What Saudi crown prince’s tour of Greece and France says about Kingdom’s place on the international stage

What Saudi crown prince’s tour of Greece and France says about Kingdom’s place on the international stage
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his delegation meeting with the French delegation led by President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace in Paris on Thursday. (SPA)
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Updated 29 July 2022

What Saudi crown prince’s tour of Greece and France says about Kingdom’s place on the international stage

What Saudi crown prince’s tour of Greece and France says about Kingdom’s place on the international stage
  • Amid a shifting power balance and energy crisis, Saudi Arabia is well placed to benefit from Western re-engagement 
  • Meetings in Athens and Paris offer the Kingdom opportunity to showcase its achievements and promise of Vision 2030 

PARIS: The war in Ukraine has sparked an energy supply crisis and upset the global power balance, prompting a flurry of diplomatic activity. One nation that has been reaping the benefits of recent engagements is Saudi Arabia.

Concerns over energy have restored the Kingdom’s image in the eyes of European powers as a key player in this multipolar, post-COVID world order — one that could rebalance oil markets, and perhaps beckon the continent into a clean energy future.

The diplomatic circuit began in April when Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met with the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara. This was followed in mid-July with US President Joe Biden’s visit to Jeddah.

On July 26, the crown prince was traveling once again, this time heading to Athens for talks with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and the country’s business community. Two days later, it was France’s turn to welcome the crown prince.




Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis gives Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman a tour of the Acropolis during the Saudi leader's visit to Athens on Wednesday. (SPA)

These latest stops mark Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s first visit to the EU since 2018 when relations with Washington and the Kingdom’s European allies soured. Today, in the face of new economic realities, the past, it would appear, is well and truly in the past.

Boosting the supply of oil and gas to Europe has become a critical issue in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the resulting Western embargo on Russian hydrocarbons.

If Russian President Vladimir Putin is seen in Western capitals as the cause of this disruption, then Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is viewed as the remedy. As a result, the crown prince entered into talks with Greek and French leaders from a position of strength.

Western capitals want to convince the world’s biggest oil exporter to open the floodgates and bring down prices, which have contributed to a cost of living crisis for many nations still emerging from the economic turmoil of the pandemic.

Riyadh has been reluctant to meet Western demands, however, in part because it has solid partnerships with Russia, such as the natural gas project in Siberia directed by the Russian group Novatek.

The stage is therefore set for Saudi Arabia to reap the benefits of Western reengagement.

Saudi delegations have not arrived empty-handed, however. While in Athens, the crown prince signed agreements on maritime transport, energy, defense, waste management and culture. Experts say that the joint project to install a cable connecting the two countries is especially important, promising to provide Europe with cheaper energy.

Saudi-Greek cooperation could transform Greece from a debt-burdened nation into a regional energy, trade, and communications hub connecting Europe and Asia, and into a gateway for new green hydrogen technologies to help the continent realize its net-zero aims.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s 19th largest economy, has initiated an economic and social reform agenda to reimagine its future and its place in the region — Vision 2030 — and is eager to attract outside investment.

The vision, launched in 2016, offers a new, diversified model for economic development that is more inclusive — especially for women and young people — and which will create jobs and wealth in sectors beyond hydrocarbons, from tourism, entertainment, and tech, to retail, renewables and smart city megaprojects.

By 2030, these new industries could create revenues equivalent to those now generated by oil — about $250 billion.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has shown his determination to radically transform the Saudi economy and society by freeing it from its dependence on hydrocarbons, which make up 42 percent of its gross domestic product, 70 percent of its income and 90 percent of its exports.

Despite the economic setbacks of the COVID-19 pandemic, the transformation is already in motion. Within the next decade, the Kingdom will emerge as a major player in tourism (with 100 million visitors by 2030), in entertainment (with a market worth of $8 billion) and a cutting-edge defense industry thanks to technology transfers.

Then there is the prospect of growth in renewables, manufacturing and mining, the Kingdom’s ambitions in food security, biotechnologies and artificial intelligence, not to mention large-scale logistics and airport infrastructure plans.

To power this transformation, the Kingdom relies on its Public Investment Fund — a $2 trillion sovereign wealth fund — which recently acquired stakes in Starbucks, Marriott, Disney, Boeing, City Group, Facebook, Germany’s Signa Sports, the Dutch TMF Group, and also bought Newcastle United F.C.

With this wealth, Riyadh intends to build major national reference companies alongside Saudi Aramco — the world’s leading oil exporter — in transport, mining, renewable energies, digital and automotive.

And the cultural sector will not be left behind either. The Kingdom is a candidate to host the World Expo in 2030, having seen its pavilion awarded best exhibition venue at Expo 2020 Dubai.

Perhaps the most striking project the Kingdom has launched is NEOM — a contraction of the Greek word “Neo,” or “new,” and the letter “M” for mostaqbal, or “future,” in Arabic. This $500 billion smart city will be at the forefront of tech and sustainability, and promises to revolutionize the urban experience.

Last year, at the fifth edition of the Future Investment Initiative, also known as “Davos in the desert,” foreign investors learned the Arabic word Marhaba — “welcome.” It is a word that will shape relations with the Kingdom over the coming decade.

During the forum, the Saudi crown prince presented world leaders in finance and technology with a clear ambition — to establish the Kingdom as a key player in the global economy.

When he meets with French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace in Paris this week, the crown prince will bring this same sense of ambition and purpose, strengthened, no doubt, by the Kingdom’s new economic clout.

• Azouz Begag is a writer and former minister (2005-2007), researcher in economics and sociology. He is a researcher at the CNRS. Twitter: @AzouzBegag

 

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News’ point of view.

 

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US announces $1.1 billion in new arms aid for Ukraine

US announces $1.1 billion in new arms aid for Ukraine
Updated 28 September 2022

US announces $1.1 billion in new arms aid for Ukraine

US announces $1.1 billion in new arms aid for Ukraine
  • The package of orders for US military suppliers includes Himars missile systems and ammunition
  • The new package took the total military aid from the United States to Ukraine since the Russians invaded on February 24 to $16.2 billion

WASHINGTON: The United States announced Wednesday a new package of arms and supplies for Ukraine worth $1.1 billion for reinforcing Kyiv’s forces over the medium and long term.
The package of orders for US military suppliers includes Himars missile systems and ammunition, systems to counter drones, radars and armored vehicles, according to a Defense Department statement.
The package “represents a multi-year investment in critical capabilities to build the enduring strength of Ukraine’s Armed Forces” as they continue to battle the invading Russian army, the Pentagon said.
The new package took the total military aid from the United States to Ukraine since the Russians invaded on February 24 to $16.2 billion.
It includes 18 more Himars systems, highly accurate missile systems which the Ukrainians have been using effectively since June to hit Russian arms depots and command posts far behind the front lines.
It also includes 150 armored vehicles, 150 tactical vehicles for towing weapons, trucks and trailers, and systems to help Ukraine defend against Russia’s Iranian-made drones increasingly deployed on the battlefield.


Japan, Jordan confirm strong cooperation during summit talk

Japan, Jordan confirm strong cooperation during summit talk
Updated 28 September 2022

Japan, Jordan confirm strong cooperation during summit talk

Japan, Jordan confirm strong cooperation during summit talk
  • King Abdullah II expressed his heartfelt condolences for the passing of former Prime Minister Abe
  • The two leaders exchanged views on the regional situation including the Middle East Peace

TOKYO: Japan’s Prime Minister KISHIDA Fumio, held a summit meeting on September 28 with King Abdullah II of Jordan, who is currently in Japan after attending the state funeral for former Prime Minister ABE Shinzo.
At the outset of the meeting that lasted 10 minutes according to the foreign ministry in Tokyo, Kishida expressed his appreciation for the king’s attendance at the state funeral and expressed his hope to hold discussions to further develop the diplomatic legacy inherited from the late former Prime Minister Abe.
King Abdullah II expressed his heartfelt condolences for the passing of former Prime Minister Abe, and stated that late former Prime Minister Abe was a great friend of not only Jordan but also the region and shared the hope to develop the bilateral relationship based on his legacy.
Prime Minister Kishida extended his congratulations to Crown Prince Hussein’s engagement and expressed his wish for the long-lasting prosperity of the Jordanian Royal Family and further development of friendly relations with Japan’s Imperial Family.
The two leaders exchanged views on the regional situation including the Middle East Peace. Prime Minister Kishida expressed his concern about the impact of the price hike of food and fuel on Jordan, which is hosting a large number of Palestinian refugees, and stated that Japan would continue its support for Jordan, including its support to UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees).
In response, King Abdullah II expressed his gratitude for Japan’s wide-ranging cooperation for Jordan and UNRWA and stated that he would like to cooperate with Japan in advancing projects involving countries in the region.
The two leaders confirmed that they will continue to work closely together for the long-term stability of the region, according to the ministry.
 


EU executive proposes new ‘biting’ sanctions on Russia for Ukraine escalation

EU executive proposes new ‘biting’ sanctions on Russia for Ukraine escalation
Updated 28 September 2022

EU executive proposes new ‘biting’ sanctions on Russia for Ukraine escalation

EU executive proposes new ‘biting’ sanctions on Russia for Ukraine escalation
  • Ursula von der Leyen: ‘We do not accept the sham referenda nor any kind of annexation in Ukraine ... we are determined to make the Kremlin pay the price for this further escalation’
  • Von der Leyen: ‘We are proposing a new package of biting sanctions against Russia’

BRUSSELS: European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday proposed fresh sanctions against Russia over its war against Ukraine, including further trade restrictions, individual blacklistings and an oil price cap for third countries.
The proposal will now go to the bloc’s 27 member countries, which will need to overcome differences on the new sanctions and reach unanimity to implement them.
That may take time despite the EU being spurred into action by Russia’s partial military mobilization, nuclear threats to the West and moving to annex a swath of Ukraine.
“We do not accept the sham referenda nor any kind of annexation in Ukraine. And we are determined to make the Kremlin pay the price for this further escalation,” von der Leyen told reporters.
“We are proposing a new package of biting sanctions against Russia.”
Earlier on Wednesday, a senior economic adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on the EU to further cut money flows to Russia from fossil fuel sales.
The G7 group of industrialized countries — where EU countries Italy, France and Germany are also members — already agreed to put such an oil price cap in place via insurers.
“If you are doing nothing it means you are just prolonging this war with Ukraine, this is just ridiculous, the whole civilized world has to be united on that,” Oleg Ustenko told reporters.
While the EU already agreed to stop importing Russian oil starting later this year, Ustenko said the “blood money” would keep on flowing to Moscow unless European companies are banned from insuring seaborne shipments.


Austria to launch checks at Slovak border to stop migrants

Austria to launch checks at Slovak border to stop migrants
Updated 28 September 2022

Austria to launch checks at Slovak border to stop migrants

Austria to launch checks at Slovak border to stop migrants
  • The measure becomes effective at midnight Wednesday
  • “We have to react before the smugglers react,” said Austrian Interior Minister Gerhard Karner
BERLIN: Austria announced Wednesday that it will start checks at its border crossings with Slovakia, following a similar decision by the Czech Republic, in a move that’s aimed at keeping migrants from entering.
The measure becomes effective at midnight Wednesday, the Austrian government said.
The Austrian interior ministry said the border controls are a response to the Czech Republic’s announcement, a day earlier, of controls on its border with Slovakia starting Thursday, and aim to ensure that human traffickers do not use Austria as an alternative.
“We have to react before the smugglers react,” Austrian Interior Minister Gerhard Karner told public broadcaster ORF.
Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia all belong to the European Union’s visa-free Schengen zone where people can normally cross borders without getting checked. However, temporary border controls have repeatedly been reinstated in the past, whether to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in the early days of the pandemic or to stop migrants from entering illegally.
Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer told reporters later on Wednesday that he would meet Hungarian President Viktor Orban and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic next week to discuss the issue of migration.
“The states are not doing this for their own sake, but to fight organized crime and smuggling and to reduce the pressure from the borders,” Nehammer said in Vienna.
Austria introduced controls along its borders with Hungary and Slovenia in 2015, when more than 1 million migrants from war-torn countries like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan entered the European Union. The Alpine country has repeatedly extended those controls, which remain in place.
Back then, only about 8,500 migrants were detained in the Czech Republic, while this year so far 12,000 migrants have been detained, the Czech interior ministry said, adding that most of them were Syrians. A total of 125 human smugglers have been arrested in the Czech Republic this year, a significant increase compared with the previous years.
Most migrants don’t want to stay in the Czech Republic or Slovakia, but travel through them to reach wealthier places like Germany, Sweden or Austria.
The Austrian border controls will initially be enforced at 11 crossing to Slovakia for 10 days.

Kremlin dismisses ‘stupid’ claims Russia attacked Nord Stream

Kremlin dismisses ‘stupid’ claims Russia attacked Nord Stream
Updated 28 September 2022

Kremlin dismisses ‘stupid’ claims Russia attacked Nord Stream

Kremlin dismisses ‘stupid’ claims Russia attacked Nord Stream
  • Europe has been investigating what Germany, Denmark and Sweden said were attacks which had caused major leaks into the Baltic Sea

MOSCOW: The Kremlin on Wednesday said claims that Russia was somehow behind a possible attack on the Nord Stream gas pipelines were stupid, adding that Moscow saw a sharp increase the profits of US companies supplying gas to Europe.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a daily conference call with reporters that the incident needed to be investigated and the timings for repair of the damaged pipelines were not clear.
Europe has been investigating what Germany, Denmark and Sweden said were attacks which had caused major leaks into the Baltic Sea from two Russian gas pipelines at the center of an energy standoff.
Asked about claims Russia might somehow be behind the possible attack, Peskov said: “That’s quite predictable and also predictably stupid.”
“This is a big problem for us because, firstly, both lines of Nord Stream 2 are filled with gas — the entire system is ready to pump gas and the gas is very expensive... Now the gas is flying off into the air.”
“Before making any claims, we should wait for investigation into these ruptures, whether there was an explosion or not,” Peskov said. Information on the incident could be expected from Denmark and Sweden, he said.
Nord Stream AG, the operator of the network, said on Tuesday that three of four offshore lines of the Nord Stream gas pipeline system sustained “unprecedented” damage in one day. All Nord Stream’s pipeline had not delivered gas by the time of the incident.
Nord Stream 1 has reported a significant pressure drop caused by the gas leak on both lines of the gas pipeline, while Nord Stream 2 said that a sharp pressure drop in line A was registered on Monday.