Saudi modernization drive in the limelight as crown prince visits France

Saudi modernization drive in the limelight as crown prince visits France
Emmanuel Macron was the first foreign head of state to visit Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia — a favor now being returned with this visit to Paris. (AFP)
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Updated 29 July 2022

Saudi modernization drive in the limelight as crown prince visits France

Saudi modernization drive in the limelight as crown prince visits France
  • As political, commercial and defense relations flourish, France is increasingly present in the Kingdom
  • Economic engagement likely to top agenda when Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Macron meet

PARIS: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s first visit to Paris in 2018 had exposure as an objective. At the time, he as well as Emmanuel Macron were making their first steps as young leaders.

Much has happened in four years, and the world, as we have known it, has changed. The first objective of the crown prince in Paris is to highlight the changes and other reforms undergone by the Kingdom. 

As pointed out by Cedomir Nestorovic, professor of geopolitics at ESSEC, the important thing to assess is whether “the massive reforms and the structural change of the Saudi society driven by the crown prince have been sufficiently noticed abroad.”




One of the key reforms introduced by King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was the emancipation of women, allowing them to drive. (AFP file)

The crown prince can boast today a real resume in terms of reforms.

He will be able to answer critics and face them with the positive dynamics to which Saudi Arabia has committed and underline the benefits of Arab modernity. When asked about the subject, several French legislators consider this visit to be strategically significant both for the crown prince and Macron.

Energy, according to Nestorovic, is of course the other focal point. During this period of conflict between Russia and Ukraine, gas and oil have become rare and expensive, and Europe apprehends the cold of winter.




Ties between Paris and Riyadh have strengthened in recent years, as Saudi Arabia’s social and economic reforms have begun to transform the Kingdom. (AFP)

By distancing itself from the conflict, Saudi Arabia managed, at first, to play the role of arbitrator, but the recent spectacular rapprochement between Vladimir Putin and his Turkish and Iranian counterparts reminded the Gulf monarchies that the Russian card could be a double-edged sword.

Also to be considered is the issue of Western leadership. By traveling to France, the crown prince seems to return the favor to Macron, who was the first Western head of state to visit him.

It also appears that relations have greatly improved and that France is increasingly present in Saudi Arabia.

If Macron understands the change of course initiated by the Kingdom for several years now, he will probably be in a better position than the US president to discuss energy issues.




The relationship between the West and Saudi Arabia does not have to pass solely through the US. (AFP photo)

Indeed, during the meeting with Joe Biden, Saudi Arabia pledged to support the West’s energy supply. But, for the time being, the real measures have not yet been taken. Similarly, the price of oil and gas has not really been addressed.

Macron and the crown prince have their own cards to play, by showing that the relationship between the West and Saudi Arabia no longer necessarily passes solely through the United States.

Opinion

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This visit, therefore, has a strategic dimension since it deals with Europe’s energy security. But it also has, as is so often the case, a political dimension. Will the two young leaders be able to understand each other better?

Will we be able to say that the new French approach in Saudi Arabia is more realistic and keeps pace with the reforms and the transformation of the Kingdom?

Given the Saudi delegation accompanying the crown prince, it seems that the “economic development” aspect will be at the heart of the talks.

Should contacts between economic leaders be as flourishing as expected, this will play a strong role in helping Saudi Arabia gain stature among nations as a major player.


Modern France: A brief history




A general view of Paris. (Shutterstock)

The French Revolution of 1789 saw France transform from a monarchy to a republic, which came under the control of Napoleon Bonaparte 10 years later. After he became emperor of the First French Empire from 1804-1814, his armies conquered large swaths of continental Europe.

Another monarchy emerged from the wake of Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo in 1815, and Napoleon’s nephew created the Second Empire in 1852, becoming the last monarch to rule over France. He was ousted and the monarchy was replaced by the Third French Republic in 1870.

Throughout the 19th century and early 20th century, France maintained a large colonial empire across West Africa, Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

France sided with the Allied Powers during the Second World War, but was split in two during the conflict, with most of the country controlled by a collaborationist, pro-German government.

The country slowly recovered after the end of the war, but long wars in its colonies in Indochina (now Vietnam) and Algeria saw it ousted from these regions, and by the 1960s, most of France’s former colonies had achieved independence.

France has been a full member of the UN Security Council and NATO since the end of the Second World War, and played a vital role in the establishment of the EU.

France has a large Muslim and Arab population owing to its former colonies in north Africa, and many of these populations suffer from social alienation and high unemployment rates.

The country has been the site of unrest and protests against the enforcement of strict secular policies and controversial bills, some of which have attempted to ban the wearing of headscarves or traditional Muslim face coverings in public.

 

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British Muslim MP accuses Labour Party of harassment

British Muslim MP accuses Labour Party of harassment
Updated 17 min 5 sec ago

British Muslim MP accuses Labour Party of harassment

British Muslim MP accuses Labour Party of harassment
  • Apsana Begum said: ‘I have never been given a fair chance. The level of inhumanity towards me has been chilling’
  • She said she received no support from the party when local officials organized a vote on her right to stand at the next election

LONDON: Apsana Begum, an MP for the Labour party in the UK, has accused the party of harassment and targeting her because she is a “socialist, Muslim, working-class woman,” the Guardian reported.

Begum announced in June that she had been signed off sick from work as a result of what she described as a “sustained campaign of misogynistic abuse.”

Members of Begum’s constituency party voted to initiate a “trigger ballot,” a mechanism through which local branches and affiliated groups decide whether a sitting MP should be allowed to stand again at the next general election unimpeded or need to go through a re-selection process.

The Poplar and Limehouse MP said she received no support from the Labour Party as she faced the vote on her deselection.

During an appearance at the World Transformed festival at the Labour conference in Liverpool, Begum said she experienced “factionalism and racism” within the party. “I have never been given a fair chance. The level of inhumanity towards me has been chilling,” she added.

Regarding her party’s decision to proceed with the trigger ballot even though she was on sick leave, Begum said: “I can’t think of any circumstance where it would be acceptable but particularly a party which is supposed to be a party of labour.”

According to the Guardian, Labour previously stated that Begum is subject to the same rules as all MPs and that the threshold for triggering a new selection process was significantly increased by rule changes championed by Keir Starmer last year. As a result, Begum will automatically be included on the shortlist.

However, the party’s headquarters reportedly has received complaints about disruption, intimidation and harassment targeting women. Begum said had to go to hospital in June as a result of mental health issues and was subsequently signed off on sick leave. She announced this month that she planned to return to work gradually.

“I have faced a relentless and sustained campaign of abuse and harassment, which has even included vexatious litigation seeking to send me to jail,” she said in a return to work statement.

“As the chair of the APPG (All-Party Parliamentary Group) on domestic abuse and violence, I believe that the Labour party has shown a lack of understanding regarding tackling domestic abuse, including post-separation harassment,” she said

Begum said she wrote to Labour’s general secretary, David Evans, to say she is “seeking advice and considering taking legal action”.

Begum’s previous allegations of domestic abuse emerged last year when she was acquitted of fraud for allegedly withholding information about her personal circumstances to obtain social housing, according to the Guardian.

Tower Hamlets council claimed she had failed to disclose that she had moved in with her partner. The MP said she had notified authorities for council tax purposes, she was going through a difficult time personally because of family issues, and that a “controlling and coercive” partner, Ehtashamul Haque, had taken control of her affairs. He denies this.


Pakistani court acquits ex-PM’s daughter in corruption case

Pakistani court acquits ex-PM’s daughter in corruption case
Updated 29 September 2022

Pakistani court acquits ex-PM’s daughter in corruption case

Pakistani court acquits ex-PM’s daughter in corruption case
  • Maryam Nawaz is the vice president of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League
  • The court also acquitted her husband, Mohammad Sadar

ISLAMABAD: A court in Pakistan’s capital city on Thursday acquitted the daughter of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif after she was sentenced to seven years in prison over charges connected with the purchase of luxury apartments in London.
Maryam Nawaz, the vice president of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League, said outside the Islamabad High court that she is “thankful to God that justice has been done.” The luxury apartments at issue are owned by her brothers.
The court also acquitted her husband, Mohammad Sadar, who had been sentenced to one year in jail on charges of giving false information to investigators in 2018.
Sharif, who had also been sentenced to 10 years in jail in the same case, has been living in self-imposed exile in London since 2019 after authorities released him on bail so that he could travel abroad to seek medical treatment.


US vice president Kamala Harris caps Asia trip with stop at DMZ dividing Koreas

US vice president Kamala Harris caps Asia trip with stop at DMZ dividing Koreas
Updated 29 September 2022

US vice president Kamala Harris caps Asia trip with stop at DMZ dividing Koreas

US vice president Kamala Harris caps Asia trip with stop at DMZ dividing Koreas
  • The visit comes on the heels of North Korea’s latest missile launches
  • At the DMZ, Harris went to the top of a ridge, near guard towers and security cameras

PANMUNJOM, Korea: US Vice President Kamala Harris capped her four-day trip to Asia with a stop Thursday at the Demilitarized Zone dividing the Korean Peninsula as she emphasized US commitment to the security of its Asian allies in the face of an increasingly aggressive North Korea.
The visit comes on the heels of North Korea’s latest missile launches and amid fears that the country may conduct a nuclear test. Visiting the DMZ has become something of a ritual for American leaders hoping to show their resolve to stand firm against aggression.
North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles on Wednesday, while Harris was in Japan, and had fired one before she left Washington on Sunday. The launches contribute to a record level of missile testing this year that is intended to move Pyongyang closer to being acknowledged as a full-fledged nuclear power.
At the DMZ, Harris went to the top of a ridge, near guard towers and security cameras. She looked through bulky binoculars as a South Korean colonel pointed out military installations on the southern side. Then an American colonel pointed out some of the defenses along the military demarcation line, including fence topped with barbed wire and claymore mines. He said American soldiers regularly walk patrols along a path.
“It’s so close,” Harris said.
Her tour visit to the observation post came after she met US service members and some of their relatives at the Camp Bonifas Dining Facility, where she said she wanted them to know “how grateful and thankful we are.”
“I know it’s not always easy. Most of the time it’s not,” she said.
She asked a soldier from Florida on whether he checked in on his family after Hurricane Ian.
“Yeah, they’re up on a hill,” he said.
When another soldier stammered nervously while introducing himself, Harris said, “You know your name!”
“They’re going to give you such a hard time when this is over,” she joked.
Earlier, Harris met with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol at his office in Seoul where they condemned North Korea’s intensifying weapons tests and reaffirmed the US commitment to defend the South with a full range of its military capabilities in the event of war, Yoon’s office said.
They expressed concern over North Korea’s threats of nuclear conflict and pledged an unspecified stronger response to major North Korean provocations, including a nuclear test, which South Korean officials say could possibly take place in coming months.
Harris and Yoon were also expected to discuss expanding economic and technology partnerships and repairing recently strained ties between Seoul and Tokyo to strengthen their trilateral cooperation with Washington in the region.
Harris’ trip was organized so she could attend the state funeral of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, but her itinerary was dominated by security concerns, a reflection of fears about China’s growing power and North Korea’s ramped-up testing activity.
In every meeting, Harris tried to lay to rest any fears that the United States was wavering in its commitment to protect its allies, describing American partnerships with South Korea and Japan as the “linchpin” and “cornerstone” of its defense strategy in Asia.
Yoon, who took office earlier this year, had anchored his election campaign with vows to deepen Seoul’s economic and security partnership with Washington to navigate challenges posed by the North Korean threat and address potential supply chain risks caused by the pandemic, the US-China rivalry and Russia’s war on Ukraine. But the alliance has been marked by tension recently.
South Koreans have expressed a sense of betrayal over a new law signed by President Joe Biden that prevents electric cars built outside of North America from being eligible for US government subsidies, undermining the competitiveness of automakers like Seoul-based Hyundai.
There are indications North Korea may up its weapons demonstrations soon as it refines its missiles and delivery systems and attempts to pressure Washington to accept the North as a nuclear power. South Korean officials said last week that they detected signs North Korea was preparing to test a ballistic missile system designed to be fired from submarines.
The US aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan was to train with South Korean and Japanese warships in waters near the Korean Peninsula on Friday in the countries’ first trilateral anti-submarine exercises since 2017 to counter North Korean submarine threats, South Korea’s navy said Thursday.
US and South Korean officials also say North Korea is possibly gearing up for its first nuclear test since 2017. That test could come after China holds its Communist Party convention the week of Oct. 16, but before the United States holds its midterm elections Nov. 8, according to South Korean lawmakers who attended a closed-door briefing from the National Intelligence Service.


Japanese chief cabinet secretary receives courtesy call from Egyptian transport minister

Japanese chief cabinet secretary receives courtesy call from Egyptian transport minister
Updated 29 September 2022

Japanese chief cabinet secretary receives courtesy call from Egyptian transport minister

Japanese chief cabinet secretary receives courtesy call from Egyptian transport minister
  • Both sides reaffirmed the partnership between the two countries

Chief Cabinet Secretary of Japan Hirokazu Matsuno received a courtesy call Tuesday from the Transport Minister of Egypt Kamel Elwazer, who is visiting Japan to attend former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s state funeral.

Elwazer handed Matsuno a letter from Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi addressed to Prime Minister Kishida and expressed his condolences over the death of Abe.

In response, Matsuno expressed his appreciation for Elwazer’s attendance of the state funeral and said that he would like Elwazer to convey deep gratitude of Japan to El-Sisi.

President El-Sisi’s letter addressed to the Prime Minister Kishida to Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno and expressed his heartfelt condolence for the passing of late former Prime Minister Abe.

In response, Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno expressed his appreciation for Minister Elwazer’s attendance at the state funeral for former Prime Minister Abe and stated that he would like Minister Elwazer to convey deep gratitude of Japan to President El-Sisi.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno appreciated the fact that Japan-Egypt relationship, which was enhanced by the strong trust between former Prime Minister Abe and President El-Sisi, has been bearing fruit such as corporation on Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM), Cairo Metro Line 4, Egypt-Japan University of Science and Technology (E-JUST) and Japanese education system in Egypt.

Elwazer showed his gratitude for Japan’s support to Egypt in various fields, both public and private, and expressed his expectation for further Japanese investment in Egypt.

He also expressed his expectation for increased investment by Japanese companies through improvement in the investment environment in Egypt. Elwazer showed his gratitude for Japan’s support to Egypt in various fields, both public and private, and reiterated Matsuno’s expectation for further Japanese investment in Egypt.

Both sides reaffirmed the partnership between the two countries and agreed on continued corporation to further enhance bilateral relationship.

This article originally appeared on Arab News Japan.


Taliban fire into air to disperse women’s rally backing Iran protests

Taliban fire into air to disperse women’s rally backing Iran protests
Updated 29 September 2022

Taliban fire into air to disperse women’s rally backing Iran protests

Taliban fire into air to disperse women’s rally backing Iran protests

KABUL:  Taliban forces fired shots into the air on Thursday to disperse a women’s rally supporting protests in Iran over the death of a woman in the custody of morality police.
Deadly protests have erupted in neighboring Iran for the past two weeks, following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while detained by the Islamic republic’s morality police.
Chanting the same “Women, life, freedom” mantra used in Iran, about 25 Afghan women protested in front of Kabul’s Iranian embassy before being dispersed by Taliban forces firing in the air, an AFP correspondent reported.
Women protesters carried banners that read: “Iran has risen, now it’s our turn!” and “From Kabul to Iran, say no to dictatorship!“
Taliban forces swiftly snatched the banners and tore them in front of the protesters.
Defiant Afghan women’s rights activists have staged sporadic protests in Kabul and some other cities since the Taliban stormed back to power last August.
The protests, banned by the Taliban, contravene a slew of harsh restrictions imposed by the hard-line extremists on Afghan women.
The Taliban have forcefully dispersed women’s rallies in the past, warned journalists against covering them and detained activists helming organization efforts.
An organizer of Thursday’s protest, speaking anonymously, told AFP it was staged “to show our support and solidarity with the people of Iran and the women victims of the Taliban in Afghanistan.”
Since returning to power, the Taliban have banned secondary school education for girls and barred women from many government jobs.
Women have also been ordered to fully cover themselves in public, preferably with the all-encompassing burqa.
So far the Taliban have dismissed international calls to remove the curbs on women, especially the ban on secondary school education.
On Tuesday, a United Nations report denounced the “severe restrictions” and called for them to be reversed.
The international community has insisted that lifting controls on women’s rights is a key condition for recognizing the Taliban government, which no country has so far done.