Saudi-US bond will last another 75 years, says US State Department spokesperson

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Illustration by Luis Grañena
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US State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus. (Supplied)
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Updated 23 February 2020

Saudi-US bond will last another 75 years, says US State Department spokesperson

  • Saudi Arabia's reforms usher in new era for both countries, says US State Department spokesperson

RIYADH: The Saudi-US relationship has spanned 75 years and will last for another 75 years, US State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus told Arab News on a recent return visit to the Kingdom.
Ortagus was sent to Riyadh as deputy US Treasury attache in 2010 and lived in Saudi Arabia for almost two years.
“It’s funny what a difference 10 years makes. It doesn’t even seem like the same country,” she said.
One of the most striking changes is that women are no longer obliged to wear abayas, the Islamic loose-fitting, full-length garment. Ortagus said that she was about to pack her abaya for the tour but realized there was no need for it.
The significance of the changes is easily lost on those living outside the Kingdom, she said.
“I think that’s a story many Americans don’t see. If you had not lived here 10 years ago, 20 years ago, you wouldn’t understand it the way that those of us coming back do.”
Catching up with old friends has given Ortagus a wider perspective on the new Saudi Arabia. “I was reminded of this at dinner last night by a prominent Saudi woman, who is happy and proud of the reforms. She made the excellent point that Saudi women have been strong, capable and educated for a long time,” she said.
The woman told Ortagus that Saudi women want their peers in the US to understand them, not feel pity for them.
“Saudi women are not in need of being rescued,” Ortagus said, adding that American women also fought for decades to win the right to vote.

Growing through tough times
Reflecting on Saudi-US ties, Ortagus said: “We went through a really tough time in our relationship after 9/11. What eventually grew out of that was one of the most robust counterterrorism relationships in the world.”
The murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018 also led to tensions between the two countries.
However, “we haven’t shied away from talking about that and have continued to have a respectful dialogue on human rights,” she said.
Ortagus said that US President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo both acknowledge the Kingdom’s sovereignty.
“We never come to a country and say, you must do things our way. We never come to preach that. We recognize that there are a lot of things that we also get wrong in the US. But we also recognize that when we see a problem, a challenge or an injustice, we try to confront it. We try to change. We try to constantly evolve as a society,” she said.
The future looks bright for both countries amid reforms that are strengthening established links, especially economically, Ortagus said.
She said that the US welcomes Saudi Arabia’s help on Mideast issues. “We’d love the Kingdom’s help on things like the Middle East peace plan and vision that Jared Kushner has laid out. It may not be a perfect plan, but if we’re ever going to have peace in this region, it’s going to come from Saudi getting in and being involved, helping us and helping everyone in this process.”

Evil regime in Iran
As Iran continues its malign attacks around the world, using its proxies to destabilize the region, Saudi-US relations have to remain strong in the face of the threat from Tehran, Ortagus said.
“They have shown that no matter what challenges are put in their path, they are going to fund terrorism and continue their ballistic missile program.”
The US is familiar with Iran’s behavior, she said, adding: “We know the regime wants to destabilize Saudi Arabia and its neighbors. We are very aware of that.”
The Trump administration is the first since President Reagan’s administration three decades ago to stand forcefully against the Iranian regime.
She added that this is the first time in decades that the regime in Iran has been told no. “They’re not going to behave in ways that will destabilize the region, and threaten the US and its allies,” she said.
Commenting on joint security and the fight against terrorism, she said that the Kingdom remains the most important US ally in the “maximum pressure campaign against the regime in Iran.”

 


US not aiming ‘to rupture relationship’ with Kingdom: Politico

Updated 27 February 2021

US not aiming ‘to rupture relationship’ with Kingdom: Politico

  • Saudis show wide support at home for MBS, describe CIA report as speculative

RIYADH: US President Joe Biden and his administration may be seeking a recalibration of its relationship with Saudi Arabia, but is adamant not to rupture the relationship with the Kingdom, a senior US official said.

Speaking to Politico, the official said that there are “important interests” the US shares with Saudi Arabia. The administration views the Kingdom as an important partner in the Middle East, and it has promised to keep supporting the country as it defends itself against attacks blamed on Iran.

The official’s comments came after a classified CIA report was released on the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist, who was killed by a group of rogue Saudi agents in Istanbul in 2018.

Despite a lot of hype that preceded the release of the report, many observers have described it as too analytical and lacking evidence.

“No smoking gun,” CNN’s International Diplomatic Editor Nic Robertson said.

Israeli journalist and commentator Barak Ravid wrote on Twitter: “US intelligence report on Khashoggi, which is 100% analysis and 0% information, raises real concerns about the quality of access US intelligence agencies have in Saudi Arabia.”

Meanwhile, in the Kingdom, Saudis took to social media to show support for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who underwent a successful surgical procedure on Wednesday morning to treat appendicitis.

Saudi journalist Abdulrahman Al-Rashed tweeted there was nothing new in the declassified CIA report. He described those who were betting on Biden to damage the relationship with Saudi Arabia as “ignorant of how the world operates.”

Saudi columnist Salman Al-Dossari tweeted that the Biden administration should be praised for publishing the CIA report, saying that the findings support Saudi court rulings.

Last September, Saudi Arabia’s Public Prosecution announced the final sentences for the eight people convicted of the Khashoggi murder.

Five of them received 20-year jail sentences for their involvement in the killing. Another was sentenced to 10 years while two others received seven years. Commenting on the verdict, the Khashoggi family called the judgment “fair and dissuasive.”


Saudi Arabia ‘completely rejects’ US report on Khashoggi murder

Updated 27 February 2021

Saudi Arabia ‘completely rejects’ US report on Khashoggi murder

  • Foreign Ministry said it had followed report submitted to Congress regarding ‘heinous’ crime

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia on Friday rejected the findings of a US Congress report on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

The Saudi journalist was murdered in on Oct. 2, 2018 at the Kingdom’s consulate in the Turkish city of Istanbul. He had gone there to complete paperwork relating to his divorce.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that it has been following the report submitted to the US Congress “regarding the heinous murder of Saudi citizen Jamal Khashoggi” and “notes that the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia completely rejects the negative, false and unacceptable assessment in the report pertaining to the Kingdom’s leadership, and notes that the report contained inaccurate information and conclusions.”

It said: “The ministry reiterates what was previously announced by the relevant authorities in the Kingdom, that this was an abhorrent crime and a flagrant violation of the Kingdom’s laws and values. This crime was committed by a group of individuals that have transgressed all pertinent regulations and authorities of the agencies where they were employed.”

The ministry said that authorities in the Kingdom “took all possible measures within our legal system to ensure that these individuals were properly investigated, and to ensure that justice was served.” It pointed out that they were convicted and sentenced in Saudi courts and that “these sentences were welcomed by the family of Jamal Khashoggi.”

The statement continues: “It is truly unfortunate that this report, with its unjustified and inaccurate conclusions, is issued while the Kingdom had clearly denounced this heinous crime, and the Kingdom’s leadership took the necessary steps to ensure that such a tragedy never takes place again.

“The Kingdom rejects any measure that infringes upon its leadership, sovereignty, and the independence of its judicial system.”

The ministry reiterated that the relationship between the Kingdom and the US is “a robust and enduring partnership.”

It added: “This partnership has thrived for nearly eight decades on the basis of mutual respect and the institutions in both countries have worked diligently to deepen these ties in all aspects, through increased cooperation and consultations to bolster security and stability in the region and the world.

“We look forward to maintaining the enduring foundations that have shaped the framework of the resilient strategic partnership between the Kingdom and the United States.


Saudi Arabian Military Industries signs deals at IDEX

Updated 27 February 2021

Saudi Arabian Military Industries signs deals at IDEX

  • SAMI also agreed to be a strategic partner of Saudi Arabia’s General Authority for Military Industries (GAMI in next year’s IDEX

Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI) signed several cooperation agreements with international companies and government authorities during the International Defense Exhibition and Conference (IDEX) this week.

SAMI, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Public Investment Fund (PIF), aims to enhance the Kingdom’s defense capabilities and localize its military industry as part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030.

“We are pleased to achieve outstanding success through our participation in IDEX 2021,” Walid bin Abdulmajeed Abu Khaled, CEO of SAMI, said.

“This will lead us to new achievements and make Saudi Arabia one of the leading manufacturers of military systems in the world.”

SAMI signed a joint venture agreement with the US firm Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest military defense company. The venture will develop capabilities in manufacturing software technologies, along with the production, maintenance, and repair of helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft.

SAMI also signed a cooperation agreement with Nimr, which is part of the Abu Dhabi-based EDGE Technology Group. The deal will allow both companies to work together on armored military and security vehicles. It also marks the first collaboration in the field of military industries between Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Saudi Arabia’s General Authority for Military Industries (GAMI) also signed an agreement with SAMI to be a strategic partner in next year’s IDEX.

During the five-day exhibition, GAMI Gov. Ahmed bin Abdul Aziz Al-Ohali visited the Saudi pavilion along with Saudi Ambassador to the UAE Turki bin Abdullah Al-Dakhil.

The pavilion also welcomed Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed and Lt. Gen. Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the UAE’s deputy prime minister.

 

 

 

 

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Who’s Who: Ziyad Al-Shiha, new CEO of Saudi Investment Recycling Co. 

Updated 27 February 2021

Who’s Who: Ziyad Al-Shiha, new CEO of Saudi Investment Recycling Co. 

Ziyad Al-Shiha has been appointed CEO of the Saudi Investment Recycling Co. (SIRC).

SIRC, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Public Investment Fund, the National Waste Management Center and the municipality of the Eastern Province recently signed an agreement to start integrated waste management and waste recycling activities in the province.

Al-Shiha has been a board member of the National Petrochemical Company, a Saudi joint-stock company, since 2019, and was deputy chair of the Business 20 (B20) Trade and Investment Taskforce.

He was president and CEO of the Saudi Electricity Co. (SEC) from 2014 to 2018 and, prior to that, was a SEC board member from 2012 to 2013.

Al-Shiha has a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, a master’s degree in engineering and control systems from Rice University, and a second master’s in executive business administration from MIT.

He had a number of positions at Saudi Aramco after joining the company in 1984. He was an electrical engineer and vice president of general planning in one of the international joint ventures in the Philippines. He was also a public relations manager at Aramco, the director of facilities planning, and the executive director of power systems.

Al-Shiha has participated in several leadership training programs, including MIT’s Sloan Fellowship Program.


Number of COVID-19 active cases in Saudi Arabia stabilizing

Updated 26 February 2021

Number of COVID-19 active cases in Saudi Arabia stabilizing

  • The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom has increased to 367,691
  • A total of 6,483 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far

JEDDAH: The number of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) active cases being dealt with in Saudi Arabia on Friday dropped to 2,549.

And the number of patients requiring critical care was on the decline too, according to Ministry of Health data that also revealed the levels of people recovering from COVID-19 gaining momentum over new cases.  

Officials said there were 477 patients in a serious or critical condition on Friday and they reiterated the importance of people maintaining social distancing and other health and safety measures aimed at stopping the spread of the virus.

Figures showed that COVID-19 recoveries in the Kingdom had risen by 368 to 367,691, a recovery rate of 97.6 percent, with most being in Riyadh followed by Al-Kharj with 17, Dammam 15, and Jeddah 13.

There were 346 new cases of COVID-19 recorded in the country, raising the total number since the beginning of the pandemic to 376,723.

Of the new cases, 184 were in Riyadh, 74 in the Eastern Province, 38 in Makkah, nine in Asir, five in Madinah, four in Hail, four in Najran, and three in Jazan. Only one case was reported in Al-Baha.

Saudi Arabia announced that three more people had died from COVID-19-related illness, taking the death toll in the Kingdom to 6,483.

More than 13.5 million polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests have now been conducted in the country, with 45,027 checks being carried out in the latest reported 24-hour period.

Meanwhile, 158 mosques had been partially shut down in the past 19 days, most recently five in four different regions where 13 COVID-19 cases had been identified among worshippers.

The Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Dawah, and Guidance said that of the mosques closed, 141 had now reopened after satisfying sanitization directives.