‘We are in favor of an immediate ceasefire in Gaza,’ Costa Rican FM Arnoldo Andre Tinoco tells Arab News

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Updated 03 February 2024
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‘We are in favor of an immediate ceasefire in Gaza,’ Costa Rican FM Arnoldo Andre Tinoco tells Arab News

‘We are in favor of an immediate ceasefire in Gaza,’ Costa Rican FM Arnoldo Andre Tinoco tells Arab News
  • Central American nation’s top diplomat says his government supports UN’s stance on two-state solution
  • Visiting Riyadh, Tinoco backs greater engagement with Saudi Arabia on the green transition and infrastructure

RIYADH: Costa Rica supports a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas conflict, for the free flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza and for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, its foreign affairs minister said.

Arnoldo Andre Tinoco made the comments in an interview with Arab News on Tuesday in Riyadh during his official visit to Saudi Arabia.

“We have clearly stated that we are in favor of an immediate ceasefire and allowing humanitarian aid to enter Gaza,” he said.

“We are vocal about the liberation of hostages and of course of the two-state solution — in peace, living together, as has been resolved many times by the UN.”




Costa Rican Minister of Foreign Affairs Arnoldo Tinoco. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
 

Israel launched its military campaign in Gaza in response to the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on southern Israel, which saw Palestinian militants kill some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and take another 240 hostage, including many foreign nationals.

Since then, the Israeli military has waged a ferocious air and ground campaign against Hamas, which has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007, killing more than 25,000 Palestinans, according to the Gaza health ministry.

Tinoco said Costa Rica’s rejection of militarism and support for diplomacy meant it was a strong believer in the authority of the UN and the importance of international law.




Palestinian families flee from Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on January 22, 2024 amid Israeli bombardment as as the Gaza War continues. (AFP)

“Costa Rica is a country without an army. We abolished, 75 years ago, the armed forces and therefore rely for our entire foreign policy and diplomatic efforts on the basis of international law,” he said.

“Therefore, the resolutions of the UN are a very good guideline on how the states should behave vis a vis this conflict.”

Tinoco was in Riyadh to meet Saudi officials, including Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir, at a time when Costa Rica is expanding its diplomatic and commercial relationship with the Middle East.




Costa Rican FM Arnoldo Andre Tinoco met with Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir in Riyadh on Wednesday. (Supplied)

For more than two decades, the Central American country had little exchange with the Arab world due to former President Luis Alberto Monge’s decision to move the nation’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in 1982.

In 2006, the embassy returned to Tel Aviv, helping the resumption of ties with Middle Eastern countries, including Saudi Arabia.

“During our administration — we took over in May 2022 — the relationship has increased and has been enhanced with constant visits of your ministers and constant visits of my person and soon other ministers to Riyadh in order to improve the relationship and to find concrete ways on how we can cooperate with each other in the different fields,” Tinoco said.

“I have had meetings, of course, with the Foreign Ministry. I have had meetings with the Ministry of Investment, with the Ministry of Agriculture, with the Ministries of Trade and Commerce and many other authorities, which gives us a broad scope about what’s happening here in Saudi Arabia.”




Costa Rican FM Arnoldo Andre Tinoco spoke to Arab News Deputy Editor-in-Chief Noor Nugali after meeting Saudi officials. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)

Asked what he thought about the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 plan for social reform and economic diversification, launched in 2016 to wean Saudi Arabia off its reliance on oil and expand into new sectors, Tinoco said the pace of progress was commendable.

“It’s very impressive. What was explained to me one year ago and what we’re seeing now after a year, the effort, the strength, the investment, the passion with which the Saudi government and its people are looking for a change, impresses anyone,” he said.

“You see new things everywhere. You see new ideas everywhere. You see progress. You see the growth in the number of tourists visiting the country and you see the progress being made daily.

“I know it’s a very young country. I know more than 70 percent of the population is under 35 and this helps, of course, a society to change and to progress much quicker than others.”

Costa Rica mainly exports agricultural products such as bananas and coffee to Saudi Arabia, as well as medical equipment. By expanding relations with the Gulf economies, Tinoco hopes that two-way trade can grow and diversify.




Coffee plantation lined with bananas on the fertile slopes of Poas Volcano in Costa Rica's central highlands. High-yield Arabica hybrid coffee bushes produce gourmet coffee for export. (Shutterstock)

“We opened our relationships in the mid-2010s to 2015 — and started exploring new avenues to the Middle East. Now we have official embassies present and concurrent in several countries, among others the UAE, together with Saudi Arabia and Qatar — those being the first countries where we are establishing ourselves here in the region,” he said.

“We are so different, but are complementary. As you know, we are a tropical country with water coming down in the form of rain and rivers and you are much drier, so our products are being asked for here in the markets. And we can, of course, purchase from Saudi Arabia your products.”

Costa Rica is especially keen to attract Saudi investment in its major infrastructure projects. During his visit, Tinoco met representatives of the Kingdom’s investment funds to discuss several such opportunities.

“We are still a middle-income country, still in need of infrastructure and therefore there are opportunities for financial institutions from Saudi Arabia to place its resources in sound, good infrastructure projects,” he said.

“Among others, we have roads, we have ports, we have airports to build. We have many opportunities which Saudi funds could be interested in eventually.”

One area of cooperation both countries appear keen to explore is the green transition, drawing on Costa Rica’s expertise in clean energy. About 99 percent of the country’s energy comes from renewables including hydro and geothermal power.




A view of the Las Pailas Geothermal Power Plant in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. (Shutterstock)

“We have offered the exchange of good practices, which is a good way to cooperate between states,” Tinoco said.

“We were blessed by God having these rivers in the mountains so that we could develop hydroelectric plants to generate electricity in a renewable way, and also the geothermal plants that take advantage of the heat generated by the volcanoes to generate electricity out of the heated water that this generates.

“And we have offered, of course, to share this technology and the Saudi Arabians have an interest in it.”

Costa Rica is also well known for its environmental protection work and ecotourism industry. Its reforestation campaign, in particular, has been a huge success, enhancing the region’s rich biodiversity and helping to remove carbon from the atmosphere.




Beautiful aerial view of Bananito River in the rainforest of Talamanca region, Costa Rica. (Shutterstock)

“Regarding sustainability, we have reverted the deforestation rate of the country which, in the 1970s and ’80s, had a coverage of about 30 percent of the surface and now it’s 60 percent. So we have achieved double the coverage of forest within the last 40 years, which is remarkable,” Tinoco said.

“And that was done by virtue of giving a value to the trees, giving a value to the forest, recognizing also the value of forests in private hands. And it was a very successful policy that we can, of course, share with Saudi Arabia.”

The Saudi Green Initiative and the Middle East Green Initiative, launched by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2021, have set a target of planting about 10 billion trees in the Kingdom and 50 billion across the wider Middle East.

Greening this predominantly desert region will be a major undertaking, leveraging new water management technologies and the latest environmental expertise, but Tinoco is confident the initiatives will succeed.

“Yes, it requires high technology because of the lack of water,” he said. “Any growing plant needs a lot of water and fertilization. So if the technology reaches that maturity of course it would be a revolution to see these sandy areas turned into very green areas. We look forward very much to seeing that happen.”




As a part of the Saudi Green Initiative, the Kingdom aims to plant 10 billion trees. (Supplied)

Responding to the climate crisis is a key concern for Costa Rica, which is flanked by the Caribbean to the east and the Pacific to the west. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has forecast that sea levels may rise by more than three feet in Costa Rica by 2100.

However, Tinoco believes smaller nations, particularly low-lying and climate-vulnerable states in the Americas, are not receiving the financial assistance from the industrialized world they need to adapt.

“The dilemma with climate change is not so much about containing climate change anymore but on adaptation measures, because climate change is there and it’s affecting many countries, mainly small islands in the Pacific that will disappear with the rise of the sea level, and our areas and Central America will also be affected,” he said.

“Nevertheless, international funding does not always address the countries that need that to implement, on time, adaptation measures.

“Of course, we’re concerned that the main polluters of the world, which is the industrialized world, it’s the US, it’s China, it’s India and some other developed countries, they are not that speedy in implementing the measures to contain that, so that whatever we small countries do has very little effect.”




 (Infographic: UN IPCC)

Latin America has not been spared the economic turbulence of recent years, nor the global rise of populist leaders on the left and right. In several of these countries, drug trafficking and institutional weakness have also led to an explosion in organized crime.

Viewed from the perspective of Costa Rica, a comparatively prosperous and stable country, Tinoco said his government would continue to engage with those nations irrespective of their political leanings, as long as they continued to respect international norms.

“We respect, of course, every state and we respect the form in which the people of every state decide to organize themselves in government and society,” he said.

Political trends in the region could soon change, however, with a flurry of general elections scheduled across the Americas this year — in the US, Mexico, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Panama and Uruguay.

Returning to the theme of adherence to international law, Tinoco said Costa Rica would be watching developments in the region closely to ensure human rights and democratic principles were respected.

“What we say in our region is that we respect others but, of course, watch the fulfillment of the protection of the civilians, protection of the human rights of everyone,” he said.

“The majority should rule, but the minorities ought to be also protected.”

 


Saudi assistant defense minister holds talks with Pakistan Army chiefs in Islamabad

Saudi assistant defense minister holds talks with Pakistan Army chiefs in Islamabad
Updated 6 sec ago
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Saudi assistant defense minister holds talks with Pakistan Army chiefs in Islamabad

Saudi assistant defense minister holds talks with Pakistan Army chiefs in Islamabad

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s assistant minister of defense, Talal Al-Otaibi, on Friday held talks with top officials from the Pakistan Army during an official visit to Islamabad.

He reviewed relations between the two countries during meetings with the commander of the army, Gen. Syed Asim Munir, the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Sahir Shamshad Mirza, and the chief of the general staff, Gen. Muhammad Avais Dastgir.

The Saudi-Pakistani Committee also met during Al-Otaibi’s visit. Its members discussed cooperation between the nations in the field of defense, including research and development, and the transfer and localization of technology, in line with the goals of Kingdom’s Vision 2030 development and diversification plan.


How the adoption of electric vehicles is driving Saudi Arabia’s green agenda

How the adoption of electric vehicles is driving Saudi Arabia’s green agenda
Updated 19 April 2024
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How the adoption of electric vehicles is driving Saudi Arabia’s green agenda

How the adoption of electric vehicles is driving Saudi Arabia’s green agenda
  • Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund wants to produce half a million electric vehicles by 2030
  • The Kingdom has installed charging outlets in public areas in Diriyah to encourage EV ownership

RIYADH: Around the world, electric vehicles are already revolutionizing leisure, public transportation and logistics, shrinking the carbon footprint of travel, improving air quality and reducing pollution in the air, on land and in the sea.

As Saudi Arabia embarks on a range of environmental initiatives designed to address the challenges posed by climate change and foster sustainable economic development, EVs have become an important focus area.

The shift from traditional combustion engine vehicles to new electric models has accelerated worldwide as companies and consumers opt for greener modes of transport. Saudi Arabia is no exception.

Saudia, the Kingdom's national flag carrier, has signed an arrangement to acquire 100 electric-powered jets from Lilium, developer of the first all-electric vertical take-off and landing (“eVTOL”) jet. (Supplied)

The transition from regular cars to electric vehicles in the Kingdom is flourishing. The EV trend has gone beyond personal vehicle ownership, with the proliferation of everything from e-scooters to electric buses.

There are even discussions around whether EV technology will soon be applied to aircraft and perhaps space travel.

Stephen Crolius, former climate adviser at the Clinton Foundation and current president of Carbon-Neutral Consulting, supports the idea of EV ownership due to its environmental benefits.

Although it might still be a challenge to educate the public in some societies about the benefits of transitioning to EVs, Crolius says the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

“For mass transition to occur on any front, there has to be a set of circumstances that cause it to happen,” he told Arab News.

“Through government encouragement, we can continue to build volume (and) cause industries to mature, like, for example, the battery industry, which has done a lot of maturing over the last 15 years … the cost of batteries and the prices of batteries have come down to an extraordinary degree.

Opinion

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“We are developing renewable generation for electricity. Are we developing fast enough to head off the climate crisis? I don’t know. But compared to new generations of technology getting rolled out, we are deploying a lot of renewable electricity generation, in historical terms, really fast.”

Companies such as CEER and Lucid, which are heavily funded by the Saudi Public Investment Fund, are at the forefront of driving growth in Saudi Arabia’s electric vehicle industry.

US electric car manufacturer Lucid signed a contract with the PIF two years ago to build a factory in the King Abdullah Economic City on the Red Sea. Today, PIF shares a little over half of the ownership of the group in the Kingdom, and aims to produce almost half a million EVs by 2030.

Since last year, the use of electric vehicles in the Kingdom has expanded to include electric buses as a sustainable alternative to traditional fossil fuel-powered vehicles.

Electric buses have zero emissions and therefore significantly reduce air pollution and greenhouse gases in urban areas, especially during the Hajj season, when pilgrims flock to the Kingdom and make use of its mass transit network.

An electric bus service connecting the airport to the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah was launched by the region’s governor Prince Faisal bin Salman bin Abdulaziz during the last Hajj season.

DID YOUKNOW

• The Kingdom has invested at least $10 billion in US electric car manufacturer Lucid Motors.

• With 61% of shares, Saudi Arabia is the majority owner of Lucid Group through its Public Investment Fund.

• PIF aims to produce 500,000 EVs annually by 2030.

• In Riyadh, the EV share is targeted to increase by 30% in 2030.

The route connecting the two locations enabled high operational efficiency, with a bus able to travel 250 km on just a single charge.

Electric buses offer a variety of benefits, including reduced noise, improved energy efficiency and lower maintenance costs. In addition, they have a smaller carbon footprint, which is a crucial step toward sustainability.

Saudis committed to protecting the environment have also included EVs in their daily commute, with e-scooters now found in Riyadh and other cities. E-scooters provide an eco-friendly solution to local transport by cutting toxic emissions and lowering noise pollution.

Offering e-scooter services in various locations in Riyadh is a clear sign of the Kingdom’s eagerness to not only set regulations and promote electric vehicles, but also lead society in adopting a positive attitude toward sustainable living.

Gazal's e-scooter services have become a popular option for those traveling specially in crowded places in Riyadh. (Photo courtesy of Gazal)

Furthermore, with advancements in battery technology and the development of charging infrastructure, electric vehicles are becoming a viable option for companies aiming to decarbonize their operations.

For example, in public areas in Diriyah such as Albujairi and At-Turaif, standard wall outlets are available for EV owners to charge their vehicles while enjoying a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage site.

As the aviation industry is one of the largest contributors to carbon emissions, the concept of electric aircraft may offer a promising solution to global decarbonization.

Three years ago, British automobile maker Rolls-Royce broke records when its “Spirit of Innovation” aircraft reached 628 km per hour, making it the world’s fastest all-electric vehicle.

At the time, Warren East, the company’s then-CEO, said that electric aircraft could make “jet zero” a reality and help decarbonize all forms of transport.

Compared to existing commercial aircraft, which rely on petroleum and synthetic fuel blends, electric planes produce less noise, have lower operating costs and emit significantly fewer greenhouse gases.

However, there are still several obstacles to the widespread adoption of electric aircraft — in particular the sheer expense of adapting the existing infrastructure needed to support their use.

Though governments and private companies worldwide could collaborate and build a comprehensive network of charging stations to meet growing demand, this may burden the economies of some countries.

Nevertheless, the growing importance of electric vehicles beyond cars, such as buses, electric scooters and airplanes, holds great promise for a decarbonized future.

The growing importance of electric vehicles beyond cars, such as buses, electric scooters and airplanes, holds great promise for a decarbonized future. (Shutterstock photo)

Utilizing alternative sources of energy in these areas can change the carbon emissions game for the better, fight air pollution, and pave the way for sustainable transport systems in the Kingdom and around the world.

To realize the full potential of electric vehicles, however, governments and businesses will first have to address challenges such as the provision of sufficient charging infrastructure as well as range limitations in battery technology.

Through continued innovation and investment, electric vehicles will play a key role in creating a greener and more sustainable future.
 

 


Art is ‘translating feelings,’ says 16-year-old Saudi artist

Art is ‘translating feelings,’ says 16-year-old Saudi artist
Updated 19 April 2024
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Art is ‘translating feelings,’ says 16-year-old Saudi artist

Art is ‘translating feelings,’ says 16-year-old Saudi artist
  • Jawad Al-Omair has established himself as a painter, drawing inspiration from the beauty and pain surrounding him

RIYADH: While his classmates took part in sports activities, Saudi teenage artist Jawad Al-Omair daydreamed about the next time he would pick up a paintbrush or pencil to draw again.

At only 16 years of age, Al-Omair has established himself as an artist, drawing inspiration from the beauty and pain surrounding him.

Jawad Al-Omair said he noticed a dramatic change in his artistic abilities after being introduced to a group of local artists who taught him painting techniques to implement in his artworks. (Supplied)

He told Arab News that his breakthrough moment came when he discovered his artistic abilities in the third grade.

“All the kids used to go to play. I always found myself opening my notebook and just drawing. I remember one day, I drew something at school, and when I got home, I showed it to everyone. I told myself, ‘I should do this more often.’”

HIGHLIGHT

Jawad Al-Omair views color as an arsenal to communicate emotion in his artworks.

He uses acrylic paint to portray his vivid ideas on canvas.

Jawad Al-Omair said he noticed a dramatic change in his artistic abilities after being introduced to a group of local artists who taught him painting techniques to implement in his artworks. (Supplied)

“With every painting I do, I usually have a vision of what the color palette is going to be and the composition, and most importantly what message and feeling I am trying to deliver through the painting.”

The young artist views color as an arsenal to communicate emotion in his artworks. “If I wanted to paint something that conveys the feeling of being lost, I would usually use cool toned colors like greys and blues.”

Jawad Al-Omair said he noticed a dramatic change in his artistic abilities after being introduced to a group of local artists who taught him painting techniques to implement in his artworks. (Supplied)

Al-Omair said that he noticed a dramatic change in his artistic abilities after being introduced to a group of local artists who taught him painting techniques to implement in his artworks.

“Dana Almasoud is one of my best friends who has helped me so much. Three years ago, I used to be a completely different artist. I used to be unable to draw small portraits, but she taught me how to. I can’t picture how my life would be if I had not met them,” he said.

Jawad Al-Omair said he noticed a dramatic change in his artistic abilities after being introduced to a group of local artists who taught him painting techniques to implement in his artworks. (Supplied)

In a recent artwork, Al-Omair painted a large-scale self-portrait inspired by the style of John Singer Sargent, an American artist renowned for his portrait paintings in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

He described Sargent as one of his favorite artists. “If you see his self-portrait, It is similar to mine. I was looking at his artwork while I was painting so I could capture that same vibe.”

It took Al-Omair about 12 hours to complete the self-portrait, which emphasizes his prominent features.

“I get commented on my nose a lot, so I painted it in the center. I wanted to immortalize my 16-year-old self, because who knows what I will look like five years from now?”

The young artist aims to turn all sorts of experiences — even those of friends or family members — into art.

“How would life be if we did not have music or anything beautiful to look at? When you think of an artist, people usually imagine someone with a brush, but it is much bigger than that.

“Art is translating feelings with a certain skill. Movies taught humanity so much because you get to learn about people. Writing, songs and music are emotional things that we share. Art is one of the most important parts of life. Everyone has an artistic side to them that they may have not found yet,” he said.

 


Saudi development fund agrees $50m loan deal with St. Vincent and the Grenadines

Saudi development fund agrees $50m loan deal with St. Vincent and the Grenadines
Updated 19 April 2024
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Saudi development fund agrees $50m loan deal with St. Vincent and the Grenadines

Saudi development fund agrees $50m loan deal with St. Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Funding will help rebuild and repair facilities damaged by natural disasters in the Caribbean island nation

RIYADH: The Saudi Fund for Development signed a $50 million loan agreement with St. Vincent and the Grenadines on Friday to assist communities affected by natural disasters, Saudi Press Agency reported.

The deal was signed by SFD CEO Sultan Abdulrahman Al-Marshad and Camillo Gonsalves, finance minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, during the 2024 spring meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in Washington.

According to the World Bank, the southern Caribbean nation faces a host of natural threats, including floods, hurricanes, droughts, landslides, and volcanic eruptions.

The agreement will fund a project to rebuild and repair buildings and facilities damaged by natural disasters in the island nation.

This initiative includes the restoration and construction of essential infrastructure, such as housing, healthcare, educational, and sports facilities, aimed at boosting their durability and resilience against future disasters and climate change impacts.

The project will also include establishing four healthcare centers, building primary and secondary schools, renovating government buildings, and restoring homes damaged by volcanic activity.

The loan is in line with the SFD’s commitment to supporting vulnerable communities around the globe.

Since its inception in 1975, the Saudi fund has financed over 800 development projects and programs worldwide, with total funding exceeding $20 billion.
 


Art Jameel announces open call for Hayy Jameel Facade Commission

Art Jameel announces open call for Hayy Jameel Facade Commission
Updated 19 April 2024
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Art Jameel announces open call for Hayy Jameel Facade Commission

Art Jameel announces open call for Hayy Jameel Facade Commission
  • Antonia Carver, director of Art Jameel, said: “At Art Jameel, we are committed to fostering the role of the arts in public life

JEDDAH: The Hayy Jameel Facade Commission is inviting new and established artists in Saudi Arabia to reimagine the facade of the Hayy Jameel art building in Jeddah.

In its fourth year and third open call process, the commission will select a winning artwork that serves as conversation starter between the complex, the community it serves and the broader public.

Antonia Carver, director of Art Jameel, said: “At Art Jameel, we are committed to fostering the role of the arts in public life.

“Through this annual commission which positions the facade as the first point of contact with the Hayy Jameel community, we are providing a platform that propels mid-career artists forward and challenges them to produce a large-scale, highly imaginative work that remains in-situ, front and center in Jeddah, for around 10 months.”

The commission encourages artists to consider the site-specific nature of the project and the technical requirements of a public work.

Sustainability considerations are also appreciated in managing the carbon footprint of the artwork and its installation.

Eligibility is open to all Saudi and Saudi-based artists and collectives, with at least one member required to be a Saudi citizen or resident if applying as a collective.

The commissioned artists will receive a work fee and a production budget managed by Art Jameel.

The jury, consisting of local and international art professionals, curators, artists and museum directors, will select a single work for production.

Applicants are required to submit a concept statement (200-500 words), up to four sketches and diagrams, and an estimated production schedule through the application portal.

The deadline for the facade submission has been extended to May 1, with the launch scheduled for October. Following the unveiling, there will be a public viewing period from October 2024 to September 2025.

Previous works displayed on the building have showcased the talent of artists such as Nasser Al-Mulhim, Tamara Kalo, Mohammad Al-Faraj and Dr. Zahrah Al-Ghamdi.