OIC chief calls for UNRWA funding surge in speech condemning Israeli aggression

The OIC Council of Foreign Ministers held an extraordinary session at the organization’s headquarters in Jeddah on Tuesday. (SPA)
The OIC Council of Foreign Ministers held an extraordinary session at the organization’s headquarters in Jeddah on Tuesday. (SPA)
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Updated 05 March 2024
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OIC chief calls for UNRWA funding surge in speech condemning Israeli aggression

The OIC Council of Foreign Ministers held an extraordinary session at the organization’s headquarters in Jeddah on Tuesday. (SPA
  • The Israeli campaign must be placed in the context of genocide and an attempt to uproot the Palestinian people from their land, OIC chief said

JEDDAH: Countries around the world must increase funding to UNRWA in an effort to improve services for Palestinians and safeguard regional security, the head of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation has said.

Secretary-General Hissein Brahim Taha made the comments in an opening statement for the extraordinary session of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers, held at the organization’s headquarters in Jeddah on Tuesday.

He said that the organization is following donor countries’ suspension of UNRWA contributions with great concern. An increase of funding to UNRWA will confirm the international community’s commitment to protecting the rights of Palestinian refugees, he added.

In his statement, the OIC chief said that the meeting was being held in light of Israel’s aggression on Gaza.

He described the Israeli campaign as “violating all international standards, laws, and norms,” adding that the war had led to “horrific massacres, war crimes, and crimes against humanity,” including the recent killing of Palestinian civilians waiting to receive food aid.

“These crimes have so far claimed the lives of more than 30,000 Palestinian civilians, wounded nearly 70,000, most of them women and children, and displaced nearly 2 million Palestinians inside the Gaza Strip,” he said.

Israel’s occupation involves a systematic policy based on “siege, starvation, torture, arrest, killing, displacement, and indiscriminate destruction of infrastructure, housing, mosques, churches, hospitals, schools, universities, UN institutions, historical buildings and economic facilities,” the OIC chief said.

The Israeli campaign must be placed in the context of genocide and an attempt to uproot the Palestinian people from their land, he added.

Taha thanked participants, and praised the OIC member states that called for the meeting following the extraordinary Arab Islamic Summit hosted by Saudi Arabia in November 2023.

The Arab and Islamic ministerial contact group that was created at the 2023 summit has been successful in its efforts, Taha said. The council has influenced prominent countries, especially UN Security Council member states and international organizations.

A resolution passed at the November summit also urged the creation of a media monitoring unit, which Taha said had been activated. The OIC has also begun coordination with member states to activate a legal observatory that was established by resolution at the Saudi summit.

The OIC, along with 25 member states, submitted written information to the International Court of Justice and took part in the oral arguments that took place in February this year regarding the legal consequences of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land since 1967 and violation of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, Taha said.

The Council of Foreign Ministers session also saw speeches from Mohamed Marzouk, minister of foreign affairs of Mauritania; Prince Faisal bin Farhan, Saudi minister of foreign affairs, and Riyad Al-Maliki, minister of foreign affairs of Palestine.

In his speech, Prince Faisal said: “Our meeting today underscores the necessity of calling upon the international community and the Security Council to stop the Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people, ensuring the protection of civilians, lifting the siege on Gaza, and facilitating the permanent access of humanitarian and food aid.

“The Kingdom warns of the extremely dangerous repercussions of invading and targeting the city of Rafah in the Gaza Strip.

“An expansion of military operations toward Rafah will only bring more suffering to the unarmed civilians targeted in Gaza. Our countries categorically reject the forced displacement of the Palestinian people from their territories and emphasize the importance of allowing the immediate and safe return of the displaced.”

Through urgent diplomatic efforts, and as part of its role in the ministerial committees launched from the November summit, Saudi Arabia has called on the international community to take responsibility in stopping the Gaza war, Prince Faisal added.

“We have noticed a positive development in the positions of some countries and an understanding of the magnitude of the catastrophe,” he said.

“We have seen an increase in the number of countries calling for an immediate ceasefire, and we have heard from a number of countries about their readiness in principle to recognize the State of Palestine.

“In this regard, we send our message to those countries that the time has come to make their decision to recognize the State of Palestine and continue to pressure Israel to stop the war in Gaza and accept the two-state solution.”

He added: “Despite the worsening humanitarian tragedy, with over 30,000 deaths, more than 2 million people starving, a lack of security, and the destruction of basic services and infrastructure, the bitter truth is that the international community is still incapable of stopping the humanitarian massacre.

“In light of religious, international and moral values, we note that the brutal Israeli escalation continues against civilians in Gaza and the West Bank.

“The actions taken by some countries against settlers and extremists are positive, yet these measures remain insufficient if those responsible in the Israeli government who enable them are not held accountable, threatening a complete collapse of the credibility of international institutions and international humanitarian law.”

The Saudi foreign minister raised the issue of UNRWA funding, saying that Saudi Arabia has “confidence” in the ability of the UN secretary-general to conduct an investigation into the matter and disprove the allegations that led to the funding crisis.

He warned against attempts to undermine confidence and cancel the important role played by UNRWA.

“We reaffirm, clearly and emphatically, the necessity to end the suffering and provide hope to the Palestinian people, enabling them to live in safety and self-determination through a reliable and irreversible path to establishing a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, in accordance with the Arab Peace Initiative and related international resolutions,” Prince Faisal said.

Marzouk, the Mauritanian foreign minister, said: “The Gaza war represents a new chapter of genocidal wars and systematic starvation waged by the Israeli army, flagrantly violating ethical principles, international law and humanitarian international law.

“What’s worse is the suspicious international silence and the clear inability of international bodies to fulfill their responsibilities for which they were established.”

Al-Maliki, Palestine’s foreign minister, said: “Our people in the Gaza Strip are subjected to the most horrific forms of genocide — one of the most atrocious chapters being what is referred to as the Flour Massacre.

“This heinous massacre committed by the occupation forces on the morning of Thursday, Feb. 29, against Palestinian civilians waiting for the arrival of aid trucks in Gaza and its north, left dozens of martyrs, 124 martyrs, and more than 800 wounded.

“It was an integral part of the genocidal war committed by the fascist Israeli government, reaffirming its policy of forcibly displacing our people and proving once again to the international community and the countries supporting Israel that there is no alternative to an immediate ceasefire as the only way to protect civilians and provide them relief.”

He added: “I extend my thanks and appreciation to all member states who convened for this extraordinary meeting, specifically mentioning the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the Islamic Republic of Iran, in addition to the State of Palestine and all participating member states, for their understanding of the real risks threatening the Palestinian cause and the unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe and genocide faced by Palestinians in Gaza.”


Saudi authorities arrest 5 suspects in separate drug trafficking cases

Saudi authorities arrest 5 suspects in separate drug trafficking cases
Updated 13 July 2024
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Saudi authorities arrest 5 suspects in separate drug trafficking cases

Saudi authorities arrest 5 suspects in separate drug trafficking cases
  • The arrests were made in Riyadh, Al-Baha and Al-Jouf
  • Border Guards also seized 274kg of narcotic qat plant in Jazan 

RIYADH: Saudi authorities have arrested five persons for drug trafficking, seizing a large volume of the narcotic plant qat and hashish, plus amphetamine tablets and other restricted drugs in separate operations, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Friday.

In one of the cases, agents of the General Directorate of Narcotics Control arrested three Egyptian residents in Riyadh during an operation. Seized from the trio were 35 kilograms of hashish, 12,260 amphetamine tablets, and 24,991 prescription tablets. 

In the southwestern province of Al-Baha, the narcotics directorate nabbed an Ethiopian national caught violating the Kingdom's border security system while at the same time selling hashish. 

In the northern province of Al-Jouf, anti-narcotics control agents of arrested a citizen for peddling amphetamine tablets.

All the five arrested suspects had been referred to the Public Prosecution, SPA said.  

In the southwesternmost province of Jazan, Border Guard land patrols thwarted separate attempts to smuggle qat from Yemen, including 160 kilograms in Al Aridhah governorate and  114 kilograms in the governorate of Farasan, the SPA said. No arrests were mentioned in both cases.

In one of the biggest drug hauls this year, anti-narcotics authorities in Riyadh region seized 4.7 million Captagon tablets with a street value of up to $117.5 million last May. The General Directorate of Narcotics Control said the tablets were found hidden in a shipment of concrete blocks.

Amphetamines are largely used by young men and teenage boys across the Middle East, and the money raised through the sale of all narcotics are usually plouwed back into the drug trade while some find their way into organized crime and terrorism, authorities say.

Security authorities called on citizens and residents to report any information related to drug smuggling or selling to the General Directorate of Narcotics Control by calling 911 for Makkah, Riyadh, and the Eastern Regions, or 999 for the rest of the regions, or by emailing [email protected]
 


How Saudi Arabia’s hunting laws are protecting its wildlife

How Saudi Arabia’s hunting laws are protecting its wildlife
Updated 13 July 2024
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How Saudi Arabia’s hunting laws are protecting its wildlife

How Saudi Arabia’s hunting laws are protecting its wildlife
  • Saudi Arabia has strict laws regarding hunting, regulating bag limits and prohibiting some species from being hunted entirely
  • The Kingdom’s Special Forces for Environmental Security help enforce the country’s environmental regulations

RIYADH: Though far from the wild tundra of Alaska and the wide grasslands of South Africa, Saudi Arabia still offers hunters and falconers an engaging hunting experience. Hunting has been a popular activity in the country for many years, attracting both locals and tourists.

However, hunting can also have a severe negative impact on native wildlife. Overhunting in the past led to the serious decline of many species, from the Arabian leopard to the ibex and oryx.

In recent times, along with a multitude of other eco-friendly measures, the Kingdom has implemented strict rules and regulations governing animal hunting to ensure the sustainability of wildlife populations and protect endangered species.

The Special Forces for Environmental Security agency is helping the Kingdom enforce wildlife-protection regulations. (SPA)


Hunting laws and regulations

In Saudi Arabia, individuals who wish to engage in hunting must first obtain necessary permits from the authorities. There are two main types of hunting permits available — recreational permits for personal use and commercial permits for hunting activities conducted for profit.

Certain hunting practices are strictly prohibited, such as using automatic weapons, hunting during breeding seasons, and targeting endangered species. Bag limits and size restrictions are also in place for different game species to prevent excessive hunting and maintain healthy population levels.

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Furthermore, safety regulations, such as wearing appropriate hunting gear and practicing firearm safety, are enforced to protect both hunters and the surrounding environment.

Violators of these laws can expect fines and the confiscation of their hunting equipment, with hunting without a license using firearms costing rule-breakers $21,300. Poaching or hunting protected species can lead to substantial fines and even imprisonment.

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Prohibited for hunting at any time: Animals include Arabian leopards, hyenas, wolves, jackals, lynxes, sand cats, martens, and honey badgers. Gazelles include Arabian oryx, reem (sand) gazelle, mountain gazelle, and Nubian and Persian gazelles. Every type of indigenous bird.

The fine for unauthorized hunting in Saudi Arabia is SR10,000 ($2,666). The fine for harming living animals is from SR1,500 to SR200,000.

Hunting is permitted in places designated by the National Center for Wildlife and announced periodically.

Hunting pregnant females of wild animal species, as well as interfering with their nests, eggs, or habitats, is strictly prohibited.

Earlier this year, the NCW’s campaign #ProtectSaudiWildlife asked everyone to pledge to protect and conserve the rich biodiversity of Saudi Arabia.  

At the beginning of each wild hunting season, the center issues a list of the types of wild animal species permitted to be hunted during the wild hunting season, and the quantities during the license validity period.

Law enforcement and monitoring

These laws and regulations are enforced by Saudi Arabia’s Special Forces for Environmental Security, or SFES. Using modern technology and social media, SFES has enhanced its outreach, enabling it to intervene in illegal activities such as hunting, logging, and the sale of wild animals, thereby safeguarding the country’s rich biological diversity.

Patrol activities have been initiated across various provinces to ensure the adherence to conservation laws, reflecting a proactive approach to wildlife management. This month, the SFES announced the arrest of two Saudi citizens for hunting without licenses inside the King Salman Royal Natural Reserve.

The SFES also enforces the Kingdom’s other environmental laws, including illegal logging and grazing of livestock in prohibited areas.

The Special Forces for Environmental Security agency is helping the Kingdom enforce wildlife-protection regulations. (SPA)

Protected species and environmental havens 

Various types of animals are protected under special laws, including endangered species such as Arabian leopards, Arabian wolves, and the terrestrial birds known as houbara bustard. Through the implementation of hunting regulations, the country has witnessed the revival of populations of endangered species such as the famed Arabian oryx.

Abdulmajeed Al-Dhaban, executive vice president of operations at the Imam Turki bin Abdullah Royal Nature Reserve, praised the Kingdom’s strict hunting laws and highlighted the central role they play in the protection of the natural environment of the region.

The Imam Turki bin Abdullah Royal Nature Reserve, established in 2018, is a more than 91,000 sq km eco-tourism reserve dedicated to protecting the more than 180 plant and 60 animal species living within its borders

Abdulmajeed Al-Dhaban, executive vice president of operations at the Imam Turki bin Abdullah Royal Nature Reserve. (Supplied)

The reserve is also governed by a comprehensive set of regulations covering beekeeping, entry and transit, grazing, visiting and camping, recreational activities, and sustainable fishing.

“By establishing these integrated guidelines, we aim to strike a careful balance between preserving the reserve’s delicate ecosystems and allowing controlled public access and use. Our goal is to safeguard the natural wonders of this protected area while also facilitating responsible enjoyment and appreciation by the local community and visitors,” Al-Dhaban told Arab News.

The reserve was used for a groundbreaking conservation program — the reintroduction of the Arabian oryx, which had been extinct in the wild since 1972. Since its establishment in 2021, the program has reintroduced hundreds of oryxes back into their natural habitat.

Fines for huntingprotected birds and animals

Arabian leopard SR40,000 ($10,664)

Arabian oryx SR70,000 ($18,662)

Arabian wolf SR80,000 ($21,328)

Arabian sand gazelle SR25,000 ($6,665)

Houbara bustard SR25,000 ($6,665)

Spiny-tailed lizard SR3,000 ($799)

Community engagement 

Saudi Arabia has also engaged in joint conservation projects with entities such as the World Wildlife Fund and the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

However, those in the Kingdom dedicated to conservation stress the need for a community-based approach, with Saudi Arabia’s own citizens getting involved.

“At the Imam Turki bin Abdullah Royal Reserve Development Authority, we’re deeply committed to cultivating environmental awareness and engaging the community in our initiatives,” Al-Dhaban said.

“Our goal is to contribute to sustainable development and environmental protection through a diverse array of beneficial projects. We firmly believe that empowering the community to participate in these efforts is key to making a lasting, positive impact.”

The King Khaled and Imam Abdulaziz bin Mohammed royal reserves have several tourist attractions, organized with local businesses, including stargazing, camping, safaris, hiking, and horse and camel riding. (IARDA PHOTO)

The authority’s main priority is to sustain the preservation for future generations through initiatives, projects, and events organized throughout the year with the participation of individuals from all age groups.

“The Imam Turki bin Abdullah Royal Reserve Development Authority is keen to raise awareness among young people and children of the importance of preserving the purity of nature and promoting their sense of responsibility from a young age toward the environment, wildlife and innate organisms, the attack on which is contrary to religious values and human principles. A simplified awareness-raising content is provided that explains the importance of preserving wildlife and flora and the individual’s responsibility toward the environment,” Al-Dhaban said.

Throughout the year, the Imam Turki bin Abdullah Royal Reserve Development Authority organizes numerous events such as the Zubaida Trail Winter Festival and celebrations of holidays such as Eid Al-Adha, all of which include many activities that integrate environmental awareness, education, and recreation for the whole family.

One of the authority’s most recent projects, launched in May in partnership with the National Center for Vegetation Cover Development and Combating Desertification, is a tree-planting initiative with the participation of primary school students.

The Saudi Green Initiative Day reflects Saudi Arabia’s vision and dedication to fostering a culture of sustainability. (SPA)

“This was not the first time that the reserve had organized afforestation and seedling farming initiatives with the participation of community volunteers, as the Imam Turki bin Abdullah Royal Reserve has so far grown more than 600,000 trees,” Al-Dhaban said

Ecotourism

As Saudi Arabia’s tourism industry grows under the goals of Saudi Vision 2030, so too does the ecotourism trend in the country.

The Imam Turki bin Abdullah Royal Reserve Development Authority supports productive families and entrepreneurs through interactive initiatives aimed at developing job skills, which in turn enable the protection of the natural environment, biodiversity, and environmental balance, the promotion and preservation of community heritage, and the revitalization of ecotourism.

Connecting with animals and their habitats is a vital aspect of fostering a deeper appreciation for nature and wildlife, promoting environmental conservation, and enhancing personal well-being through interaction with nature.

In Saudi Arabia, some preservation efforts have taken a unique approach by opening resorts within these habitats. Under the guidance of the Sustainable Tourism Global Center, announced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the COP26 conference in 2021, Saudi firms aim to build high-end resorts and lodges to promote eco-friendly adventures and agritourism.

These resorts offer a blend of luxury accommodation and immersive wildlife experiences, allowing guests to appreciate the power and beauty of Saudi Arabia’s diverse natural environments — and hopefully, fostering a sense of care about their preservation for generations to come.

 

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Return of the leopard is at the heart of plans to conserve and regenerate Saudi Arabia’s landscapes and wildlife
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Prince Majid Park blooms with entertainment, culture and fun for Jeddah Season

Characters dressed in costume greet guests with smiles and offer photo opportunities. (Supplied)
Characters dressed in costume greet guests with smiles and offer photo opportunities. (Supplied)
Updated 12 July 2024
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Prince Majid Park blooms with entertainment, culture and fun for Jeddah Season

Characters dressed in costume greet guests with smiles and offer photo opportunities. (Supplied)
  • Little friend land is a paradise for young adventurers, where children can immerse themselves in a world of Lego, unleash their imagination with whiteboards and paper, and enjoy a variety of engaging activities

JEDDAH: The highly anticipated Jeddah Season 2024 has officially launched with the opening of Prince Majid Park, the season’s first free zone. The park, the largest in Jeddah, promises a wide range of entertainment for all ages, from exhilarating shows to captivating cultural experiences.

Visitors enter a whimsical world, beginning in flower land, where flower-themed characters dressed in costume greet guests with smiles and offer photo opportunities. The centerpiece of the zone is a magnificent fountain, its cascading water dancing to music and creating a breathtaking visual spectacle.

Prince Majid Park goes beyond entertainment, providing a vibrant center for the community. (Supplied)

Next, art land offers a haven for budding artists and art enthusiasts, where children can unleash their creativity in workshops, crafting candles and engaging in various art projects. Skilled artists display their creativity and talent in dedicated booths, offering visitors the opportunity to have their portraits painted. Exhibitions by local artists provide a platform for artistic expression and cultural exchange.

“It’s incredibly enjoyable to share my art with the visitors,” said Mohammed Salim, an Egyptian artist, as he sketched a visitor’s portrait. “There are so many of us here, creating live drawings and paintings, either capturing the faces of the people who come by or working from images they bring us. It’s a wonderful way to showcase our talents and connect with people on a very personal level.”

Prince Majid Park goes beyond entertainment, providing a vibrant center for the community. (Supplied)

Little friend land is a paradise for young adventurers, where children can immerse themselves in a world of Lego, unleash their imagination with whiteboards and paper, and enjoy a variety of engaging activities.

Likewise, festival land is a vibrant hub for shopping, dining and games, where visitors can browse through a selection of shops, indulge in culinary delights at the food court, and enjoy live musical performances at the mini-stage.

Prince Majid Park goes beyond entertainment, providing a vibrant center for the community. (Supplied)

The main stage at Prince Majid Park transforms into a hub of entertainment, hosting four shows daily, with performances ranging from dazzling circus acts with breathtaking acrobatics to electrifying DJ sets that will leave audiences in wonder. For those seeking a tranquil escape, wood land offers a labyrinth game and a lush green area.  

Adding to the festive atmosphere, parade shows burst on to the scene every half hour, creating a whirlwind of energy and excitement. Each show lasts 30 minutes, adding a vibrant layer to the park’s atmosphere. A show by stilt walkers, with participants dressed in colorful costumes, adds a touch of eccentricity with three daily shows.

Prince Majid Park goes beyond entertainment, providing a vibrant center for the community. (Supplied)

For those seeking a break from the festivities, the park offers a spacious play area with swings and slides, ensuring fun for children of all ages.

“I’ve never seen a park quite like Prince Majid Park,” said Najm Fatima, a local resident. “It’s a vibrant explosion of colors, laughter and entertainment. It’s a place where everyone can find something to enjoy, whether you’re an art enthusiast, a thrill-seeker, or just looking for a relaxing day out.”

Prince Majid Park goes beyond entertainment, providing a vibrant center for the community. (Supplied)

Her friend, Sarah, said: “The kids are having a blast, especially with the stilt walkers and the Lego building area. It’s truly a place for families to make memories together.”

Mohammed Ali said that he had never seen children so enthralled by art as he watched a group of children excitedly sketching alongside him. “Their energy at Prince Majid Park is infectious, reminding us that art and performance can bring joy and wonder to people of all ages,” he said.

Prince Majid Park goes beyond entertainment, providing a vibrant center for the community. This grand celebration of Jeddah Season 2024 promises a memorable experience, offering attractions that cater to all tastes and interests.

While entry to the park is free, visitors still need to book ticket online through the Saudi Events app.

 


4th edition of Khayrat Al-Baha Festival kicks off

4th edition of Khayrat Al-Baha Festival kicks off
Updated 12 July 2024
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4th edition of Khayrat Al-Baha Festival kicks off

4th edition of Khayrat Al-Baha Festival kicks off
  • Fahd Muftah: "the festival comprises 50 areas, 45 of which are dedicated to farmers and five to government agencies"

AL-BAHA: Jedaia Al-Qahtany, the assistant undersecretary for development affairs of Al-Baha, inaugurated on Friday the fourth edition of the Khayrat Al-Baha Festival at Al-Shafa Park under the patronage of Al-Baha Gov. Prince Hussam bin Saud.

Fahd Muftah, director of the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture’s branch in Al-Baha, said the festival comprises 50 areas, 45 of which are dedicated to farmers and five to government agencies.

He said the five-day festival, along with various entertainment events, will organize workshops, seminars, and courses with the aim of developing farmers’ skills, marketing agricultural products, providing agricultural extension services, and raising awareness on topics pertaining to the field.

 


Saudi Embassy in Poland organizes celebration of UN’s adoption of Nov. 24 as World Conjoined Twins Day

Saudi Embassy in Poland organizes celebration of UN’s adoption of Nov. 24 as World Conjoined Twins Day
Updated 12 July 2024
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Saudi Embassy in Poland organizes celebration of UN’s adoption of Nov. 24 as World Conjoined Twins Day

Saudi Embassy in Poland organizes celebration of UN’s adoption of Nov. 24 as World Conjoined Twins Day
  • The Kingdom’s Conjoined Twins Program has treated around 139 sets of conjoined twins from countries around the world since its launch in 1990

WARSAW: The Saudi Embassy in Poland organized a cultural and educational event to celebrate the UN’s adoption of Nov. 24 of every year as World Conjoined Twins Day, an initiative by the Kingdom to raise awareness of these human conditions, celebrate achievements in the field of separation surgeries and introduce the Saudi Program for Conjoined Twins Separation.

The event was attended by Polish officials and parliamentarians, the Polish twins Daria and Olga Kolacz, the president and students of the King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Center for Promoting Cultural and Educational Dialogue in Janikowo, Poland, and the city’s deputy mayor, as well as a number of media personnel and diplomats.