Saudi source reveals additional details about China-brokered deal with Iran

Saudi source reveals additional details about China-brokered deal with Iran
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Updated 17 March 2023
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Saudi source reveals additional details about China-brokered deal with Iran

Saudi source reveals additional details about China-brokered deal with Iran
  • Both countries committed to a non-aggression agreement, including refraining from supporting attacks waged by third parties
  • Both countries agreed to support the ongoing truce in Yemen, and revive previously signed bilateral agreements including a security cooperation pact signed in 2001

A Saudi source with knowledge of the details of the Chinese led negotiations between the Kingdom and Iran has confirmed that the agreement between the two countries was a continuation of previous rounds of talks which started in Iraq in 2021.

As for the Chinese involvement, the source revealed President Xi Jinping expressed an interest in China being the bridge to help resolve the conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran, during his visit to Riyadh last December – an initiative which was welcomed by Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman. 

The Saudi source said last Friday’s breakthrough took five days of intense negotiations in Beijing - which continued “night and day” covering three main pillars. The first pillar was a respect of sovereignty of regional countries. Second, the restoration of diplomatic ties within the next two months, which gives both countries time to review and finalize details, and also work on the logistics of resending diplomats. 

The third was the revival of previously agreed bilateral treaties between Iran and Saudi Arabia, including a 2001 security agreement, which was signed at the time by the late Saudi interior minister Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz and his counterpart at the time, Hassan Rohani. 

The Saudi source made it clear that the restoration of diplomatic ties does not mean the end to all disputes yet.

ALSO READ: Iran agrees to stop arming Houthis in Yemen as part of deal with Saudi Arabia – Wall Street Journal report

Praising China, he said Beijing had a unique position in the negotiations and that this agreement fell within Chinese economic and geopolitical interests. He said that many (observers) underestimate the large dependency Iran has on China, which he said is one of the only two ‘friends’ Tehran has in the world (the other being Russia). 

Other details revealed that both Riyadh and Tehran have agreed to a bilateral commitment of nonaggression, including military, intelligence and cyber, nor will they assist others or allow their land to be used to wage such attacks. 

In addition, a trilateral high level committee (which includes China) will meet periodically to follow up on the implementation of agreement. The source also said discussions in Beijing didn’t include any talks about topics involving oil or nuclear issues.


Hundreds of Sri Lankan nurses prepare to join Saudi hospitals in 2024

Hundreds of Sri Lankan nurses prepare to join Saudi hospitals in 2024
Updated 17 sec ago
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Hundreds of Sri Lankan nurses prepare to join Saudi hospitals in 2024

Hundreds of Sri Lankan nurses prepare to join Saudi hospitals in 2024
  • They will be employed in all parts of the Kingdom
  • Recruitment process started in Colombo this week

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka is preparing to send hundreds of nurses to join hospitals in Saudi Arabia in 2024, the Ministry of Labor said on Friday.

The first phase of the recruitment process took place in Colombo this week and was overseen by the Saudi Ministry of Health and Sri Lanka’s Labor and Foreign Employment Minister Manusha Nanayakkara.

“Saudi Arabia is looking for medical and paramedical staff from countries such the Philippines, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka to meet the growing demand of this sector in the Kingdom,” Sanjay Nallaperuma, media secretary of the Ministry of Labor and Foreign Employment, told Arab News.

“Initially, they want to recruit 1,000 nurses in a phased operation throughout the next 12 months.”

Ninety-five nurses were selected during the first phase out of 400 candidates.

“Those selected were qualified nurses and they had a Bachelor of Science degree,” Nallaperuma said.

“The Saudi Ministry of Health will post them in government hospitals in all parts of the Kingdom.”

Similar to global trends, nurses make important contributions to the Saudi health sector as healthcare providers. As a result of the Kingdom’s investments in health, nursing has become one of the most demanded professions.

“These 95 will go in May and the next recruitment (phase) is in August,” Nallaperuma said.

For Sri Lanka, their employment in the Kingdom, where the average nurse salary is $1,400, will contribute to the reeling economy.

Every year, more than 200,000 migrant workers leave Sri Lanka to work abroad. They are a main source of foreign exchange for the country, which since 2022 has been gripped by its worst financial crisis.

Gulf Cooperation Council countries are the preferred choice for Sri Lankan workers, with Saudi Arabia being their key destination.

“We will get foreign currency at a time when we are undergoing a period of economic recovery,” Nallaperuma said. “It’s a great blessing from the Kingdom.”


Saudi surgeons successfully complete complex 16-hour operation separating Nigerian conjoined twins

Saudi surgeons successfully complete complex 16-hour operation separating Nigerian conjoined twins
Updated 01 March 2024
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Saudi surgeons successfully complete complex 16-hour operation separating Nigerian conjoined twins

Saudi surgeons successfully complete complex 16-hour operation separating Nigerian conjoined twins

Riyadh: Surgeons in Saudi Arabia on Thursday successfully completed a complex procedure of separating Nigerian conjoined twins Hassana and Hasina at King Abdullah Specialist Children’s Hospital in King Abdulaziz Medical City in Riyadh.

The twins, who arrived in Saudi Arabia last October, share areas in the lower abdomen, pelvis, lower spine, and lower spinal nerves.

The separation surgery took about 16 and a half hour and involved 39 consultants, specialists, technical, nursing, and support staff.

Head of the medical team Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah said the operation has a 70 percent success rate and involved nine stages.

“All the doctors who have participated are Saudi colleagues. We take pride in ensuring that young cadres have participated and thus secured the continuous exchange of experience, he told Al-Ekhbariya.

“Some 38 individuals, including consultants, specialists, and nursing and technical staff, participated. There are also fresh graduates in pediatric surgery, as well as other fields of surgery.

“They are contributing with us to ensure that experience is not limited to certain people, but rather continues for years to come in a country where achievement is constant and giving is permanent,” he added.

This is the 60th operation performed by the Saudi program for separating conjoined twins. Over the past 34 years, the program has cared for 135 sets of twins from 25 countries.

Dr. Al-Rabeeah emphasized the Kingdom’s pioneering role in humanitarian work in general and medical work in particular. 

He extended his sincere thanks to his fellow medical team members for their great efforts, pointing out that this medical achievement is an embodiment of Saudi medical excellence, which falls within the objectives of the Saudi Vision 2030. 

He also extended his thanks and appreciation to King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for their support and follow-up of the Saudi program for separating conjoined twins.

The parents of the twins expressed thanks to King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and praised the Kingdom’s great humanitarian role.


Russell Peters, the comedian enjoying the last laugh

Russell Peters, the comedian enjoying the last laugh
Updated 01 March 2024
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Russell Peters, the comedian enjoying the last laugh

Russell Peters, the comedian enjoying the last laugh
  • Canadian performer advises people to follow their dreams despite setbacks
  • Stand-up veteran recalls earning $50 for gigs, being booed off stage and learning on the job

RIYADH: Award-winning Canadian comedian Russell Peters has revealed the secret behind his successful career.

“Identify your dream and actively chase it,” Peters said during a recent interview on Arab News’ podcast, The Mayman Show. “It’s far more rewarding to have pursued your dream, even if you fail, than to passively wonder about it.”

Peters found his own path in 1989 when he began performing stand-up comedy at amateur shows. Despite not being allotted more than five minutes with the mic, he was determined to pursue his passion.

“If I got one laugh, I think that’s all I needed: Let’s figure this out, let’s try to figure out how to get more of those people,” he said on learning from his first performances.

Discussing his early career, he talked about being booed off stage in Toronto in 1993 while opening for The Pharcyde, a hip-hop group from the US. With hindsight, he laughs at his own arrogance then, viewing the experience as a well-deserved lesson.

Peters recounted how he would drive hours to perform, earning $50 plus complimentary chicken wings, a tank of gas, and a soda. During those days, he thought: “If I stayed, I’d be in the exact same financial position I would have been had I gone. So I wasn’t losing anything and I’d stay there and I’d be talking to people for free,” he said. “I just remember all the hard gigs, those were the fun ones.”

Fast-forward to 2024, and Peters has been hailed as one of the greatest comedians of all time by Rolling Stone, and has held the record for being the longest-standing comedian since 2007. He was also the first comedian to sell out Toronto’s Air Canada Center in 2007, and has performed in Vancouver’s Rogers Arena, London’s O2 Arena, and more. As part of his “Act Your Age” tour, which he has been doing since 2021, Peters recently took to the stage in Riyadh, performing at the Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University on Feb. 24.

This is his third visit to the Kingdom, and Peters admires the generosity of the Saudi people: “I remember at the hotel, they said, how did you sleep? And I said, it was honestly like the best, the most comfortable bed I’d ever felt in my life, and when I came back to my hotel room, they had packed up all the stuff that I complimented and shipped it to me in America.”

Peters also cherishes the memory of his performance at the Maraya building in AlUla in 2016, renowned as the world’s largest mirrored concert venue. “The acoustics are great in there because it’s built for that. And they put the sound dampeners in there. The same can’t be said for when I just performed in Egypt,” he said.

During his one-night performance in the country, American comedian Adam Hunter opened his show. Hunter is known for his popular Instagram channel, MMA Roasted, in which he humorously critiques fighters, and has been traveling with Peters for some time.

His latest show in the current tour is scheduled for March 3 in Bangalore, India, a place he regards as his true home. Beyond the stage, Peters also feels at home in the DJ booth. He said that his DJ career was purely for enjoyment, focusing mostly on old-school music. Peters said that his go-to song is “Black Trump” by Smif-N-Wessun and Raekwon.

Peters is currently practicing jujitsu, a form of martial art. His enduring passion for combat disciplines began at the age of 16 with boxing, because of bullying at school. Boxing became more than just a sport; it was a coping mechanism, especially after he was kicked out of school.

Later on, as his career developed in comedy, it also became a way of dealing with challenges.

“I would do it all the time growing up,” Peters said, “to try and get out of situations, dealt with a lot of racism growing up. So you just kind of figure out a way of getting out of situations by being funny.”


Saudi Arabia leads Arab condemnation of targeting of civilians in northern Gaza

People mourn at Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, over the body of a Palestinian killed.
People mourn at Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, over the body of a Palestinian killed.
Updated 01 March 2024
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Saudi Arabia leads Arab condemnation of targeting of civilians in northern Gaza

People mourn at Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, over the body of a Palestinian killed.
  • Israeli troops fired on a large crowd of Palestinians racing to pull food off an aid convoy in Gaza City on Thursday, witnesses said
  • More than 100 people were killed in the chaos, bringing the death toll since the start of the Israel-Hamas war to more than 30,000

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia strongly condemned and denounced the targeting of defenseless civilians in the northern Gaza Strip, the Kingdom’s foreign ministry said on Thursday.

Israeli troops fired on a large crowd of Palestinians racing to pull food off an aid convoy in Gaza City on Thursday, witnesses said.

More than 100 people were killed in the chaos, bringing the death toll since the start of the Israel-Hamas war to more than 30,000, according to health officials.

The ministry affirmed the Kingdom’s categorical rejection of international humanitarian law violations by any party and under any pretext.

The Kingdom renewed its call on the international community to take a firm stance by making Israel respect international humanitarian law, immediately open safe humanitarian corridors, allow the evacuation of the injured, and enable the delivery of relief aid and medical equipment without restrictions to mitigate the humanitarian catastrophe and prevent an escalation of it.

The Kingdom also repeated its call for an immediate ceasefire to prevent further innocent civilian casualties.

The UAE on Thursday also strongly condemned the military targeting thousands of Palestinians in Gaza Strip who were awaiting the arrival of humanitarian aid and called for an independent and transparent investigation into the incident, while demanding accountability for those responsible, Emirates News Agency reported.

In a statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed its “deep concern about the escalating humanitarian catastrophe” in the Gaza Strip, which threatened to claim more innocent civilian lives.

It also emphasized that the immediate priority was to halt the escalation of military operations and establish an immediate ceasefire.

The ministry reiterated the UAE's position, which calls for the protection of innocent civilians and the facilitation of immediate, safe, long-term, and unhindered delivery of relief and humanitarian aid.

It also emphasized the importance of preventing a regional spillover, which could lead to further violence, tension, and instability.

The ministry urged the international community to support all efforts to achieve a comprehensive and just peace based on a two-state solution that included an independent Palestinian state.

Kuwait also denounced Israel’s actions, labeling them a “war crime”, Kuwait News Agency reported.

The country’s foreign ministry reiterated Kuwait's call for an immediate ceasefire and unimpeded access to humanitarian aid in the Strip as well as its unequivocal rejection of Israel's systematic targeting of innocent civilians.

The ministry also urged the international community, and the UN Security Council, to provide protection to the Palestinian people as well as humanitarian workers operating in the Palestinian territories.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the deadly incident, and United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the events “need to be investigated.”


The Roman legionaries who pushed into Arabia all the way to Mada’in Salih

The Roman legionaries who pushed into Arabia all the way to Mada’in Salih
Updated 01 March 2024
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The Roman legionaries who pushed into Arabia all the way to Mada’in Salih

The Roman legionaries who pushed into Arabia all the way to Mada’in Salih
  • A British Museum exhibition showcases the lives of people who formed one of the most famous armed forces in the world
  • In the late 2nd century, a detachment of Third Cyrenean Legion was deployed to the conquered Nabataean town of Hegra

LONDON: Anyone who has watched the 2000 movie “Gladiator” will have a vivid, if not necessarily wholly accurate, idea about what life must have been like for the legendary legionaries who imposed Rome’s will upon much of the Mediterranean and beyond for half a millennium.

In the movie, Russell Crowe plays Maximus Decimus Meridius, a Roman general who falls victim to imperial politics after defeating the Germanic tribes of northern Europe. Betrayed, he ends up having to fight for his life as a gladiator in the Colosseum.

But as a new exhibition at the British Museum in London makes clear, life for the soldiers of Rome between about 30 BCE and 476 CE was not all about bloody battles with marauding barbarians.

FASTFACT

• The exhibition, ‘Legion: Life in the Roman army,’ can be viewed at the British Museum in London until June 23.

“The story of the Roman army is more than just pitched battles and war,” said Sir Mark Jones, interim director of the British Museum.

The exhibition, entitled “Legion: Life in the Roman army,” “is a chance to show different perspectives and showcase the lives of the men, women, and children who formed one of the most famous armed forces in the world.”

The exhibition features 200 fascinating artefacts, “iconic Roman military objects alongside contemporary evidence of the real lives of men, women, and children in forts and frontiers across the empire.”

The world’s only intact legionary shield, unearthed at the site of the ancient city of Dura-Europos, on the banks of the Euphrates in Syria. (Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery)

These include the world’s only known intact legionary shield, on loan Yale, the oldest and most complete classic Roman segmental body armor, recently excavated on a battlefield at Kalkriese in Germany; a cavalry mask helmet found in England; and a dragon standard unearthed in Germany.

But as fascinating as the exhibition is, it fails to tell the story of the legionaries who pushed further south into Arabia than many have previously realized — a story revealed by the discovery and excavation over the past 15 years by a joint French-Saudi archaeological team of a fortified camp on the very edge of the Roman empire.

The Roman historian Strabo described a disastrous expedition that penetrated as far south as modern-day Yemen in 25-24 BCE, but no archaeological evidence of this has been found, despite the reported loss of the large force led by Aelius Gallus, a Roman general from Egypt.

A copper alloy Roman legionary helmet from the British Museum exhibition. (Photo credit: British Museum)

The tale told by the stones and inscriptions at Hegra is the story of the men of Legio III Cyrenaica — the Third Cyrenean Legion. Thought to have been founded in Egypt by Mark Antony, in the early first century BCE the legion was transferred to the newly established Roman frontier province of Arabia, created after the annexation of the Nabataean Kingdom in 106 AD.

Here, it was based at Bosra, in the south of modern-day Syria. But at some point in the later 2nd century, a detachment of the legion was dispatched to police the conquered Nabataean town of Hegra, known in modern times as Mada’in Salih, which today is a UNESCO World Heritage site north of the Saudi town of AlUla.

There, a fort was built on the plateau on the southern edge of the town, in the lee of a hill on which a citadel was also constructed.

The first evidence of the presence of Roman troops emerged slowly, in inscriptions on stones used for building first found in the vicinity of Hegra as early as the 1970s.

Part of the southern perimeter wall of the Roman fort at Hegra. (Photo credit: Zbigniew T. Fiema)

“These found in the Hegra fort and by the southeast gate of the town could be identified as commemorative inscriptions left by still living soldiers,” said Zbigniew Fiema, an archaeologist from the University of Helsinki who is part of the Saudi-French Mada’in Salih Archaeological Project.

“The epigraphic customs of antiquity were characterized by something which we nowadays can identify with Facebook practices, because they often present simple yet informative messages — ‘Hello, I am here; I have done this and that.’

“The preservation of someone's name through an inscription was very important in antiquity. Also, ancient inscriptions are often invocations to deities, thanking or asking for protection.”

Written in Greek or Lartin, more than 14 inscriptions have been found, some of which bear witness to the presence of soldiers from Legio III Cyrenaica.

Several of the men who recorded their names for posterity describe themselves as “stationarii,” soldiers whose duties would have included monitoring travelers coming and going through the gates of Hegra, acting as a police force and maintaining highway security on what would have been an important stop on the imperial postal and transport system in Arabia.

Hegra (Mada’in Salih) monumental inscription dedicated to Imperator Marcus Aurelius in the Roman province of Arabia. (Wikimedia Commons)

Many of the inscriptions appear to be giving thanks to Hammon, a god worshipped in Libya and Upper Egypt and assimilated with the Roman deity Jupiter for successfully completed missions.

Some are etched into stone. But one of the longest is a Latin inscription painted in black, which somehow has survived, having endured the elements for over 1,800 years.

It begins: “To Our Jupiter Best and Greatest Hammon, and for the health of Our Lords the Emperors, and to the holy goddess Minuthis and the Genius of the Third Legion Cyrenaica, good fortune!”

It names five men — “Lollius Germanicianus the senatorial legate … Bennius Plautianus centurion and the soldiers’ friend … Flavius Saianus decurion, an excellent man, Flavius Nicomachus soldier of the legion, from the centuria of Aurelius Marcus, and Antonius Maximus Eros, from the centuria of Ancharius Secundus, stationarii” — all of whom “give thanks to the genius of the gate.”

A fearsome dragon standard found in Germany. (Photo credit: Koblenz Landesmuseum)

Some inscriptions are much shorter: “Remember Komodos!” beseeches one Greek inscription, found on a stone reused in a gateway built in the late 2nd or early 3rd century. An inscription on another re-used building block reads “Remember Ulpis, the camel-rider!”

The fort at which some of these men would have been stationed — built to a standard Roman army design and complete with perimeter walls, barracks, two gates, corner towers and possibly a small bathhouse, or heated room — is thought to have been one of the earliest military structures in Roman Arabia.

Excavated over several seasons since 2015, the fort has yielded a wealth of information and artifacts testifying to the Roman presence in Arabia, including numerous ceramics, often from the Mediterranean, bronze artefacts, more than 150 Roman and Nabataean coins, and pieces of what are thought to be horse harnesses and armor.

Part of the recently unearthed Roman fort in Hegra. (Photo credit: Zbigniew T. Fiema)

Also found were the butchered bones of animals that provided the garrison with meat — cattle, camel, donkey, horse, sheep and goat.

What isn’t clear is where the Roman soldiers were from.

“Some names indicate that their bearers originated in the Roman East, for example Syria, but some of these soldiers could have come from all over the world,” said Dr Fiema.

“We really do not know. However, since the units mentioned in these inscriptions are often attested for a long time as stationed in the Roman East, it will be reasonable to assume that the soldiers were often locals, drafted or volunteered in the Eastern provinces.”

A map of the Roman Empire shortly after Trajan's conquests of the kingdom of Nabataea, including Hegra in the interior. The province was soon reduced back to the line of limes Arabicus. (Wikimedia Commons: Tataryn)

The main significance of the discovery of the Roman fort at Hegra is “the solid confirmation of what we have suspected before that this part of the Hijaz was definitely a part of the Roman province of Arabia, and thus of the Roman Empire, and that the Roman presence was not ephemeral.

“We know that the 2nd century was a time of particularly intensive Roman activities in Arabia and in the Red Sea region. Also, at this point of time, we know that the Roman military presence in that part of Arabia extended at least until the end of the 3rd century.”

Prior to the discovery of the fort at Hegra, it was thought that the legions had advanced no further south into Arabia than the head of the Gulf of Aqaba.

“Scholarly hypotheses postulating that the northwest Hijaz was a part of the empire existed already in the late 20th century,” said Fiema.

“But the discovery of the Roman fort, and the Latin inscriptions, in Hegra have indeed confirmed the validity of these early hypotheses.

A cavalry helmet in the form of an Amazon. (Photo credit: British Museum)

“Unfortunately, most of the maps of the Roman Empire, which are published in school textbooks and scientific works, still show the border of the empire coterminous with that of the modern state of Jordan.”

So far, it is not known exactly when the Roman legions abandoned the Hijaz, or why.

Fiema has little doubt that archaeological evidence that the Romans advanced even further south into Arabia, as testified to by Strabo, remains to be unearthed.

“One should expect that intensive archaeological exploration of the Arabian Peninsula should bring more information on the Roman presence.”

There is some evidence that Roman legions may even have made it as far south as the Farasan Islands in the Red Sea off southwest Saudi Arabia.

 

The rebirth of AlUla
Hegra, ancient city of the Nabataeans in Saudi Arabia’s historic AlUla Valley, is emerging from the mists of time to take its rightful place as one of the wonders of the world
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