Saudi crown prince’s visit to focus on culture, tourism and business

French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian welcomes Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at Paris-Le Bourget airport on Sunday. AFP
Updated 09 April 2018

Saudi crown prince’s visit to focus on culture, tourism and business

  • Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and President Emmanuel Macron meeting on Tuesday.
  • Kingdom tapping into French expertise on culture and tourism

PARIS: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrived in France on Sunday on the fourth leg of his international tour for a stop that will focus on building relations over culture and tourism.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian received the crown prince at the Paris Le-Bourget Airport. The Saudi Ambassador to France, Dr. Khalid Al-Anqari, and French Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Francois Gouyette were also present.
The crown prince arrived from his three-week tour of the US, which finished in Houston where he met former Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. While in America he met US President Donald Trump and political leaders in Washington, finance chiefs in New York and the CEOs of the tech and entertainment worlds on the West Coast.
In France, the visit will include business events and a meeting with President Emmanuel Macron, a similarly young and ambitious leader keen on radical reforms.
But the main focus will be on culture and tourism as the Kingdom looks to tap into French expertise to help develop its archaeological sites and preserve its heritage.
Details of a collaboration between the two countries over the ancient site of Al-Ula, which contains the Madain Saleh tombs are expected to be announced during a high-profile gala dinner.
Several other cultural events have also been arranged to coincide with the visit. 
The Misk Foundation, the crown prince’s philanthropic organization to develop arts and culture, is holding a two-day event at one of the most famous museums in the French capital, the Arab World Institute. The event will include an art exhibition, a virtual reality film and cultural performances.
The Kingdom’s General Culture Authority has organized a cultural event that lasts for three days starting on Monday and will showcase films, exhibitions and performances from young Saudi artists at the Palais de Tokyo.
On Tuesday, the crown prince will meet with Macron at the Élysée Palace, when the two men are expected to discuss a range of issues, including Syria, the war in Yemen and Iranian influence in the region.
France has taken a tougher line on Iran since Macron became the president and has strongly condemned Tehran’s ballistic missile program.
Around 18 memorandums of understanding in energy, agriculture, tourism and culture are set to be signed at an official Saudi-France CEO Forum on Tuesday, a source close to the crown prince’s delegation told AFP.
“This is not a traditional state visit,” another source close to the Saudi delegation told AFP. “It is about forging a new partnership with France, not just shopping for deals.”
Macron’s office said the trip would also focus on investment in the digital economy as well as renewable energy, as the world’s top crude exporter pumps billions of dollars in the sector in a bid to diversify its economy.

Major Saudi research center prepares to take part in advanced COVID-19 vaccine trials

Updated 22 September 2020

Major Saudi research center prepares to take part in advanced COVID-19 vaccine trials

  • Ministry of Health and King Abdullah International Medical Research Center have been working with two Chinese drug companies

JEDDAH: King Abdullah International Medical Research Center (KAIMRC) in Saudi Arabia is preparing to take part in advanced trials of one or two COVID-19 vaccines.

About 40 potential vaccines are being tested on humans, nine of which are at the advanced stage of clinical trials to evaluate their safety and effectiveness in protecting people against a virus that has infected more than 31 million people around the world.

The center confirmed its readiness to cooperate with the Kingdom’s Ministry of Health and the Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) and participate in tests of one or two of the nine vaccines that are in the third phase of clinical trials, during which large-scale testing on humans takes place.

Dr. Naif Al-Harbi, the head of KAIMRC’s drug-development unit, told Al-Ekhbariya TV news channel that it is unprecedented to have nine vaccines in stage three of clinical trials so soon, less than a year, after the emergence of a new virus.

“Approval or disapproval of any drug normally follows the third stage of its clinical trials, which is the last stage,” he added. “Since the pandemic, KAIMRC has been in continuous contact with a number of drug companies in four countries (that are developing vaccines).”

KAIMRC has been working with one Chinese pharmaceutical company in particular to help evaluate and accelerate the development of its vaccine, he said.

“Over the past two months, we have been in contact with Sinovac to scientifically evaluate its product, in term of the tests on animals and a study of the results of stages one and two on humans,” Al-Harbi said.