LONDON: US Senator Lindsey Graham said he “reserved the right to change course” on his opinion of Saudi Arabia following a visit to the Kingdom.
The Republican South Carolina senator arrived in Saudi Arabia last week for his trip, during which he met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and “thanked” the Kingdom for its $37 billion purchase of Boeing 787 aircraft.
He told ABC’s “This Week” program on Sunday that he had altered his views on the Kingdom and the reforms happening in the country after his visit, having been a vocal critic after the death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
Speaking to Al Arabiya’s Fatma Fahad, Graham said: “The world has changed, Saudi Arabia has taken a new path, 2018 still looms large, I’ll just be honest with you.”
He continued: “But, I see things happening here, that I didn’t think were possible, I thought it was all talk, so, I’m here to see it for myself.
“I’m going to go back home and tell my colleagues: ‘You need to go to Saudi Arabia and see what’s going on.’
“You bought $37 billion (worth) of aircraft made in my state and my country, I think more is coming, so as a United States senator, I reserve the right to change course. Saudi Arabia has changed course.”
Lauding the Vision 2030 reform program in the Kingdom, Graham urged Washington to take the opportunity to build stronger links with Saudi Arabia.
“If you can achieve Vision 2030, it will make Saudi Arabia a tourist destination, it will make it a better business partner, and if we can seize this moment to make a strategic alliance with Saudi Arabia militarily and economically, I think it is worth my time to come back and be part of that,” he said.
Graham said US interest in Saudi Arabia was about “caution and opportunity,” adding that American firms can help develop the Kingdom's plans for a nuclear energy program which, unlike Iran’s, would be for peaceful purposes.
“We are here for opportunity, this is the best chance I’ve seen in decades to upgrade the (US-Saudi) relationship,” he said.
“If you believe climate change is real, which I do, nuclear power is clean, it’s not emitting CO2. I want to try to be helpful there and have American companies involved in the nuclear business come over to help Saudi Arabia have a nuclear program,” he added.
The senator said he also wanted an “upgrade in the relationship militarily” to help defend against common enemies, to continue selling weapons to the Kingdom and to keep training Saudi officers in American schools.
“I would like to have some agreement with Saudi Arabia, I would be supportive of a mutual defense agreement,” he said. “I don’t know if we have the votes for it, but some agreement that would make Saudi Arabia more like a NATO ally and less like an adversary,” he added.
Graham also told Fahad that he told the Saudi leadership any deal with Assad would “jeopardize American presence in northeastern Syria” and would be “met with resistance.”
He continued: “We have 2,500 soldiers in Baghdad, the Iranians are trying to drive us out of the region, they don’t want us here, we stand in the way of their long-term objectives.”
UNESCO listing of Uruq Bani Ma’arid Reserve puts Saudi conservation efforts in the limelight
Decision seen as recognition of Kingdom’s commitment to protecting and maintaining natural ecosystems and cultural heritage
Inscription of the reserve on UNESCO World Heritage List comes more than 30 years after it was designated a protected zone
Updated 30 September 2023
LONDON: Uruq Bani Ma’arid Reserve has become the first natural site in Saudi Arabia to be added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List, joining the six man-made heritage locations in the Kingdom that were previously inscribed.
In the words of Prince Badr bin Abdullah, the Saudi minister of culture, when he announced the organization’s on September 20, the addition of the site “contributes to highlighting the importance of natural heritage on a global scale and reflects the outstanding value of the reserve.”
But the Kingdom’s dedication to the protection of its natural environment is far from a new phenomenon. The recognition by UNESCO reflects a long-running commitment by Saudi Arabia to the preservation of a diverse and internationally important natural environment that stretches back almost four decades.
The listing of the Uruq Bani Ma’arid Reserve, on the edge of Rub Al-Khali, also known as the Empty Quarter, comes more than 30 years after the area was designated a protected zone.
But it was not the first such site afforded protected status. That honor went to Harrat Al-Harrah, a 13,775 square kilometer volcanic plateau in the north of the country, which was designated as a reserve in 1986 — 37 years ago.
Uruq Bani Ma’arid joined the list in 1992 and since then the flora and fauna of the reserve have been sensitively reintroduced and protected, a commitment that has transformed what was once a near-barren landscape of more than 12,500 square kilometers into a haven of diversity.
In 1994, by which time 10 areas had been accorded protected status, a paper published in GeoJournal recorded the sorry state of Uruq Bani Ma’arid, an area that had once been rich in wildlife.
It was, for example, here that the Arabian oryx, by that time extinct in the wild, had last been sighted. In fact, as the paper — titled “Protected Areas in Saudi Arabia: Sustainable Use of Natural Resources” — noted, “Uruq Bani Ma’arid used to have many animal species that are now extinct.”
Uruq Bani Ma’arid has taken its place among the six other UNESCO World Heritage sites in Saudi Arabia.
Listing of Uruq Bani Ma’arid comes more than 30 years after the area was designated a protected zone.
Uruq Bani Ma’arid Reserve ecosystem embodies outstanding universal value and forms a unique and diverse landscape.
The problem, which had prompted the official intervention in the area in 1992, was that the age-old balance of sustainable use of natural resources had been upset by the rapid growth of the human population in the Kingdom and the incursion of roads and other infrastructure into once-remote areas, upsetting entire ecosystems in the process.
“People still remember vividly the diversity of fauna that the area had, and the tales of their hunting are still related,” Abdullah Alwelaie, of the Imam Mohammed bin Saud Islamic University’s Department of Geography in Riyadh, wrote in the 1994 GeoJournal paper.
“They are now all extinct in the wild in this area,” wrote Alwelaie, who offered some consolation when he noted that some wild species continued to hold out, including the Arabian wolf, sand fox, wild cat, sand cat, and honey badger.
The slopes of Jabal Tuwayq in the west of the reserve were once home to ibex, while the wadis, desert plains and sand dunes had teemed with Arabian oryx, sand gazelle, and Arabian ostrich.
Almost 30 years later, many of these species and more besides are once again thriving in the reserve — and, indeed, across the other 13 reserves in Saudi Arabia. These 14 special landscapes account for about five percent of the Kingdom’s territory — a total area of more than 82,000 square kilometers.
This, however, is just a start. Under the wide-ranging Saudi Green Initiative, a “whole-of-society initiative” launched in 2021 “to combat climate change, improve quality of life and protect the planet for future generations” as part of the Kingdom’s commitment to achieving net-zero emissions by 2060, Saudi Arabia has pledged to protect 30 percent of its terrestrial and marine landscape by 2030. The initiative is also committed to planting 10 billion trees across the country in the coming decades.
In the meantime, Uruq Bani Ma’arid has taken its place among the six other UNESCO World Heritage sites in Saudi Arabia. These include the Hegra Archaeological Site in AlUla (which was the first to be inscribed, in 2008), At-Turaif District in Diriyah (added to the list in 2010), Historic Jeddah, Gateway to Makkah (2014), Rock Art in the Hail Region (2015), Al-Ahsa Oasis — An Evolving Cultural Landscape (2018), and Ḥima Cultural Area (2021).
In January this year, Saudi Arabia was elected chair of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee by a unanimous vote among the 20 other member states that are party to the 1972 World Heritage Convention.
This month, Riyadh hosted the 45th annual session of the committee. It was, as the Kingdom’s permanent delegation to UNESCO tweeted, “a new chapter in our evolving history.”
The extent to which Saudi Arabia is focused on its natural and cultural heritage, which is apparent in its careful development of historic sites as AlUla and Diriyah as global tourism destinations, is also reflected in the list of 14 sites that have been registered on UNESCO’s “Tentative List” of locations that states intend to consider for nomination to the main list.
Six of these sites were added to the Tentative List this year alone. They include a collection of prehistoric stone structures discovered at 10 locations across the Kingdom; ancient dams that tell the history of water management; a collection of five sites that together are representative of Saudi Arabia’s oil-industrial heritage, including the famous “Well Number 7” in Dammam, and Tapline, Aramco’s 1,648-kilometer Trans Arab Pipeline that between 1950 and 1976 carried oil from Qaisumah on the Gulf coast to the Mediterranean port of Sidon in Lebanon.
Two of the recently submitted sites, however, could join the Uruq Bani Ma’arid Reserve as natural sites on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
One is the “Bioclimatic Refugia of Western Arabia,” a series of mountain crests, woodlands and wetlands that harbor the surviving relics of ancient plant and animal species.
The other is “the rural cultural landscapes of the Sarawat Mountains,” a collection of seven landscapes along the southernmost stretch of the Hijaz Mountains, prized for their “unique geographic characteristics and dramatic mountain setting (which) offered a secure and defensible environment for human settlement, protected agriculture, and fortified trade halts.”
These projects feed directly into the ambitious aims of the SGI, the third annual forum of which will take place this year during the 2023 UN Climate Change Conference, COP28, at Expo City in Dubai on Dec. 4.
As Yasir Al-Rumayyan, governor of the Public Investment Fund and chairman of Saudi Aramco, said last year during the second SGI forum, held during COP27 in the Egyptian city of Sharm El-Sheikh, the initiative represents “a turning point in green efforts” that has “already changed both the conversation and the facts, and promises a green future anchored around Saudi Arabia’s ambition to reach net-zero emissions by 2060, turning national ambitions into real actions that positively impact the world.”
On the ground in Saudi Arabia, that ambition is symbolized by the rapidly growing and spectacular list of protected environments, including its newly internationally recognized flagship, the Uruq Bani Ma’arid Reserve.
Saudi Arabia's heritage treasures
The five historic sites inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List tell a story of universal importance
Saudi Arabia strongly condemns ‘cowardly terrorist attacks’ in Pakistan
Updated 30 September 2023
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia on Friday said it strongly condemned and denounced the “cowardly terrorist attacks” that struck a number of provinces in Pakistan, killing and injuring several people.
A suspected suicide bomber blew himself up among a crowd of people celebrating the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday in southwestern Pakistan on Friday, killing at least 52 people and wounding nearly 70 others, authorities said, in one of the country’s deadliest attacks targeting civilians in months.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs reiterated the Kingdom’s firm stance on renouncing violence and terrorism, expressing full solidarity with Pakistan and its people.
#Statement | The Foreign Ministry expresses the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s strong condemnation and denunciation of the cowardly terrorist attacks that took place in several provinces of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, which resulted in the killing and injury of many people. pic.twitter.com/mAiYvkFgd7
Royal Commission for Riyadh City hosts Riyadh Expo 2030 seminar in Paris
Representatives from member countries of the Bureau International des Expositions and global experts attended the seminar
Princess Reema bint Bandar said Saudi Arabia is becoming the fastest-growing economy among the G20 countries
Updated 29 September 2023
PARUS: The Royal Commission for Riyadh City and the Riyadh Expo 2030 team co-organized a seminar focusing on the expo’s sub-theme “Prosperity for All” on Thursday in Paris.
Representatives from member countries of the Bureau International des Expositions and global experts attended the seminar that was hosted by RCRC, the body responsible for Saudi Arabia’s bid to host World Expo 2030, according to a media statement.
The Kingdom’s Ambassador to the US Princess Reema bint Bandar said her country is becoming the fastest-growing economy among the G20 members, with non-oil government revenues having more than doubled.
“The Kingdom achieved the highest employment rate in its history, increased participation of women in the workforce, and registered a significant growth of small and medium enterprises, with nearly 40 percent of startup businesses owned by women,” she said.
Meanwhile, Fahad Al-Ruwaily, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to France, highlighted the Kingdom’s commitment to finding common solutions, stating: “As we seek to find shared solutions, today I want to pledge to you that Saudi Arabia is committed to working together as a partner with all nations to achieve our common aspirations. We are committed to utilizing Riyadh Expo 2030 to further catalyze (the) collaboration necessary to achieve our shared goals.
“We are committed to sharing the opportunities of building the expo with the whole world, and our vision of Riyadh Expo 2030 is as an expo ‘built by the world, for the world.’”
Al-Ruwaily highlighted the strength of cooperation and partnership between Saudi Arabia and France and the broad development it has witnessed in recent years.
The seminar was part of a series organized by the RCRC in Paris under the theme “Prosperity for All.”
It discussed ways to address inequalities in the world, with every nation contributing through the prism of its culture, context, and aspirations, ultimately working toward a more inclusive world that meets the needs of humanity.
Saudi Arabia’s King Khalid University ranks among top 600 globally
Updated 30 September 2023
ABHA: Saudi Arabia’s King Khalid University has improved 300 places to rank among the top 600 seats of higher learning around the world, according to the latest Times Higher Education World University Rankings.
In the International Dimension Rankings, it ranked 117th globally and sixth locally among the top 200 international universities.
According to Hamid Al-Qarni, vice president of postgraduate studies and scientific research, the university has achieved a significant milestone and the progress is in line with the Kingdom’s plan to achieve global recognition of its universities.
Sami Al-Shehri, director of the international classification unit, said the magazine’s rankings were based on five areas: education, research environment, quality of research, international dimension and industry.
The classification also includes 18 performance indicators that are professionally evaluated to ensure a balanced ratio for all academic and research aspects of universities.
This year’s rankings covered more than 1,900 universities in 120 countries.
Saudi National Housing Co.’s Al-Qassim projects launched
Updated 30 September 2023
RIYADH: The National Housing Co. launched the Azyan Buraydah project in Al-Qassim, Buraydah.
The project is part of a series of plans being developed by the company in cooperation with the Bin Jarallah Co. for Trading and Contracting.
NHC aims to establish additional residential projects with comprehensive development for the purpose of meeting the aspirations of families and contributing to increasing home ownership.
The new project consists of 185 villas of 289 to 346 square meters each, on a total area of more than 59,906 square meters. Each villa has its own design, creating a unique lifestyle in a vibrant and integrated environment. As such, beneficiaries can enjoy a wide range of products to suit their needs.
More details of the units are posted on the Sakani website and application.
The NHC is an enabler of the real estate development sector. It is also the largest developer of suburbs and residential areas. Ensuring quality of life is one of the aims the company seeks to achieve, in addition to increasing the real estate supply in the Kingdom and providing diverse housing options as part of the goals of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 program, which plans to raise the rate of residential ownership among Saudi families to 70 percent.