Saudi envoy calls for extension of UN arms embargo on Iran

Abdallah Al-Mouallimi. (SPA)
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Updated 02 July 2020

Saudi envoy calls for extension of UN arms embargo on Iran

  • Hopes raised by the 2015 nuclear deal proved futile, said Abdallah Al-Mouallimi, and steps must be taken to curb Tehran’s aggression

NEW YORK CITY: Saudi Arabia’s permanent representative to the UN, Abdallah Al-Mouallimi, has urged the Security Council to “very carefully” consider extending its arms embargo on Iran.

The embargo is due to expire in October, a date written into UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed and helped implement the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the Iran nuclear deal.

Extending the ban is “the right (and) cautious thing to do, and the minimum response that can be expected from the world community (to Iran’s) actions and activities,” said Al-Mouallimi.

His comments came after the Security Council was briefed on Wednesday on what he called a “welcome and long overdue” report by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, which confirmed the cruise missiles used in attacks on oil facilities and an airport in Saudi Arabia last year were of “Iranian origin.” The report, published last month, marks the first time Guterres has openly acknowledged Iran’s role in the attacks.

The Saudi envoy condemned the actions of Iran and said the Kingdom has constantly brought to the attention of the Security Council “the grave violations that Iran has been committing (by supporting) the Houthi militias in Yemen in launching numerous attacks against civilian targets in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, contrary to the provisions of Security Council Resolutions 2231 and 2216,” which prohibit the supply of arms to the Houthis.

He added that the “Iranian pattern of behavior aims to create anarchy in the region by supporting and promoting outlaw groups, whether it is in Yemen or Lebanon or Syria or Iraq. We can only imagine how this behavior would develop ... should the ban on arms and weapons be lifted in October.”

Al-Mouallimi said the recent attacks in the Arabian Gulf show that Iran poses “an ongoing threat,” adding: “We have maintained a high degree of self-restraint in the face of all these provocations and attacks, and we will continue to do so as much as possible.”

He said that during a recent visit to Riyadh, US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook reiterated the message of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who warned that lifting the arms embargo would give Iran a license to continue its illegal actions.

Noting that an extension of the ban is in the interests of both the US and Saudi Arabia, Al-Mouallimi added: “What the US is asking us to do is make our voice heard in various circles and we’re trying to do that as much as we can.”

He acknowledged that it might be difficult to persuade Security Council permanent members Russia and China to approve an extension of the embargo, given their views on Iran and the region.

“(Russia and China) both expressed solidarity with Saudi Arabia after the attacks on its territory, so we hope we can build on that to demonstrate that the only way to (condemn those attacks) is to maintain the current arms embargo against Iran,” said Al-Mouallimi.

“We respect (Russia’s and China’s) protection of their interests in the region but we think that these interests will be better preserved and promoted by stability and peace in the region, rather than for us to continuously face this kind of threat.

“The threat that Iran poses is not only to Saudi Arabia and the region, it is a threat that can reach far and wide,” he added, referring to a warning from Pompeo that Iranian missiles would have the capability to strike targets as far away as India and Poland, along with American bases in a number of countries.

Al-Mouallimi said that Iran is exploiting the differences that have emerged between Washington and European nations, Russia and China, and capitalizing on them.

“While Iran continues to take advantage of the divisions within the international community, we are trying to promote a unified vision, and a more constructive approach,” he said.
He added that he regretted that the optimism generated by the signing of the JCPOA in 2015 turned out to be “futile,” as Iran had continued to interfere in the internal affairs of neighboring countries. US President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the nuclear deal in 2018.

“We went along with the JCPOA in the beginning (but now) the shortfalls of this agreement outweigh its benefits,” said Al-Mouallimi.

“Just yesterday, (Iranian) Foreign Minister (Javad) Zarif said clearly, ‘This is our region and we meddle with it as we please.’ No, Mr. Zarif, this is not a region that is open for you to meddle in. These are sovereign states, and you should stay out of these countries. You can meddle in the internal affairs of Iran as much as you like.”

Al-Mouallimi called for a fresh start, with the involvement of the Gulf nations “most affected by Iran’s behavior.”

Meanwhile, the trial of Saudi officials indicted in connection with the 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul is due to begin in Turkey on Friday.

Asked whether Saudi Arabia would cooperate with Turkey on the trial, Al-Mouallimi said that Ankara has shunned such cooperation.

“We have asked Turkey to provide us with all the evidence, data or anything that they have that would help the process of justice in Saudi Arabia. They have failed to respond,” he said.

“During the trial that took place in Saudi Arabia, the Turkish representative was always present and witnessed the process as it went along. It is up to our Turkish friends to demonstrate their cooperation and goodwill on this issue, rather than simply use it as a political bargaining point.

“Justice is more important than to be used by any party for political games and political purposes.”

In December, a court in Saudi Arabia sentenced five people to death for Khashoggi’s murder, and three others were jailed for a total of 24 years.


Jeddah center of Japan’s TeamLab promises an inspiring art space for Saudis

Updated 22 September 2020

Jeddah center of Japan’s TeamLab promises an inspiring art space for Saudis

  • Agreement between KSA and Tokyo-based technology group envisions region’s first digital-art museum
  • TeamLab Borderless Jeddah is in line with Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform strategy and Quality of Life program

DUBAI: Japan’s TeamLab Borderless has brought to life the idea of a world of digital art without boundaries, a museum where art installations can move from one room to another and come alive in different parts of the world simultaneously.

Artworks such as these will be seen in Saudi Arabia, now that its Ministry of Culture has announced plans for a space in Jeddah to exhibit interactive digital artworks created by the Tokyo-based technology group.

TeamLab Borderless Jeddah, scheduled to open in 2023, will feature an array of interconnected artworks created by a group of physicians, CGI animators, engineers and mathematicians.

Kudo Takashi, TeamLab’s communications manager and brand director, said the plan is to create an art space in Jeddah that is positive and futuristic. “What we create isn’t something we can explain through words,” he told Arab News Japan.

Japan’s TeamLab looks to explore the world “beyond borders,” merging both arts and technology to create their Borderless exhibitions around the world. (Via TeamLab/Supplied)

Takashi said growing up in the UAE, he developed a deep appreciation and love for Arab countries, which inspired him to bring innovation to the region’s art landscape.

Formed in 2001, TeamLab sees itself as an international art collective. Its first permanent exhibition, TeamLab Borderless, opened at Tokyo’s Mori Museum in 2018.

The artworks are displayed across a 10,000-square-meter space. Another permanent exhibition opened in Shanghai, China, in November last year.

TeamLab museums are known for their interconnectivity between installations in different locations. Takashi said entering any of these is like entering a unified digital world.

“There’s no boundary between the visitors and the artwork. If you’re standing inside our space, some flowers will (start to) bloom around you. If you touch them, you’ll activate them,” he added.

Borders are mere “illusions,” Takashi said, adding: “Despite our age, location or background, we’re able to connect. As humans we naturally find a way to connect.”

This is apparent in TeamLab’s art, where if a visitor touches a piece in Tokyo it will be affected in Shanghai, demonstrating how interconnected the installations are.

Most of TeamLab’s work is programmed to respond to light, sound and touch. One piece, “Hopscotch for Geniuses: Bounce on the Water,” involves visitors hopping on shapes that appear on the ground, activating images and depictions of fish, insects and other animals.

Japan’s TeamLab looks to explore the world “beyond borders,” merging both arts and technology to create their Borderless exhibitions around the world. (Via TeamLab/Supplied)

Another piece, “Multi-Jumping Universe,” allows people to direct the flow of light and music around them simply through their own movements.

The Jeddah location is near Al-Balad, the city’s old town and a UNESCO World Heritage site.

There are plans for a children’s section, the objective being to inspire the next generation of artists through its exhibits.

The children’ sections at several of TeamLab’s other museums include experiences such as the Sketch Aquarium that highlight the power of imagination.

Children are invited to color in drawings of sea creatures, scan the artwork and then watch as their colored art piece floats in a virtual aquarium.

TeamLab Borderless Jeddah is in line with Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 reform strategy and Quality of Life Program, which intends to diversify the country’s economy through cultural and artistic ventures.

Saudi artists will be involved in the project, and arrangements for a similar exhibition in Riyadh are in the pipeline.

Takashi said TeamLab’s aim is to “explore the new relationship between humans and their world,” adding that in the 20th century people entered a new digital era that changed their relationship with the world and others.

The idea behind the installations, Takashi said, is to create an extension of people’s imagination and creativity.

TeamLab’s website puts it this way: “Within the digital domain, art is able to transcend physical and conceptual boundaries. Digital technology allows art to break free from the frame and go beyond the boundaries that separate one work from another.”

Takashi said it is important to consider the feelings and emotions that art installations can evoke in visitors.

“Human beings aren’t logical creatures. Groups can be controlled through logic, but as individuals they can be very emotional,” he added.

In order to elicit feelings and emotions in their patrons, however, TeamLab Borderless installations utilize different software and programs that the company created together with various hardware.

“In Japan’s Borderless, we use over 470 projectors and over 520 high-spec PCs,” Takashi said, adding that the technology is set in place to create a higher dimension in the immersive experience, something the organization is looking to expand on.

Explaining that the shift in perspective from 2D to 3D enhances how we experience art, he said: “We understand the world not just through our eyes and brains; the process is also physical and emotional.”

Japan’s TeamLab looks to explore the world “beyond borders,” merging both arts and technology to create their Borderless exhibitions around the world. (Via TeamLab/Supplied)

TeamLab has reconstructed many ancient Asian drawings using today’s technologies, and it is a sign of the times to come, he added.

Much of TeamLab’s work is inspired by Japanese traditions of immersive technology-based environments and workplaces, symbolized for instance by Takashi Murakami’s postmodern art movement Superflat, which combines the flatness of commercial graphic design and characters from popular Japanese anime and manga (animation and comics) with the influences of fine art.

Takashi maintains that good designs are those that can be used by everyone. “If you’re the only person who can understand a design, it isn’t good,” he said.

As for the relationship between art and design, he said: “If I compare what’s art and what’s design, design is the answer and art is the question.”

He believes that the right answer is always changing. “A good business model or answer may (have been) the correct answer in the 18th century, but not in the 19th century, due to the industrial revolution,” he said.

TeamLab’s aim is to create the questions, and for visitors to find the answers within the interactive artworks displayed in its installations.

Takashi said the overarching question that TeamLab is trying to answer is: “The borderless world is very beautiful, right?”

TeamLab also has a special section for children, which will be implemented at Borderless Jeddah to inspire the next generation of creatives. (Via TeamLab/Supplied)

Art may seem “weird,” but it is simply expanding on the questions asked, and the answer is in “global feelings,” he added.

Summing up the purpose of the Borderless exhibitions, Takashi said it is neither geographical nor political — the key idea is to understand the relationship between humans and the world.

He said TeamLab is “lucky to find good partners in Saudi Arabia who could understand what we’re talking about.” Equally, he is excited about the TeamLab projects that will be announced in the coming year.

Twitter: @DianaFarahANJP