Saudi Arabia’s envoy to UK: We need to do a better job of showing who we are

Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Britain said Riyadh does not seek conflict with Tehran but will not let “Iran’s meddling in the region” go unchecked. (File/AFP)
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Updated 25 January 2020

Saudi Arabia’s envoy to UK: We need to do a better job of showing who we are

  • The ambassador encouraged people to visit his country before forming an opinion of it
  • “There is plenty to see, and you will find a warm, generous and hospitable people there waiting to greet you”

LONDON: Saudi Arabia needs “to do a better job” of “showing the world who we really are,” its ambassador to Britain said.

“In Saudi we do not always represent ourselves very well because we are a reticent people and our culture does not push us to talking about ourselves,” Prince Khalid bin Bandar bin Sultan told the Daily Telegraph. 

He made his comments in light of recent allegations that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was involved in hacking the phone of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

“It is very easy for people to throw these unsubstantiated allegations against Saudi Arabia because they know that it is very difficult for Riyadh to defend itself when it does not have proper access to the details,” the ambassador said.

“We need to see the evidence before we make any response, because the evidence made public so far is circumstantial at best.”

Prince Khalid, who was appointed last year, encouraged people to visit his country before forming an opinion of it. 

“There are a lot of misconceptions about Saudi Arabia. We want people to come and see Saudi Arabia for themselves, and not rely on what they have read somewhere or heard somewhere to form their opinion of the country,” he said.

“There is plenty to see, and you will find a warm, generous and hospitable people there waiting to greet you.”

He said Riyadh does not seek conflict with Tehran but will not let “Iran’s meddling in the region” go unchecked.

“We do not seek conflict. We do not seek escalation. We have always been supporters of taking a firm stand against Iran. Our issue is not with the people of Iran, it is with the regime running the country,” he added.

“But we do not believe in appeasement. At no point in history has appeasement proved to be a successful strategy. You cannot give in to a country like Iran because they will see it as a sign of weakness.”

France, Germany and the UK, three of the signatories to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), triggered a “dispute resolution mechanism” recently in response to Iran ramping up its nuclear program in violation of the deal.

Prince Khalid criticized the JCPOA because it does not address “all the other things that Iran” is doing in the region.

“Iran’s meddling in the region is as challenging as the nuclear programme. This is why we were concerned with the nuclear deal,” he said.


Saudi Arabia stops issuing visas to tourists from countries worst hit by coronavirus

Updated 29 min 16 sec ago

Saudi Arabia stops issuing visas to tourists from countries worst hit by coronavirus

  • Tourist visas will still be available electronically or upon arrival to citizens of other qualifying countries

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Tourism announced on Friday that it has temporarily stopped issuing tourist visas to people in certain countries particularly badly hit by the coronavirus outbreak.

The affected nations are China, Italy, Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and Kazakhstan. The decision applies both to electronic visas obtained online and traditional visas issued upon arrival. In addition, tourist visas previously issued to residents of the listed countries will be temporarily suspended.

Tourist visas will still be available electronically or upon arrival to citizens of other qualifying countries, but as a precaution they will not be allowed to visit Makkah or Madinah.

People in countries that are not eligible for electronic visas can check whether they can travel to the Kingdom by calling a helpline on 0096 692 000 0890. Residents of the US, the UK and Schengen nations can call the same number to check whether they can obtain a tourist visa.

The Ministry of Tourism said that the restrictions were designed to protect citizens, residents and tourists, in line with recommendations from health authorities.

“These procedures are temporary and are subject to continuous evaluation by the competent authorities,” a spokesman for the ministry said.

The latest restrictions come a day after Saudi authorities announced temporary bans on Umrah pilgrims and visits to the Prophet’s Mosque. They also said that holders of tourist visas from the countries worst affected by the virus would be refused entry to the country.

Also on Thursday, the Saudi health ministry said there are still “no known cases” of the coronavirus in the Kingdom.