Saudi FM says Pakistan visit to reap ‘significant benefits’ amid push for strategic, commercial partnership

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan in Islamabad. (@KSAMOFA)
Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan in Islamabad. (@KSAMOFA)
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Updated 16 April 2024
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Saudi FM says Pakistan visit to reap ‘significant benefits’ amid push for strategic, commercial partnership

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan in Islamabad. (@KSAMOFA)
  • Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan is in Pakistan to discuss bilateral economic cooperation, investments
  • Prince Faisal's visit comes a week after Saudi crown prince reaffirmed commitment to expedite $5 billion Pakistan investments

ISLAMABAD: Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan on Tuesday described his ongoing visit to Pakistan to discuss investments as “very, very positive” and said Islamabad's focus on results and overcoming hurdles would deliver “significant benefits.”

Prince Faisal arrived in Pakistan on Monday on a two-day visit aimed at enhancing bilateral economic cooperation and pushing forward previously agreed investment deals. His trip comes a little over a week after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in Makkah and reaffirmed the Kingdom’s commitment to expedite investments worth $5 billion.

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia enjoy strong trade, defense and cultural ties. The Kingdom is home to over 2.7 million Pakistani expatriates and the top source of remittances to the cash-strapped South Asian country.

“We were extremely impressed by the very, very proactive attitude that we saw in our meetings, especially with the [Special] Investment [Facilitation] Council,” Prince Faisal said at joint press conference with his Pakistani counterpart Ishaq Dar. He was referring to a Pakistani civil-military council set up last year to oversee and fast-track all foreign investments.

“I feel very, very confident that the results of this visit and the results of the work being done between the two respective teams, with this attitude, with this approach of a focus on results, focus on overcoming hurdles, will deliver significant benefits,” the Saudi official added. 

He said there was a “significant opportunity” for the Kingdom to increase its investments in Pakistan, adding that his engagements with Pakistani leaders had laid the groundwork for "significant and important work to be done" in the months ahead:

“There is a lot of untapped potential that is clear to everyone. It just needs to be tapped … And here, working together, we will do what we can with our colleagues in the government of Pakistan to make that happen.”

Pakistani foreign minister Dar said both sides had held comprehensive discussions covering various aspects of Pak-Saudi cooperation.

“We discussed ways and means to transform our fraternal cordial relations into a mutually beneficial strategic and economic partnership,” Dar said. “We greatly appreciate the keen interest of the leadership of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in enhancing investments in Pakistan.”

The Pakistani minister said Islamabad was committed to providing Saudi investors with full support, relevant safeguards and a conducive environment for investment.

 

PAKISTAN-SAUDI INVESTMENT CONFERENCE

Earlier, the Saudi foreign minister held meetings with top civilian leadership including the prime minister, president and foreign minister to discuss economic opportunities and also co-chaired an investment conference. He is also expected to meet the army chief before departing for Riyadh.

“We aim to transform our traditionally fraternal ties into a strategic and economic partnership,” Dar said as he addressed a Pakistan-Saudi Arabia Investment Conference in Islamabad, held under the umbrella of SIFC.

“Your investments are not just financial commitments but are crucial in nurturing a deeply valued partnership,” Dar told the visiting dignitary.

Pakistan was blessed with fertile agricultural lands, minerals and a large and dynamic population, complemented by a flourishing IT sector and abundant prospects for renewable energy creation, the foreign minister added.

He said Pakistan’s fertile lands and a vast network of water resources presented numerous investment opportunities in agri-tech and food processing, with the South Asian nation having the potential to become the region’s food basket.

“Our mining sector is marked by untapped potential especially in the expansive Tethyan belt known for its abundant deposits of copper, gold and other valuable minerals,” Dar said. “The strategic advancements in these areas are highlighted by projects such as Riko Diq copper [and gold] project which exemplifies our commitment to leveraging our natural resources for mutual benefit.”

On Sunday, Pakistani state media reported Saudi Arabia was likely to invest $1 billion in the mine project in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province, one of the world’s largest underdeveloped copper-gold areas.

The foreign minister said Pakistan’s goal was to transform the country into a hub of economic activity, and innovation and create an attractive environment for global investors like Saudi Arabia.

“Investing in Pakistan is not merely a placement of capital. It would actually be instrumental toward forging a partnership that promises mutual prosperity and progress,” he concluded.

“Your engagement and investment in Pakistan will be handled with utmost respect and institutionalized commitment from our side, ensuring that together we achieve remarkable success.”

 

MEETINGS WITH PM AND PRESIDENT

Prince Faisal also met Pakistani PM Sharif on Tuesday who said the Saudi official’s visit would herald a "new era" of strategic and commercial partnerships between the two long-time allies.

“The visit is the beginning of a new era of strategic and commercial partnership between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia,” Sharif was quoted as saying in a statement from his office after he met Prince Faisal. “Pakistan wants to further promote cooperation in the fields of trade and investment between the two countries.”

The PM said Pakistan was taking steps to promote foreign investment and make partnerships “mutually beneficial” for allies, adding that Islamabad was grateful to the Saudi leadership for increasing investment.

Informing the Saudi delegation about the wide potential of investment in Pakistan, Sharif briefed them about the Special Investment Facilitation Council and measures the body was taking to promote investment.

Sharif also invited the Saudi crown prince to Islamabad.

“The people of Pakistan are looking forward to the visit of His Highness the Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman to Pakistan,” the PM’s office said.

President Asif Ali Zardari and Prince Faisal also met on Tuesday and reiterated the two nations’ resolve to build a strong partnership and promote mutually beneficial economic cooperation.

Zardari said Pakistan was working to transform its long-standing and decades-old relationship with Riyadh into a “long-term strategic and economic partnership.”

The two sides also discussed regional dynamics and recent developments in the Middle East and called for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire in Gaza and an end to Israeli air and ground offensives there.

INVESTMENT PUSH

In a statement shared with media on Monday, the Pakistan information ministry said the Saudi delegation would consult with Pakistani officials “on the next stages of investment and implementation issues.”

Saudi Arabia’s planned investment in the Reko Diq gold and copper mining project would be discussed during the visit, the ministry said, adding that Riyadh was also interested in investing in agriculture, trade, energy, minerals, IT, transport and other sectors in Pakistan:

“As a result of this visit, Pakistan’s export capacity will increase, joint ventures will be launched and new opportunities will be paved.”

Cash-strapped Pakistan desperately needs to shore up its foreign reserves and signal to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that it can continue to meet requirements for foreign financing that has been a key demand in previous bailout packages. Pakistan’s finance minister, Muhammad Aurangzeb, is currently in Washington to participate in spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank and discuss a new bailout program. The last loan deal expires this month.

Saudi Arabia has often come to cash-strapped Pakistan’s aid in the past, regularly providing it oil on deferred payments and offering direct financial support to help stabilize its economy and shore up its forex reserves.


Al-Sudais launches presidency’s largest plan yet for Hajj season

Al-Sudais launches presidency’s largest plan yet for Hajj season
Updated 24 May 2024
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Al-Sudais launches presidency’s largest plan yet for Hajj season

Al-Sudais launches presidency’s largest plan yet for Hajj season
  • Sheikh Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Sudais, President of Religious Affairs, described it as the largest religious operational plan yet undertaken by the presidency
  • The plan is focused on serving pilgrims, enriching their religious experience, creating a devotional atmosphere, and launching 120 religious enrichment initiatives during the Hajj season

MAKKAH: The Presidency of Religious Affairs of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque on Thursday launched its operational plan for the 2024 Hajj season.

Sheikh Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Sudais, President of Religious Affairs, described it as the largest religious operational plan yet undertaken by the presidency. The plan is focused on serving pilgrims, enriching their religious experience, creating a devotional atmosphere, and launching 120 religious enrichment initiatives during the Hajj season.

In his opening speech during the inauguration of the plan at the headquarters of the presidency in Makkah, Al-Sudais said: “This year’s plan is the largest since the establishment of the presidency with its purely religious specializations.”

He explained that the plan is the result of the efforts of the presidency’s teams through preparation, planning and study, as well as the achievements of past seasons. The plan is designed in harmony and integration with the various agencies working in the Two Holy Mosques, which collaborate and cooperate with the presidency to serve pilgrims.

The plan for the 2024 Hajj season, he said, revolves around various religious enrichment paths, which include numerous events and hundreds of religious programs encompassing scientific and guidance lessons.

Al-Sudais said the presidency’s plan this year is dedicated to promoting volunteer and humanitarian work, recognizing the Two Holy Mosques as attractive environments for such efforts. This focus is based on religious and Saudi values, which highlight the importance of generosity and hospitality.

A digital axis focuses on enhancing the religious digital experience provided by the Two Holy Mosques. This includes integrating religious digital services, investing in technology and artificial intelligence, and using applications and digital media. Specific religious initiatives are being activated to achieve digital leadership and to reduce the barriers of space and time through these applications.


Hajj pilgrims from Uzbekistan, Morocco, Niger and Iraq latest to arrive in Saudi Arabia

Hajj pilgrims from Uzbekistan, Morocco, Niger and Iraq latest to arrive in Saudi Arabia
Updated 24 May 2024
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Hajj pilgrims from Uzbekistan, Morocco, Niger and Iraq latest to arrive in Saudi Arabia

Hajj pilgrims from Uzbekistan, Morocco, Niger and Iraq latest to arrive in Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: The first group of pilgrims from Uzbekistan, 950 in total, arrived in Makkah on Thursday ahead of Hajj.

Several expressed “gratitude to the Kingdom’s government for the services and facilities that have been provided to make their pilgrimage safe and reassuring,” the Saudi Press Agency reported.

Meanwhile, the Saudi ambassador to Morocco, Sami Al-Saleh, attended a farewell ceremony at Rabat-Sale Airport as the first group of Hajj pilgrims from the country set off for the Kingdom. He was accompanied by the Moroccan minister of endowments and Islamic affairs, Ahmed Toufiq, and other senior government officials.

Similarly, the Saudi ambassador to Niger, Zaid Al-Harbi, saw off the first group of Nigerien pilgrims as they departed from the capital, Niamey. The country’s prime minister, Ali Lamine Zeine, was also present.

Closer to home, a second group of Hajj pilgrims from Iraq arrived at the Arar border crossing in the Northern Borders Province on Thursday, where authorities said they received a warm welcome and benefited from a range of services and procedures designed to streamline entry procedures.

The Iraqi pilgrims expressed their thanks and “commended the Kingdom’s leadership for the generous hospitality and exceptional services provided by the authorities responsible for Hajj affairs,” SPA reported. 

They also praised the facilities at the crossing, which officials said will operate around the clock throughout the Hajj season to provide the best possible pilgrimage experience.


Saudi FM discusses Gaza, West Bank with Palestinian PM

Saudi FM discusses Gaza, West Bank with Palestinian PM
Updated 23 May 2024
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Saudi FM discusses Gaza, West Bank with Palestinian PM

Saudi FM discusses Gaza, West Bank with Palestinian PM

RIYADH: Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan on Thursday spoke to Palestinian Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammed Mustafa by telephone, the Kingdom’s Foreign Ministry said.

They discussed developments in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and its surrounding areas.


Oversight and Anti-Corruption Authority issues statement following Riyadh food poisoning incident

Riyadh experienced a wave of food poisoning cases caused by clostridium botulinum at the end of April. (File/Shutterstock)
Riyadh experienced a wave of food poisoning cases caused by clostridium botulinum at the end of April. (File/Shutterstock)
Updated 23 May 2024
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Oversight and Anti-Corruption Authority issues statement following Riyadh food poisoning incident

Riyadh experienced a wave of food poisoning cases caused by clostridium botulinum at the end of April. (File/Shutterstock)
  • Nazaha says royal directives mandate the holding of all responsible officials accountable

RIYADH: Following the recent food poisoning incident at a Riyadh restaurant, the Kingdom’s Oversight and Anti-Corruption Authority has said anyone found to be negligent in ensuring public health and safety will be held accountable.

The authority, also known as Nazaha, added on Thursday that measures will be taken against anyone found to have obstructed the investigation into the incident and concealed crucial information regarding the cause of poisoning.

Riyadh experienced a wave of food poisoning cases caused by clostridium botulinum at the end of April.

The outbreak was linked to the consumption of food from a Hamburgini fast-food restaurant and led to several hospitalizations and one death.

The Ministry of Municipal, Rural Affairs and Housing later announced that a Saudi Food and Drug Authority laboratory test found clostridium botulinum in the Bon Tum mayonnaise brand used by the food chain.

As a result, the distribution of the mayonnaise product was suspended and it was withdrawn from markets and food facilities across all cities in the Kingdom.

Operations at the Bon Tum factory producing the mayonnaise were halted in preparation for implementing statutory procedures.

Initial investigations by Nazaha “revealed attempts to conceal or destroy evidence, suggesting potential collusion by a small number of unscrupulous food establishment inspectors who prioritized personal gain over public health and safety,” the authority said on Thursday.

Nazaha said that royal directives mandate the holding of all responsible officials accountable, regardless of position.

“This applies to those who neglected or delayed fulfilling their duties, actions which may have contributed to the poisoning or hindered response efforts. Consequently, a high-level committee has been established to verify and oversee the implementation of these directives,” Nazaha said.

Nazaha added that comprehensive reports detailing the circumstances, causes, and those potentially responsible for the poisoning were produced around the clock after the incident.

The reports encompassed laboratory analyses of samples from various establishments and details of medical care provided to suspected victims, it said.

Precise laboratory testing, conducted by local and international foodborne illness specialists, swiftly identified the type and cause of the poisoning, the authority said.

Nazaha said the incident was contained and has been resolved.


Saudi Arabia secures membership in International Transport Forum

Saudi Arabia secures membership in International Transport Forum
Updated 23 May 2024
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Saudi Arabia secures membership in International Transport Forum

Saudi Arabia secures membership in International Transport Forum

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia secured membership in the International Transport Forum on the sidelines of the event held in Leipzig, Germany.

Saudi Minister of Transport and Logistics Saleh bin Nasser Al-Jasser said that the membership symbolizes the Kingdom’s commitment to addressing transportation challenges through innovative and sustainable solutions. It also supports the Kingdom’s established role in developing the transport and logistics sector, he added, highlighting the Saudi Vision 2030 goal of benefiting from the country’s strategic location to become a global logistics center.

Al-Jasser said that the Kingdom has made significant strides in logistics, jumping 17 places to reach 38th place globally in the logistics services performance index. Additionally, the Kingdom achieved 13th place globally in the IATA’s international air connectivity index and 16th in the maritime navigation network connectivity index. He also noted the launch of a new air carrier, Riyadh Air, aimed at connecting the Kingdom to more than 250 international destinations.

The Kingdom is committed to enhancing the resilience of its transport infrastructure, promoting sustainable mobility and ensuring equitable access to transport services for all, Al-Jasser said.

Saudi membership of the ITF confirms its prominent position in the global transport sector, the minister added. This membership will enable the Kingdom to contribute to enacting legislation and regulations that improve and develop transportation on an international scale, he said.