Finnish official calls for Gaza ceasefire during visit to Kingdom

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Updated 28 May 2024
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Finnish official calls for Gaza ceasefire during visit to Kingdom

Finnish official calls for Gaza ceasefire during visit to Kingdom
  • Immediate access to humanitarian aid is ‘cruicial,’ Pekka Puustinen tells Arab News
  • Calls for Russia to be ‘stopped’ in its illegal attack on Ukraine

RIYADH: Pekka Puustinen, undersecretary of state internal and external affairs for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland, visited Saudi Arabia for the first time on Sunday, and discussed Finland’s foreign policy regarding the Israeli-Hamas conflict and Russia-Ukraine war.

In an interview with Arab News on the sidelines of the annual ambassadors’ meeting, Puustinen addressed the need for humanitarian aid to reach civilians in Gaza.

“Immediate access to humanitarian aid to Gaza is crucial,” he said.

On the Israeli-Hamas war, he said: “The Finnish stance is very clear. We are for an immediate ceasefire, finishing off the hostilities, immediate release of all the hostages, on both sides. And then this two-state solution, which is not easy to achieve, but the trust must be restored in the region.”

Referring to the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Puustinen said that “Russia should be stopped.”

He said: “The illegal Russian attack against Ukraine is actually a blatant, breach of all the international confidence and international agreements.

“We are very concerned about that — Russia should be stopped. They should withdraw from Ukrainian soil, and everything should be done (so) that this won’t happen again.”

He added: “If Russia is not stopped in Ukraine, they will continue elsewhere.”

Puustinen also discussed Saudi-Finnish ties, saying that cooperation is “growing fast.”

“We enjoy a really good relationship nowadays, and we are very happy with the societal opening up of your country as well,” he said.

The Finnish official highlighted that there is a common interest between the two countries in the fields of industrial production, new technologies, energy, mining, and green advances.

Puustinen said he would like to see cooperation grow, with greater investment on both sides.

“We would like to see, of course, increased investments in both directions.

“These large projects under the Vision 2030, in your country, really offer ample opportunities for Finnish companies because of the know-how we can offer.

“I’m predicting a lot of increase (in trade). In the latest figures I have on trade between the two countries, there was an increase of more than 10 percent last year. It’s a huge increase. And if it continues, it’s very welcome news for all of us.”

Puustinen said that Finnish companies are leaders in investment in infrastructure, mining, energy efficiency, and trade, including paper export.

“Finland is one of the leading countries in providing solutions, durable or sustainable solutions,” he said.

He also highlighted that Finland, similar to Saudi Arabia, has a focus on environmental protection.

Puustinen commended Saudi Arabia on its selection to host Expo 2030.

“I want to commend the Saudi Arabian government because you won the bid to become the host of Expo 2030. So it’s rather symbolic to be hosting that in the same year (Vision 2030).

“And, actually, it’s 2030 when the Sustainable Development Goals by the United Nations should also be achieved. So, it’s very symbolic,” he said.


Saudi MMA fighters make waves in world of combat sport

Saudi MMA fighters make waves in world of combat sport
Updated 11 sec ago
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Saudi MMA fighters make waves in world of combat sport

Saudi MMA fighters make waves in world of combat sport
  • Al-Saif and Al-Qahtani reflect on their career journeys

RIYADH: Two trailblazing Saudi mixed martial arts fighters making waves in the Professional Fighters League praised the development of the sport in the Kingdom.

Hattan Al-Saif and Abdullah Al-Qahtani, the most recent guests on “The Mayman Show” by Arab News, recalled their journeys in the world of combat sports.

“Combat sports were unknown in Saudi Arabia, but thanks to the Ministry of Sports, everyone was really pushing, pushing in different ways in Saudi Arabia to develop the sports in a really good way,” Al-Saif said. “We have Saudi games ... we have a lot of tournaments, I’m really proud to be Saudi and I feel like I’m prouder day by day for being a sports person from Saudi in Saudi.”

Al-Saif, 22, a pioneering female fighter, has already made history with her gold-medal win at the 2023 International Federation of Muay Thai Associations World Championships.

Professional fighter Al-Qahtani said: “When I got the contract I was the first in Saudi Arabia, and then I go there and have a good record and … you know, they love it, and they gave me more of what I need,” he said.

“They push me to be the best, and now I’m in the league, I’m in the PFL MENA League, before it was just two or three fights on the global (stage).”

Of his PFL victories, Al-Qahtani said the contests “made me like a star, because the fights were crazy, and I did something no one can do, you know.”

Both fighters agree that their trailblazing efforts should make the Kingdom proud.

“I’m gonna represent the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. And it’s not an easy country to represent and they’re not easy people to make them satisfied with what you are doing. But I’m quite sure that I’m a good person to do it, and I am so proud to be this person to do it,” Al-Saif said. “So, I’m always pushing myself. I’m always doing the best.”

She added that she is glad to have Al-Qahtani and others who support her.

“I have my team, I have my coach. And also half of Saudi Arabia are in love with me and they are helping me and they are pushing me,” she said. “I see a lot of comments. I see a lot of DMs. I see a lot of messages of Saudi people telling me they believe in me. They are proud of me.”

Al-Qahtani said much of his success is down to the influence of his mother.

“My mom, you know, she wanted me to be a world champion, but which sport? We didn’t know. Just a world champion, in a combat sport.”

Besides combat sports he said he also likes extreme sports such as dirt biking.

“But, when I grew up, I liked Muay Thai, MMA … kickboxing. I know what this sport is, this is a combat sport. I just saw my mom who wanted to push me. I needed to be a world champion … and so, yeah, I just started that.”

At PFL MENA 2 on July 12, when Al-Saif beat Egypt’s Eman Baraka at Riyadh’s Green Halls Auditorium, she had Al-Qahtani, currently the Kingdom’s biggest MMA star, in her corner.


Saudi Arabia’s ozone-depleting gases reduced to 1%

Saudi Arabia’s ozone-depleting gases reduced to 1%
Updated 12 min 39 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia’s ozone-depleting gases reduced to 1%

Saudi Arabia’s ozone-depleting gases reduced to 1%
  • Results were part of a study conducted on the Kingdom’s refrigeration and air-conditioning facilities to check the extent of their environmental compliance
  • Field survey checked more than 1,200 facilities to evaluate their general condition and respective corrective plans were activated

RIYADH: The National Center for Environmental Compliance revealed today that the proportion of gases emitted in the Kingdom that deplete the ozone layer has decreased to 1 percent.

The results were part of a study conducted on the Kingdom’s refrigeration and air-conditioning facilities to check the extent of their environmental compliance.

A field survey checked more than 1,200 facilities to evaluate their general condition and respective corrective plans were activated.

NCEC made the announcement at the opening of the workshop “Field study of the environmental compliance extent in the refrigeration and air conditioning sector” and attended by executives and specialists from related government and private agencies.

According to SPA, the results of the study showed that, during the past 10 years, the Kingdom’s prohibited gases were reduced to 1 percent, a proportion representing a positive indicator of the reduction of the ozone-depleting gases consumption plan. On the other hand, the Kingdom’s imports of eco-friendly appliances and gases have increased since 2020, as well as an awareness of the Montreal Protocol that aims to reduce the concentration of ozone-depleting gases and use eco-friendly alternatives. As such, the Kingdom could gradually reduce the consumption of ozone-depleting substances and eliminate them radically by 2030.

The study covered 24 factories using the relevant gases (2 percent), 689 maintenance centers (58 percent), 248 gas distributors and suppliers (21 percent) and 28 importers of appliances (2.3 percent).

The Kingdom ratified the Montreal Protocol in 1993 and established the National Ozone Unit, which later joined the NCEC and is responsible for preparing and implementing national plans for compliance with the protocol in cooperation with the pertinent sectors.


Al-Baha mayor announces launch of ‘Theatrical Nights’ program

Al-Baha mayor announces launch of ‘Theatrical Nights’ program
Updated 28 min 24 sec ago
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Al-Baha mayor announces launch of ‘Theatrical Nights’ program

Al-Baha mayor announces launch of ‘Theatrical Nights’ program
  • Organized by the Al-Baha Municipality in collaboration with the Saudi Arabian Society for Culture and Arts and the private sector, the event will be held from July 21 to 27
  • Ali Al-Sawat: Al-Baha Theatrical Nights program will present a diverse range of theatrical performances, including comedic, social, and patriotic themes

RIYADH: Ali Al-Sawat, the mayor of Al-Baha region, announced the upcoming launch of the “Al-Baha Theatrical Nights” program, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

Organized by the Al-Baha Municipality in collaboration with the Saudi Arabian Society for Culture and Arts and the private sector, the event will be held from July 21 to 27.

Al-Sawat said the program is part of the “A Summer in Al-Baha: Embrace Serenity” festival and includes theatrical performances featuring stars from outside the region, along with artists from Al-Baha. These local artists will introduce themselves to the audience and visitors through seven theatrical performances, all being presented for the first time in Al-Baha region.

He said that the “Al-Baha Theatrical Nights” program will present a diverse range of theatrical performances, including comedic, social, and patriotic themes, all marked by suspense and amazement.”

“These performances will foster a cultural and artistic atmosphere that complements the entertainment events and summer activities. Through this harmony, Al-Baha will be transformed into a vibrant hub featuring international shows, concerts, folk performances, fashion, heritage exhibitions, and culinary arts,” he added.

Al-Sawat confirmed that the theatrical performances include a women-only play, which will be held at the municipality’s theater, the Baljurashi Municipality Theater, and the Wesam Al-Badyah Theater in Al-Mandaq, concluding at the Baljurashi Front Theater. Additionally, the play “Lohmat Watan” (Homeland Kinship) will be staged at the Al-Baha Lights Festival Theater and the Wesam Al-Badyah Theater, with its final performance at the Baljurashi Front Theater.

He said this will be the first time the Al-Baha Summer Festival includes theatrical performances among its various activities, alongside the major events and parties announced in this year’s summer calendar.

According to SPA, with the support of the governor of Al-Baha, the region aims to attract more than 2.5 million visitors and tourists. Al-Baha’s enchanting nature, moderate climate, and well-developed facilities, services and infrastructure have earned it a strong reputation and significant momentum as one of the premier tourist destinations for the Saudi summer this year.


KSrelief runs volunteer medical projects in Sudan, Yemen

KSrelief runs volunteer medical projects in Sudan, Yemen
Updated 18 July 2024
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KSrelief runs volunteer medical projects in Sudan, Yemen

KSrelief runs volunteer medical projects in Sudan, Yemen

RIYADH: The Kingdom’s aid agency KSrelief continues to provide healthcare for vulnerable people in Sudan and Yemen, the Saudi Press Agency reported late Wednesday evening.

The project in Port Sudan for urology surgery, from July 13 to 20, involves 11 volunteers with training in various specialties.

The team members have already completed six surgeries.

A similar project is currently being implemented for orthopedic surgery in the Seiyun district of Yemen’s Hadhramaut governorate, with seven operations already completed.


Saudi Arabia calls for UN Security Council resolution to compel Israel to end war, ‘starvation’ of Gazans

Saudi Arabia calls for UN Security Council resolution to compel Israel to end war, ‘starvation’ of Gazans
Updated 18 July 2024
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Saudi Arabia calls for UN Security Council resolution to compel Israel to end war, ‘starvation’ of Gazans

Saudi Arabia calls for UN Security Council resolution to compel Israel to end war, ‘starvation’ of Gazans
  • Tel Aviv must end its ‘aggression’ and allow for urgent delivery of humanitarian aid to besieged Gaza
  • UN failure to stop Israel driven by ‘short-sighted, selfish political interests,’ says Saudi envoy Abdulaziz Alwasil

NEW YORK: Saudi Arabia’s permanent representative to the UN, Abdulaziz Alwasil, on Wednesday called on the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution that would compel Israel to end its war on Gaza.

Alwasil said Tel Aviv must comply with the Security Council’s own resolutions, which call for an immediate ceasefire and the delivery of aid into Gaza.

He said Israel, as the occupying power, must be forced to respect international law. This includes implementing the International Court of Justice’s provisional measures to end the genocide being perpetrated on the Palestinian people.

Alwasil said the UN Security Council, since the beginning of the assault on Gaza 10 months ago, has been holding “meeting after meeting to no avail.”

Meanwhile, the world continues to witness the Israeli “war machine deliberately targeting civilians and imposing the harshest forms of collective punishment by killing, displacing, starving and imposing a blockade on civilians.”

Alwasil added: “All of these blatant violations are happening before the eyes of the world and the international community continues to turn a blind eye.

“And this inaction pushed the occupation power, which is hiding behind a solid wall, to take advantage of this weakness and international silence to impose its inhumane, violent practices unabated.”

The Saudi Arabia envoy was speaking at a signature UN Security Council meeting called by Russia, which is holding the rotating presidency of the body for the month of July. It was chaired by Moscow’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Alwasil lamented the failure of the Security Council to stop the war, which he blamed on members of the body being bound by “short-sighted, selfish political interests that have impeded its ability to take the necessary firm actions to stop the Israeli aggression.”

“The failure by the international community and the Security Council to protect the innocent civilians has led so far to the killing of 38,000 people and the injury and maiming of tens of thousands, most of whom are women and children,” said Alwasil.

He added: “How can such a forced displacement that is recurrent in Gaza be justified? How can we stay silent in the face of this systematic starvation and deliberative blockade? How can the international community stand idly while a major humanitarian catastrophe is taking place before our eyes?”

Alwasil vowed that his country would continue to support the Palestinian right to self-determination and the establishment of a state on the lines of 1967 with East Jerusalem as the capital.

This would “ensure comprehensive justice (and) peace in line with the Arab Peace Initiative and the relevant resolutions of international legitimacy.”