Saudi scientific organization launches first observatory to monitor and anticipate future development in Kingdom

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Updated 15 April 2021

Saudi scientific organization launches first observatory to monitor and anticipate future development in Kingdom

RIYADH: The Asbar Center for Studies, Research and Communications announced the launch of the Asbar Observatory on Development, the first of its kind in monitoring and anticipating future development in the Kingdom.
Established in 1994, the Asbar Center is a scientific organization dedicated to conducting studies and research on development and policies.
Dr. Fahad Al-Orabi Al-Harthi, president of the Asbar Center, said the new observatory is one of the center’s initiatives. 
“The idea of launching the observatory comes within the framework of the center’s efforts to keep pace with developments witnessed in various fields in the Kingdom, in order to achieve its ambitious Vision 2030,” he said.
Through the observatory, Al-Harthi noted, the Asbar Center seeks to build a national system that contributes, in cooperation with the responsible authorities, to monitoring development needs and providing information to authorities.
Al-Harthi also said the observatory will assist decision-makers in shaping life in Saudi Arabia and anticipating its future through foresight tools. In preparation for a pioneering developmental journey that supports changes, the observatory will also anticipate future opportunities and challenges by analyzing their effects and developing innovative solutions to them.
“The mechanism of the Asbar Observatory project relies on the work of local and international development indicators,” Al-Harthi said.
“The observatory will focus on monitoring development and issuing reports to the competent authorities on progress, social innovation, sustainable development and social responsibility. It will also issue future forward-looking studies.”
Al-Harthi said he hopes the Asbar Observatory will enhance the Kingdom’s presence in various global fields while maintaining its distinguished international position.

King Salman appoints Abanmi as governor of Zakat, Tax, and Customs Authority

Updated 10 May 2021

King Salman appoints Abanmi as governor of Zakat, Tax, and Customs Authority

RIYADH: King Salman has issued a royal order appointing Suhail bin Mohammed bin Abdulaziz Abanmi as governor of the Zakat, Tax, and Customs Authority, with the rank of minister, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) announced on Saturday.

The new body is a merger of the former General Authority of Zakat and Tax (GAZT), which Abanmi headed since 2017, and the Saudi Customs, of which he was named acting governor since March.

Abanmi has worked as an executive in various private companies and government agencies, including as head of business development and manager of the Tadawulaty program, general supervisor of the Ministry of Commerce’s agency for internal trade, and member of the advisory committee for the Capital Market Authority.

Al-Jubeir calls on Kingdom’s accusers in Bezos phone hack to ‘acknowledge their mistake’

Saudi Arabia's Adel Al-Jubeir called on Saturday for people who "accused the Kingdom" with regard to claims it was involved with the hacking of Amazon boss Jeff Bezos' phone last year to "acknowledge their mistake." (Reuters/File Photo)
Updated 09 May 2021

Al-Jubeir calls on Kingdom’s accusers in Bezos phone hack to ‘acknowledge their mistake’

  • Minister of State for Foreign Affairs said Saudi Arabia “had nothing to do with the allegations”
  • Saudi embassy in US rejected the claims at the time as “absurd”

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia's Adel Al-Jubeir called on Saturday for people who “accused the Kingdom” with regard to claims it was involved with the hacking of Amazon boss Jeff Bezos’ phone last year to “acknowledge their mistake.”

The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs posted to Twitter asking if now that the truth that “the Kingdom had nothing to do with the allegations” had been revealed, whether people would “simply delete their tweets” and “hope that their positions at the time disappear into the sunset?”

Reports in January 2020 suggested Bezos’ phone was hacked after receiving a WhatsApp message sent from the personal account of the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Saudi Arabia's embassy in the US rejected the claims at the time as “absurd,” while Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said the allegations were “absolutely silly” while speaking to Reuters at last year’s World Economic Forum in Davos.

Saudi Arabia wants to see ‘verifiable deeds’ from talks with Iran, says official

Updated 08 May 2021

Saudi Arabia wants to see ‘verifiable deeds’ from talks with Iran, says official

  • Talks ‘intensify’ on Iranian nuclear crisis
  • Minister said Saudi policy had been explained “very clearly” by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

JEDDAH: A Saudi Foreign Ministry official said on Friday that talks between the Kingdom and Iran aim to reduce regional tensions, but added it was too early to judge the outcome and Riyadh wanted to see “verifiable deeds.”

The comments by Ambassador Rayed Krimly, head of policy planning at the ministry, were the first public confirmation that the rivals — who severed ties in 2016 — were holding direct talks.

“As to current Saudi-Iranian talks they aim to explore ways to reduce tensions in the region,” Krimly told Reuters. 

“We hope they prove successful, but it is too early, and premature, to reach any definitive conclusions. Our evaluation will be based on verifiable deeds, and not proclamations.”

Regional officials and sources told Reuters that the discussions were focused on Yemen and the 2015 nuclear deal between global powers and Iran, which Riyadh had opposed.

Iraq’s president said on Wednesday that Baghdad hosted more than one round of talks between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Krimly said Saudi policy had been explained “very clearly” by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who last month said that while the Sunni  Kingdom has a problem with Tehran’s “negative behavior” it wanted good relations with Shiite Iran.

Krimly said recent media reports that the head of Saudi intelligence had held talks in Damascus were inaccurate. 

He said Saudi policy toward Syria remained based on support for the Syrian people, for a political solution under a UN umbrella and in accordance with Security Council resolutions, and for the unity and Arab identity of Syria.

Yemen war

Tensions between Riyadh and Tehran have festered over the Yemen war, where an Iran-aligned Houthi group has increased attacks on Saudi Arabia. Strains between the two Gulf powerhouses also grew after a 2019 assault on Saudi oil plants that Riyadh blamed on Iran, a charge Tehran denies.

Riyadh supported former US President Donald Trump’s decision in 2018 to quit the nuclear pact for not addressing Tehran’s missiles program and regional behavior. After Trump re-imposed sanctions on Iran, Tehran responded by breaching several nuclear restrictions.

Global powers are trying at talks in Vienna to bring the United States and Iran back into full compliance with the deal. Saudi Arabia has urged them to reach a stronger accord.

The talks began in Austria in early April. Russian delegate Mikhail Ulyanov tweeted following Friday’s meeting that “the participants agreed on the need to intensify the process.” The delegations seem to be ready to stay in Vienna as long as necessary to achieve the goal, he wrote.

Riyadh and Tehran have also backed opposing sides in Lebanon and Syria, where Iran has supported President Bashar Assad.

Gulf states have been alarmed by the rising influence of non-Arab Iran, Russia and Turkey in Syria, especially after Syria’s membership of the Arab League was suspended in 2011 over its crackdown on protesters at the start of the civil war.

The US pulled out of the landmark 2015 deal in 2018 after then-President Donald Trump said the pact needed to be renegotiated.

US President Joe Biden says he wants to rejoin the deal, but that Iran needs to return to compliance.

On Friday, Biden said he believed the Iranians were approaching the talks seriously, the AP reported

“But how serious and what they’re prepared to do is a different story,” Biden said. “We’re still talking.”


Opportunities for mutual benefit beckon as Pakistan PM Imran Khan begins Saudi Arabia visit

Updated 08 May 2021

Opportunities for mutual benefit beckon as Pakistan PM Imran Khan begins Saudi Arabia visit

  • Energy, economy and welfare of overseas Pakistanis expected to top the agenda of meetings
  • Remittances sent home from the Kingdom are an important source of foreign capital for Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has long enjoyed warm relations with Saudi Arabia, deeply rooted in their common faith, shared history and mutual support in times of crisis. More than 2 million Pakistanis work in the Kingdom, contributing to its prosperity and sending home billions in remittances. Trade, meanwhile, continues to blossom between the two nations.

With an eye to boosting their mutual cooperation, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan arrived in Saudi Arabia on Friday at the invitation of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to begin a three-day official visit, with energy, economy and the welfare of overseas Pakistanis expected to top the diplomatic agenda.

“We believe this is a very important visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to Saudi Arabia with respect to our historic bilateral relationship, trade and economic ties,” Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri, a spokesman for the Pakistani foreign office, told Arab News.

Pakistan's PM Imran Khan and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman riding in a carriage during a welcome ceremony in Islamabad on Feb. 18, 2019.  (Photo by Bandar Al-Jaloud / file photo)

“The two sides will discuss economy, trade, investment and job opportunities for the Pakistani workforce in Saudi Arabia, besides signing a number of agreements on energy and infrastructure related projects.”

Indeed, the Kingdom is an extremely important trade destination for Pakistan and both countries have been searching for ways to boost their partnership along with the volume of imports and exports.

At present, the trade volume between both countries stands at $3.6 billion, with imports from Saudi Arabia worth $3.2 billion and exports to the Kingdom worth $316.3 million, according to the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry.


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“Our exports to Saudi Arabia have increased this year after our companies were allowed to export halal meat and livestock, and we are trying to further boost it,” Shahid Ahmed Leghari, chairman of the Pak-Saudi Business Council, told Arab News.

Pakistani companies had also started exporting spices and garments to the Kingdom, he said, but there is room for improvement. “We can boost our bilateral trade to $20 billion per annum if we are allowed to export rice, fruits, vegetables, wheat flour and dairy products to the Kingdom,” Leghari said.

Khan’s visit to Saudi Arabia will help “open new business opportunities” for Pakistani businessmen and exporters, he added.

Ahead of the visit, Pakistan’s Cabinet on Tuesday approved the establishment of the Supreme Coordination Council between the country and Saudi Arabia to “remove hurdles” to investment deals signed during the crown prince’s visit to Pakistan in February 2019. 

During the crown prince’s 2019 visit, officials of both countries signed key memorandums of understanding worth $20 billion in the fields of energy, petrochemicals, minerals, agriculture and food processing. 

Khan will be accompanied on his Saudi visit by a high-level delegation, including the foreign minister and other members of the Cabinet.

Pakistan's PM Imran Khan walk along with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the Nur Khan Pakistan Air Force (PAF) base in Islamabad on Feb. 18, 2018. (Photo by Bandar Al-Jaloud / file photo)

He will also meet Dr. Yousef Al-Othaimeen, secretary general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation; Mohammad bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa, secretary general of the World Muslim League; and the imams of the Two Holy Mosques in Makkah and Madinah.

Khan will also meet with members of Pakistan’s diaspora community in Jeddah during his stay in the port city. The Kingdom remains the largest source of overseas remittances to Pakistan, with Pakistani workers sending home $6.6 billion in the last fiscal year and $5.7 billion from July to March this fiscal year, according to the State Bank of Pakistan.

These remittances are an important source of foreign capital for Pakistan as it fights to stabilize its economy, crippled by the coronavirus pandemic.

“This visit is important because Pakistan is facing real financial challenges where we have to maintain our foreign exchange reserves,” Qamar Cheema, a Pakistani foreign-relations analyst, told Arab News.

“Pakistan is also facing challenges since the UAE visa (for Pakistanis) has not been resumed and at the same time the Pakistani diaspora is very much important. So, Pakistan wants its strategic partnership with Saudi Arabia to remain the same.”

Just weeks after Khan assumed office in August 2018, Saudi Arabia helped Pakistan stave off its looming balance of payments crisis by extending a $3 billion interest-free loan and another $3 billion deferred payment facility for the import of oil.

In exchange, “Pakistan wants to share its experiences with Saudi Arabia, making Saudi Arabia green. And Pakistan also wants to share its (military) experience to protect the security of Saudi Arabia,” said Cheema.

“We are going to nudge forward from where we left off back in 2019 when the crown prince came here.”


The Kingdom has often stood by Pakistan during difficult times, extending financial support during wars and natural disasters.

“Pakistan cannot forget the extensive Saudi financial support in the form of oil supply and cash during our difficult times, such as the earthquake in 2005 and flash floods in 2010 and 2011,” Javed Hafeez, a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, told Arab News.

The presence of Pakistan’s army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa in the Kingdom ahead of the prime minister’s visit indicates both countries are interested in “enhancing defense cooperation” and economic ties, he said.

“Saudi Arabia is a time-tested and trusted friend of Pakistan, and the prime minister’s visit will definitely help open new vistas of economic cooperation,” Hafeez said.


Mosque named after King Salman to be built in Islamabad

Updated 08 May 2021

Mosque named after King Salman to be built in Islamabad

RIYADH: A mosque named after Saudi Arabia's King Salman will be built at the International Islamic University in Islamabad, Pakistan, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said Saturday.

The planned mosque, which will be located at the university's campus, includes a prayer hall for men accommodating 4,000 worshipers and another for women accommodating 2000 worshipers, said the report.

King Salman. (SPA photo)

The project also contains a museum and a library each in the name of the King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's Conferences Hall, an administrative area and a parking lot.

There will also be outdoor yards that can accommodate 6,000 people. 

SPA said King Salman has approved the plan.