Kishida aide describes PM’s visit as ‘precious opportunity’ to deepen Saudi-Japan ties

Special Kishida aide describes PM’s visit as ‘precious opportunity’ to deepen Saudi-Japan ties
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and visiting Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida during the welcoming ceremonies at Al-Salam Palace in Jeddah on Sunday. (SPA)
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Updated 17 July 2023
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Kishida aide describes PM’s visit as ‘precious opportunity’ to deepen Saudi-Japan ties

Kishida aide describes PM’s visit as ‘precious opportunity’ to deepen Saudi-Japan ties
  • 'We hope visit will accelerate Saudi-Japan exchanges in economy, energy, green tech and culture,' says Noriyuki Shikata
  • Says Japan needs to do more regarding gender equality and that it can learn from new measures introduced by Saudi Arabia

JEDDAH: Japan hopes a visit by its prime minister to Saudi Arabia will help accelerate bilateral cooperation in several fields, Noriyuki Shikata, Cabinet secretary for public affairs to the prime minister of Japan, told Arab News Japan on Sunday.

Shikata also said he is aware of the reforms happening in Saudi Arabia, which has recently surpassed Japan when it comes to closing the gender gap, according to recent figures released by the World Economic Forum.

Japan is aware of its need to do more with regards to gender equality, Shikata said, adding that the two countries can learn from each other.

“As Saudi Arabia introduces new policy measures related to gender equality, we can learn from each other,” he said.

Shikata’s comments came as Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida arrived in Jeddah on Sunday afternoon.

He was joined by a Japanese delegation of businesspeople, ready to explore a Saudi Arabia brimming with investment and cooperation opportunities.

Later on Sunday, Kishida, who is on a tour of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar, attended the Saudi-Japan Roundtable Meeting along with Saudi Minister of Investment Khalid Al-Falih.

The main objective of the event was to strengthen economic and investment ties between Saudi Arabia and Japan.

Shikata described Kishida’s visit as a “precious opportunity” to deepen ties between the two nations. “In Jeddah, Kishida is discussing how we can grow our cooperation, including in economic areas,” he said.

“Saudi Arabia has been working hard on Vision 2030 for the reform of (the) Saudi economy and diversification of its industries.”




Just hours after his arrival, PM Fumio Kishida participated in a Saudi-Japan Roundtable meeting in Jeddah on Sunday. (SPA)

Shikata explained that Japan has been dependent on Saudi Arabia for oil imports, but the plan is to build on it. “We wish to move on to new areas of decarbonized energy, including hydrogen or ammonia. We see Saudi Arabia as a great opportunity for producing either green or blue energy for the future,” he said.

“We are hoping this visit would accelerate exchanges between the two countries.”

According to Shikata, one of Kishida’s major topics of discussion is the transition to clean energy, a field Japan wants to further collaborate on with Saudi Arabia.

“We need to encourage growth in green energy. Some of the Japanese companies currently visiting Jeddah are looking to develop new solutions for green transition,” he said.

“We think if more Japanese people, including businesspeople, visit Saudi Arabia, they will find more opportunities for cooperation.”




Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (R) meets with Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (2nd left) at Al-Salam Palace in Jeddah on Sunday. (SPA)

Shikata said Kishida planned to propose a “global green energy hub.”

He added: “This global green energy journey could include hydrogen in the supply chain or green materials, like green steel and all that is related to the supply chain.

“We hope to reach agreements on this topic. We are hopeful Kishida is likely to propose this idea.”

Shikata believes the relationship between the Kingdom and Japan stands on the cusp of a transformation. He put it this way: Japan has been importing much of its oil from Saudi Arabia, but in 10 to 20 years’ time, the energy supply chain composition could be different.

“Since Japan is so dependent on the Kingdom for energy, we think this close partnership could be a great basis for future plans,” he said.

In terms of regional security and peace, Shikata said Japan “welcomes” the new agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

“We have diplomatic ties with Iran, so when better relations emerged between the two nations, that was good news for the region,” he said




Noriyuki Shikata, Cabinet secretary for public affairs to the prime minister of Japan. (ANJP photo)

Japan has been proactive in ensuring peace and security in the region, especially with regard to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

“Japan has been trying to be constructive in the Middle East peace process and we are against any change in the status quo from any parties,” Shikata said.

“Japan has been proactive in providing humanitarian assistance to Palestinian refugees. We are hopeful that there will be peaceful settlement of issues. We wish to be supportive.”

He added that Japan is aware of Saudi Arabia’s stance on the situation, and the Asian country is “eager” to support the Kingdom’s efforts.




Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida holds bilateral talks with Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah (2nd-L) in Tokyo on September 28, 2022. (AFP/File photo)

Japan is also engaging in some recovery projects in Yemen through the UN and hoping to promote peace there as well.

Moving on to the other geopolitical topics, Shikata pointed out that Kishida has imposed sanctions against Russia since its invasion of Ukraine in February of last year.

“Because Japan has suffered from a nuclear power-plant disaster in 2011, there has been expectation from the Ukrainian side to support recovery and reconstruction of the country after a ceasefire,” Shikata said.

As Japan and Saudi Arabia cooperate on fields such as renewable energy, Shikata told Arab News Japan that cultural developments are important as well.

“I understand that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is a big fan of anime,” he said, pointing out that the Saudi sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund, has made “investments in the entertainment industry,” one of them being “a substantial one in Nintendo.”

Elaborating on the topic, Shikata said: “Given this appreciation of Saudi people for Japanese pop culture or anime, I think there’s room for young Saudi students to come to Japan and start studying Japanese because they are interested in anime.”




Earlier this year, the Saudi company Manga Productions signed a partnership with Japan's Tsubasa Co. to produce and distribute “Captain Tsubasa”, also known as Captain Majid, and various other projects.  (Supplied)

He added that appreciation for the hit anime “Captain Tsubasa,” or “Captain Majid,” in the Arab world can be an opportunity for cultural exchanges.

As Saudi Arabia aims to host the World Expo in 2030, several countries have voiced their support for its bid ahead of the final vote in November.

“Saudi Arabia is a very good candidate, and we hope that at the Osaka, Kansai Expo 2025, the Saudi pavilion will be very popular,” Shikata said.

“I’m sure Saudi (Arabia) will be a very competitive candidate in terms of hosting such events.”

Kishida will travel to the UAE and Qatar to continue his first trip to the Middle East since assuming office in 2021.


Saudi, Qatari communications ministers discuss joint initiatives to support growth of digital economy

Saudi, Qatari communications ministers discuss joint initiatives to support growth of digital economy
Updated 9 sec ago
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Saudi, Qatari communications ministers discuss joint initiatives to support growth of digital economy

Saudi, Qatari communications ministers discuss joint initiatives to support growth of digital economy
  • The parties discussed ways to expand the strategic partnership between the countries in digital government

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Communications and Information Technology Abdullah Alswaha on Tuesday met his Qatari counterpart Mohammed Al-Mannai in Doha, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The parties discussed ways to expand the strategic partnership between the countries in digital government and the digital economy, and techniques to enhance the innovation and entrepreneurship system.

“This is in line with the aspirations of the Saudi-Qatari Coordination Council to support and strengthen the partnership between the two brotherly countries,” the SPA’s statement said.

The meeting was attended by several leaders of national technology companies in the fields of business, digital transformation, and digital health solutions, along with other representatives from both parties.


Saudi Cabinet approves new railway law

Saudi Cabinet approves new railway law
Updated 28 February 2024
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Saudi Cabinet approves new railway law

Saudi Cabinet approves new railway law

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Cabinet approved on Tuesday new regulations that govern the railways in the Kingdom.

The decision “supports achieving the goals of the National Transport & Logistics Strategy, and contributes to the governance of the railway sector and regulates the relationship between the infrastructure owner, the operator and the beneficiary,” Minister of Transport and Logistic Services Saleh Al-Jasser said.

The new regulations will ensure that railway services providers continue to apply the highest standards and requirements for safety and quality, and will develop policies and legislation that ensure fair competitiveness, the minister added.

In 2023, the number of railways passengers exceeded 11.2 million, a 55% increase compared to 2022. Trains also transported 24.7 million tons of goods and minerals, an increase of 6% during the same year.

Al-Jasser stated that regulations will contribute to encouraging use and ensure the protection of railways, their infrastructure, and facilities in accordance with internationally approved standards. 

The new law also specified penalties to protect railway tracks from violations and damage to the network.

The minister thanked King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for approving the new law.


Best of the East: Saudi artists on show at Riyadh exhibition

Best of the East: Saudi artists on show at Riyadh exhibition
Updated 28 February 2024
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Best of the East: Saudi artists on show at Riyadh exhibition

Best of the East: Saudi artists on show at Riyadh exhibition
  • Series of ink drawings by veteran Abdulrahman Al-Soliman is a highlight of Art Biennale in Riyadh

RIYADH: Series of ink drawings by veteran Abdulrahman Al-Soliman is a highlight of Art Biennale in Riyadh

Work by several of the best artists from the Kingdom’s Eastern Province is on show at the international Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale in Riyadh.

Among them is Abdulrahman Al-Soliman, who has been a force in the Saudi art world for decades. His series of ink drawings, titled “Palm, Bow and Fragments” (1990-91) is on show for the first time.

Born in 1954 in Al-Ahsa, Al-Soliman told Arab News he created the collection during the Gulf War more than 30 years ago. “I lived with the side effects of the Kuwaiti conflict and its liberation. I started organically, I didn’t know it would become a series,” he said.

“Since 1970, I have been making art. And this series on display at the biennale — some in color, some not — I rolled them up and put them aside. This is the first time anyone has seen them displayed.”

Another Eastern Province artist whose work is on show is Nabila Al-Bassam, who founded the Arab Heritage Gallery in Alkhobar in 1979. Al-Bassam is a mixed-media artist who uses traditional textile-making processes to produce and create multilayered collages. She is delighted to be among the artists on show.

“What stood out to me at the biennale was the works of Saudi women artists, I really was surprised,” she said.

“I’ve seen many beautiful works. The installations, the hangings — very, very interesting, made out of metal and things like this. There’s a lot to be excited about. They were large works and they were new works, completely new, modern and a new way of thinking.”

The younger generation is also exhibiting in Riyadh. Tara Aldugaither, 34, grew up in Dhahran and in 2020 founded Sawtasura — “voice of the image” — a community-based platform that collects and reimagines the musical histories of Arab women.

The biennale is taking place in the city’s JAX district and continues until May 24.


Saudi Cabinet calls for an end to escalation of military operations in Gaza

Saudi Arabia’s Cabinet held a meeting in Riyadh on Tuesday. (SPA)
Saudi Arabia’s Cabinet held a meeting in Riyadh on Tuesday. (SPA)
Updated 27 February 2024
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Saudi Cabinet calls for an end to escalation of military operations in Gaza

Saudi Arabia’s Cabinet held a meeting in Riyadh on Tuesday. (SPA)

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Cabinet called for an end to the escalation in military operations in Gaza and the dire humanitarian crisis that it is causing, Saudi Press Agency reported on Tuesday.

The Cabinet also reviewed the outcomes of the Kingdom’s participation in a two-day meeting of G20 foreign ministers in Rio de Janeiro and its vision regarding the group’s role in dealing with existing international tensions and restructuring global governance.

The Cabinet also reiterated the Kingdom’s support for regional and international efforts to ban all types of weapons of mass destruction as was expressed during its participation in the UN Conference on Disarmament in Geneva.

The Cabinet also praised the outcomes of a recent Arab Interior Ministers’ Council held in Tunisia and stressed the Kingdom’s constant keenness to support and enhance joint Arab action in all fields in a way that contributes to establishing the foundations of security, stability, and prosperity in the region.


Saudi artist, 78, presents solo exhibition in Riyadh

Saudi artist, 78, presents solo exhibition in Riyadh
Updated 27 February 2024
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Saudi artist, 78, presents solo exhibition in Riyadh

Saudi artist, 78, presents solo exhibition in Riyadh
  • For 50 years, Sami Almarzoogi quietly pursued his love for art alongside his medical practice

RIYADH: Saudi artist Dr. Sami Almarzoogi’s solo exhibition at L’Art Pur Foundation in Riyadh “Is This a Gold Bar?” demonstrates the benefits of never giving up on your passion.

Presented in collaboration with Hafez Gallery, the showcase presents Almarzoogi’s diverse body of work, encompassing paintings, drawings and mixed-media pieces, which delve deep into his exploration of materials, techniques and themes. He invites viewers to immerse themselves in the emotions he seeks to capture with each stroke of his brush.

‘Is This A Gold Bar?’ by Sami Almarzoogi (Inset, right) invites viewers to immerse themselves in the emotions the artist seeks to capture with each stroke of his brush. (Supplied)

“The exhibition’s title, arrangement, and presentation serve as windows into my inner world, where shadows give way to the unveiling of my creations in the light of day, beckoning viewers to embark on a captivating artistic odyssey,” the artist explained.

His art — drawing inspiration from nature, human figures, personal experiences, and decorative objects — defies categorization, encouraging viewers to ponder the emotional depth conveyed through color and form.

HIGHLIGHTS

● Sami Almarzoogi’s art draws inspiration from nature, human figures, personal experiences, and objects.

● ‘Is This A Gold Bar?’ is being showcased at L’Art Pur in collaboration with Hafez Gallery in Riyadh.

● Curated by Ayman Yossri Daydban, the exhibition signifies a pivotal moment in Almarzoogi’s artistic journey.

Curated by Ayman Yossri Daydban, the exhibition signifies a pivotal moment in Almarzoogi’s artistic journey. Daydban is a celebrated visual artist based in Saudi Arabia who brings a unique perspective shaped over three decades of artistic practice, ensuring a nuanced and stimulating presentation of the artist’s work.

Sami Almarzoogi invites viewers to immerse themselves in the emotions the artist seeks to capture with each stroke of his brush. (Supplied)

Almarzoogi was born in 1945 and spent over three decades unraveling the transformative potential of color and line. Through an intuitive exploration of motifs straddling the realms of figuration and abstraction, his work radiates with sensitivity, drawing prowess, and a profound understanding of color theory.

Almarzoogi said: “Drawing transcends mere equations of form, color, and ideas, or even complex formulations including feelings. It is, in fact, a sentiment taking shape in form, anchoring itself through colors, and blooming into a tapestry of ideas.”

Qaswra Hafez, Hafez Gallery founder

His creative process, he added, “is a reflection of diverse experiences and emotions, unfolding freely on blank canvases, unbound by symbols and interpretations. This natural approach to artistry transcends the confines of studios, beckoning an existential exploration enriched by observation, travel, and a universal spirit.”

Speaking about the journey captured in his works, he said: “In my artistic journey, the transition from darkness to doubt and ultimately light mirrors my personal growth, culminating in the radiant beauty of radiance.”

Sami Almarzoogi invites viewers to immerse themselves in the emotions the artist seeks to capture with each stroke of his brush. (Supplied)

His creative journey, initially interwoven with a distinguished career in anesthesiology, found its full expression upon his return to Saudi Arabia in the mid-1980s, following an enriching decade-long sojourn in Germany.

Qaswra Hafez, founder of Hafez Gallery, said: “In my 35 years involved in the arts one way or another, producing this exhibition gave me the most confidence measure. It’s not every day that you find a 78-year-old artist who has been working in silence for over 50 years and never had a solo. It was such a joy for me to watch (and) see the exhibition the first time.”

It’s not every day that you find a 78-year-old artist who has been working in silence for over 50 years and never had a solo. It was such a joy for me to watch (and) see the exhibition the first time.

Qaswra Hafez, Hafez Gallery founder

Kenza Zouari, communication manager at Hafez Projects, said: “Sami Almarzoogi’s life is a testament to the courage to embark on new journeys. After years in the medical field, he made the bold decision to pursue his lifelong passion for art and his relentless quest for exploration led him to dive into the world of colors, shapes and forms with the same dedication and precision he once had in the operating room.”

She added: “With brushes replacing medical tools, Dr. Almarzoogi kept on trying new styles and techniques with this insatiable hunger for experimentation. His transition from doctor to artist was not just a career change; it was a profound transformation that allowed him to fully explore and express himself.

Sami Almarzoogi invites viewers to immerse themselves in the emotions the artist seeks to capture with each stroke of his brush. (Supplied)

“Today, as we stand witness to his incredible body of work, we are reminded of the possibility within each of us to pursue our passions. Dr. Almarzoogi’s story is a powerful reminder that it is never too late to chase our dreams.”

Echoing this sentiment, Rania Rizk, director of the arts program at L’Art Pur Foundation, said: “We are thrilled to present the second solo exhibition, offering the Riyadh audience a glimpse into his extensive artistic journey and captivating narrative. Dr. Almarzoogi’s dedication to painting and drawing, quietly and authentically, alongside his medical profession, reflects his unwavering passion for art.

“His close friend, artist Ayman Yossri, as the curator, (ensues) the spiritual essence of the artwork shines through, enriching the exhibition with a deep sense of warmth and meaning.”

The exhibition at L’Art Pur is open to the public until Feb. 29 at 8 p.m.