Saudi, Canadian foreign ministers to hold talks on key regional issues

Updated 15 October 2014

Saudi, Canadian foreign ministers to hold talks on key regional issues

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird will arrive in Jeddah on Wednesday, where he will meet with high-ranking Saudi officials to discuss the situation in Iraq, the civil strife in Syria and the threat posed by Islamic State (IS) militants.
Baird is due to meet with Crown Prince Salman, deputy premier and minister of defense, and Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal on Thursday.
“Minister Baird will also discuss the strong and growing relations between Saudi Arabia and Canada,” said Canadian Ambassador Tom MacDonald here Tuesday.
MacDonald underlined the importance of Baird’s visit and said that “Canada has decided to play a significant role in the Middle East region, which is currently witnessing turmoil on all fronts.”
He said that the Canadian foreign minister, who is currently visiting India, will also hold talks with other Saudi officials and would visit Kuwait during this trip.
“Canada values its relationship with these two important players — Saudi Arabia and Kuwait — in the Middle East,” said Baird in a statement before his departure to the Kingdom.
“We continue to have frank and productive exchanges on a wide range of issues, including economic prosperity, development, education, human rights and regional security”, said Baird, who will discuss the ongoing threat posed by IS to regional and international security with Saudi officials.
“We consider the Kingdom and Kuwait important allies in combating violent extremism and terrorism,” he added.
While in Kuwait, Baird will meet with Canadian military personnel and their Kuwait Armed Forces colleagues at Camp Canada, the Operational Support Hub for Canada’s mission in Iraq.
“The brave men and women of the Canadian Forces have once again answered the call, this time to combat the threat of this barbaric terror group,” continued Baird.
He said Canada has announced a number of measures designed to combat the brutality of IS and help its victims. These measures include contributing CF-18 fighter jets, along with surveillance, refueling and heavy-lifting aircraft to the US-led coalition to degrade and destroy IS, up to 69 military advisers to advise and assist security forces in Iraq and more than $38 million in humanitarian and security assistance.
Canada is already assisting in the delivery of military supplies to Iraqi security forces fighting IS and has sent military advisers to support them, he noted.
Canada has committed more than $28 million to respond to the humanitarian crisis in Iraq so far in 2014.
Of this amount, $18.8 million is for populations affected by civil unrest and $9.6 million is for Syrian refugees.
Another $10 million is for non-lethal security assistance to provide equipment.

Saudi rural tourism recovers after months of forced isolation

Updated 11 July 2020

Saudi rural tourism recovers after months of forced isolation

  • Saudis turn to domestic traveling and flock to their nation’s cooler cities and rural areas

TAIF: As Saudi citizens turn to domestic tourism in the country’s summer resorts, adapting to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, rural areas have become targeted by local tourists wishing to get away from the soaring temperatures in most of the Kingdom’s cities.

Visitors are now choosing cold Saudi cities instead of Europe, which they are accustomed to visiting, such as Taif, Al-Baha, and Abha.

COVID-19 has postponed all plans to travel abroad, and attention has now focused on domestic tourism amid strict health protocols in parks, gardens and recreational areas.

Walid Al-Hamidi, vice president of the Tourism Development Council, confirmed to Arab News that Asir, with its facilities and attractions, was ready to receive summer visitors from across the country.

He said that under the directives of Asir's governor, who supervises all activities and events directly and constantly, many committees had been formed to prepare a successful summer tourism season, to optimize the opportunity and allow people to enjoy the exceptional ambiance of Asir.

“A comprehensive tourism plan was set up two years ago, which resulted in a successful Al-Soudah Season with the support of Asir’s Investment Authority,” Al-Hamidi added.

He noted that Asir’s directives aimed this year to build an exceptional tourism model that meets optimal health standards in dealing with COVID-19.

The model is supported by the “Nashama Asir” team — consisting of 4,000 volunteers — who have been trained for months and have all the necessary skills to make the season successful. Their work will continue until the end of the pandemic and throughout the summer.

“Everyone is ready at public facilities, gardens and parks, to serve tourists,” he said, adding “tourists coming from all the over the Kingdom will be welcomed with smiles, enhanced services, and warm welcomes.”

Dr. Sami Al-Obaidi, chairman of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Taif, told Arab News that the tourism sector was the economic backbone of any country or city.

He said that Taif was considered one of the most important tourist cities, given its many attractions  that made it top of any list of places to visit in the Kingdom.

“Suspending travel abroad, and limiting tourism … due to the coronavirus pandemic, makes us, as officials and citizens in Taif, well placed for a beautiful and safe tourism season for Taif’s citizens and visitors,” said Al-Obaidi.

“Meetings are held around the clock, headed by Saad Al-Maimouni, the governor of Taif, with the participation of the relevant authorities.”

He expected all sectors, especially tourism, hospitality and a few other businesses in Taif, to recover to some extent during this season, especially now tourists have already started flocking to the region, with numbers set to increase over the coming weeks.