Crown prince’s Acropolis visit puts Saudi-Greek cultural partnership in the spotlight

Crown prince’s Acropolis visit puts Saudi-Greek cultural partnership in the spotlight
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was welcomed to the iconic Acropolis in Athens by Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 28 July 2022

Crown prince’s Acropolis visit puts Saudi-Greek cultural partnership in the spotlight

Crown prince’s Acropolis visit puts Saudi-Greek cultural partnership in the spotlight
  • A memorandum of understanding between the two countries was signed in a special ceremony at Acropolis Museum
  • Saudi-Greece annual bilateral trade of $1 billion includes the exchange of cultural goods, services and skills

RIYADH: When Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman paid a visit on Tuesday night to the archaeological site of the Acropolis in Athens, the purpose was more than to take in the greatest architectural and artistic complex bequeathed by Greek antiquity to the world.

The crown prince went to the Acropolis Museum, where he and Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the Greek prime minister, witnessed the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Saudi Arabia and Greece for cooperation in the cultural field.

The agreement was signed from the Saudi side by Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al-Saud, the Kingdom’s culture minister, who previously visited Athens in May 2021 to discuss aspects of cultural cooperation.




The crown prince oversaw the signing of a major cultural cooperation deal with Greece. (SPA)

During his visit to the Acropolis, the crown prince, who was accompanied by Prime Minister Mitsotakis and Dr. Lina Mendoni, minister of culture and sports of Greece, was briefed on the ancient buildings, areas and theaters contained within the archaeological site.

Those include the Erechtheion, the Belvedere, the Parthenon, the Theater of Dionysus, and the ancient Odeon of Herodes Atticus theater.

Later in the evening, the crown prince was honored with a dinner banquet at the Acropolis Museum hosted by Mitsotakis. Opened to the public in 2009, the world-famous archaeological Acropolis Museum houses Bronze Age, Roman and Byzantine artifacts discovered at the site of the Acropolis.




Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his delegation are shown around the Acropolis by Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. (AFP)

Hosting the agreement-signing ceremony at this venue was rich in symbolism. “This has never happened before,” Adonis Georgiadis, the Greek minister for development and investment, told Arab News on Tuesday ahead of the Saudi crown prince’s arrival in Athens.

“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.”

FASTFACT

In September 2021, the Saudi-Greek Business Council was set up to enhance bilateral trade and investment.

The Saudi-Greece annual trade relationship of almost $1 billion includes the exchange of cultural goods, services and skills. One of the main initiatives to come out of a strengthened Saudi-Greek cultural relationship are “Cultural Weeks” to be held in both countries.

These events could facilitate collaborative outcomes such as cultural heritage exchanges, art exhibitions and festivals




Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al-Saud, Saudi minister of culture, and Dr. Lina Mendoni, minister of culture and sports of Greece, signed a major cultural cooperation deal. (SPA)

During Prince Badr’s previous visit, both Greece and Saudi Arabia pledged to work together to protect tangible and intangible heritage, counter illicit trafficking of cultural property and manage the impacts of climate change.

“As Saudi Arabia’s cultural transformation continues at pace, we welcome closer relations with our Greek friends,” Prince Badr had said after meetings with Mendoni.

“Both our countries have a deep and rich heritage, stretching back millennia, and a shared outlook on the positive power of cultural exchange, and the need for its protection and preservation. As the Kingdom looks to share its culture with the world, Greece’s insight and experience has much to offer us.”

In the run-up to the Saudi crown prince’s visit, Alexis Konstantopoulos, Greek ambassador to Saudi Arabia, told Arab News: “We have deep-rooted ancient civilizations and tourism, because people-to-people relations are extremely important and Greece is a very touristic country.

“On culture, hopefully we’ll be able to do groundbreaking things together. We can explore the possibilities to do archaeological excavations and the setting up of museums together.”

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s delegation included the ministers of energy, sports, foreign affairs, culture, trade, investment, telecommunications and information technology, as well as the national security adviser.

The official engagements on Tuesday evening began with a formal reception ceremony for the crown prince at Maximos Mansion, the official seat and residence of the prime minister of Greece.

Afterward, the two leaders held a bilateral meeting, during which Mitsotakis welcomed the crown prince and wished him and the Saudi delegation a pleasant stay.




Greek Prime Minister Mitsotakis briefs the Saudi crown prince on the important features of the Acropolis. (SPA)

Later, Mitsotakis and the crown prince held an expanded meeting in the presence of the delegations of the two countries.

The two leaders witnessed the signing of the agreement to establish the Saudi-Greek Strategic Partnership Council, besides the exchange of a number of bilateral agreements and memoranda of understanding between the two countries.

The deals sealed by the two sides included:

  • an agreement in the field of energy
  • an MoU for cooperation in the field of sports
  • an agreement on cooperation in the fight against crime
  • an agreement to protect and encourage investment between the two countries
  • an MoU for cooperation in the health field
  • an agreement for cooperation in the military field
  • an MoU in the field of scientific and technical cooperation
  • a technical cooperation program in the fields of standards and quality
  • an agreement of cooperation in the field of documents and archiving, and
  • a submarine cable agreement.

The agreement in the field of energy, signed between Saudi Minister of Energy Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman and Nikolaos Dendias, the Greek minister of foreign affairs, sets a framework for cooperation in the fields of renewable energy, electrical interconnection, exporting electricity to Greece and Europe, and clean hydrogen and its transfer to Europe, according to a Saudi Press Agency report.

The agreement will also look at working together in the areas of energy efficiency and the oil, gas and petrochemical industries, while adopting the circular economy approach to carbon and technologies to reduce the effects of climate change.




Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is shown around the Acropolis. (SPA)

Both countries will explore the scope of reusing, transporting and storing the gas, as well as capturing carbon directly from the air.

As for the submarine cable agreement, it is designed to promote digital transformation and innovation in the fields of energy, including cybersecurity, while working to develop qualitative partnerships to localize materials, products and services related to all energy sectors and their associated supply chains, and technologies.

Concurrently, a strategic partnership was announced between the private sectors in the two countries to build a data cable project linking East and West, in a way that would ensure the smooth digital supply of data globally at a time when the world is witnessing an annual growth rate in data traffic of more than 30 percent.




Saudi Minister of Investment Khalid Al-Falih and Greek Minister for Development and Investment Adonis Georgiadis attend a Greek-Saudi business meeting in Athens on July 27, 2022. (Reuters)

Another high point of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit was the Saudi-Greek Investment Forum, held in Athens on Wednesday and attended by ministers and representatives of the private sector from both sides.

The forum discussed ways to enhance investment and economic cooperation between the two countries in all sectors. Dialogue sessions were held to discuss various topics, including communications, transport, logistics and energy.

Khalid Al-Falih, the Saudi minister of Investment, attended a meeting of private sector representatives, alongside Minister of Communications and Information Technology Abdullah bin Amer Al-Swaha and Minister of Commerce and Acting Minister of Media Majid bin Abdullah Al-Qasabi.

The meeting culminated in the signing of 21 investment agreements in the fields of logistics, transportation, defense, renewable energies, manufacturing, environment services, aquaculture, import and export, engineering and agriculture. 

Saudi and Greek government and private sector representatives discussed mutually beneficial investment opportunities, further bolstering commercial relationships.

 

Druze: the great survivors
How the world's most secretive faithhas endured for a thousand years

Enter


keywords

 


Protests over China’s COVID-19 controls spread across country

Protests over China’s COVID-19 controls spread across country
Updated 6 min 14 sec ago

Protests over China’s COVID-19 controls spread across country

Protests over China’s COVID-19 controls spread across country
  • President Xi Jinping’s government faces mounting anger at its ‘zero-COVID’ policy
  • The ruling Communist Party faces growing complaints about the economic and human cost

BEIJING: Protests against China’s pervasive anti-virus controls that have confined millions of people to their homes spread to Shanghai and other cities after complaints they might have worsened the death toll in an apartment fire in the northwest.
Shanghai police used pepper spray against about 300 protesters, according to a witness. They gathered Saturday night to mourn the deaths of at least 10 people in an apartment fire last week in Urumqi in the Xinjiang region in the northwest.
Videos posted on social media that said they were filmed in Nanjing in the east, Guangzhou in the south and at least five other cities showed protesters tussling with police in white protective suits or dismantling barricades used to seal off neighborhoods. Witnesses said a protest occurred in Urumqi, but The Associated Press was unable to confirm details of other videos.
President Xi Jinping’s government faces mounting anger at its “zero-COVID” policy that has shut down access to areas throughout China in an attempt to isolate every case at a time when other governments are easing controls and trying to live with the virus.
That has kept China’s infection rate lower than the United States and other countries. But the ruling Communist Party faces growing complaints about the economic and human cost as businesses close and families are isolated for weeks with limited access to food and medicine.
Some protesters were shown in videos shouting for Xi to step down or the ruling party to give up power.
Party leaders promised last month to make restrictions less disruptive by easing quarantine and other rules but said they were sticking to “zero-COVID.” Meanwhile, an upsurge in infections that pushed daily cases above 30,000 for the first time has led local authorities to impose restrictions residents complain exceed what is allowed by the national government.
The fire deaths in Urumqi triggered an outpouring of angry questions online about whether firefighters who needed three hours to extinguish the blaze or victims trying to escape might have been obstructed by locked doors or other controls. Authorities denied that, but the disaster became a focal point for public anger about anti-disease restrictions, ruling party propaganda and censorship.
In Shanghai, protesters gathered at Middle Urumqi Road at midnight with flowers, candles and signs reading “Urumqi, November 24, those who died rest in peace,” according to a participant who would give only his family name, Zhao.
Zhao said one of his friends was beaten by police and two were pepper-sprayed. He said police stomped on his feet as he tried to stop them from taking his friend away. He lost his shoes and left barefoot.
According to Zhao, protesters yelled slogans including “Xi Jinping, step down, Communist Party, step down,” “Unlock Xinjiang, unlock China,” “do not want PCR (tests), want freedom” and “press freedom.”
Around 100 police stood in lines to prevent protesters from gathering or leaving, Zhao said. He said buses with more police arrived later.
Another protester, who gave only his family name, Xu, said there was a larger crowd of thousands of demonstrators, but police stood in the road and let them pass on the sidewalk.
Internet users posted videos and accounts on Chinese and foreign social media showing protests in Shanghai, Nanjing, Chengdu and Chongqing in the southwest and Urumqi and Korla in Xinjiang.
A video that said it was shot in Urumqi showed protesters chanting, “Remove the Communist Party! Remove Xi Jinping!”
Protests in Xinjiang are especially risky following a security crackdown against Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim ethnic minorities that has included mass detentions.
Most protesters in the videos were members of China’s dominant Han ethnic group. A Uyghur woman in Urumqi said Uyghurs were too scared to take to the streets.


Trump faulted for dinner with white nationalist, rapper Ye

Trump faulted for dinner with white nationalist, rapper Ye
Updated 27 November 2022

Trump faulted for dinner with white nationalist, rapper Ye

Trump faulted for dinner with white nationalist, rapper Ye

NEW YORK: Former President Donald Trump is renewing attention to his long history of turning a blind eye to bigotry after dining with a Holocaust-denying white nationalist and the rapper formerly known as Kanye West just days into his third campaign for the White House.
Trump had dinner Tuesday at his Mar-a-Lago club with West, who is now known as Ye, as well as Nick Fuentes, a far-right activist who has used his online platform to spew antisemitic and white nationalist rhetoric.
Ye, who says he, too, is running for president in 2024, has made his own series of antisemitic comments in recent weeks, leading to his suspension from social media platforms, his talent agency dropping him and companies like Adidas cutting ties with him. The sportswear manufacturer has also launched an investigation into his conduct.
In a statement from the White House, spokesman Andrew Bates said: “Bigotry, hate, and antisemitism have absolutely no place in America — including at Mar-A-Lago. Holocaust denial is repugnant and dangerous, and it must be forcefully condemned.”
Trump, in a series of statements Friday, said he had “never met and knew nothing about” Fuentes before he arrived with Ye at his club. But Trump also did not acknowledge Fuentes’ long history of racist and antisemitic remarks, nor did he denounce either man’s defamatory statements.
Trump wrote of Ye on his social media platform that “we got along great, he expressed no anti-Semitism, & I appreciated all of the nice things he said about me on ‘Tucker Carlson.’” He added, “Why wouldn’t I agree to meet?”
The former president has a long history of failing to unequivocally condemn hate speech. During his 2016 campaign, Trump waffled when asked to denounce the KKK after he was endorsed by the group’s former leader, saying in a televised interview that he didn’t “know anything about David Duke.” In 2017, in the aftermath of the deadly white supremacist protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, Trump was widely criticized for saying there was “blame on both sides” for the violence. And his rallies frequently feature inflammatory rhetoric from figures like US Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., who spoke earlier this year at a far-right conference organized by Fuentes.
The latest episode, coming just one week after Trump launched his third run for the Republican nomination, also underscored how loosely controlled access to the former president remained, particularly without a traditional campaign operation in place.
Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club came under intense scrutiny amid revelations that Trump was storing hundreds of documents with classified markings there — sparking a federal investigation. But the club — and the people it gave access to Trump — had long been a source of consternation among former White House aides.
Mar-a-Lago is not only Trump’s home, but also a private club and event space. Paid members and their guests dine alongside him and often mingle with him; members of the public can book weddings, fundraisers and other events, and Trump often drops by.
Ye first shared details of the dinner in a video he posted to his Twitter account Thursday. Ye said he had traveled to Florida to ask Trump to be his 2024 running mate, and that the meeting had grown heated, with Trump “perturbed” by his request and Ye angered by Trump’s criticism of his estranged wife, Kim Kardashian.
“When Trump started basically screaming at me at the table telling me I was gonna lose. I mean, has that ever worked for anyone in history, telling Ye that I’m going to lose?” Ye asked in the video. “You’re talking to Ye!“
Ye also said Trump was “really impressed with Nick Fuentes,” whom he described as “actually a loyalist” and said he’d asked Trump, “Why when you had the chance did you not free the January 6th-ers?” referring to the defendants who were alleged to have participated in the deadly insurrection at the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Trump released a series of statements Friday trying to explain the circumstances of the meeting.
“Kanye West very much wanted to visit Mar-a-Lago. Our dinner meeting was intended to be Kanye and me only, but he arrived with a guest whom I had never met and knew nothing about,” Trump said in his first statement released by his campaign.
Not long after, Trump took to his social media network to say that Ye and “three of his friends, whom I knew nothing about” had “unexpectedly showed up” at his club.
“We had dinner on Tuesday evening with many members present on the back patio. The dinner was quick and uneventful. They then left for the airport,” he wrote.
Hours later he again posted, saying he had told Ye that he “should definitely not run for President,” and that “any voters you may have should vote for TRUMP.”
“Anyway, we got along great, he expressed no anti-Semitism, & I appreciated all of the nice things he said about me on ‘Tucker Carlson.’” he added. “Why wouldn’t I agree to meet? Also, I didn’t know Nick Fuentes.”
Fuentes, meanwhile, said after the trip that, while he couldn’t rule out that Trump had heard of him, “I don’t think he knew that I was me at the dinner.”
“I didn’t mean for my statements and my whole background to sort of become a public relations problem for the president,” he added on his show.
The meeting drew immediate criticism from Trump critics as well as some supporters, including David Friedman, who served as Trump’s ambassador to Israel.
“To my friend Donald Trump, you are better than this. Even a social visit from an antisemite like Kanye West and human scum like Nick Fuentes is unacceptable,” Friedman wrote in a tweet. “I urge you to throw those bums out, disavow them and relegate them to the dustbin of history where they belong.”
On Saturday, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a potential 2024 rival, also denounced antisemitism, without directly referencing the dinner or the president under whom he served.
“Anti-Semitism is a cancer,” Pompeo wrote, adding: “We stand with the Jewish people in the fight against the world’s oldest bigotry.”
Biden, asked about the Trump dinner meeting while vacationing in Nantucket, Massachusetts, replied, “You don’t want to hear what I think.”


UN warns 500,000 more people will need humanitarian aid in South Sudan

UN warns 500,000 more people will need humanitarian aid in South Sudan
Updated 27 November 2022

UN warns 500,000 more people will need humanitarian aid in South Sudan

UN warns 500,000 more people will need humanitarian aid in South Sudan
  • Conditions worsened by violence, public health challenges, climate change

JUBA, South Sudan: Some 9.4 million people in South Sudan will need humanitarian assistance and protection services next year, half a million more than the current number, the UN  has said in a report.

According to the 2023 South Sudan Humanitarian Needs Overview report, more people will face food insecurity in 2023. Currently, nearly a third of 12.4 million people living in South Sudan are facing severe food insecurity.

Humanitarian conditions have been worsened by endemic violence, conflict, access constraints, operational interference, public health challenges and climate change effects such as flooding and drought, the report said.

The need for assistance will be greatest in counties in the Upper Nile and Western Equatoria States that have been facing conflict.

“Something has to change in South Sudan because the number of people in need continues to rise every year and the resources continue to decrease,” said Sara Beysolow Nyanti, the Humanitarian Coordinator in South Sudan, in a statement. Nyanti appealed to the government to ensure conditions of peace and to foster development in order to reduce the need for humanitarian aid.

Violence continues to plague the country, posing a threat to a peace deal signed in 2018 by former rivals President Salva Kiir and deputy Riek Machar.

Machar has in recent times accused Kiir of violating the peace agreement.

Hundreds of thousands of people were killed and millions displaced in a civil war before the peace deal was signed.


Taiwan president resigns as party leader after election loss

Taiwan president resigns as party leader after election loss
Updated 26 November 2022

Taiwan president resigns as party leader after election loss

Taiwan president resigns as party leader after election loss

TAIPEI: Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen resigned as head of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party following local election losses on Saturday suffered by
her party.

Voters in Taiwan overwhelmingly chose the opposition Nationalist party in several major races across the self-ruled island in an election in which lingering concerns about threats from China took a backseat to more local issues.

Tsai had spoken out many times about “opposing China and defending Taiwan” in the course of campaigning for her party. But the party’s candidate Chen Shih-chung, who lost his battle for mayor of Taipei, only raised the issue of the Communist Party’s threat a few times before he quickly switched back to local issues as there was little interest, experts said.

Tsai offered her resignation on Saturday evening, a tradition after a major loss, in a short speech in which she also thanked supporters.

“I must shoulder all the responsibility,” she said. “Faced with a result like this, there are many areas that we must deeply review.”

While international observers and the ruling party have attempted to link the elections to the long-term existential threat that is Taiwan’s neighbor, many local experts do not think China — which claims the island as its territory to be annexed by force if necessary — has a large role to play this time around.

“The international community has raised the stakes too high. They’ve raised a local election to this international level, and Taiwan’s survival,” said Yeh-lih Wang, a political science professor at National Taiwan University.

BACKGROUND

While international observers and the ruling party have attempted to link the elections to the long-term existential threat that is Taiwan’s neighbor, many local experts do not think China has a large role to play this time around.

During campaigning, there were few mentions of the large-scale military exercises targeting Taiwan that China held in August in reaction to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit.

“So I think if you can’t even raise this issue in Taipei,” Wang said. “You don’t even need to consider it in cities in the south.”

Candidates from the Nationalist party won the mayoral seat in Taipei, Taiwan’s capital, as well as in Taoyuan, Taichung and New Taipei city.

Taiwanese were picking their mayors, city council members and other local leaders in all 13 counties and in nine cities. There was also a referendum to lower the voting age from 20 to 18, which was defeated, according to local media.

Chiang Wan-an, the new Taipei mayor, declared victory Saturday night in a large rally. “I will let the world see Taipei’s greatness,” he said.

Not all votes had been formally counted by the time of his speech, but Chiang and the other candidates’ numerical lead allowed them to declare victory.

Kao Hung-an, a candidate in the relatively new Taiwan People’s Party, won the mayoral seat in Hsinchu, a city home to many of Taiwan’s semi-conductor companies.

Campaigns had resolutely focused on the local: air pollution in the central city of Taichung, traffic snarls in Taipei’s tech hub Nangang, and the island’s COVID-19 vaccine purchasing strategies, which had left the island in short supply during an outbreak last year.

The defeat for the ruling DPP may be partly due to how it handled the pandemic.


DR Congo to hold next presidential polls in December 2023

DR Congo to hold next presidential polls in December 2023
Updated 26 November 2022

DR Congo to hold next presidential polls in December 2023

DR Congo to hold next presidential polls in December 2023
  • President Felix Tshisekedi came to power in January 2019, succeeding Joseph Kabila after 18 turbulent years as leader

KINSHASA: The Democratic Republic of Congo will hold its next presidential polls on Dec. 20, 2023, the country’s electoral commission said on Saturday.
The announcement comes as rebels have advanced in the restive east of the African country, displacing tens of thousands of people from their homes.
The electoral commission’s president said “persisting insecurity in some parts of the territory” would be a challenge to holding a “free, democratic and transparent” vote.
In the DRC, the presidential poll is held at the same time as parliamentary, provincial and local elections.
The president-elect would then take office in January 2024.
President Felix Tshisekedi came to power in January 2019, succeeding Joseph Kabila after 18 turbulent years as leader.
It was the country’s first peaceful handover of power.

FASTFACT

President Felix Tshisekedi came to power in January 2019, succeeding Joseph Kabila after 18 turbulent years as leader.

He has already announced his intention to run for a second term, despite clashes over the results.
Other possible contenders could include Martin Fayulu, the runner-up in the 2018 presidential polls who claims he was deprived of a victory in the vote.
There has been no immediate announcement from former prime minister, Adolphe Muzito, and the ex-governor of the southern region of Katanga, Moise Katumbi, who are also seen as potential candidates.
Augustin Matata Ponyo, another ex-premier, has said he will run.
Ponyo last year went on trial on charges he embezzled public funds, but the constitutional court ruled it did not have the authority to judge him.
The court’s lineup has however now changed, and has said it could try him.
Tshisekedi’s inauguration ceremony in 2019 capped more than two years of turmoil sparked by Kabila’s refusal to step down when he reached the constitutional limit on his term in office.
The last two presidential elections before that, in 2006 and 2011 — both won by Kabila — were marred by bloodshed and dozens died in a crackdown on protests after he chose to remain in office in 2016. A country the size of continental western Europe, the former Belgian colony lived through two regional wars in 1996-97 and 1998-2003.
The March 23 rebel group took up arms in late 2021 after years of dormancy, claiming the DRC had failed to honour a pledge to integrate its fighters into the army, among other grievances.
After four months of relative calm, the conflict erupted again on Oct. 20 and the rebels made a push towards Goma.
The fighting has dashed relations between the DRC and Rwanda, with Kinshasa accusing its smaller neighbor of backing the M23 — something UN experts and US officials have also said. Kigali denies the charges.
Tshisekedi and Rwandan Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta met in Angola on Wednesday, agreeing to a cessation of hostilities in eastern DRC from Friday evening.
M23 rebels were to withdraw from “occupied zones,” failing which an East African regional force would intervene.
But the rebels, a largely Congolese Tutsi militia, said on Thursday the ceasefire “doesn’t really concern us,” and called for “direct dialogue” with DRC’s government.
The frontlines seemed quiet on Saturday morning, but residents in the eastern DRC remained sceptical that it would hold.