INTERVIEW: Adel Al-Jubeir on why Biden’s Saudi visit is a success, and US commitment to Kingdom’s security

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Updated 17 July 2022

INTERVIEW: Adel Al-Jubeir on why Biden’s Saudi visit is a success, and US commitment to Kingdom’s security

INTERVIEW: Adel Al-Jubeir on why Biden’s Saudi visit is a success, and US commitment to Kingdom’s security
  • Opening Saudi airspace to all carriers is part of Saudi Vision 2030 plan to become a regional travel hub, Al-Jubeir tells Arab News
  • The US remains committed to the security of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, says Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir

JEDDAH: Hours after US President Joe Biden arrived in Jeddah for talks with the Saudi leadership, Adel Al-Jubeir, the Kingdom’s minister of state for foreign affairs, deemed the visit a great success.

In a wide-ranging interview with Arab News on Friday evening, after a packed day of meetings between the US president’s delegation and Saudi officials, Al-Jubeir highlighted the importance of the historic relationship.

“Every visit by an American president to Saudi Arabia is a success, and every visit by a Saudi king or a Saudi crown prince to the US is a success,” Al-Jubeir told Arab News.

“The two countries are allies and partners and have been for eight decades. They have tremendous interests at stake, and they have tremendous challenges that they both are working together to confront.”




King Salman welcomed Joe Biden to Al-Salam Palace on Friday. (SPA)

Biden’s visit “symbolizes in very clear terms the importance of the relationship, the importance of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the US, and to global peace and security,” he added.

On Friday afternoon, shortly after his bilateral meeting with King Salman, the US president and his advisers sat down with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and other ministers for a summit meeting, which set the tone for future relations.

Citing the many examples of cooperation, Al-Jubeir said: “The two countries work very closely with regards to energy security, with regards to combating climate change, and with regards to providing food security for countries that are suffering because of shortages. They work together to ensure the logistics of global supplies.”

The Saudi minister was particularly keen to highlight new frameworks of cooperation with regards to technology, infrastructure, and health services.

“They work together to enhance and advance connectivity through 5G and 6G as well as exploration of outer space,” said Al-Jubeir. “They also work together in terms of dealing with pandemics. They ensure that we have in place a mechanism to deal with future pandemics more effectively.”

This same spirit of cooperation, Al-Jubeir stressed, applies to the diplomatic and humanitarian spheres.

“They are working together in terms of political and military issues in confronting Iran and supporting Iraq and dealing with the crises in Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, in Yemen, in the Horn of Africa, in Libya, and in the G5 countries of the Sahel,” he said.

“They are working together with Afghanistan to ensure it does not become a safe haven for terrorists and that it moves forward and becomes a normal country in which normal men and women can lead normal lives.”

Beyond these shared interests and challenges, however, Al-Jubeir said the strength of the Saudi-US relationship, established eight decades ago, hinges upon not only its longevity but also the two nations’ shared principles.

“We want to make sure that, looking forward to the next 80 years, we have a relationship that’s firmly anchored in how we want to move forward,” Al-Jubeir said.

On why there has been so much skepticism that preceded Biden’s visit to Saudi Arabia, Al-Jubeir said: “Maybe the skeptics are people looking for theatrics or drama. The reality, however, is that this relationship is very solid. This relationship is very important. And this relationship keeps growing and going from strength to strength.”

Indeed, reciprocal visits by US and Saudi leaders are a well-established tradition.

“We have had summits between American presidents and Saudi kings since the time of King Abdulaziz. And we have had summits between American presidents and the GCC countries since 2015, when the first one took place at Camp David with President Barack Obama.




Joe Biden met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. (SPA)

“We had them in 2017 with President Trump. We will have them tomorrow (Saturday) with President Biden. So I can’t tell you what makes the skeptics tick. That’s their issue. But I can tell you the reality of it is that all of the challenges and all of the areas where we’re working together that I mentioned earlier have been going on uninterrupted.”

One significant development on Friday was Saudi Arabia’s decision to open its airspace to commercial flights to and from Israel for the first time. Biden was the first US president to fly from Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv to King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah.

Commenting on the move, described by Biden on Friday as “historic,” Al-Jubeir said the announcement came in accordance with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 social and economic reform agenda, which envisions Saudi Arabia as a regional travel hub.

“As part of Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia is seeking to diversify its economy,” said Al-Jubeir. “Among the areas for diversification are recreation, entertainment, and transportation.

“Saudi Arabia is placed to be a natural hub because of its location between Asia, Africa and Europe. Fourteen percent of the world’s marine traffic runs through the Red Sea, and Saudi Arabia can be a hub for air transportation connecting these three continents.
 

“It is impossible to become a hub unless third countries have the right to fly over your territory in accordance with the Chicago Convention of 1944. Saudi Arabia will become an air hub essentially by default because of its geographic location just as it can become a hub for shipping.”

Indeed, if Saudi Arabia wishes to become a world-class venue for international sporting events, “it has to be open to the whole world and it cannot exclude countries from participating in those events,” said Al-Jubeir.

“This is all part of the country’s becoming a destination for sports and recreation events, as well as its aim to become a transportation and logistics hub connecting three continents.”

Ahead of Biden’s arrival in Saudi Arabia, observers expected the issue of oil production to feature prominently on the summit agenda, in light of spiraling global energy prices as a result of the war in Ukraine and the resultant Western embargo on Russian oil and gas.

“Saudi Arabia’s policy on oil has been to try to seek balance in the energy markets, to make sure that the markets are adequately supplied and that there are no shortages,” said Al-Jubeir.

“Now, when you have dislocations in the markets because of geopolitics or because of dislocations in the price of other energy, whether it is coal or natural gas, and they skyrocket and they pull up the price of crude oil, that really has nothing to do with a shortage of crude oil as much as other factors.”

He added: “With regards to the price of gasoline in the US, that’s really a function of the lack of refining capacity. The US has not built a refinery in more than 40 years and it has something to do with a regulatory environment that has now led to having many different blends of gasoline in different regions of the US, and that makes it complicated to supply gasoline into the American market.”

Therefore, he added, “increasing crude oil supplies to the US is not going to alleviate the problem. But going back to the global situation, Saudi Arabia’s policy is to work within OPEC and OPEC+ to make sure the markets are adequately supplied and we have been doing that.

“I believe that the Biden administration is aware of what we have done. If you look at only the last year alone, Saudi Arabia was able to increase oil production on a fairly regular basis.”




A working meeting between President Biden’s delegation and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Saudi officials produced a number of MoUs on Friday. (Reuters)

In order to meet the demands of the market, Saudi Arabia “will continue to assess market needs and make decisions according to those needs.”

Referencing Saudi Arabia and America’s historical bonds of friendship, including how the US sent troops to the region in 1990 to help repel Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi forces from neighboring Kuwait, Al-Jubeir said the same principles of security cooperation apply today.

“The US is committed to the security of the Gulf, and committed to the security of Saudi Arabia. That has been the case since President Franklin D. Roosevelt met the late King Abdulaziz,” he said.

“Every American president has articulated that and we saw it expressed very clearly in the deployment of 500,000 American troops in 1990 to Saudi Arabia to protect it from an Iraqi incursion after the invasion of Kuwait and then to evict Saddam Hussein from Kuwait and liberate the country.

“(Sending) 500,000 American soldiers to the Kingdom and to the Gulf (was) an incredibly powerful testament to America’s commitment to the security of the Gulf. The US is the largest supplier of defense equipment to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and to most countries in the Gulf and the US has the largest presence in the region.

“We have joint exercises. We have joint transfers of technology. We have joint operations that we and the GCC countries are engaged in with the US. We try to broaden and deepen and expand all of them in order to enhance the security of our region. The issues are ongoing and will continue to increase in the future.”

However, Al-Jubeir underlined that Saudi Arabia is an independent country that relies as much as it can on itself for its defense and for its deterrent capabilities.

“Saudi Arabia has not been shy about acquiring defense equipment from various sources, depending on what is best suited for its armed forces,” he said.

“We have extensive programs with the US, and ‘we’ means the GCC. Those programs involve working on ballistic missile defense systems, working on demining operations, and working with special forces.

“You can see a number of these were established or begun after the 2015 US-GCC Summit at Camp David after which a final joint statement came out that listed all of the items and these are presently all works in progress.”


Saudi Arabia sponsors $1bn economic reform in Yemen

Saudi Arabia sponsors $1bn economic reform in Yemen
Updated 28 November 2022

Saudi Arabia sponsors $1bn economic reform in Yemen

Saudi Arabia sponsors $1bn economic reform in Yemen
  • AMF program to improve transparency in banking, financial and private sectors
  • Saudi Arabia has been lead donor to Yemen since 2001

RIYADH: Under the sponsorship of Saudi Arabia, the Arab Monetary Fund has signed a $1 billion agreement with the Yemeni government to revitalize its flagging economy.

The deal, signed in Riyadh, seeks to establish a comprehensive economic, financial and monetary reform program to improve governance and transparency, expand and diversify production and lower unemployment and poverty.

Saudi Minister of Finance Mohammed Al-Jadaan said that the program will develop Yemen’s financial and banking sector, strengthen the role of the private sector and promote long-term economic development. 

The reform priorities for the government include developing public resources, controlling and rationalizing government spending, improving efficiency, and rehabilitating critical infrastructure in electricity, water and transport services. 

Priorities for the financial and banking sectors include developing a supervision system to improve transparency and accountability and bolstering services for small and medium businesses and youths and women in rural areas. It will also seek to boost digitalization and payment method flexibility.

The program says the private sector is a primary driver of sustainable economic growth, and key in paving the way for greater integration into the global economy, the flow of foreign investment, and the strengthening of international partnerships. 

The Yemeni government expressed interest in exploring opportunities for regional and international institutions to collaborate to support Yemeni economic reform. 

The agreement’s sponsorship by Saudi Arabia is an extension of the country's economic support for Yemen. The Kingdom gave the Central Bank of Yemen $1 billion in 2012 and $2 billion in 2018 to cover the import of basic food commodities. 

From 2001 to 2022, Saudi Arabia has led the list of donor countries to Yemen, providing 30 percent of total support.

 


Saudi, Egyptian interior ministers hold talks in Riyadh

Saudi, Egyptian interior ministers hold talks in Riyadh
Updated 27 November 2022

Saudi, Egyptian interior ministers hold talks in Riyadh

Saudi, Egyptian interior ministers hold talks in Riyadh
  • Cooperation agreement signed to combat crime

RIYADH: Saudi Interior Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud held talks with his Egyptian counterpart Mahmoud Tawfiq in Riyadh on Sunday, the Saudi Press Agency reported. 

They discussed ways to improve security cooperation between their ministries. The talks also saw the signing of a cooperation agreement to combat crime.

Saudi attendees included Deputy Interior Minister Dr. Nasser bin Abdul Aziz Al-Dawood, Interior Ministry Undersecretary Dr. Hisham bin Abdulrahman Al-Faleh, Interior Ministry Undersecretary for Security Affairs Mohammed bin Muhanna Al-Muhanna, and Public Security Director Mohammed Al-Bassami.

Egyptian attendees included Adel Al-Sayed Abdulaziz Jaafar, head of the National Security Agency, and officials from the Interior Ministry.

 


Sustainable development of Saudi island will boost economy

Darin and Tarout is among the most archaeologically significant islands in Eastern Province. (SPA)
Darin and Tarout is among the most archaeologically significant islands in Eastern Province. (SPA)
Updated 28 November 2022

Sustainable development of Saudi island will boost economy

Darin and Tarout is among the most archaeologically significant islands in Eastern Province. (SPA)
  • Dr. Saad Dahlawi: 'The Kingdom is witnessing unprecedented economic and developmental growth and following the standards of sustainable development'

RIYADH: Economists and environmentalists say sustainable investment is important for an island north of Dammam allocated billions of riyals for development.

Experts told Arab News that the SR2.64 billion ($703 million) granted to Darin and Tarout island by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman last week has much potential to boost the Eastern Province’s economy.

Darin and Tarout is among the most archaeologically significant islands in the region, with evidence of 5,000 years of continuous human habitation and around a dozen heritage sites, including a fortress dating back hundreds of years.

Dr. Saad Dahlawi, Assistant Professor, Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University (L) and
Fahad Almutlaq, CEO of Sharqia Development Authority.

Officials aim to improve the quality of life for its 120,000 people while preserving its cultural and historical heritage, revitalizing its natural beauty sites and enhancing its tourism economy.

As much as 48 percent of its 32 sq. km area will be dedicated to public parks, waterfronts, roads, and facilities. The island hopes to boost the number of tourists to 1.36 million by 2030 and generate thousands of jobs.

HIGHLIGHT

Officials aim to improve the quality of life for its 120,000 people while preserving its cultural and historical heritage, revitalizing its natural beauty sites and enhancing its tourism economy.

“This project represents the first strategic works and initiatives done by the Eastern Region Development Authority,” said Eastern Province Development Authority CEO Fahad Al-Mutlaq.

He said that work would start next year on a program to gradually improve social and economic conditions after comprehensive studies were completed.

Fadhel Al-Buainain, a member of the Shura Council, said that the island had historical importance.

Fadhel Al-Buainain, member of the Saudi Economists Association and member of the Shoura Council (L) and Abdullah Al-Khuzam, member of the National Program for the Development of Handicrafts.

“Developing Darin Castle and Darin Airport as heritage tourist destinations will enhance the cultural side,” he said. “The establishment of the largest forest on the banks of the Gulf will contribute to enhancing the environmental goals of the Kingdom.

“If eco-hotels are developed in natural areas, this will be an important base for eco-tourism, which will support the economy of the island.”

Al-Buainain, who is also a member of the Saudi Economists Association, said that the development plan would make an important economic contribution to the region.

“Providing small and medium investment and employment opportunities will have an important socio-economic impact,” he said, adding that the development would contribute to achieving the goals of Vision 2030.

Dr. Saad Dahlawi, an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Health at Imam Abd al-Rahman bin Faisal University, said he believed that the development announcement came at the perfect time.

“The Kingdom is witnessing unprecedented economic and developmental growth and following the standards of sustainable development,” he said.

Dahlawi added however that project leaders needed to assess impacts on the environment and especially on marine life to ensure that endangered species are not put at further risk.

“Such a study would provide decision-makers with a clear picture of how to implement the project sustainably,” he said.

Dahlawi said it was important to follow international environmental standards, as well as the standards and requirements of the National Center for Environmental Compliance, to avoid any damage to the environment.

Abdullah Al-Khuzam, a member of The National Handicraft Development Program, said the intention to turn Darin Airport into a heritage museum “means that a new prosperity period is being written on one of the oldest inhabited islands in the Arabian Gulf.”

He said that the museum and planned art festivals would help present “our ancient culture and civilization to the world.”

 

 


University signs deal to boost Saudi student fitness

University signs deal to boost Saudi student fitness
Updated 27 November 2022

University signs deal to boost Saudi student fitness

University signs deal to boost Saudi student fitness
  • The SFA is the main body responsible for promoting a healthy lifestyle in the Kingdom by providing sports activities

JEDDAH: The Saudi Sports for All Federation has signed a deal with the Arab Open University in Riyadh to cooperate on creating sports programs that will help build a healthy and active society.

Both organizations will also work together to promote sports culture and community sports to build a healthy lifestyle among the AOU’s students.

The federation will use the university’s sports facilities to launch initiatives and sports groups, organize community events and motivate students to take part.

SFA President Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal said the agreement was part of a strategy to work with partners and improve the health of the nation.

“We will also cooperate with the university in research, studies, data and statistics to attract a large number of university students to participate in sports and physical activities. This will help achieve our strategic objectives,” he said.

AOU Rector Ali Al-Shahrani said he was pleased to have signed the agreement.

“We seek to provide an integrated educational environment for our students by launching initiatives, sports events, and community programs within the university’s facilities. This agreement will help promote a sports culture among our students.

“We aim to provide multiple opportunities for people to participate in sports and physical activity in order to promote a healthy lifestyle and prevent diseases.”

The SFA is the main body responsible for promoting a healthy lifestyle in the Kingdom by providing sports activities. Its priorities are education, community, volunteering, fitness and health, campaigns, and promotions for people of all ages.

The AOU operates in nine Arab countries. It was founded in 1996 by Prince Talal bin Abdulaziz as a nonprofit institution and a nontraditional education academic entity. It focuses on scientific, social and cultural subjects.

In 2002, it worked with the Open University in the UK to transform into an integrated institution.

 


Saudi Arabia’s largest e-sports festival kick starts in Riyadh

Saudi Arabia’s largest e-sports festival kick starts in Riyadh
Updated 27 November 2022

Saudi Arabia’s largest e-sports festival kick starts in Riyadh

Saudi Arabia’s largest e-sports festival kick starts in Riyadh
  • RUSH event allows video-game aficionados to experience latest tech

RIYADH: The RUSH festival, the largest event for virtual sports and games, opened at the Riyadh Front on Saturday as part of the Riyadh Season of activities.

Over five days, it will provide gamers with the best-known games and real-life experiences.

They will get the chance to play real games such as “Fortnite,” “FIFA,” and “Valorant.” The event will also bring together the best international teams so that the biggest tournaments and direct qualifiers can be held on the e-sports stage.

Representatives of the 25 E-Sport organization greeted fans at the event’s meet-and-greet booth.

Aoun, the organization’s director of operations, told Arab News: “We have content makers and professional players in all games, and we came to meet the audience here.”

HIGHLIGHT

Over five days, the RUSH festival will provide gamers with the best-known games and real-life experiences. They will get the chance to play real games such as ‘Fortnite,’ ‘FIFA,’ and ‘Valorant.’

The festival aims to provide fun video games, competitions, and challenges through direct tournaments with prizes, and includes live entertainment shows, DJ performances, an augmented reality experience, and a cosplay competition.

The Valar Club booth was promoting e-sports for women.

Malak Al-Qahtani, founder of Valar Club, told Arab News: “Valar Club is the first licensed women’s club from the federation’s electronic sports, and our goal is to help female Saudi players, as they aspire to the world, and help with their training.”

Saudi YouTuber Pika Loli travelled from Jeddah to attend the event.

“This event brings together most of the YouTubers and gamers, and it is a good opportunity to get to know each other, and it will increase our followers and grow the channel on YouTube.”

Some of the cosplayers were dressed as video game characters.

Abdulelah Al-Qahtani said: “Today we are dressed as characters from the ‘Genshin Impact’ game, and I think this is so good that Saudi Arabia brought up a hidden community, like cosplayers and gamers.”

With a focus on the whole of the gaming industry, from console and PC gaming to mobile and e-sports, the RUSH festival aims to give gaming aficionados the opportunity to access and experience the latest tech and the chance to interact with each other in real life, and online.

Tickets for the event are available via https://riyadhseason.sa/event-details-en.html?id=599/en_RUSH.