”

He said the sector was “one of the main pillars of the national projects being implemented, such as the Suez Canal axis, and fourth generation cities such as the Administrative Capital, New Alamein and others, which aim to create smart cities based on electronic services and renewable energy, in addition to implementing a huge network of roads and bridges to connect national projects and new cities.”

The meeting looked at ways to enhance cooperation by exploiting the competitive advantages of Egypt as a destination for investment in the region, and reviewing the investment opportunities available.

It also highlighted the importance of strengthening economic cooperation between the two countries.

Abdel-Wahab said the investment authority was keen to attract more Saudi investment in Egypt by intensifying communication with major companies and introducing the Saudi business community to the latest developments there.


Ukrainians in Gaza describe shared experience of homeland and Palestinian struggle

Ukrainians in Gaza describe shared experience of homeland and Palestinian struggle
Updated 20 min 53 sec ago

Ukrainians in Gaza describe shared experience of homeland and Palestinian struggle

Ukrainians in Gaza describe shared experience of homeland and Palestinian struggle
  • Ukrainian local community in Gaza highlight similar struggles civilians face in the Russian occupation and Israeli occupation

LONDON: There are around 830 Ukrainian-born people living in Gaza, the largest population of foreigners living in the blockaded coastal zone, according to community leaders.

While for decades, their families in Ukraine have feared for safety in the Gaza Strip, these expats are now also fear for their families’ safety in Ukraine.

Natalya Hassoumi, a endocrinologist in Beit Lahia, was frequently unable to contact her family in Ukraine for days at a time while airstrikes targeted the Palestinian territory.

Now, she has not heard from her parents and siblings in Russian-occupied Kherson for three weeks.

“I never thought that war could happen in Ukraine, no food, no electricity … Gaza and Ukraine have the same problems now,” she told the Guardian.

The Soviet Union was a major supporter of the Palestinian cause, offering scholarships and business visas to people from West Bank and Gaza for decades, according to Hassoumi.

Many of those ties remained after Ukraine declared independence in 1991.

The vast majority of Ukrainians in Gaza are women who met their Palestinian husbands while studying at Ukrainian universities.

Approximately 120 Gaza families with ties to Ukraine were evacuated during the 11-day war last May between Israeli forces and Palestinian militant groups, which killed 256 people in Gaza and 14 people in Israel.

However, less than a year later, Viktoria Saidam and her husband Ibrahim have decided to seek refuge with Ibrahim's parents in the southern Gaza Strip, where the population suffers from electricity shortages, polluted water and political turmoil, according to the Guardian report.

Natalya Mabhouh has lived in Gaza since 1997. Her mother, sister are still in her home town of Kharkiv.

“When I came to Gaza the economic situation was good, there was peace, but we got used to wars and escalation since then. This has been a huge shock. Russians and Ukrainians are like one people … I still don’t understand how this could happen,” the hairdresser said to the Guardian.

In general, the Palestinian society have supported Russia over Ukraine, viewing it as a proxy superpower struggle with the US, Israel’s most important ally.However, neither Hamas nor the Palestinian Authority has taken a public position on the Russian invasion.

The Russian invasion has also heightened tensions between Gaza's Ukrainian and Russian-speaking communities.

Many local Ukrainians were upset after a pro-Moscow demonstration was held in March.

In March, many local Ukrainians were upset after a group of Russians held a pro-Moscow demonstration, causing many long lived friendships to end.“It is really difficult,” said Hassoumi. “My mother is Ukrainian and my father is Russian and suddenly people are not talking to me. I feel like many people don’t care about the details, but it’s an occupation, like the Israelis.”

The Ukrainian community in Gaza remains worried about the prospects of both their homeland and their adopted home.Ashraf Al-Nimr, a leader of the local Ukrainian community, told the Guardian: “We built a life here, so despite everything we will stay”.

He says that 15 of his wife’s family members in Mariupol have gone missing since Russia’s siege began. “We can help by giving people in Ukraine instructions on how to deal with war, how to hide, and raising money. Any way we can help, we will,” he said.


Lebanon must act against torture, human rights groups warn

Lebanon must act against torture, human rights groups warn
Updated 27 June 2022

Lebanon must act against torture, human rights groups warn

Lebanon must act against torture, human rights groups warn
  • Country’s anti-torture unit lacks govt budget, laws and courts ‘ineffective’

LONDON: Lebanese authorities must protect people from torture and ill-treatment in detention, a group of organizations including Human Rights Watch said on Monday.

The appeal came on International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.

Aya Majzoub, Lebanon researcher at HRW, said: “Despite an improvement to Lebanon’s anti-torture framework on paper, torture remains prevalent, and accountability for torture and ill-treatment is elusive.

“Lebanon needs to show that it is serious about combating torture, and it should start by moving forward the many torture complaints that have been languishing before the judiciary without effective investigations.”

In 2019, 44-year-old Hassan Al-Dika died in custody reportedly as a result of torture. An HRW investigation found that judicial authorities failed to investigate Al-Dika’s allegations of torture before his death.

They had also tasked the same security agency that Al-Dika accused of torture with investigating his claims.

And in the case of actor Ziad Itani, who was accused and later exonerated of spying for Israel, Lebanese justice authorities have yet to take action regarding his claims of torture at the hands of State Security officials.

The Lebanese Parliament passed a law criminalizing torture in 2017. Two years later the government appointed five members to the National Preventative Mechanism against Torture.

But the unit has yet to be allocated a budget to allow the fulfillment of its mandate.

“The Lebanese authorities should promptly and impartially investigate all complaints of torture, allocate a sufficient budget to allow the torture prevention unit to get to work, and bring the anti-torture law in line with international standards,” Majzoub said.

Torture remains prevalent in Lebanon, despite complaints regularly being filed under the 2017 law.

The HRW warned that the 2017 law fails to abide by Lebanon’s obligations under the UN Convention against Torture, because it fails to criminalize cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.


Bahrain says Egyptian president to visit kingdom Tuesday

Bahrain says Egyptian president to visit kingdom Tuesday
Updated 27 June 2022

Bahrain says Egyptian president to visit kingdom Tuesday

Bahrain says Egyptian president to visit kingdom Tuesday

CAIRO: Bahraini Royal Court says Egyptian President to visit kingdom on Tuesday, will hold talks with King, the state-run news agency said.  

King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa will receive President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and his accompanying delegation upon his arrival in Bahrain tomorrow, Bahrain news agency said. 

During  the visit, the leaders will hold talks related to bilateral relations, in addition to the latest developments on the regional, Arab and international arenas.