Saudi Arabia ‘incredibly concerned’ about Red Sea, Gaza security, FM tells WEF

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan speaks next to Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs of Germany Annalena Baerbock during a panel session at WEF, in Davos, Switzerland. (AP)
Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan speaks next to Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs of Germany Annalena Baerbock during a panel session at WEF, in Davos, Switzerland. (AP)
Short Url
Updated 17 January 2024
Follow

Saudi Arabia ‘incredibly concerned’ about Red Sea, Gaza security, FM tells WEF

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan speaks next to Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs of Germany.
  • Prince Faisal bin Farhan: Peace between Israel, Palestinians ‘will resolve many of the challenges’ Mideast faces
  • Riyadh will continue to work with Washington ‘toward a much better future for the region’

LONDON: Saudi Arabia is “incredibly concerned” about regional security following Houthi attacks on international shipping in the Red Sea and the situation in Gaza, the Kingdom’s foreign minister said on Tuesday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Prince Faisal bin Farhan told a panel titled “Securing an Insecure World” that de-escalation in the Red Sea is essential, and that Riyadh will continue to “engage with all stakeholders” after US and UK airstrikes against Houthi positions in Yemen last week.
While “clearly connected with the war in Gaza,” it is important that the conflict in the Palestinian enclave is addressed separately, he said.
“We need to focus on the war in Gaza not because of the Red Sea,” he told the panel. “We need to focus on the war in Gaza because of its impact on the Palestinians, first, but on regional security in general and on the risks it poses for further escalation.”
Prince Faisal said since Israel began military operations in Gaza, nearly 30,000 Palestinians have died and humanitarian aid is still being heavily restricted, but he has “not seen any real sign” that Tel Aviv is achieving its strategic objectives.
He praised parts of the international community for “moving more in the direction” of calling for a cease-fire, adding that peace between the two sides “will resolve many of the challenges that we have in the region.”
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock called the war “a total disaster” and reiterated that the “only way out” of the ongoing situation is a two-state solution.
However, she said “a cease-fire, unfortunately, doesn’t fall from the sky” and can only be achieved if both sides “are ready.”

Baerbock said a “vicious circle” of blame is preventing a cease-fire from happening, but insisted that first and foremost, Hamas needs to lay down its weapons and release all remaining hostages in Gaza.
“The answer is there on the table,” she said. “But we can’t ignore that the majority of hostages are still (with) Hamas.”
US Sen. Christopher Coons said he is “optimistic” that peace can be achieved based on talks between American senators and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh in 2023, as well as meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv and Egyptian President Abdel-Fatah El-Sisi in Cairo.
However, Coons added that conditions in Gaza are worsening daily, and that Netanyahu has built a political career out of opposing a two-state solution.
Prince Faisal said he is heartened by the “concrete agreement” among major nations that the current situation is untenable, adding: “We need to translate that into action.”
He said Riyadh will continue to work with Washington “toward a much better future for the region,” and raised the possibility of future Saudi recognition of Israel if peace with the Palestinians could be reached.
Coons hinted that a series of elections in Western countries in 2024 could potentially affect the shape of the current set of Middle East crises.
He said Iran’s role in conflicts ranging from Yemen to Ukraine needs to be recognized, but talked down any possibility that a return to the White House for former President Donald Trump would lead to a US withdrawal from NATO. “The US rarely ratifies defense treaties, but when we do, we keep them,” Coons said.
Citing growing concerns about inter-regional conflicts, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said: “What happens in Asia matters for Europe.”
He also noted that Iran is aiding Russia in Ukraine, selling Moscow military drones and helping it construct drone and munitions facilities in Tatarstan.
But he said there is cause for optimism for Ukrainians, noting Russia’s failure to make major progress following the early days of the invasion, and highlighting Kyiv’s success in opening up channels for the export of grain through the Black Sea.
Finnish Foreign Minister Elina Valtonen said nobody wants to live in a world “where only the strongest survive,” adding that her country had felt compelled to join NATO because of Russia’s aggression, highlighting Moscow’s use of “hybrid strategies” to push “third-party citizens” from other countries into Europe via Finland’s border.
Pointing to Finland’s right to security, Nigerian Foreign Minister Yussuf Tuggar said: “What the minister says could apply just as much to Palestine — they have the right.”
He said the world needs to see concrete changes in the makeup of global security institutions, bemoaning a decline in international diplomacy, and adding that a country such as Nigeria should have a place on the UN Security Council. The UNSC “needs to democratize,” Tuggar said. “Clearly it isn’t fit for purpose.”
He added: “Nigeria is a large country. It’s the most populous country on the continent of Africa. It has a population of 220 million people — it’s going to be 400 million by the year 2050. It belongs in the UN Security Council.”


Black cloth covering Kaaba in Makkah raised ahead of Hajj

Black cloth covering Kaaba in Makkah raised ahead of Hajj
Updated 34 min 3 sec ago
Follow

Black cloth covering Kaaba in Makkah raised ahead of Hajj

Black cloth covering Kaaba in Makkah raised ahead of Hajj
  • The procedure is meant to keep the cover, known as kiswa, free from getting soiled and tampered with as pilgrims performing Hajj circumabulate the Kaaba

RIYADH: In keeping with the annual tradition, officials raised the lower part of the kiswa — the elaborately designed black cloth covering the Kaaba — in Makkah on Wednesday ahead of this year's Hajj pilgrimage.

As approved by the General Authority for the Care of the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, the exposed part was covered with a white cotton fabric, two-and-a-half meters wide and 54 meters long on all four sides, according to the Saudi Press Agency.

Carrying out the procedure were 36 specialized technical personnel with the aid of 10 cranes.

As described in the SPA report, the kiswa is lifted in several stages: It starts with unscrewing the bottom of the cover from all sides, separating the corners, then untying the bottom rope and removing it from the fixing rings, after which the cloth is rolled upward. The lanterns are then dismantled and the white cloth are put in place, after which the lanterns are reinstalled over the white cloth until the final stage.

The procedure is repeated every year to protect the kiswa from getting soiled and damaged as pilgrims circumambulate the Kaaba.

The annual Hajj in Saudi Arabia is considered the world's largest human gathering, with year 2012 marking the biggest number of participants at 3.16 million.

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Saudi authorities allowed only a symbolic observance of Hajj with just a thousand pilgrims. The numbers were gradually raised as the health crisis was placed under control worldwide. Last year, almost 1.84 million pilgrims performed the "once in a lifetime" journey and the figure is expected to go higher this year.

Every year, on the ninth day of the Islamic month of Dul Hijjah, the black silk cloth is removed and a new kiswa is draped in its place.


Saudi authorities limit entry to Makkah to Hajj visa holders

Saudi authorities limit entry to Makkah to Hajj visa holders
Updated 23 May 2024
Follow

Saudi authorities limit entry to Makkah to Hajj visa holders

Saudi authorities limit entry to Makkah to Hajj visa holders

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Interior announced that visit visa holders are not allowed to enter or stay in Makkah during May 23-June 21 as access to the city will be limited to Hajj visa holders.

The ministry stressed that all types of visit visa are not a permit to perform Hajj, adding that violators will be subject to penalties according to Saudi laws and regulations.


Saudi FM in Tehran conveys king, crown prince condolences for Iran president death

Saudi FM in Tehran conveys king, crown prince condolences for Iran president death
Updated 23 May 2024
Follow

Saudi FM in Tehran conveys king, crown prince condolences for Iran president death

Saudi FM in Tehran conveys king, crown prince condolences for Iran president death

RIYADH: Prince Faisal bin Farhan, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, conveyed the condolences of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to top Iranian officials in Tehran on Wednesday on the death of President Ebrahim Raisi and his companions.

Prince Mansour bin Muteb bin Abdulaziz, Adviser to King Salman and Minister of State, and Prince Faisal were received by Deputy Chief of Staff for Political Affairs to Iran President Mohammad Jamshidi and Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani.

Saudi ambassador to Iran Abdullah Al-Enazi attended the reception.


Saudi nature reserve becomes Kingdom’s ‘first major biodiversity site’

Saudi nature reserve becomes Kingdom’s ‘first major biodiversity site’
Updated 22 May 2024
Follow

Saudi nature reserve becomes Kingdom’s ‘first major biodiversity site’

Saudi nature reserve becomes Kingdom’s ‘first major biodiversity site’
  • Accreditation follows evaluation of King Salman bin Abdulaziz Royal Natural Reserve by the international organization Key Biodiversity Areas

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Royal Natural Reserve has been granted accreditation as “the first major biodiversity site in the Kingdom.”

The organization Key Biodiversity Areas confirmed the accreditation, after an evaluation based on international standards, on its website on Wednesday. It said the reserve meets three global standards, including the presence of endangered species, and so qualifies for inclusion. The announcement coincided with International Day for Biological Diversity, which takes place on May 22 each year.

KBA works to monitor and preserve approved sites of great importance as part of its efforts to sustain biological diversity on a global level, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The Saudi reserve is managed by the King Salman bin Abdulaziz Royal Natural Reserve Development Authority with the aim of protecting endangered species, developing natural habitats, raising environmental awareness among the public, and reducing natural and human threats to the area. It is considered the largest nature reserve in the Middle East, covering a total area of 130,700 square kilometers.


Saudi Arabia participates in UN tourism body meeting

Saudi Arabia participates in UN tourism body meeting
Updated 22 May 2024
Follow

Saudi Arabia participates in UN tourism body meeting

Saudi Arabia participates in UN tourism body meeting

Saudi Tourism Minister Ahmed Al-Khateeb headed the Kingdom’s delegation at the UN World Tourism Organization’s 50th meeting of the regional committee for the Middle East, on Wednesday in Muscat.

During his speech, the Saudi minister stressed the Kingdom’s openness to cooperate with member states to adopt joint regional tourism projects to attract international visitors to the region. 

Al-Khateeb thanked the Omani Minister of Heritage and Tourism Salem Al-Mahrouqi for the hospitality and extended his appreciation to the UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili and other officials for their efforts to advance the tourism sector globally.