INTERVIEW: Relationship between Greece and Saudi Arabia ‘more than excellent,’ says Greek Development Minister Adonis Georgiadis

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Updated 27 July 2022

INTERVIEW: Relationship between Greece and Saudi Arabia ‘more than excellent,’ says Greek Development Minister Adonis Georgiadis

INTERVIEW: Relationship between Greece and Saudi Arabia ‘more than excellent,’ says Greek Development Minister Adonis Georgiadis
  • Georgiadis describes visit by Saudi crown prince as a great honor that will enhance an already “excellent” bilateral relationship
  • He is confident Greek companies and investors will come to play a prominent role in the development of NEOM smart city

RIYADH: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit is a great honor for Greece that will enhance an already “excellent” bilateral relationship, the Greek minister for development and investments, Adonis Georgiadis, told Arab News.

“We are deeply honored that HRH Mohammed bin Salman decided to visit Greece as his first trip to an EU country since 2018,” he said ahead of the crown prince’s arrival in Athens on Tuesday.

The visit is intended to build on the already strong ties between the two countries, which cover politics, the economy, commerce, investment, defense, security, culture and tourism.

“This (visit) is very important to Greece and very important to our relationship because we honor and admire his leadership, his vision for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the way the Kingdom is progressing to the new era of humanity in renewable energy, and new technology,” said Georgiadis.

“I really believe that his highness is a strong leader, and his decision to be here, I have to say again, is very, very important to us. The level of the relationship between Greece and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is more than excellent. And what we want to achieve is that the high level of our relationship in the defense area and politics, in general, will be (emulated) on the economic side.”

Speaking to Arab News by Zoom from Athens, Georgiadis said he was confident that Greek companies and investors would come to play a prominent role in the development of NEOM — Saudi Arabia’s new smart city taking shape on the Red Sea coast and one of several giga-projects launched as part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 social reform and economic diversification agenda.

“It is not only a project about economic growth. This is a project about the new era of humankind on planet Earth, with sustainable growth, with respect for the environment, and the use of high technology to improve human standard of living and wellbeing,” Georgiadis said.

“So, I’m sure that a lot of Greek companies would be interested to participate in this huge NEOM project and to be a part of this.”

Underscoring the increasingly close diplomatic, security, and business ties enjoyed by both nations, Georgiadis confirmed that several new memorandums of understanding would be signed by the crown prince and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis at a special ceremony at the Acropolis Museum in Athens.

Opened to the public in 2009, the world-famous archaeological museum houses Bronze Age, Roman, and Byzantine artifacts discovered at the site of the Acropolis, which is the nation’s most prized antiquity and national monument.

Hosting the signing ceremony at this venue will be symbolic.

“This has never happened before,” Georgiadis told Arab News. “We have never signed an MoU with any other country in the world in the Acropolis Museum. And this is just a (message) from our prime minister to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to show how we feel that you are something very exceptional to us.”

Georgiadis will sign MoUs on investment and commerce. “We will also have one in the defense area, the high technology area, and the maritime sector. And then, of course, a very important MoU for culture and cultural exchange. (We) Will have a very nice ceremony in our Acropolis.”

In 2020, Greek exports to Saudi Arabia were valued at $339.04 million, while its imports from the Kingdom stood at $620.57 million, according to the UN Comtrade database on international trade.

To boost bilateral investments, the Council of Saudi Chambers signed an MoU last September to establish the Saudi-Greek Business Council.

“I’m more than happy that the Saudi-Greek Business Council has been established,” said Georgiadis. "I am very honored that there are two very important persons from Greece and the Kingdom, the leaders of this organization, from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Mrs. Lubna Olayan.”

Together with Greek entrepreneur and investor Achilleas Konstantakopoulos, Al-Olayan is the co-president of the Saudi-Greek Business Council.

Georgiadis added: “The Olayan family is a real friend of our country. They have been investing in Greece since the 1970s. They stayed with Greece in all our difficult times. We recognize this family, real friends, and very important investors. And I’m proud and honored that they have met and worked together with me.

“I think the reality that such important persons decided to be the leaders of the organization shows the level of the commitment and the ambition we have in following all these projects and establishing a real friendship and cooperation between our two great countries.”

Georgiadis said he was confident there would be many more deals and partnerships announced soon, “from renewable energy to agriculture and food security and high technology,” and that there was “very high potential in the tourist industry and shipping.”

Last December, the two nations signed a cooperation agreement on maritime transport to develop commercial maritime navigation, increase the traffic of commercial ships, and encourage trade.

In March, Saudi Arabia and Greece signed an MoU paving the way for innovations in renewable energy, including green and blue hydrogen, and the development of a fiber-optic cable network that will connect data from Southeast Asia to central Europe.

“The cable, where they get the connection, Greece, and Europe with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia through Egypt, is a very important project,” said Georgiadis.

“You see, both Greece and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia share a unique location for their region — Greece as the entry point of the EU and based in the Mediterranean and Saudi Arabia as the best location that can unite the Arab world and the Middle East with the Far East and Asia.

“So, it’s very natural that this, both as good locations, by the use of high technology, will be able to unite their forces for the good of humankind and for world economy and their own brand.”

The Saudi-Greek Investment Forum, held in the Kingdom on March 13, showcased investment opportunities in both countries and resulted in hundreds of bilateral business meetings.

Georgiadis said he had high expectations for the Saudi-Greek relationship in the wake of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit and expected many more trade agreements to follow.

“When we were last in Riyadh, there were more than 200 B2B meetings between private companies from Greece with Saudi Arabia companies. They were followed by (another) lot in Athens,” he said.

“So, you know, the results (of those) are going to come out in 24 hours.”

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North Korea to convene rubber-stamp parliament in September

North Korea to convene rubber-stamp parliament in September
Updated 08 August 2022

North Korea to convene rubber-stamp parliament in September

North Korea to convene rubber-stamp parliament in September
  • Under Kim, the North has made rapid progress on its weapons programs and has carried out a record-breaking blitz of tests this year, including firing an intercontinental ballistic missile at full range for the first time since 2017

SEOUL: North Korea’s rubber-stamp parliament will hold its next session in September where it is set to discuss new laws and other organizational issues, state media said Monday.
The hermit state’s legislative body meets only once or twice a year, mostly for day-long sessions to approve budgets or other decisions deemed necessary by the ruling Workers’ Party.
“The 7th Session of the 14th Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) of the DPRK will be convened in Pyongyang on September 7,” the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.
“The session will discuss the issue of adopting the law on the socialist rural development and the law on landscaping and the organizational matter,” it added.
Such meetings are carefully monitored by observers for any changes to economic policy or a reshuffle of high-ranking officials.
It is unclear whether leader Kim Jong Un will attend the upcoming meeting. Kim did not attend the last session in February this year.
Under Kim, the North has made rapid progress on its weapons programs and has carried out a record-breaking blitz of tests this year, including firing an intercontinental ballistic missile at full range for the first time since 2017.
Last month, Kim said his country was “ready to mobilize” its nuclear deterrent in any future military conflict with Washington and Seoul.
Talks with the United States have been deadlocked since the collapse of a summit in 2019 between Kim and then-US president Donald Trump over sanctions relief and what the North would be willing to give up in exchange.
The meeting comes as North Korea has reported “no new Covid-19 fever cases” in recent days.
Pyongyang has also claimed that everyone who had fallen sick since an omicron outbreak in May has now recovered.
In a separate report, KCNA said the North would hold a national meeting early this month to review the “successes, experience and lessons in the state emergency anti-epidemic work.”


Nuclear weapons a ‘loaded gun’, UN chief warns in Hiroshima

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres delivers a speech in Hiroshima, Japan Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022. (AP)
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres delivers a speech in Hiroshima, Japan Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022. (AP)
Updated 08 August 2022

Nuclear weapons a ‘loaded gun’, UN chief warns in Hiroshima

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres delivers a speech in Hiroshima, Japan Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022. (AP)
  • Three days after the Hiroshima bombing, Washington dropped a second atomic bomb on the Japanese port city of Nagasaki, killing about 74,000 people and leading to the end of World War II

HIROSHIMA, Japan: “Humanity is playing with a loaded gun” as crises with the potential for nuclear disaster proliferate worldwide, UN head Antonio Guterres said in Hiroshima on Saturday, the 77th anniversary of the first atomic bomb attack.
At an annual memorial, Guterres warned of the risk posed by crises in Ukraine, the Middle East and the Korean peninsula as he described the horrors endured by the Japanese city.
“Tens of thousands of people were killed in this city in the blink of an eye. Women, children and men were incinerated in a hellish fire,” he said.
Survivors were “cursed with a radioactive legacy” of cancer and other health problems.
“We must ask: What have we learned from the mushroom cloud that swelled above this city?“
Around 140,000 people died when Hiroshima was bombed by the United States on August 6, 1945, a toll that includes those who perished after the blast from radiation exposure.
Today, “crises with grave nuclear undertones are spreading fast,” Guterres said, repeating warnings he made this week at a nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty conference in New York.
“Humanity is playing with a loaded gun.”
Before dawn, survivors and their relatives began to gather at Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park to pay tribute to the victims.
A silent prayer was held at 8.15 am, the moment the bomb was dropped.
The Russian ambassador was not invited to the ceremony but visited Hiroshima on Thursday to lay flowers at the memorial site.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, President Vladimir Putin has made thinly veiled threats hinting at a willingness to deploy tactical nuclear weapons.
In a speech on Saturday, Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui cited Leo Tolstoy, the Russian author of “War and Peace,” saying: “Never build your happiness on the misfortune of others, for only in their happiness can you find your own.”
Three days after the Hiroshima bombing, Washington dropped a second atomic bomb on the Japanese port city of Nagasaki, killing about 74,000 people and leading to the end of World War II.
There are now fewer than 119,000 officially recognized survivors of the two nuclear attacks, according to government statistics from March.
The United States remains the only country ever to have used nuclear weapons in conflict.
But around 13,000 are now held in state arsenals worldwide, Guterres said.
Saturday was the first time Guterres attended the Hiroshima memorial in person as UN chief, with a visit last year canceled because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
 

 


Bangladesh seeks China help to repatriate Rohingya refugees

Bangladesh seeks China help to repatriate Rohingya refugees
Updated 08 August 2022

Bangladesh seeks China help to repatriate Rohingya refugees

Bangladesh seeks China help to repatriate Rohingya refugees
  • Despite attempts to send Rohingya refugees back, they refused, fearing danger in Myanmar, which was exacerbated by the military takeover last year

DHAKA: Bangladesh on Sunday sought cooperation from China to repatriate Rohingya refugees to Myanmar during a visit by Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who promised better trade ties, investment and support for infrastructure development in the South Asian nation.
China had used its influence in Myanmar to broker a November 2017 agreement to repatriate about 700,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees who fled persecution in Myanmar in August that year. Despite attempts to send them back, the refugees refused, fearing danger in Myanmar, which was exacerbated by the military takeover last year.
Yi arrived in Dhaka on Saturday evening and met with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen. They discussed bilateral and global issues before his departure on Sunday morning, said Shahriar Alam, Bangladesh’s junior minister for foreign affairs.
Bangladesh has strong relations with China, which is a major trade partner mostly for raw materials. But maintaining close ties with Beijing is challenging for Bangladesh, which also balances diplomatic and trade relationship with both India and the United States, China’s main rivals.
More than 500 Chinese companies are active in Bangladesh. China is involved in the country’s all major infrastructure projects such as seaports, a river tunnel and highways, and helped build its largest bridge over the River Padma at a cost of $3.6 billion.
Amid recent tensions between China and Taiwan, Bangladesh issued a statement reiterating its support for the “one-China” policy. After winning elections in 2008, Hasina’s administration closed the Taiwanese business representative office in Dhaka in response to a request from China, and since then China has increased its engagement in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh’s garment industry, which brings in more than 80 percent of foreign currency from exports, is heavily dependent on China for raw materials.
On Sunday, Yi told Hasina during a courtesy call that his country considers Bangladesh as a “strategic development partner” and would continue to support it, said Ihsanul Karim, the presidential press secretary.
The United News of Bangladesh agency reported that Yi also promised to stand beside Bangladesh “on all issues at international forums.”
The Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha, state-run news agency, reported that Hasina raised the global tensions caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and Western sanctions against Moscow, saying “people (across the world) are enduring difficult times … South Asia, Southeast Asia and China can work together for economic progress.”
Alam said that Yi agreed to expand trade benefits by raising to 98 percent duty-free access from current 97 percent of Bangladeshi products and services to Chinese markets.
“It’s a good news for Bangladesh as we have a thriving economy based on exports,” Alam said. “Now they have offered another 1 percent from Sept. 1,” he said, adding that the new tax advantage is likely to include garments, woven and other products that had previously faced some barriers.
He said Bangladesh would get a list from China soon about the products and services that would get duty-free access.
Alam said that Yi explained to the Bangladeshi foreign minister that “some countries misunderstand and misinterpret” China. He did not elaborate.
But Momen told reporters separately that the Chinese minister mentioned that a section of Taiwanese people was being provoked against the sovereignty of China.
The junior minister said China pledged to work continuously to resolve the Rohingya crisis and quoted Yi as saying that the internal challenges in Myanmar were not only troubling Bangladesh but also other countries.
”Our foreign minister strongly reiterated that Chinese cooperation is needed. China has progressed on resolving the Rohingya issue and we need the situation to come to an end,” Alam said.
On Sunday, Bangladesh and China signed or renewed four agreements and memorandums of understanding on disaster management, infrastructure and cultural exchanges.
Analyst Munshi Faiz Ahmad, who served as Bangladeshi ambassador in Beijing, said that Yi’s visit was very significant for both countries.
“To resolve the Rohingya crisis Bangladesh needs support from China. This visit will help strengthen the bilateral relations,” Ahmad told The Associated Press.
“To us, China is very important. We also need to maintain good relations with both India and the United States as they are also very important development partners of Bangladesh. There is nothing to be afraid of because of Bangladesh’s close ties with China,” he said.


US Senate adopts sweeping climate and health plan, in major victory for Biden

US Senate adopts sweeping climate and health plan, in major victory for Biden
Updated 08 August 2022

US Senate adopts sweeping climate and health plan, in major victory for Biden

US Senate adopts sweeping climate and health plan, in major victory for Biden
  • The bill — officially known as the “Inflation Reduction Act” — passed the Senate with no Republicans voting in favor

WASHINGTON: After 18 months of arduous negotiations and a marathon night of debate, the US Senate on Sunday passed Joe Biden’s ambitious climate, tax and health care plan — a significant victory for the president ahead of crucial midterm elections.
Voting as a unified bloc and with the tie-breaking vote cast by Vice President Kamala Harris, Democrats approved the $430 billion spending plan, which will go to the House of Representatives next week, where it is expected to pass before being signed into law by Biden.
The plan, crafted in sensitive talks with members on the right wing of his Democratic Party, would include the biggest US investment ever on climate — $370 billion aimed at effecting a 40 percent drop in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
That would give Biden a clear victory on one of his top agenda items and go some way toward restoring US leadership in meeting the global climate challenge.
Biden hailed the passage of the bill, highlighting the work that went into it — and acknowledging that not everyone is happy with the final result.
“It required many compromises. Doing important things almost always does. The House should pass this as soon as possible and I look forward to signing it into law,” the president said in a statement.
The bill — officially known as the “Inflation Reduction Act” — passed the Senate with no Republicans voting in favor.
Conservative lawmakers have criticized the bill as wasteful spending, with top Republican Senator Mitch McConnell accusing Democrats of voting to “double down on their economic disaster.”
The bill would provide Americans with a tax credit of up to $7,500 when purchasing an electric car, plus a 30 percent discount when they install solar panels on their roofs.
It would also provide millions to help protect and conserve forests — which have been increasingly ravaged in recent years by wildfires during record heat waves that scientists say are linked to global warming.
Billions of dollars in tax credits would also go to some of the country’s worst-polluting industries to help their transition to greener methods — a measure bitterly opposed by some liberal Democrats who have, however, accepted this as a least-bad alternative after months of frustration.
Biden, who came to office with promises of sweeping reforms, has seen his hopes dashed, then revived, then dashed again.
Democrats’ narrow edge in the Senate has given a virtual veto to moderates like Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who earlier had used that power to block Biden’s much more expansive Build Back Better plan.
But in late July, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer managed to engineer a compromise with the West Virginian, whose state’s economy depends heavily on coal mining.
“This bill is gonna change America for decades,” Schumer said after its passage, while Manchin tweeted that it “will lower the inflation taxes that have been so hurtful for West Virginian and American families.”
Senators finally opened debate on the text on Saturday, with final passage not until Sunday afternoon.
Late Saturday, they began working through a marathon procedure known as a “vote-a-rama,” in which members can propose dozens of amendments and demand a vote on each one.
That allowed both Republicans, who view Biden’s plan as too costly, and liberal Democrats, who say it does not reach far enough, to make their opposition clear.
Influential progressive Senator Bernie Sanders used that platform through the evening to propose several amendments aimed at strengthening social planks in the legislation, which were considerably weakened during the months of negotiation.
The bill would provide $64 billion for health care initiatives and ensure a lowering of some drug costs — which can be 10 times more expensive in the United States than in some other rich countries.
But progressive Democrats long ago had to give up their ambitions for free preschool and community colleges and expanded health care for the elderly.
“Millions of seniors will continue to have rotten teeth and lack the dentures, hearing aids or eyeglasses that they deserve,” Sanders said from the Senate floor. “This bill, as currently written, does nothing to address it.”
But fellow Democrats, eager to pass the legislation ahead of November midterms when control of Congress is at stake, have rejected any change in the text.
To help offset the plan’s massive spending, it would reduce the US deficit through a new 15-percent minimum tax on companies with profits of $1 billion or more — a move targeting some that now pay far less.
That measure could generate more than $258 billion in tax receipts for the government over the next 10 years, by some estimates.


Biden denounces killings of four Muslims in US city

President Joe Biden speaks at the White House in Washington, U.S., August 5, 2022. (REUTERS)
President Joe Biden speaks at the White House in Washington, U.S., August 5, 2022. (REUTERS)
Updated 08 August 2022

Biden denounces killings of four Muslims in US city

President Joe Biden speaks at the White House in Washington, U.S., August 5, 2022. (REUTERS)
  • “Investigators believe Friday’s murder may be connected to three recent murders of Muslim men also from South Asia,” the statement said

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden on Sunday deplored the killings of four Muslim men in New Mexico, which police say may be linked.
“I am angered and saddened by the horrific killings of four Muslim men in Albuquerque,” the US president said on Twitter.
“While we await a full investigation, my prayers are with the victims’ families, and my Administration stands strongly with the Muslim community. These hateful attacks have no place in America.”
Police in Albuquerque, New Mexico’s largest city, said Saturday they are investigating the murders of three Muslim men that they now suspect are related to a fourth homicide from last year.
The Albuquerque police department said in a statement they had discovered the latest victim overnight Friday.
His body was discovered near a Lutheran Family Services office that provides assistance to refugees, TV station KOB4 reported.
Police did not identify the man but said he was in his mid-20s, Muslim and “a native from South Asia.”
“Investigators believe Friday’s murder may be connected to three recent murders of Muslim men also from South Asia,” the statement said.
Two of the previous victims were Muslim Pakistani men, a 27-year-old whose body was found on August 1 and a 41-year-old who was found on July 26.
Detectives are now investigating whether these murders are connected to the death of a Muslim man from Afghanistan who was killed on November 7, 2021, outside of the business he ran with his brother in Albuquerque, the statement said.
The police urged anyone with information to call a tip line and said the FBI was assisting with the investigation.
New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham expressed outrage at the killings, calling them “wholly intolerable,” and said she was sending additional state police officers to Albuquerque to aid in the investigation.
She said she was sending additional state police officers to Albuquerque to help with the investigation.
“We will continue to do everything we can to support to the Muslim community of Albuquerque and greater New Mexico,” she said.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the largest US Muslim civil rights group, has offered a $10,000 reward to whoever provides information leading to the killer or killers’ arrest.
Tensions have risen sharply in the city’s Muslim community.
“Now, people are beginning to panic,” Tahir Gauba, the director of public affairs with the Islamic Center of New Mexico, told the Albuquerque Journal.