Saudi Arabia ‘absolutely’ has the right to defend itself, says Ortagus

Morgan Ortagus described the Saudi-American relationship as “strategic, sophisticated and bipartisan” regardless of the outcome of the upcoming US presidential election. (File/AFP)
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Updated 15 October 2020

Saudi Arabia ‘absolutely’ has the right to defend itself, says Ortagus

  • US State Department spokesperson stresses support against Iran
  • Ortagus tells Arab News relationship with Saudi Arabia “is bipartisan”

RIYADH: On the heels of the Saudi-American strategic dialogue, US State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus stressed her country’s support to the Kingdom in facing the Iranian, Houthi aggression and said that Saudi Arabia “absolutely” has the right to defend itself.
During a phone interview with Arab News, Ortagus described the Saudi-American relationship as “strategic, sophisticated and bipartisan” regardless of the outcome of the upcoming US presidential election.
Regarding critics who question US arms sales to the Kingdom, Ortagus said that deals have been happening “under Republican and Democratic administration for some time,” adding that both this administration, as well as previous ones, supported them.
Having lived in Saudi Arabia almost a decade ago while working under former President Barack Obama, she remembers those deals well.
“We know that Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Gulf are on the front line of Iranian aggression,” she said. “That’s why we have sought to bolster and strengthen our allies to stand up to the aggression from Iran.”
Expressing concern over the abandoned and decaying oil tanker, the Safer, that has been moored near Ras Issa oil terminal on the shores of the Red Sea for more than five years, she said: “The leaking and immobile oil storage vessel Safer is a time bomb in the Red Sea, and if it ruptures, it will devastate the Red Sea ecosystem — killing its marine life and its treasured environmental heritage and depriving the people who rely on the Red Sea of their livelihoods.  
“The Houthis have politicized the tanker by continually imposing conditions before they will grant access to UN officials who need to board the Safer and do the work necessary to prevent massive environmental damage throughout the region. We call for an end to the delays and for the UN experts to be granted access so that they can assess the vessel and begin repairs.”
Following the strategic dialogue which took place on Oct. 14, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced a $1 billion investment for a new embassy in Riyadh and two consulates in Jeddah and Dhahran. “This shows our commitment to Saudi Arabia,” said Ortagus.
The relationship between the two countries has spanned 75 years, “we think about it in terms of the past, present and future.”
She termed the relationship as “strong but certainly not without its challenges.”
Ortagus added: “We have faced enormous challenges and moments of very trying times. But, when we start to look forward toward the future, it is important that the relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia is a bipartisan relationship as it has always been.
“The relationship is certainly based on more than military, security, and oil.”
She said: “It has become a much more sophisticated trade relationship and very, very close people ties.
“We look at the next 75 years as something that can be fruitful and positive and certainly support Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 plan for the country.”
She underlined the US support for the upcoming G20 virtual summit which Saudi Arabia is hosting virtually due to the pandemic.
“I know we are all disappointed that we won’t be in Saudi Arabia for that meeting, but we will be working together quite closely,” Ortagus added.


Who’s Who: Al-Mohanad Al-Marwai, CEO of Arabian Coffee Institute

Updated 06 October 2022

Who’s Who: Al-Mohanad Al-Marwai, CEO of Arabian Coffee Institute

Al-Mohanad Al-Marwai is the co-founder and CEO of the Arabian Coffee Institute since January 2022.

The institute, comprised of experts and researchers, educates on all aspects of the coffee value chain, offering a wide range of internationally accredited training courses.

Al-Marwai is also the co-founder and CEO of two other companies in the coffee industry: Coffee Lights and AgriNexsus Ltd.

Coffee Lights specializes in the operation of coffee shops, consultation, training of staff and baristas, and the import and export of coffee. 

AgriNexsus Ltd. is a Ugandan-based organic farming and production company that uses Ugandan Community Supported Agriculture, which allows consumers to get high-quality local and seasonal food directly from certified farmers’ communities.

By leading both these organizations, Al-Marwai offers Saudi cafes a transparent supply chain of authentic specialty coffee served to the Kingdom’s public.

Over the past 12 years, Al-Marwai has founded eight companies in Saudi Arabia, Uganda, the UK and the US. 

During these years in the coffee industry, Al-Marwai has worked in quality assurance and business consultancy, supporting and empowering small businesses to launch and reach new heights.

He is one of 30 licensed coffee graders in the Kingdom; the total number of licensed coffee graders globally is only 3,000.

He is also among the 36 certified trainers in Saudi Arabia’s coffee industry. He has trained and mentored over 2,000 leaders in the coffee sector and entrepreneurship.

Al-Marwai has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Business and Technology in Jeddah.

He holds three master’s degrees: an MBA in multimedia from the University in Malaysia (2009); an MBA in entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial studies from the Prince Mohammed bin Salman College of Business and Entrepreneurship (2018); and a master’s degree in entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial studies from Babson College in Massachusetts (2018). 

In 2018, Al-Marwai also earned a diploma in the coffee skills program from the Specialty Coffee Association in London.

Currently, he is pursuing a master’s degree in coffee excellence from the Zurich University of Applied Sciences and will graduate in 2023.


International publishers exhibit works for first time at Riyadh book fair

Updated 05 October 2022

International publishers exhibit works for first time at Riyadh book fair

  • One of the exhibitors at the book fair was China Intercontinental Press, a publishing house founded in 1993 by the Chinese government to promote the country’s culture and history abroad

RIYADH: The Riyadh International Book Fair 2022 has expanded to welcome many more international publishing houses and distributors to exhibit their works for the first time in the city, including publishers from the UK and China.

One of the exhibitors at the book fair was China Intercontinental Press, a publishing house founded in 1993 by the Chinese government to promote the country’s culture and history abroad.

“This is our first time in Riyadh, and what was interesting is that we found many people here who could speak Chinese very well,” Guo Xi, exhibit marketing manager, told Arab News.

During the publishing house’s first few days at the book fair, many people would approach their exhibit speaking Chinese, and they were pleasantly surprised by how often it happened. 

The 2022 Riyadh International Book Fair is expanding to welcome many more International publishing houses and distributors to exhibit their works for the first time in Riyadh, including publishers from the United Kingdom and China. (AN photo)

China Intercontinental Press displayed a variety of publications, including genres suitable for both adults and children.

“We have Chinese fiction books, as well as children’s books about Chinese culture and books on politics. They have all been translated into both Arabic and English,” Guo said.

What on Earth Publishing was another publishing house to feature at the book fair. The British company specializes in educational children’s books that present information creatively to help children better understand the material and develop a passion for books.

“This experience has been amazing. Honestly, I love the book fair, and I love the vibes here. Everyone is so helpful. I’m grateful for it,” Juman Salama, What on Earth assistant publishing director, told Arab News. 

The 2022 Riyadh International Book Fair is expanding to welcome many more International publishing houses and distributors to exhibit their works for the first time in Riyadh, including publishers from the United Kingdom and China. (AN photo)

The publishing house was founded this year, with the initial release of books in May 2022.

“We specialize in non-fiction scientific books aimed at children that discuss the history of engineering and science. We also have books about the Earth and global warming, teaching children how they can take better care of the planet in the near future,” Salama said.

“We try to give this information to children in creative ways so they can actually read and enjoy the books rather than just receive facts or information in a boring way. We are creative about it,” she said.

Britannia Books is another British distribution house that can be found at this year’s book fair in Riyadh. Based in London, the idea behind Britannia Books was conceived one year ago and was brought to life in August. 

The 2022 Riyadh International Book Fair is expanding to welcome many more International publishing houses and distributors to exhibit their works for the first time in Riyadh, including publishers from the United Kingdom and China. (AN photo)

“Britannia Books was established by three young men from Lebanon in the hopes of distributing English books from the UK to all the Arab world,” Hicham Karan, sales manager at Britannia Books, said.

“We wanted to bring English books for adults and children to our Arab world. We don’t have any specific genre; we are trying to fill all markets,” he said.

Karan has personally participated at the book fair in Riyadh with other publishing houses in the past, but this year marks the debut of his own distribution house.

“For me, the book fair in Riyadh was the pioneer and leader of all Arab book fairs. I have participated in six or seven countries’ book fairs around the world, and Riyadh’s was No. 1.”

Aside from book displays, the fair is also hosting cooking shows, cultural exhibitions and guest lectures throughout the 10-day event, featuring local and international pavilions.

In this year’s edition, Tunisia participated as the guest of honor, with 16 Tunisian publishing houses present. The Tunisian pavilion also highlighted the culture and history of the country through displays, workshops and cultural dialogues open to the public.

The Riyadh International Book Fair will continue until Oct. 8 at the Riyadh Front and is open from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m.

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Saudi Arabia sends 4,000 tons of flood relief to Pakistan via land, air routes

Updated 05 October 2022

Saudi Arabia sends 4,000 tons of flood relief to Pakistan via land, air routes

  • Almost 800,000 people receive Saudi aid in 51 flood-affected areas of the country
  • KSrelief to carry out damage assessment, help in rebuilding with Saudi Fund for Development

ISLAMABAD: Saudi Arabia has sent 4,000 tons of food relief to Pakistan, with the aid provided by the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center helping almost 800,000 people worst affected by the disaster.

The floods, caused by abnormal monsoon rains and glacial melt, have submerged vast swathes of the South Asian country since mid-June and killed almost 1,700 people, most of them women and children.

Hundreds of thousands of displaced people are living in the open, exposed to malaria, diarrhea, dengue fever, and severe skin and eye infections, with stagnant floodwaters, which officials say will take months to recede, increasing disease transmission.

“A total of 4,385 tons of different kinds of relief goods through land route and air bridges have been distributed so far, which benefited more than 785,636 people all across Pakistan,” Dr. Khalid Muhammad Al-Othmani, KSrelief Pakistan director, told reporters in Islamabad on Tuesday.

He said the agency had also distributed 15,000 packages containing more than 1,425 tons of essential food items in the southwestern province of Balochistan, one of the worst hit by floods.

Ten Saudi flights loaded with various relief goods delivered the aid, with packages handed over to the National Disaster Management Authority. Relief goods have also been sent via a land bridge established by KSrelief.

“So far, a total of 65,000 food packages, 50,000 mosquito nets, 5,000 relief tents, and 25,000 NFI (non-food items) kits have been distributed in 51 affected areas all over Pakistan,” Saudi Ambassador Nawaf bin Said Al-Malki said.

He added that a field survey will be conducted in coordination with other government organizations to assess damage due to the floods, which swept away and destroyed houses, schools, health centers, water projects, bridges and roads.

“After the data is collected, the scope of the works will be studied, and the facilities will be rehabilitated by KSrelief together with the Saudi Fund for Development,” Al-Malki said.

NDMA Chairman Lt. Gen. Akhtar Nawaz thanked the Kingdom’s leadership for the timely assistance.

“Saudi Arabia has always supported Pakistan in difficult times, be it the earthquake of 2005, the super flood of 2010, and these unprecedented monsoon-triggered floods now,” he said.

“On behalf of the government of Pakistan and NDMA, I assure you that whatever support is coming, without delay it will be delivered to the affected people in the most proficient manner.”


Saudi deputy minister for public diplomacy meets Ukraine’s ambassador

Updated 06 October 2022

Saudi deputy minister for public diplomacy meets Ukraine’s ambassador

Saudi Deputy Minister for Public Diplomacy Fahad Abualnasr met Anatolii Petrenko, Ukraine’s ambassador, in Riyadh on Wednesday. 

They reviewed bilateral relations between Saudi Arabia and Ukraine and other issues of common interest.

Abualnasr earned his bachelor’s degree in political science in 2000 from the American University in Washington, then obtained his master’s in comparative politics from the same university in 2002.

Before joining the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Abualnasr was the director-general for the King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue in Vienna.

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Riyadh prepares for opening of 14 top international restaurant brands

Updated 04 October 2022

Riyadh prepares for opening of 14 top international restaurant brands

  • The new fine-dining establishments, which include five with Michelin-starred restaurants in other countries, are due to open in December

RIYADH: More than a dozen renowned international restaurant brands are set to open in Riyadh by the end of the year, including several with establishments in other countries that have earned a coveted Michelin star.

As the tastes of Saudis develop, the Kingdom is increasingly becoming a focus for major dining brands, which are contributing to the development of the tourism and entertainment sectors in the country as well as the national economy. During Riyadh Season celebrations, for example, residents and visitors to the capital have spent more than SR6 billion ($1.6 billion), according to the General Entertainment Authority.

Prince Saud bin Abdulaziz bin Farhan, who chairs the board of directors at Yakoon, a leading company in the hospitality industry, said that 14 international restaurant brands are due open in the capital in December. Five of them have establishments elsewhere in the world that have been awarded a Michelin star, an honor considered by many to represent the pinnacle of fine dining.

The new restaurants in Riyadh will include L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, La Cantine du Faubourg, Sass Cafe and MusicHall. Renowned in Europe and elsewhere, they are considered to be among the most luxurious and distinguished in the world. In the Kingdom, they will be located in areas such as The Boulevard, Al-Bujairi in Diriyah, and King Abdullah Financial District.

“Bringing these restaurants to the Kingdom is in line with the development we are witnessing in the tourism and entertainment sectors,” Prince Saud told Arab News.

“We expect this category of restaurants in the food and nutrition sector to contribute positively to the tourist’s journey and the entertainment experience of the citizen and resident.”

He said his team’s investment aims reflect the objectives of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, including the development of the Kingdom as a global tourism destination. Part of this involves the comprehensive development of the entertainment sector and the promotion of a luxurious lifestyle, he added, and as part of its efforts to establish itself as a global destination, Riyadh will continue to enhance its image by embracing fine-dining brands.

“We aim to create an exceptional experience in the tourist’s journey or the experience of the citizen and resident in the food sector in the Kingdom, and bringing international restaurants to Riyadh and other cities of the Kingdom will contribute to enhancing the region’s touristic position,” Prince Saud said.