Biden’s team realized Saudi relationship was too big to fail, Politico columnist tells Arab News 

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Updated 24 June 2022

Biden’s team realized Saudi relationship was too big to fail, Politico columnist tells Arab News 

Biden’s team realized Saudi relationship was too big to fail, Politico columnist tells Arab News 
  • US needs Kingdom on several fronts, President never intended to treat Riyadh as pariah, says Elise Labott
  • Biden will meet Saudi king and crown prince for talks on addressing joint issues: Saudi embassy spokesman

CHICAGO: US President Joe Biden publicly denounced Saudi Arabia as a “pariah” while privately sending back-channel emissaries to try to restore the relationship between the two allies, an influential analyst has told Arab News.

Elise Labott, the former global affairs correspondent with the broadcaster CNN who is now a columnist with Politico magazine, had access to highly placed US and Saudi sources — both on and off the record — for an article published recently in the magazine.

Speaking on “The Ray Hanania Show,” which is produced by Arab News and broadcast weekly on the US Arab Radio network, she said: “Let’s be honest, I don’t think that President Biden ever really intended to treat Saudi Arabia as a pariah when he came to office and make that his policy, but the politics kind of got in the way and they were trying to move forward on the policy, but in secret because of the politics. After a while, the Saudis did want to repair the relationship. So, they did a lot of what the US asked them to do.

“But finally, they were just like, all right, in or out? There have been a series of visits over the course of the last year or so. National security adviser Jake Sullivan went out there. CIA director Bill Burns went out there.”

Labott said there was a recognition in the White House that “there are problems in the relationship … on the wider human rights front, but then whether it's security, or economically or in the region, the Saudis are a valuable partner and the US does need to reset the relationship.”

Other issues encouraged a recalibration, including the Russian invasion of Ukraine and soaring fuel prices in the US, Labott said.

“I think that when President Biden was on the campaign trail as a candidate he promised, of course, to treat Saudi Arabia as a pariah state, make them pay the price, and for a while they were pretty standoffish, but I think as time wore on, and certainly the war in Ukraine was really a catalyst for this, the US saw that the relationship with Saudi Arabia was too big to fail. And so, you had rising gas prices. You had the war inUkraine. You had a whole host of things where the US would look to that solid partner over the years, Saudi Arabia — this is a 75-year-old relationship.

“And because the Saudis, and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in particular, were being kind of ostracized, finally they had had enough. Even though President Biden was saying this in public, in private he was sending emissaries to Saudi Arabia to say look, we want to reset the relationship. We want to move forward.

“And kind of in secret almost, there was this back-channel diplomacy going on for the last year or so in which the two sides were trying to make progress on a whole host of issues.”

Labott said Saudi influence on the global price of oil amid US domestic anger over the cost of fuel at the pumps was a driver of White House thinking — but far from the only one. “Well, a lot of people are reducing it to the oil and the Saudis are the biggest swing producer,” she said.

“The US is looking to them to stabilize markets, everyone is going to fill their car with gas at the pump, its over $5 and some places it’s $7, so the initial thought is can we get the Saudis to increase oil production so that will ease the pain?

“I think that the Saudis ultimately are playing hard to get, with the US having agreed to some oil production, I don’t think that’s going to make much of a difference for the US economy in the long run, that’s what experts say.

“I think if it is anything from stabilizing some of the economies in the region like Lebanon, for instance, or playing a mediator in Iraq or reaching out to Iran. Normalization with Israel. And then there is, you know, Saudi Arabia is on the Red Sea and there is a whole keeping trade lanes open in the Red Sea and mediating with Africa.

“If you look across the globe, most major foreign policy issues particularly in that part of the world, Saudi Arabia is the ‘gorilla in the room,’ and you can’t really get anything done if you don’t have them on the inside.”

Washington had functional relationships with many states without agreeing with them on every issue, Labott said, and it was important for the US to realize that it could not bend a country to its will. “Whether it’s in the UAE or Saudi or Bahrain or these Gulf states, they’re monarchies they’re not democracies, but if you ask the people by and large there’s not a lot of dissent … if you ask the Saudis whether they approve of Mohammed bin Salman, if you held an election, I think he’d win hands down. I think it’s recognizing these leaders as imperfect as they are and trying to find a way to move forward instead of trying to bend them to our will.”

As for what the US expected of Saudi Arabia, Labott said: “I think it’s just showing that leadership in the region that the US is looking for and that could be anything from standing on the right side of democracy against the war in Ukraine.

“We have one goal right now and that’s to beat Putin, and we need the Saudis to help us do that, so that means not doing anything with the oil market that will embolden President Putin … maybe not supporting sanctions in the way the US wants them to, but don’t do anything that will help President Putin, and I think if the Saudis want to be that leader, that’s what the US is looking for them to do.”
The radio show also featured an interview with Fahad Nazer, spokesman for the Saudi Embassy in Washington, who said that contrary to the views of some pundits there was a genuine appreciation in Washington of the important role played by Saudi Arabia and the significance of the relationship with the US. Biden’s decision to visit Saudi Arabia next month as part of his first Middle East trip was evidence of that, Nazer said.

“This dialogue goes a long way but I think there is an appreciation in Washington, as far as I can tell among congressional leaders and in the administration, that Saudi Arabia plays a very important role globally … in stabilizing international energy markets,” he said.
“We play an important role in helping bring stability and helping resolve some of the political crises in the region including the Yemen war … and we have played the leading role over the years in pushing back onmilitant non-state actors like Daesh, Al-Qaeda, the Houthis, Hezbollah and others. So, I think there is an appreciation for that very constructive role that the Kingdom plays.”

Nazer confirmed that Biden would hold separate meetings during his visit with King Salman and the crown prince, with a wide range of issues on the agenda. “The two leaders will discuss bilateral cooperation and joint efforts to address regional and global challenges including some of the newer challenges that the international community faces including cyber security, climate change, and environmental initiatives,” he said.

“At the same time the Kingdom is hosting a summit that will include the leaders of the GCC countries as well as the leaders of Jordan, Egypt and Iraq, and obviously President Biden will be attending that as well.”

Arab countries remained critically important role players in these discussions with “our most important strategic ally in the world,” Nazer said.

The Ray Hanania Show is broadcast live every Wednesday at 5 p.m. Eastern EST on WNZK AM 690 radio in Greater Detroit including parts of Ohio, and WDMV AM 700 radio in Washington DC including parts of Virginia and Maryland. The show is rebroadcast on Thursdays at 7 a.m. in Detroit on WNZK AM 690 and in Chicago at 12 noon on WNWI AM 1080.

You can listen to the radio show podcast here: www.arabnews.com/RayRadioShow


Saudi authorities supervise readiness to ensure safe Hajj

The exercise consisted of a fire resulting from a short circuit, which prompted smoke and flames outside the building. (SPA)
The exercise consisted of a fire resulting from a short circuit, which prompted smoke and flames outside the building. (SPA)
Updated 10 sec ago

Saudi authorities supervise readiness to ensure safe Hajj

The exercise consisted of a fire resulting from a short circuit, which prompted smoke and flames outside the building. (SPA)
  • A mock experiment in Makkah ensures staff readiness to deal with emergencies

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s health and humanitarian authorities, Makkah Health Affairs and the Saudi Red Crescent Authority in Madinah, supervised inspections in the holy cities to assess readiness and preparations to ensure a safe Hajj.

Makkah Health Affairs participated in a mock experiment that consisted of a fire drill in one of the pilgrim residences in the city, to measure the degree of preparedness of the medical facilities and staff this Hajj season.

The experiment consisted of a fire resulting from a short circuit, which prompted smoke and flames outside the building and resulted in the removal of a number of residents, in addition to 34 casualties ranging from injuries to fatalities.

The cases were checked by the medical staff according to their designated zones, where they were positioned: Six cases in the red zone, eight cases in the yellow zone, 16 cases in the green zone and four cases in the black zone.

Hamad Al-Otaibi, spokesperson of Makkah Health Affairs, confirmed that this experiment was carried out with the participation of a number of medical and security authorities and departments.

The experiment also witnessed the participation of the executive administration of emergencies and disasters in Makkah Healthcare Cluster and the affiliated hospitals — Al-Noor Specialist Hospital, King Abdulaziz Hospital, King Faisal Hospital — and the ambulatory centers.

The director general of Makkah Health Affairs and chairman of the Hajj and Umrah executive committee, Wael bin Hamza Mutair, confirmed the readiness of the health sector in Makkah to deal with all medical, ambulatory and emergency cases inside and outside the holy places.

King Salman ordered state sectors to serve pilgrims during Hajj to the best of their ability during a recent Cabinet meeting.

“Serving Hajj and Umrah pilgrims has been at the forefront of the Kingdom’s priority since its establishment and still is. We are proud to continue this mission with the highest competency,” the King said.

Meanwhile, SRCA President Dr. Jalal bin Mohammed Al-Owaisi visited Madinah to check and inaugurate a number of ambulatory centers in the region.

The visit came as part of his tour to check preparations ahead of the pilgrimage, and to ensure the readiness of the various centers receiving pilgrims in Makkah and Madinah.

Al-Owaisi listened to a detailed presentation on the potential of the centers, and the most important preparations done by these centers to receive visitors to Madinah during the Hajj season.


How Saudi academia and industry are closing ranks to drive hospitality innovation

How Saudi academia and industry are closing ranks to drive hospitality innovation
Updated 4 min 36 sec ago

How Saudi academia and industry are closing ranks to drive hospitality innovation

How Saudi academia and industry are closing ranks to drive hospitality innovation
  • Effat University has partnered with Kerten Hospitality to organize events and support local tourism businesses
  • Young Saudis encouraged to take on apprenticeships and internships in the burgeoning hospitality industry 

DUBAI: As part of their mission to diversify the national economy away from a reliance on oil, authorities in Saudi Arabia are actively encouraging a spirit of entrepreneurism among the youth of the country, particularly those interested in working in the Kingdom’s burgeoning tourism and hospitality sector.

To drive this agenda forward, academic institutions are teaming up with the private sector to organize events and activities that will help to incubate a start-up culture and develop homegrown industries.

One example of this partnership is a new collaboration between Saudi Arabia’s Effat University and Kerten Hospitality that aims to offer young people a chance to take part in mentoring sessions and hackathons, social coding events that bring computer programmers and other developers together to improve upon or build new software systems, while also providing support to students who want to start their own businesses.

“As a lifestyle, ESG, mixed-use operator, we are going to remain focused on our key areas — support for the local community and the young generation of hospitality players — and focus on locality in all its spheres, such as hiring and upskilling local talent, and driving innovation,” Marloes Knippenberg, CEO of Kerten Hospitality, told Arab News. ESG refers to the non-financial environmental, social and governance factors and goals that influence corporate decisions.

“In this regard, we aim to drive initiatives that will further empower entrepreneurship through the launch and introduction of new business opportunities for students to launch, manage, run and grow their businesses,” she added.

The hospitality industry is at the forefront of this charge, but it is also thought that other sectors, like tech and the arts, will benefit. (Supplied)

“Innovation plays a very big role in this drive as it will help reach the tourism aspirations for the country.”

Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 agenda for social reform and economic diversification aims to expand investment in the leisure, hospitality and tourism industries, with the aim of attracting at least 100 million visitors to the Kingdom each year by the end of the decade.

Investment in the nation’s tourism industry is expected to exceed $1 trillion in the next 10 years. To help achieve this, authorities are working to create a favorable investment environment and to encourage local entrepreneurs to take the lead in developing these industries. Kerten Hospitality is offering to share its experience and expertise to help them succeed.

“We are at the start of an ecosystem that will become self-sustainable through a connected network of doers and achievers across multiple industries that work in the field of hospitality,” Knippenberg said.

“We are here to collaborate, adapt our know-how to the local landscape and work jointly with entities and organizations that are headed in the same direction, with the same speed and readiness to move and arrive at 2030 as accelerators of growth rather than laggards of development.”

She believes it is essential to invest time and resources in a younger generation that is motivated, brimming with fresh ideas, and has the most to gain from the long-term growth and prosperity of the Kingdom.

Hospitality sits across the whole tourism sector, and human capital upskilling and a focus on the youth will be of paramount importance, according to Marloes Knippenberg, CEO of Kerten Hospitality. (Supplied)

Indeed, according to a report published in April this year by regional digital marketing company Global Media Insight, it is estimated that 70 percent of the Saudi population is under the age of 30. As a result, this demographic is expected to become the engine driving the efforts to achieve the goals of Vision 2030.

“Hospitality sits across the whole tourism sector, and human capital upskilling and a focus on the youth will be of paramount importance,” Knippenberg said.

“This is where we plan to collaborate with Effat, in supporting this drive to get closer to achieving this mission.”

Such partnerships are necessary precisely because the hospitality sector in the Kingdom is in its formative stage. By working with Effat, Knippenberg hopes her company can help to provide young Saudis with the hands-on experience they need to hit the ground running.

“That is why we hope to motivate and stimulate young leaders and minds to contribute to the hospitality space with expertise acquired during their experiences with our global team,” she added.

INNUMBERS

* 70% Proportion of Saudi population estimated to be below age 30.

* 100m+ Target for visitors to KSA each year by the end of the decade.

Sarah Hassan, a 23-year-old graduate student at Effat University, is pursuing a career in logistics and supply-chain management within the hospitality industry.

“The hospitality field in Saudi Arabia is huge because of Makkah and Madinah, and Muslims around the world travel to visit Saudi Arabia, so it’s one of the most robust industries,” she told Arab News. “But now, with Vision 2030 and the country’s will to attract more tourists, it’s evolving.”

In Jeddah, where Hassan grew up, the hospitality industry already plays a significant role in the local economy.

“Jeddah Season just started and I’m seeing a lot of people visiting from around Saudi Arabia, (places) like Riyadh and Abha,” she said.

“The government is allocating all the resources to help facilitate the field. I am now applying for jobs and want to pursue a master’s degree in supply-chain management abroad so I can bring back that knowledge to Saudi Arabia.”

The collaboration between Effat University and Kerten will equip students with problem-solving skills and entrepreneurial know-how as part of an initiative spearheaded by Maria Bou Eid, the general manager of The House Hotel Jeddah City Yard. Young Saudis will also acquire new skills during internships and apprenticeships in Jeddah and it is hoped that their experiences will motivate them to pursue careers in the hospitality sector.

A number of Saudi universities are exploring partnerships with the private sector in order to help their students meet the needs of various labor markets across the Kingdom. (Supplied)

Haifa Jamal Al-Lail, the president of Effat University, said the partnership with Kerten will introduce students to a relatively new jobs market as the country experiences a wide-ranging economic transformation.

“The whole Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is going through different kinds of changes, from A to Z,” she told Arab News.

“In order to equip the students as valuable citizens, they really need to be engaged early on with the market to know exactly what the requirements are and how they can deal with it when they graduate. Hospitality is really the way to go for the Kingdom’s future.

“With all these things happening in art and culture, you will not be welcoming anybody without hospitality.”

A number of other universities in the Kingdom are establishing similar academic-industrial partnerships to help bridge experience gaps.

“It’s about making sure we have the market inside the university and vice versa,” Al-Lail said. “If this kind of reciprocal relationship is not done from the top management, then it will not cascade to the different levels of the institution.

“It helps the different departments and colleges a lot to seek the help of the community and work on it to really show the students what new jobs are available and what skills are needed.”

Al-Lail said she hopes that more companies from a variety of fields, including the tech sector, will form partnerships with higher education institutions in the Kingdom so that students can benefit from the guidance and experience they can provide, and perhaps even grants and scholarships.

“This will make a big difference in order to close the gap early on because they can really invest in the students while they’re studying but they will also have them ready immediately to join their industry after they graduate,” she said.

“That gives them sustainability to close the gap, while providing employment to our students.”


Saranghae KSA festival unites K-pop fans in Jeddah

Performing on the festival's opening day, EPEX and Ateez greeted the audience in Arabic and Korean. (Supplied)
Performing on the festival's opening day, EPEX and Ateez greeted the audience in Arabic and Korean. (Supplied)
Updated 1 min ago

Saranghae KSA festival unites K-pop fans in Jeddah

Performing on the festival's opening day, EPEX and Ateez greeted the audience in Arabic and Korean. (Supplied)
  • The Consulate General of Korea in Jeddah delievered a one-of-kind Korean experience, offering to photograph fans wearing traditional Korean outfits, as well as providing cooking demonstrations

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia's first K-pop festival, Saranghae KSA 22, brought fans from a wide range of backgrounds together under the roof of the Jeddah Superdome for a three-day celebration of Korean music and culture.

K-pop installations, an Umbrella Boulevard and a Cherry Blossoms Avenue provided picture-perfect backgrounds for fans, who were also given a taste of Korean cuisine at stalls selling a range of Korean favorites.

One audience member, Ghazal Mazen, 16, said that she grew up listening to Korean songs because of her older sisters, and has been a fan of Ateez since early 2020.

“I really can’t describe how I feel now. It feels like a dream I have been waiting to live in real life,” she said.

High-quality screens ensured fans were able to see their favorite performers, while a screen suspended from the middle of the dome displayed images taken by audience members at the photo booth, as well as short clips of the bands.

The Consulate General of Korea in Jeddah delievered a one-of-kind Korean experience, offering to photograph fans wearing traditional Korean outfits, as well as providing cooking demonstrations.

Performing on the festival's opening day, EPEX and Ateez greeted the audience in Arabic and Korean.

Both bands took a break to meet the audience and answer questions from fans.

On Wednesday, EPEX enjoyed the festive vibe of Jeddah Season by visiting the Historical Jeddah zone, walking through museums and the house of horror, playing games, and winning prizes.

Fans of Ateez spotted the band members shopping at the Red Sea Mall on the same day.

Saturday will mark the last day of the festival with Monsta X and Verivery.

 


Childhood memories of Hajj pilgrimages inspire Saudi filmmaker’s latest project

Saudi filmmaker Mujtaba Saeed is currently developing a script that draws heavily on his relationship with Makkah
Saudi filmmaker Mujtaba Saeed is currently developing a script that draws heavily on his relationship with Makkah
Updated 6 min 48 sec ago

Childhood memories of Hajj pilgrimages inspire Saudi filmmaker’s latest project

Saudi filmmaker Mujtaba Saeed is currently developing a script that draws heavily on his relationship with Makkah
  • Mujtaba Saeed’s script draws parallels between Makkah and Berlin, and explores the contrasts between traditional values and the modern world

RIYADH: Saudi filmmaker Mujtaba Saeed’s relationship with Makkah began at an early age. He fondly recalls family journeys to the vibrant city for Umrah or Hajj, surrounded by people of all ethnicities and nationalities who gathered at the holy place for one common purpose.

He paints a picture of childhood road trips across the multi-toned sand dunes of Saudi Arabia as buses passed by carrying strangers from all walks of life, all chanting the same prayer in a united voice.

Saeed remembers the journeys from his childhood home in the city of Saihat, in the Eastern Province, to the Hijaz region in the west of the country as being full of excitement and marvel.

Mujtaba Saeed’s 2021 film ‘Zawal’ won a Golden Palm award for Best Short Film at the Saudi Film Festival, and a Golden Sail award
at the Gulf Radio and Television Festival, which took place in Bahrain. (Supplied)

“It was filled with adventure,” he told Arab News. “From a child’s perspective, it was a long trip that never ends. My relationship with Makkah was the idea of traveling to a place.”

The screenwriter and director is currently developing a script that draws heavily on his relationship with the holy city, which was a big part of his life until he moved to Germany as a young adult to continue his education.

“After that, I didn’t visit (Makkah) for a while but the memories remained,” he said. “I consider (the memories) things that open up questions related to time, connection and the act of travel … I think it’s similar to any Saudi’s relationship to Makkah.”

HIGHLIGHT

Mujtaba Saeed remembers the journeys from his childhood home in the city of Saihat, in the Eastern Province, to the Hijaz region in the west of the country as being full of excitement and marvel. Saeed, who now splits his time between residences in Berlin and Saudi Arabia, said these emotions and his experiences with the holy city are what inspired his latest script.

He added that the city is a focus for the many individuals and families who visit it as pilgrims throughout their lives.

“I think I grew up with these visuals and they’re filled with emotions; Makkah is a place filled with emotions for me,” he explained.

Saeed’s other projects include ‘Drowning’ or ‘Gharaq,’ which recently won the Best Feature Film Script award at the Saudi Film Festival. (Supplied)

Saeed, who now splits his time between residences in Berlin and Saudi Arabia, said these emotions and his experiences with the holy city are what inspired his latest script. It is still a work in progress but he is determined to share its story not only with fellow Saudis but audiences around the world.

“It’s up to everyone to try to engage and integrate with different cultures,” he said. “I think what’s inside us as humans and what motivates us as people is all one.”

The script reflects Saeed’s own life as it revolves around two cities: Makkah and Berlin. Though there are many differences between them there are also similarities, not least a transient nature, with people constantly coming and going: Pilgrims in Makkah, and tourists and students in Berlin.

Saudi filmmaker Mujtaba Saeed.

“These two places are directions (Qiblatan) for many people in the world, so I’m trying to search for the contrasts between the two and how that contrast affects the characters,” he said.

“For me, it’s also really important to see how this young city of Berlin opens up questions for anyone who visits it … questions that relate to our relationships with our bodies, and our connection to ourselves and others.”

Saeed said the search for answers to these questions by the characters in the story creates the conflict that is essential in any drama.

He added that his aim with the script is to explore the contrast between notions relating to the traditional values of “old society” and the modern, globalized world. More importantly, he said, it considers whether diverse groups of individuals, each with their own dynamic and colorful backgrounds, can coexist safely in one place.

“In Makkah, this equation exists,” said Saeed. “From the time I left to study in Germany and then worked there, there was care in a city that was also global. But still, there remains the important question: How can you amplify other voices there?”

He said he feels a responsibility as an artist to amplify voices that often go unheard. As the development of arts and entertainment in the Kingdom continues, as part of which the country aims to become a regional hub for cinema, filmmaking and broader forms of cultural exchange, he believes the growth of Saudi cinema offers an ideal opportunity to achieve that goal.

“At this stage of national renaissance, where we are giving a voice to Saudi cinema, we need, in addition to the work that the Saudi film commission does to develop regulated creations, to have an interest in more collaborative efforts, whether that’s with Europe, India, or other counties,” Saeed said.

“I think cinema will become our language — and it’s a universal language — in the coming years.

“The importance of the European Film Festival in Riyadh is something we can’t argue about and I think it’s important to focus on presenting diverse cinematic content.”

The inaugural EFF, which aimed to promote European cinema and encourage the building of contacts between filmmakers in Europe and Saudi Arabia, took place between June 15 and 22. Saeed believes it was important in terms of helping to bridge cultural gaps and encouraging ongoing communication.

“I don’t think the festival presented films that are new to this audience, because the Saudi audience greatly follows (cinema), but it’s important for European filmmakers to meet this audience,” he said.

Saeed’s other current projects include a screenplay titled “Gharaq,” which translates as “Drowning,” which in June won the Best Feature Film Script award at the 2022 Saudi Film Festival. Saeed said that it explores the duality of forgiveness and revenge, adding: “A person can’t be free unless he forgives.”

The film is prepping for production, with filming due to take place in the east of the Kingdom. He is hopeful it will be a Saudi-German co-production.

Saeed’s 2021 film “Zawal” won a Golden Palm award for Best Short Film at the Saudi Film Festival, and a Golden Sail award at the Gulf Radio and Television Festival, which took place in Bahrain between June 21 and 23. It tells the story of an 8-year-old boy who lives with his mother in a refugee camp under quarantine following the outbreak of a mystery pandemic.


Saudi Red Crescent Authority and The Helicopter Co. launch air ambulance service

Saudi Red Crescent Authority and The Helicopter Co. launch air ambulance service
Updated 01 July 2022

Saudi Red Crescent Authority and The Helicopter Co. launch air ambulance service

Saudi Red Crescent Authority and The Helicopter Co. launch air ambulance service
  • The service will be implemented in Riyadh first then gradually cover the rest of the Kingdom’s regions in several phases

RIYADH: The Saudi Red Crescent Authority and The Helicopter Co. have signed an agreement to launch an air ambulance service in the Kingdom.

The signing, which aims to raise the quality and efficiency of ambulance services to save lives, was attended by Health Minister Fahd Al-Jalajel, who is also chairman of the board of directors of the Saudi Red Crescent Authority.

The agreement was signed by President of the Saudi Red Crescent Authority Jalal Al-Owaisi and CEO of The Helicopter Co. Capt. Arnaud Martinez.

The agreement stems from the authority’s belief in the importance of an air ambulance, which can respond quickly to save lives in emergencies and exceptional circumstances — such as locations that are difficult to reach otherwise — in which speed of communication is crucial to providing medical care.

The agreement stipulates the provision of air ambulance helicopters around the clock to transport highway accident casualties and transfer critical cases between hospitals.

The service will be implemented in Riyadh first then gradually cover the rest of the Kingdom’s regions in several phases.

Air ambulance helicopters will also be provided to respond to critical cases at holy sites and will be among the services provided by the authority to pilgrims and visitors during the Hajj season.

Raed Ismail, chairman of the board of directors at The Helicopter Co., said that this agreement is the result of relentless efforts and cooperation with the Saudi Red Crescent Authority and represents an important step in keeping pace with modern health systems that contribute to saving lives.

The Helicopter Co. was established in 2019 by the Public Investment Fund as the first local operator of commercial helicopters. Today, the company owns 17 helicopters that provide air ambulance services and are also available for tourism and business trips. It recently signed an agreement to purchase 42 new helicopters.

The air ambulance service falls within the objectives of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, as it will contribute to facilitating access to emergency medical care and reduce the percentage of deaths and injuries resulting from traffic accidents.