The bottom line of President Joe Biden’s Saudi Arabia visit

Special Negotiating teams led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and US President Joe Biden take part in a working session at Al-Salam Palace in Jeddah that set the tone for future US-Saudi relations with a string of initiatives. (AFP)
Negotiating teams led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and US President Joe Biden take part in a working session at Al-Salam Palace in Jeddah that set the tone for future US-Saudi relations with a string of initiatives. (AFP)
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Updated 21 July 2022

The bottom line of President Joe Biden’s Saudi Arabia visit

The bottom line of President Joe Biden’s Saudi Arabia visit
  • Array of bilateral agreements signed by two sides went unnoticed amid media fixation on “fist bumps”
  • Saudi Arabia and US made several joint commitments to the wider Middle East region as well

JEDDAH: While many in Western news media were busy with the topic of “fist bumps,” an array of important outcomes of US President Joe Biden’s visit to Saudi Arabia went mostly unreported.

Saudi Arabia was the final stop in Biden’s four-day Middle East trip, which kicked off on July 13 in Israel and Palestine.

As part of the bilateral agreements signed between the two sides, Biden reaffirmed the US commitment to help Saudi Arabia defend its territory and people from external attacks, particularly those launched by the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen.

The two sides made several joint commitments to the wider region, among them an agreement to sustain and extend the UN-mediated truce in Yemen and engage in a diplomatic process to reach a wider settlement of the conflict.

Biden welcomed Saudi Arabia’s commitment to the truce, which has helped to resume direct commercial flights from Sanaa to Amman and Cairo and financially support Yemen’s Presidential Leadership Council to improve basic services and economic stability for Yemenis.

Both sides agreed to intensify their efforts to preserve the free flow of commerce and deter illicit smuggling into Yemen through strategic waterways in the region by expanding their joint naval operations focused on the Red Sea and Bab Al-Mandab Strait.

Elsewhere in the Middle East, the two sides agreed that peacekeepers, including American soldiers, will depart Tiran Island by the end of the year, after which the island will be developed for tourism purposes.

Since shortly after the 1978 Camp David Accords, US troops have served as peacekeepers on Tiran Island as part of the Multinational Force and Observers under the peace treaty signed between Israel and Egypt.

In furtherance of its Vision 2030 agenda to become a regional travel and entertainment hub and in accordance with the principles of the Chicago Convention of 1944, Saudi Arabia announced its decision to allow all civilian air carriers to fly over its airspace.

Both sides also agreed to extend visa validity to 10 years for nationals of both countries to visit for business and tourism.




Important outcomes and signings went unnoticed by many in Western media who were fixated on images of ‘fist bumps’ in Jeddah. (SPA)

On the technology front, Saudi and US officials agreed to pursue several major infrastructure projects, including a new bilateral framework for cooperation on 5G — using open, virtualized and cloud-based radio access networks — and the development of 6G.

Saudi Arabia has committed to a significant investment for this project under the umbrella of the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment, which Biden announced at the G7 Summit in June.

The Kingdom’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology signed a memorandum of understanding with IBM to train 100,000 young Saudis over a period of five years.

A key feature of Biden’s visit was energy security in light of the war in Ukraine and the resulting Western embargoes on Russian oil and gas. The two sides agreed to expand cooperation on energy security, with Saudi officials committing to support the balancing of the global oil market.

US officials welcomed the Saudi commitment to increase oil production by 50 percent above what was planned for July and August. Nevertheless, the Saudi crown prince made it clear the Kingdom would not expand monthly production beyond 13 million barrels.

“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,” Adel Al-Jubeir, Saudi Arabia’s minister of state for foreign affairs, told Arab News in an exclusive interview during Biden’s visit.

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




Officials say the bilateral agreements the two delegations signed in Jeddah will set the tone for future Saudi-US relations. (Supplied)

In line with both nations’ commitment to reducing carbon emissions, they agreed to a new framework for clean energy cooperation, focusing particularly on solar, green hydrogen and nuclear, with new Saudi investments to accelerate the energy transition and combat the effects of climate change.

The partnership will leverage public and private sector collaboration to advance the deployment of clean energy solutions while accelerating research, development and the demonstration of innovative technologies to decarbonize the global economy and achieve net-zero.

The US welcomed Saudi Arabia’s support for the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment, which aims to strategically invest in projects that support digital connectivity, supply chain sustainability and climate and energy security focused on low- and middle-income countries.

It also welcomed the leading role played by Saudi Arabia in strengthening relations with Iraq, including the commitment to link the electricity networks of Saudi Arabia and Gulf Cooperation Council countries to the Iraqi grid to provide it with diversified energy sources and wean it off reliance on Iran.

The dialogue also resulted in the signing of two bilateral agreements on cybersecurity with Saudi Arabia’s National Cybersecurity Authority — one with the FBI and another with the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

The two sides will expand their cooperation, share information about threats and activities of malicious actors to enhance their shared defense and collaborate on best practices, technologies, tools and approaches to cybersecurity training and education.

They agreed to expand cooperation in space exploration, including human spaceflight, Earth observation, commercial and regulatory development, and responsible behavior in outer space.




Saudi Arabia welcomed greater mutual investments in the areas of defense, renewable energy, manufacturing, healthcare, technology and innovation, which are contributing to job creation and localization goals. (SPA)

As part of the agreement, Saudi Arabia signed the Artemis Accords and restated its commitment to the responsible, peaceful and sustainable exploration and use of outer space.

Both nations also welcomed a new agreement between their respective ministries of health to share information, build capacity, collaborate on disease surveillance, address the health concerns of women and special needs populations, and pursue public policies oriented toward disease prevention and health promotion.

Saudi Arabia welcomed greater mutual investments in the areas of defense, renewable energy, manufacturing, healthcare, technology and innovation, which are contributing to job creation and localization goals.

New agreements include investments by Boeing, Raytheon, Medtronic and Digital Diagnostics, and IKVIA in the healthcare sector, and many other US companies across the energy, tourism, education, manufacturing and textiles sectors.

Other deals include Saudi Aramco Energy projects in recycled thermal plastics in the US, agreements in developing and implementing healthcare data and technology solutions, as well as supply chain localization for medical device technologies in Saudi Arabia.

“The joint communique that was issued following the bilateral meetings between the leaders of both nations underscored the many issues on which our policies align and on which we work closely together,” Fahad Nazer, spokesman for the Saudi Embassy in Washington, told Arab News.




Biden’s visit is a testament to the strength of strategic bilateral relations and the important leadership role Saudi Arabia plays, according Fahad Nazer Spokesman, Saudi Embassy in Washington. (Supplied)

The text of these agreements will likely be dissected in the weeks to come, not only by Middle East experts but also by the region’s malign actors and Washington’s strategic competitors for their full geopolitical ramifications as well as their symbolic significance.

Nazer put the significance of the visit this way: “The fact that President Biden visited Saudi Arabia on his first trip to the Middle East is both a testament to the strength of the strategic bilateral relations as well as the important leadership role that Saudi Arabia plays both regionally and globally.” 

Officials say the bilateral agreements the two delegations signed in Jeddah will set the tone for future Saudi-US relations.

“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,” Al-Jubeir said.

He pointed out that Biden’s visit symbolized “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.”

 

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Turkey sends off new drill ship into eastern Mediterranean

Turkey sends off new drill ship into eastern Mediterranean
Updated 55 min 49 sec ago

Turkey sends off new drill ship into eastern Mediterranean

Turkey sends off new drill ship into eastern Mediterranean
  • “Our exploration and drilling in the Mediterranean is within our own sovereign dominion,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said
  • Turkey is embroiled in acrimonious disputes with Greece and Cyprus over maritime boundaries and offshore energy rights

ISTANBUL: Turkey’s president inaugurated the country’s newest and largest undersea hydrocarbon drill ship Tuesday that he said would head for a spot northwest of Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean, which is not claimed by any other country.
“Our exploration and drilling in the Mediterranean is within our own sovereign dominion,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at the ceremony in southern Mersin province, only to add: “We don’t need to seek permission or ratification from anyone.”
Turkey is embroiled in acrimonious disputes with Greece and Cyprus over maritime boundaries and offshore energy rights, which triggered high tensions in the eastern Mediterranean two years ago.
Erdogan said Tuesday the new Abdulhamid Han ship would begin drilling at the Yorukler-1 well about 55 kilometers (34 miles) off the coast of Gazipasa, in Antalya province.
“Neither the puppets nor the ones who hold their strings will be able to prevent us from getting our rights in the Mediterranean,” he said, in an apparent reference to Greece and Cyprus on the one hand, and their Western allies on the other.
In the summer of 2020, tensions escalated after Turkey sent a seismic survey ship escorted by warships to an area in the eastern Mediterranean where Greece claims exclusive rights to potential undersea oil and gas deposits. Greece sent its own warships to shadow the Turkish flotilla. Both countries later conducted military exercises as a show of force.
Turkey insists that small Greek islands near the Turkish coast should not be taken into account when delineating maritime boundaries, and accuses Athens of trying to grab an unfair share of the eastern Mediterranean’s resources.
The NATO allies routinely accuse each other of airspace violations. Turkey also claims that Greece has violated international treaties by militarizing eastern Aegean islands close to Turkey.
Turkey’s other drill ships — Fatih, Kanuni and Yavuz — are operating in the Black Sea where Turkey discovered natural gas reserves. All four ships are named after Ottoman sultans.


Flights for West Bank Palestinians to Turkey to start at end of August

Flights for West Bank Palestinians to Turkey to start at end of August
Updated 09 August 2022

Flights for West Bank Palestinians to Turkey to start at end of August

Flights for West Bank Palestinians to Turkey to start at end of August
  • "We welcome efforts to facilitate travel for the Palestinian people," a US Embassy spokesperson told Reuters
  • But representatives of Palestinians, whose movement is routinely restricted by Israel, said they were not a party to the decision

JERUSALEM: Palestinians from the Israeli-occupied West Bank will be offered special flights from Ramon Airport, near the Red Sea resort city of Eilat, to destinations in Turkey, Israel’s Airports Authority said on Tuesday.
The move is Israel’s latest gesture to Palestinians, following pressure from the United States to ease travel for Palestinians as prospects for reviving long-stalled peace talks and establishing an independent Palestinian state appeared dim.
“We welcome efforts to facilitate travel for the Palestinian people,” a US Embassy spokesperson told Reuters.
But representatives of Palestinians, whose movement is routinely restricted by Israel, said they were not a party to the decision.
“Nobody consulted with us on this matter,” said Wasel Abu Yousef, a senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organization. “What we seek is the return of Al-Quds International Airport to operate as the State of Palestine’s airport.”
Palestinians from areas Israel occupied in a 1967 war cannot fly from Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport without special permission. They typically travel to Jordan to catch international flights, a trip that entails crossing through checkpoints and can take hours.
Under the pilot program, the flights will run twice a week starting at the end of August to Istanbul and Antalya on Turkish carriers Atlas and Pegasus and using Airbus A321 aircraft, the airports authority said.
These flights will not be offered to Palestinians from Gaza.
Ramon Airport, which opened in 2019, is about 300 km (185 miles) from Jerusalem and designed to take any planes re-routed from Ben Gurion Airport, near Tel Aviv.
Foreign carriers such as Ryanair, Wizzair and Lufthansa began to fly non-stop to older Eilat airports in 2015 during winter months after Israel offered airlines 60 euros ($61) per passenger brought on direct flights from abroad.
But the COVID-19 pandemic largely halted those flights.
The airports authority said that for the first time, summer flights to various destinations in Europe from Eilat would start in the coming days. They include Batumi, Georgia and Larnaca, Cyprus on Israeli carrier Arkia, and Warsaw and Katowice on Poland’s Enter Air.
Pegasus in October will fly Israelis to Turkey with four flights a week, the authority said.


Iran releases Iranian-French academic Adelkhah on furlough -lawyer

Iran releases Iranian-French academic Adelkhah on furlough -lawyer
Updated 09 August 2022

Iran releases Iranian-French academic Adelkhah on furlough -lawyer

Iran releases Iranian-French academic Adelkhah on furlough -lawyer
  • Adelkhah was sentenced in 2020 to five years in prison on national security charges
  • She was moved to house arrest later, but in January was returned to jail

DUBAI: Iran has released Iranian-French academic Fariba Adelkhah on furlough for five days, her lawyer told the Emtedad website on Tuesday, a day after Tehran and Washington wound up indirect talks in Vienna to revive a 2015 nuclear pact.
“We hope it (the furlough) will be extended,” Emtedad quoted Hojjat Kermani as saying.
Adelkhah, who is a resident of France and was arrested in 2019 while on a visit to Iran, was sentenced in 2020 to five years in prison on national security charges. She was moved to house arrest later, but in January was returned to jail.
Adelkab has denied the charges. France has called them “politically motivated” and repeatedly called for the release of Adelkhah, a researcher affiliated with Paris’s prestigious Sciences Po University.
Iran does not recognize dual nationality, saying the case is an Iranian domestic legal matter.
In March 2020, Iran released Adelkhah’s partner, French academic Roland Marchal, who was detained along with her, after France freed Iranian engineer Jalal Ruhollahnejad, detained over alleged violations of US sanctions against Tehran.


Turkish drone strike kills 4 in northeast Syria: Monitor

Turkish drone strike kills 4 in northeast Syria: Monitor
Ankara has launched successive military offensives in Syria. (File/AFP)
Updated 09 August 2022

Turkish drone strike kills 4 in northeast Syria: Monitor

Turkish drone strike kills 4 in northeast Syria: Monitor
  • Turkey has stepped up its drone strikes in Kurdish-controlled areas of Syria since a July 19 summit with Iran and Russia failed to greenlight a fresh offensive, according to Kurdish officials and the Observatory

BEIRUT: A Turkish drone strike Tuesday killed at least four people in a northeast Syrian city held by Kurdish forces, the latest in a flurry of attacks, a war monitor said.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the attack struck near a hospital in Qamishli, the defacto capital of a semi-autonomous Kurdish administration that runs large parts of the country’s northeast.
The four victims, all affiliated with the administration, were killed while they dug trenches near Turkey’s border in anticipation of a new offensive that Ankara has threatened to launch since May, the monitor said.
Ankara has launched successive military offensives in Syria. Most have targeted Kurdish militants that Ankara links to a group waging a decades-long insurgency against it.
Turkey has stepped up its drone strikes in Kurdish-controlled areas of Syria since a July 19 summit with Iran and Russia failed to greenlight a fresh offensive, according to Kurdish officials and the Observatory.
A Turkish drone strike on Qamishli at the weekend killed four people, including two siblings, said the Observatory.
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces have counted at least 13 of their members killed in several Turkish attacks since July 19.
Syria’s conflict that began in March 2011 has killed nearly half a million people and displaced half the country’s pre-war population.


Egyptian FM, Kazakh deputy FM discuss bilateral ties

Egyptian FM, Kazakh deputy FM discuss bilateral ties
Updated 09 August 2022

Egyptian FM, Kazakh deputy FM discuss bilateral ties

Egyptian FM, Kazakh deputy FM discuss bilateral ties
  • Shoukry praised Kazakhstan’s role in launching the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia
  • Tursunov emphasized the value that Kazakhstan places on relations with Egypt, and on the critical role that Cairo plays in the region

CAIRO: Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry received Kazakh Deputy Foreign Minister Adil Tursunov in Cairo.

They discussed issues of common interest and ways to enhance bilateral relations. Shoukry praised Kazakhstan’s role in launching the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia, which aims to enhance security and stability on the continent, particularly with regard to terrorism, drug trafficking and weapons of mass destruction.

He and Tursunov highlighted the significance of developing cooperation between their nations in various fields, following up on the phone call between their presidents in February.

Tursunov emphasized the value that Kazakhstan places on relations with Egypt, and on the critical role that Cairo plays in the region.