Safer oil salvage is ‘excellent example of international cooperation,’ Saudi envoy tells Security Council

Safer oil salvage is ‘excellent example of international cooperation,’ Saudi envoy tells Security Council
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Updated 17 August 2023
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Safer oil salvage is ‘excellent example of international cooperation,’ Saudi envoy tells Security Council

Safer oil salvage is ‘excellent example of international cooperation,’ Saudi envoy tells Security Council
  • Ambassador Abdullah Alwasil also urged Houthis to prioritize ‘wisdom and reason and the interests of the Yemeni people over everything else’
  • America’s envoy welcomes recent release of detained UN personnel but calls on Houthis to free all of the people they are holding

NEW YORK CITY: With the imminent threat of a massive oil spill in the Red Sea averted, after the transfer of more than a million barrels of oil from the decaying Safer tanker to a storage vessel, Saudi Arabia’s permanent representative to the UN on Wednesday described the salvage operation as “an excellent example of international cooperation, which has reflected positively and significantly on the humanitarian situation in Yemen.”

Abdullah Alwasil added that “without a doubt, the international will has materialized and led to the success of the rescue operation through the transfer of that great quantity of oil from Safer to the new vessel.”

The Safer has been moored in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen, near the port of Hodeidah, for more than eight years, since the start of the civil war in the country. During that time it has had little or no maintenance and its condition has deteriorated to a point where there were growing fears of a catastrophic oil spill.

It contained more than 1.14 million barrels of oil, which is four times as much as was spilled during the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster off the coast of Alaska, one of the world’s worst ecological catastrophes.

The first phase of the UN salvage operation, during which the bulk of the oil was transferred to another storage vessel, was completed last week.

Speaking during a UN Security Council meeting on Wednesday to discuss the latest developments in Yemen, Alwasil said Saudi Arabia had been among the first to warn and direct “the attention of the international community to the potential catastrophe, had we neglected the tanker.”

He continued: “My government has repeatedly warned of the consequences of such a catastrophe and we worked to mobilize the efforts in order to develop a clear plan that would resolve this potential crisis.

“And we did not stop at that. We were among the largest donors who funded the rescue operation. To date we have provided $10 million to the UN agencies relevant to the rescue operation and we will continue to provide all forms of support to UNDP (UN Development Program) and OCHA (UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) until the operation is complete.”

Alwasil called for the second and final phase of the salvage operation, during which the Safer will be stripped and cleaned in preparation for towing and scrapping, to be completed “as guaranteed to the Yemeni parties before the beginning of the operation, in order for the Yemeni people to benefit from the oil revenue as per the initial plan of the United Nations.”

The Saudi envoy also joined other council members in expressing his condolences to the family of Mouayad Al-Humeidi, a World Food Program employee who was shot dead in the Yemeni city of Taiz last month.

He condemned the killing as an “act of betrayal,” and underscored the importance of ensuring humanitarian workers who dedicate their lives to alleviating the suffering of vulnerable populations are protected and remain safe.

Otherwise, Alwasil noted, Yemen has experienced an unprecedented period of calm lately, which has had a significant effect on the humanitarian and security situations in all parts of the country.

“This is a result of the mediation efforts for peace in Yemen, which continue to call for prioritizing the national Yemeni interests over everything else, and to find the common ground between the parties in order to address the political and economic issues in a manner that achieves economic well-being for the Yemeni people, and also calls for ceasing any military provocation that may prevent a political solution,” he said.

Saudi Arabia this month announced $1.2 billion in financial aid to support the Yemeni government’s budget and the first installment of $250 million has already been deposited with the Central Bank of Yemen, Alwasil told council members.

“This is an example of our continued interest in supporting the brotherly people of Yemen and we reiterate our interest in achieving stability and security in Yemen,” he added.

He urged all those involved in the conflict to accept political solutions to help restore security and stability in the country and overcome threats in the region.

“We reiterate our strategic initiative to end the war in Yemen and to reach a political settlement,” Alwasil said. “And we reiterate our support for UN and international efforts to achieve a political solution as per Security Council Resolution 2216.

“We also reiterate our firm position in support of the Presidential Leadership Council. And we hope that the current efforts for a settlement will reach a comprehensive solution, and we continue to call on the Houthis to prioritize wisdom and reason and the interests of the Yemeni people over everything else.”

The UK’s ambassador to the UN, Barbara Woodward, also commended the successful completion of the operation to transfer oil from the Safer, and said it was an achievement that exemplifies the potential of collective efforts for the benefit of Yemen and its people.

Drawing inspiration from this milestone, she urged all parties in Yemen to capitalize on the improved conditions in the country and work collaboratively as part of a UN-led Yemeni-Yemeni peace process.

She also urged the Houthis to cease their “attacks and continued threats to prevent oil exports from government-controlled areas (which) are severely impacting Yemen’s economy. These attacks on the economy are attacks on the livelihoods and services for some of the most vulnerable people in Yemen.”

Woodward welcomed the recent deposit of $250 million in Yemen by Saudi Arabia “as the first tranche of a generous $1.2 billion pledge of economic support.” But she noted that the country’s government will remain dependent on such external funding to provide basic services and pay the wages of public-sector workers until the Houthis halt their economic warfare and the government can begin to generate its own revenues.

Woodward also highlighted Houthi “impediments to the free movement of female aid workers to deliver assistance to women in need; to independent monitoring and assessment missions; and to the fair selection of humanitarian service providers.”

She added: “The humanitarian response is already severely underfunded. These impediments pose additional, and entirely avoidable, burdens on the humanitarian effort and ultimately on the Yemeni people. We urge the Houthis to lift restrictions and allow unfettered access of humanitarian aid.”

US ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield welcomed the recent release of five UN workers who were kidnapped in the southern governorate of Abyan last year.

But she said “too many innocent people are still in detention, including wrongfully targeted individuals and religious minorities — as well as members of the United States’ locally employed staff, who have been detained in Sanaa for over a year-and-a-half.”

She added: “We call for the release of all those who have been unjustly detained, including 11 Yemeni Baha’is and Levi Marhabi.”

The Baha’is are a minority religious community in Yemen. Marhabi is a Jewish citizen of the country who has been held by the Houthis since 2016.


Saudi foreign minister praises China’s support for Gaza ceasefire efforts

Saudi foreign minister praises China’s support for Gaza ceasefire efforts
Updated 30 May 2024
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Saudi foreign minister praises China’s support for Gaza ceasefire efforts

Saudi foreign minister praises China’s support for Gaza ceasefire efforts
  • Prince Faisal reiterated calls for an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza and an uninterrupted flow of aid into the enclave

BEIJING: Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan on Thursday praised China’s support for efforts to end the war on Gaza and push for the two-state solution.

In his address at the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum in Beijing, Prince Faisal reiterated calls for an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza and an uninterrupted flow of aid into the enclave.

He called for deeper cooperation to establish a reliable and irreversible path to the two-state solution, noting that constant dialogue is crucial for achieving regional peace.

He rejected foreign interference in the Middle East and called for efforts to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction in the region.

China hosted a summit on Thursday focusing on the Israel-Hamas war in which Chinese President Xi Jinping promised more humanitarian aid in Gaza and called for an international peace conference.

The summit, attended by heads of state from Egypt, the UAE, Bahrain and Tunisia among others, was set to address China’s expanding trade ties and security concerns related to the Israel-Hamas war.


KSrelief extends training, water, health projects in Yemen

KSrelief extends training, water, health projects in Yemen
Updated 30 May 2024
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KSrelief extends training, water, health projects in Yemen

KSrelief extends training, water, health projects in Yemen

RIYADH: The Kingdom’s aid agency KSrelief is extending its training, food and health projects for vulnerable people in Yemen, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Wednesday.

In Taiz and the Hadramout governorate, the agency launched a life-skills program for orphans and women, which including sewing, managing businesses, and maintaining mobile phones.

In Aden, KSrelief concluded a training program on community cohesion in cooperation with the UN Development Programme, covering peace committees, conflict resolution and mediation.

In addition, the aid agency distributed 634 food parcels to 4,438 individuals in Aden.

In Hodeidah, 2,600 personal hygiene bags were delivered to displaced people in the Al-Jisha and Bani Jaber camps.

KSrelief also signed a deal with a civil society organization in Taiz to dig a well in the area that would benefit 3,150 individuals.

In Socotra governorate, KSrelief signed a pact with a civil society organization to construct a tank that would supply clean water to villages.


Saudi Railways announces increased seating capacity of Haramain High-Speed Train for Hajj season

Saudi Railways announces increased seating capacity of Haramain High-Speed Train for Hajj season
Updated 30 May 2024
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Saudi Railways announces increased seating capacity of Haramain High-Speed Train for Hajj season

Saudi Railways announces increased seating capacity of Haramain High-Speed Train for Hajj season

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia Railways on Wednesday announced the readiness of the Haramain High-Speed Railway to receive pilgrims for this year’s Hajj season and said it has increased the number of available seats by about 100,000.

SAR revealed its operational plan for the season at its five stations linking Makkah to Madinah, bringing the total number of seats to 1.6 million, up from more than a 1.3 million seating capacity last year, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
The 453-kilometer railway passes through the main Jeddah station in the Sulaymaniyah district, King Abdulaziz Airport station in Jeddah, and King Abdullah Economic City. 
“This expansion also considers the addition of more than 430 new trips to last year’s trips, raising the number of trips scheduled in the operational plan for this year to more than 3,800” from May 9 to June 25, while the numbers of trips on peak days will be 126, SPA said.
The Haramain High-Speed Railway train ranks among the 10 fastest electric trains globally. It reaches 300 km per hour, and operates a fleet of 35 trains, with a capacity of 417 seats per train. It functions based on an environment-friendly system and zero carbon emissions, and plays an important role in preserving roads’ infrastructure by reducing road traffic.


Islamic Ministry unites volunteers to serve pilgrims

Islamic Ministry unites volunteers to serve pilgrims
Updated 29 May 2024
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Islamic Ministry unites volunteers to serve pilgrims

Islamic Ministry unites volunteers to serve pilgrims
  • The initiative is part of the ministry’s ongoing efforts to promote a culture of volunteering within communities

MAKKAH: Almost 5,000 people are set to volunteer for programs launched by the Makkah arm of the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Dawah and Guidance, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Wednesday.

The branch has launched 247 opportunities via its volunteering platform to coincide with the start of the Hajj season. These include distributing more than 235,000 water bottles at 3,850 mosques, providing umbrellas to pilgrims for protection against the sun, distributing booklets and providing meals.

The initiative is part of the ministry’s ongoing efforts to promote a culture of volunteering within communities.

Earlier, the Presidency of Religious Affairs at the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque launched its operational plan for Hajj, promoting voluntary and humanitarian work.

It recognizes the Two Holy Mosques as attractive environments for such efforts, based on religious and Saudi values that highlight the importance of generosity and hospitality.


Al-Jubeir meets US, Costa Rica officials in Riyadh

Al-Jubeir meets US, Costa Rica officials in Riyadh
Updated 29 May 2024
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Al-Jubeir meets US, Costa Rica officials in Riyadh

Al-Jubeir meets US, Costa Rica officials in Riyadh

Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and climate envoy Adel Al-Jubeir met Robert Karem, national security adviser to US Senator Mitch McConnell, on Wednesday in Riyadh.

In a separate meeting, Al-Jubeir met Costa Rica’s non-resident ambassador to the Kingdom, Francisco Chacon Hernandez.

The talks in both meetings centered on bilateral relations as well as regional and international issues of mutual interest.