Perception at odds with reality of generous Saudi humanitarian support for Ukraine

Special Perception at odds with reality of generous Saudi humanitarian support for Ukraine
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KSrelief has funded humanitarian support in Poland, aiding the millions of refugees fleeing Ukraine. (SPA)
Special Perception at odds with reality of generous Saudi humanitarian support for Ukraine
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Ukrainians cross the border from Ukraine to Poland at the Korczowa-Krakovets border crossing on Feb. 26, 2022, as Russian forces invade their country. (AFP)
Special Perception at odds with reality of generous Saudi humanitarian support for Ukraine
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Young girls and other refugees from Ukraine wait for the bus after they crossed Ukrainian-Polish border in Medyka, southeastern Poland on April 8, 2022. (AFP)
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Refugees from Ukraine's Odessa arrive at a railway station in Przemysl, southeastern Poland, on April 6, 2022. (AFP file photo)
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KSrelief chief Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah visiting Poland’s Institute of Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases, which is supporting refugees in Warsaw. (Supplied)
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Updated 15 August 2022

Perception at odds with reality of generous Saudi humanitarian support for Ukraine

Perception at odds with reality of generous Saudi humanitarian support for Ukraine
  • Kingdom’s track record belies lack of recognition of its donations for displaced Ukrainian refugees
  • A $10 million aid package has just been signed off by the UNHCR, WHO and Saudi Arabia’s KSrelief 

JEDDAH: The perception that Saudi Arabia is not helping Ukrainians affected by the war with Russia is completely at odds with the reality. 

The firmness of the Kingdom’s commitment to supporting refugees and resolving the conflict has been evident since the outbreak of hostilities. Aid pledges have been matched by donations that are already making a big difference.

A $10 million Saudi humanitarian package for war-displaced Ukrainians has just been signed off by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the World Health Organization and Saudi Arabia’s leading humanitarian aid agency.

About half of the $10 million grant has been allocated for distribution through the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre (KSrelief).

In April, King Salman directed KSrelief to provide this amount of support for immediate assistance and give “urgent medical and shelter aid” to Ukrainian refugees, giving priority to those arriving in Poland.




KSrelief chief Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah visiting Poland’s Institute of Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases, which is supporting refugees in Warsaw. (Supplied)

Delivering on the Kingdom’s promise during his ongoing visit to Poland, Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, adviser at the Royal Court and supervisor general of KSrelief, also discussed the humanitarian situation with Polish, UNHCR and WHO officials, according to a Saudi Press Agency report.

It said Al-Rabeeah visited several health establishments and facilities, taking time to speak to some Ukrainian refugees who had fled to Warsaw from their war-torn country.

“Thank you very much, and thanks to the center for helping us. The situation is as you can see,” a Ukrainian resident of a refugee center told Al-Arabiya news channel.

“All of us came from Ukraine, and we were in a very bad way. Thanks to you, our situation has improved. Thanks a lot, and we wish peace to the whole world.”  

At the Poland-Ukraine border, Al-Rabeeah lauded the collaboration between the WHO, KSrelief, and the Polish government. “We highly appreciate the partnership with the WHO. Our work together has made great support to refugees and those in need here and elsewhere,” he said in a video released by WHO Poland.

KSrelief has donated funds to support the critical response efforts for Ukrainians in Poland, with the delivery of emergency medical supplies and equipment benefiting more than 1 million people in need.

The Kingdom’s support for Ukrainian refugees is an extension of its well-known humanitarian efforts in more than 85 countries, yet several reports have hinted that Saudi Arabia has picked sides in the conflict because of its ties to Russia as a fellow OEPC+ member.

Despite the political and humanitarian initiatives taken by the Kingdom, urging all parties to come to the negotiating table to resolve the conflict through dialogue and diplomacy, the Kingdom’s efforts have been viewed with skepticism in some quarters.

A March report by the Wilson Center, a US government-linked public policy think tank, claimed that Saudi Arabia “has decided to side with Russia” and “chose Putin over Biden,” accusing the Kingdom of playing political games to keep oil prices high.

The remarks came despite the Kingdom’s repeated offers to both mediate between the warring parties and increase oil production along with neighboring Gulf countries.




Millions of Ukrainian refugees suddenly left their country in February after Russian troops invaded. (AFP)

The differences between the Western and Arab positions on the question of how to end the war have not stopped either side from addressing the humanitarian emergency.

For its part, Saudi Arabia has reiterated that though ending the ongoing war in Ukraine is no easy feat, the Kingdom has treated the issue just as any ongoing crisis in the region, stressing that human suffering is the same in all conflicts and that violence is not the solution.

In March, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told Russian President Vladimir Putin that the Kingdom was ready to exert all efforts to mediate between the two nations.




Saudi Arabia has sent millions of dollars in humanitarian aid for Ukrainians forced to stay in evacuation centers in Poland. (AFP photo)

In May, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, met with his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, to discuss the crisis.

Less than a week later, Prince Faisal bin Farhan met with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov during the latter’s visit to Riyadh, where he underscored the importance of reaching a political solution to achieve security and stability for all involved.

Though scant details on Lavrov’s visit and meeting with Gulf Cooperation Council ministers were released, the trip was still misinterpreted as evidence of Saudi Arabia’s support for Russia, even though the Kingdom and other Gulf states had opted to stay neutral, treating the war in Ukraine in “a fair context” and providing aid to the needy.

In June, Prince Faisal bin Farhan clarified the Kingdom’s position further: “Our stance as Gulf countries regarding the Russian-Ukrainian crisis is unified,” he said on June 1 during a speech at the opening of the 152nd session of the Ministerial Council of the Gulf Cooperation Council.




Millions of Ukrainians were forced to leave their country since February after Russian troops invaded. (AFP photo)

“Today we had two fruitful meetings with the Russian and Ukrainian ministers, during which we stated our unified stance regarding the Russian-Ukrainian crisis and its negative consequences, namely the food security of the affected countries and the world.”

Saudi Arabia’s decision to remain neutral and prioritize humanitarian engagement during the war also ought to be viewed in the context of public opinion. In a recent Arab News-YouGov poll, of the more than 1,000 Saudis who were asked for their opinion, 14 percent blamed US President Joe Biden for the conflict while 21 percent blamed NATO.

While a high number of Saudi respondents expressed skepticism about NATO’s involvement with the conflict, 41 percent of Saudis said they did not know or were not sure who was to blame.

Throughout the conflict, more than 40 countries, organizations, and individual donors have made pledges and commitments, some of which have made their way to the 6.3 million refugees fleeing Ukraine as well as those who remained. But there is a striking gap between pledged and delivered support.




In this April 9, 2022, photo, Ukrainian refugees fleeing war stay at a gymnasium in Tijuana, Mexico as they await permission to enter the US. (AFP)

Thus far, most Western governments have given priority to military assistance over humanitarian aid.

According to the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, the US has pledged $23.8 billion in military aid, the highest amount to date, but has allocated a comparatively modest $8.9 billion to humanitarian assistance.

According to the center, that number has since increased but by a relatively small percentage. Similarly, the EU pledged $12.3 billion in military aid but just $1.4 billion has been siphoned for humanitarian response and aid packages.

Since the outbreak of the conflict, Western and Arab governments have been under no illusion that the need for a resolution of the conflict is no less pressing than addressing the humanitarian emergency.

Last month, President Biden visited Jeddah and met with King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The two sides discussed several topics of concern, including energy, security and the crisis in Ukraine.




King Salman bin Abdulaziz meets with US President Joe Biden, witnessed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and US State Secretary Antony Blinken at al-Salam Palace in Jeddah on July 15, 2022. (SPA)

Soon after Biden left the Kingdom, Adel Al-Jubeir, Saudi Arabia’s minister of state for foreign affairs, spoke to CNBC to set the record straight. “We have said from the very beginning, we supported the UN General Assembly Resolution and the inadmissibility abuse of force, about the sovereignty of nations and respect for that,” he said.

“We have called for a peaceful resolution to this; stop the fighting and get to the negotiating table and work out your differences peacefully.

“The concern that we have is that escalation on one side leads to escalation on the other side and before you know it, things are more likely to spin out of control and we all pay the price.”

For good measure, Al-Jubeir said: “We’ve reached out to both Russia and Ukraine. We’ve urged them to move towards a ceasefire settlement and their conflict peacefully. We continue to be engaged with them as are a number of other countries, and our hope is that they will be able to recognize that it’s better to argue across the table from each other than fight across the battlefield, because of the unintended consequences of war and conflict.”

Meanwhile, when it comes to humanitarian giving, Saudi Arabia’s pledges continue to be matched by its actions.

On Friday, accompanied by Saad Al-Saleh, the Saudi ambassador to Poland, KSrelief’s Al-Rabeeah visited the UNHCR’s warehouse facilities in Rzeszow in Poland. They jointly inspected the aid already provided as part of the Kingdom’s $10 million grant to support Ukrainian refugees.

 

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Saudi foreign minister and Blinken discuss relations during call

Saudi foreign minister and Blinken discuss relations during call
Updated 29 sec ago

Saudi foreign minister and Blinken discuss relations during call

Saudi foreign minister and Blinken discuss relations during call

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan received a phone call from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the Kingdom’s foreign ministry said on Saturday.

During the call, they reviewed aspects of relations between the Kingdom and the US, and ways to strengthen and develop them in various fields of cooperation.

The two sides also discussed regional and international developments and the most prominent issues of common interest.


French-Saudi agreements signal ‘beginning of new era of cooperation,’ says French ambassador

French-Saudi agreements signal ‘beginning of new era of cooperation,’ says French ambassador
Updated 01 October 2022

French-Saudi agreements signal ‘beginning of new era of cooperation,’ says French ambassador

French-Saudi agreements signal ‘beginning of new era of cooperation,’ says French ambassador
  • Saudi Arabia hosts 150,000 French speakers and 500 teachers of the French language in various institutions
  • French presence in the Kingdom is marked by a network of schools in Riyadh, Jeddah and Alkhobar

DUBAI: On the occasion of the launch of the new French Cultural Season in Saudi Arabia, French Ambassador to the Kingdom Ludovic Pouille hosted an evening celebrating French-Saudi cultural dialogue at the French Embassy in Riyadh.

“You make French culture present in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” said Pouille, addressing an audience of artists, entrepreneurs and officials.

The ambassador hailed the joint effort by France and Saudi Arabia to enable the success of cultural events in the Kingdom. “I want to thank our Saudi partners and friends, artists, professors, entrepreneurs and officials from the Saudi government for their contribution in strengthening on a daily basis our cultural relationship,” he added.

Among the participants were partners from the EU, Francophone countries, the Alliance Franҫaise d’Arabie Saoudite led by Zaher Al-Munajjed and the French Embassy’s team led by Catherine le Thomas.

Saudi Arabia hosts 150,000 French speakers and 500 teachers of the French language in various institutions. The French presence in the Kingdom is marked by a network of schools in Riyadh, Jeddah and Alkhobar, making education one of the primary elements on which the two nations collaborate.

 

 

As part of its Vision 2030, the Kingdom has initiated large-scale events enabling its development as a culture, education, tourism and sports hub on an international level. These events include Riyadh Season, Jeddah Season, AlUla Season, the Red Sea International Film Festival, the Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale and the upcoming Islamic Arts Biennale in Jeddah.

“We are all very lucky to live in a thrilling context in which Saudi Arabia is rapidly opening up and exploring new directions for its future. The Kingdom is now witnessing what President (Emmanuel) Macron called a ‘cultural revolution’ during his visit to Jeddah,” said the ambassador.

The new French Cultural Season in Saudi Arabia is a promising one, with events starting in October with the celebration of the 20th anniversary of French-Saudi cooperation in the field of archaeology. The event is a two-day symposium that will see the participation of the 15 French archaeological missions collaborating with Saudi archaeologists across the Kingdom in the Farasan Islands, Hegra and AlUla, among other locations.

The second event in the pipeline is “Digital November,” which is aimed at bringing art and technology together. A series of tournaments, workshops and other activities centered on esports and e-games will be featured.

Other cultural cooperation projects will involve music, cinema, fashion, design and poetry, with the annual Night of Poetry to be held in December.

Franco-Saudi cooperation is also evident through the Kingdom’s giga-projects — such as the development of AlUla — that will shape the country for decades to follow.

AfAlula, the French Agency for the Development of AlUla, is collaborating with the Royal Commission for AlUla to develop the region “based on an intergovernmental agreement signed in April 2018 during Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to Paris,” Pouille said.

The AlUla project is the first of a series of initiatives that aim to reinforce the ties between the two countries.

Since the French president’s visit to Jeddah in December 2021, several agreements have been signed, including one for Villa Hegra, an ambitious institution of contemporary art that will enable the Kingdom to build a creative and artistic hub, the first of its kind in the Middle East.

The agreements signal the “beginning of a new era of cooperation between France and Saudi Arabia,” according to the ambassador.

This story originally appeared on Arab News en Français.


Saudi Border Guards seize 300 kilograms of narcotic hashish in Jazan 

Saudi Border Guards seize 300 kilograms of narcotic hashish in Jazan 
Updated 01 October 2022

Saudi Border Guards seize 300 kilograms of narcotic hashish in Jazan 

Saudi Border Guards seize 300 kilograms of narcotic hashish in Jazan 

RIYADH: Border guards in Saudi Arabia’s Jazan region have thwarted an attempt to smuggle 300 kilograms of narcotic hashish. 
Initial legal procedures have been completed and the drugs were seized and handed over to the relevant authority, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
Saudi Arabia has been cracking down on attempts to smuggle drugs into and out of the Kingdom, with authorities saying they would continue to stop all attempts to put the public at harm.


Saudi ministry wins 2 communication awards in UAE

Saudi ministry wins 2 communication awards in UAE
Updated 01 October 2022

Saudi ministry wins 2 communication awards in UAE

Saudi ministry wins 2 communication awards in UAE
  • 53 candidates were shortlisted in 19 award classes

SHARJAH, UAE: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development won two accolades at the 9th Sharjah Government Communication Awards in the UAE.

The ministry scooped awards in the categories for best systems in government communication in the Arab world, and best government communication initiative to empower women globally.

Fifty-three candidates were shortlisted in 19 award classes, with the Saudi ministry recognized for the methodology used in the implementation of its projects, the impact and results achieved, the effective use of technology and media to reach target audiences, and its innovative and proactive visions.

The ministry’s assistant minister for shared services, Mohammed bin Nasser Al-Jasser, said the awards success was down to the hard work of employees.

He added that the ministry sought to create an effective communication media system capable of keeping pace with the rapid changes taking place in the sectors it supervised while responding to the digital transformation that had seen a transformation in government media over recent years.

 

 


Diriya Gate Development Authority launches project to encode Diriyah history in Braille

Diriya Gate Development Authority launches project to encode Diriyah history in Braille
Updated 01 October 2022

Diriya Gate Development Authority launches project to encode Diriyah history in Braille

Diriya Gate Development Authority launches project to encode Diriyah history in Braille
  • The project will help visually impaired people gain a deeper understanding of the history of Diriyah, the original home of the Saudi royal family

RIYADH:  The Diriyah Gate Development Authority has teamed up with the National Association of the Blind “Kafeef” to launch an initiative for the translation of Diriyah’s history into Braille.

The project will help visually impaired people gain a deeper understanding of Diriyah’s history.

Paper copies of the content printed in Braille will help strengthen participants’ emotional connection to their rich Saudi history and heritage.

The project reflects DGDA’s commitment to the visually impaired, and is aligned with the authority’s mandate to preserve and celebrate its culture and heritage.

The first part of the initiative runs until Oct. 15, and includes a course on Diriyah’s history for young men and women from “Kafeef.”

Supporting course materials were translated into paper and digital formats, including content on the year 850 — the year that Diriyah was established — as well as the At-Turaif district and the history of the First Saudi State.

Participants with the highest scores have since been selected to teach within the program itself, based on the level of their interest in Saudi history and their Braille skills.

DGDA is committed to working with “Kafeef” to provide support to participants, including paper and digital training materials, as well as lessons for registered participants, with an official certificate available on completion of the course.

The course is expected to foster a competitive, knowledge-based atmosphere that will help bolster the connection visually impaired individuals have to their heritage; strengthen their sense of belonging to their country’s past, present, and future; and instil a sense of community and collective investment in the country’s progress.