Afghan, Pakistani scholars sign ‘Declaration of Peace in Afghanistan’ in Makkah

The signing was attended by MWL chief Mohammed bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa, Pakistan’s Minister Islamic Affairs Noor Al-Haq Qadri, and Afghan Hajj Minister Mohammed Qasim Halimi. (SPA)
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Updated 11 June 2021

Afghan, Pakistani scholars sign ‘Declaration of Peace in Afghanistan’ in Makkah

  • This should be achieved by putting the Afghani people on the path of peace, reconciliation, stability and progress, says MWL chief

MAKKAH: Senior Pakistani and Afghan scholars have signed the “Declaration of Peace in Afghanistan,” paving the way to resolve the crisis there by sponsoring negotiations between warring factions and rejecting all acts of violence and extremism.

The historic signing in Makkah was attended by Sheikh Dr. Noor Al-Haq Qadri, Pakistan’s minister of Islamic affairs and tolerance of religions, and Sheikh Mohammed Qasim Halimi, Afghanistan’s minister of Hajj, endowments and guidance.

Dr. Mohammed bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa, secretary-general of the Muslim World League (MWL) and president of the Association of Muslim Scholars, attended the signing at the end of the Islamic conference. This was held under the banner of the Muslim World League and the auspices of Saudi Arabia, gathering together for the first time senior scholars to achieve reconciliation among the Afghan people.

The declaration seeks a final and comprehensive solution to the Afghan conflict by supporting the reconciliation process between the warring parties in Afghanistan and reaching common ground by tackling political, social, economic and other related issues.

Al-Issa said that this should be achieved through joint action to stop the bloodshed in Afghanistan and by putting the Afghani people on the path of peace, reconciliation, stability and progress. This was in addition to rejecting linking violence with any religion, nationality or ethnicity, and violence resulting from extremism and terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, including attacks against civilians and suicide attacks as contradictory to the principles of the Islamic faith.

During the inaugural session, Al-Issa said: “This blessed sponsorship and great support by Saudi Arabia’s government comes in line with the Kingdom’s extensive Islamic work, as part of its Islamic duties and responsibilities.”

Halimi said that the Qur’an considered reconciliation the ideal solution for many conflicts and disagreements.

“There were many initiatives and calls to rush to achieve reconciliation among the Muslim people of Afghanistan to get them out of the current ordeal,” he said.

He stressed that reconciliation among Islamic peoples was a religious, human, civilizational, economic, social, political and psychological necessity for any Muslim society.

Qadri said that establishing peace and tranquility, and strengthening tolerance in society, was part of the objectives of Islam.

He said: “Our religion calls for harmony and unity, and supports international cooperation and participation in all benevolent work. Islam calls for protecting the country and encourages development and prosperity, and orders boosting peace and avoiding riots.”

The Kingdom and Pakistan had always played an active role in seeking peace in Afghanistan, he said.

Ahmed Javed Mujadadi, Afghanistan’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, emphasized the importance of holding the conference in Makkah, in the presence of elite respectful scholars, saying that the Kingdom had never failed Afghanistan and was working to establish security and peace there.

He said that the Muslim World League was making all efforts to end conflict and discord, and that the conference reflected a message of brotherhood, love and peace.

Dr. Shafiq Samim, permanent representative of Afghanistan to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), confirmed that the Saudi leadership’s efforts were supportive in finding solutions to conflicts in the Muslim World.

He said that Afghanistan had suffered from war for the past four decades. He said that the conference was a serious attempt to search for ways to solve the Afghan crisis through constructive dialogue and efficient mediation.

The conference included five sessions, during which more than 20 senior scholars spoke about peace, tolerance, moderation and reconciliation in Islam.


Saudi Arabia and China: Chronicle of a strategic partnership

Updated 7 sec ago

Saudi Arabia and China: Chronicle of a strategic partnership

  • Leaders have worked steadily since the establishment of diplomatic relations to strengthen bilateral ties
  • President Jiang Zemin became the first Chinese head of state to visit Saudi Arabia in 1999

RIYADH: China’s President Xi Jinping embarks on an official visit to Saudi Arabia on Wednesday at the invitation of King Salman, during which the leaders of both countries will attend a Saudi-Chinese summit, a Gulf-Chinese summit, and an Arab-Chinese summit for cooperation and development.

Since diplomatic ties were established more than three decades ago, the leaders of both Saudi Arabia and China have worked steadily to develop and enhance the bilateral relationship. Here is a timeline of some of the key developments in the Saudi-Chinese relations.

Former Chinese president Jiang Zemin became the first head of state from the country to visit the Kingdom in 1999. (AFP/File)

The two countries established diplomatic ties in 1990.

Nine years later, China’s President Jiang Zemin became the first Chinese head of state to visit the Kingdom. The high point of the 1999 visit was the signing of the Strategic Oil Cooperation agreement.

In 2004 Saudi Arabia and China initiated a series of regular political meetings. Sinopec, the Chinese state-run energy company, signed an agreement to explore for gas in the Kingdom’s Empty Quarter.

Saudi Arabia’s King Fahd welcomed Jiang in 1999. (AFP/File)

Two years later, King Abdullah became the first Saudi head of state to visit China officially and sign several major agreements on energy cooperation.

The 2006 visit served as an opportunity to discuss broader issues of economic trade, technical accords and a vocational training agreement, and to finalize an urban-development loan from the Saudi Arabian Development Bank for China’s Xinjiang province.

The same year, China’s President Hu Jintao paid a return visit. He predicted that bilateral relations would “write a new chapter of friendly cooperation between China and Saudi Arabia in the new century.”

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman visited China in 2017. (AFP/File)

He and King Abdullah signed several agreements for energy exploration and security. King Abdullah adopted a pro-Asian “Look East” trade policy, with more than half of Saudi oil exports going to Asia.

In 2008, when a devastating earthquake hit China’s Sichuan province, Saudi Arabia demonstrated its support by pledging $50 million of cash aid and $10 million of materials.

In 2009 President Hu visited Saudi Arabia for a second time, during which he and King Abdullah discussed international and regional issues of common concern.

Former Chinese president Hu Jintao also toured the Kingdom in 2006. (AFP/File)

The year 2014 saw Saudi Arabia emerging as China’s biggest supplier of crude oil while the value of bilateral trade reached $69.1 billion.

Three years later King Salman visited China to cement Saudi ties with the world’s second-largest economy. The 2017 signed saw deals worth $65 billion being inked.

In 2019, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visited China as part of a tour of Asia. He met Chinese President Xi Jinping and other high-ranking officials.

As both countries had their own long-term strategic development plans — China with its Belt and Road Initiative and Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 — the two leaders expressed their willingness to collaborate on connecting their initiatives.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met Chinese President Xi Jinping and other high-level officials in Beijing in 2019. (AFP/File)

They signed a cooperation agreement for the enhancement of research and studies in the maritime-transport industry.

The Saudi crown prince also agreed to allocate $10 billion to establish a refinery and petrochemical complex in China.
 


How China’s Xi Jinping became the embodiment of a new, multipolar world

Updated 30 min 9 sec ago

How China’s Xi Jinping became the embodiment of a new, multipolar world

  • Xi Jinping’s rule likely to prove transformative as China eyes title of world’s pre-eminent economic power
  • Since taking power in 2013, Xi has pursued what he has called a “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” 

RIYADH: When Xi Jinping became China’s president in 2013, the world’s most populous country had already emerged as the second-biggest economy and appeared poised to reset the global geopolitical balance.

Nearly 10 years into his premiership, Xi has cemented China’s place as a regional power, expanded Chinese influence in Central Asia and Africa, and made enormous strides in everything from robotics and artificial intelligence to space exploration.

China today has the world’s largest internet infrastructure, with the number of users increasing from 564 million to 1.03 billion over the past decade, and a robust digital economy, which has increased in value from 11 trillion yuan ($1.6 trillion) to 45.5 trillion yuan.

In that time, China’s GDP has grown from 53.9 trillion yuan to 114.4 trillion yuan, now accounting for 18.5 percent of the world economy. Meanwhile, average life expectancy has risen to 78.2 years, and around 100 million people have been lifted out of poverty.

Over the course of his lifetime, Xi has borne witness to China’s transformative rise, from the first tumultuous decades after the communist revolution of 1949 to the nation’s rapid ascent to superpower status.

Xi was born in Beijing on June 15, 1953, the son of Xi Zhongxun, a senior Communist Party official, one-time deputy prime minister, and former guerrilla commander in the civil war that brought the communists to power.

As the son of a senior official, Xi spent his early years among China’s elite. However, in 1969 at the age of 15, Xi was among the many educated urban youths who were sent to live and work in the countryside during the Cultural Revolution — a period of immense social upheaval.

Xi would remain in the remote northeastern village of Liangjiahe, in Shaanxi province, for seven years, learning firsthand how the majority of his countrymen lived and worked. While there, Xi joined the Communist Youth League and then, in 1974, the Communist Party of China.

In 1975, Xi returned to Beijing to study chemical engineering at the prestigious Tsinghua University. It was the following year, on Sept. 9, 1976, that Mao died at the age of 82, ending a 27-year rule characterized by radical social and economic transformation.

Hua Guofeng, Mao’s handpicked successor, emerged as the nation’s new leader. However, he was soon sidelined by Deng Xiaoping, who would go on to introduce significant economic reforms in the 1980s, sowing the seed of China’s emergence as a global superpower.

After university, Xi joined the military as an aide in the Central Military Commission and the Defense Ministry. Then, in 1982, he was given his first position of authority as deputy and then leader of the Communist Party in Zhengding county, south of Beijing, in Hebei province.

In 1985, having proved himself as a skilled provincial official, Xi was appointed vice mayor of the city of Xiamen, a manufacturing hub in coastal Fujian province — a post he would hold for the next 17 years.

It was during this time, in 1987, that Xi married Peng Liyuan, a popular singer in the People’s Liberation Army’s song and dance troupe. The couple had one daughter, Xi Mingze, who went on to study at Harvard University in the US.

With the new millennium, Xi’s national standing grew rapidly. In 2000, he was appointed governor of Fujian province. Two years later, he was transferred to neighboring Zhejiang province, where he was appointed party chief — a post that outranks governor.

Now a rising star within the CPC, Xi was appointed party chief of Shanghai in March 2007. He was to remain in this post for only a few months, however, as that October he joined the national leadership as part of the nine-member Politburo Standing Committee. The following year, in March 2008, he was named vice president.

Xi then began building his international profile. The same year he became VP, he was placed in charge of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing  — an event that marked China’s own re-emergence on the world stage.

In Aug. 2011, Xi hosted then-Vice President Joe Biden on his visit to China, nearly a decade before Biden became US president.

Then, in Nov. 2012, Xi secured the top job in the CPC, replacing Chinese President Hu Jintao as general secretary, beginning his first five-year term as president of China in March the following year.

Since taking power, Xi has pursued what he has called a “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” with his “Chinese Dream” vision.

Under his leadership, China has enacted reforms to combat slowing growth and has launched the multi-billion-dollar “Belt and Road” infrastructure project aimed at expanding China’s trade links with Central Asia and Europe.

The country has become more assertive on the global stage, from the South China Sea and Taiwan in the east to countries of Asia and Africa in the west.

It was in 2022 that China under Xi truly emerged as a global force with influence over world events. (AFP)

In Oct. 2017, marking the start of his second term, and in recognition of his transformational premiership, the CPC enshrined Xi’s ideology, known as “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era,” in its constitution, as well as his signature Belt and Road initiative.

Such was Xi’s prestige at the outset of his second term that China’s legislature voted in March 2018 to abolish the nation’s two-term limit on the presidency.

Xi’s second term was not without its challenges, however. In July 2018, the US, under then-President Donald Trump, imposed tariffs on Chinese imports, triggering a trade war. China retaliated with tariffs on US goods.

Then, in Jan. 2020, China locked down the city of Wuhan as a new virus sparked what would become the COVID-19 pandemic. Although China has seen one of the world’s lowest per capita death rates, its “zero-COVID” policy has required the imposition of periodic lockdowns.

As one of the world’s major industrial powerhouses, and one of its top manufacturers, China has been eager to play its part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, weaning its power grid off coal, developing clean renewable technologies, and promoting sustainability.

In Sept. 2020, in a video speech to the UN General Assembly, Xi announced China’s aim to reach peak carbon dioxide emissions before 2030 and to achieve carbon neutrality before 2060.

It was in 2022 that China under Xi truly emerged as a global force with influence over world events. In February, at the opening of the Beijing Winter Olympics, Xi met Russian President Vladimir Putin, announcing a renewal of the Sino-Russian relationship.

Three weeks later, Russia invaded Ukraine, leading to Western sanctions and NATO efforts to shore up the Ukrainian defenders. China, meanwhile, like many equidistant nations, refrained from criticizing Russia’s operation, but stopped short of backing Moscow militarily. This episode alone demonstrates just how far China has come in the new, multipolar world.

In October, Xi began a third five-year term as CPC leader, setting him on a course to become the nation’s longest-serving leader since Mao, and very likely its most transformative, as China eyes the possibility of becoming the world’s pre-eminent economic power.
 


China's Xi to visit Saudi Arabia, attend Chinese-Saudi summit

Updated 06 December 2022

China's Xi to visit Saudi Arabia, attend Chinese-Saudi summit

  • Summit will be chaired by King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman
  • Will focus on relations between GCC and Arab states and People's Republic of China

King Salman invited President of China Xi Jinping for an official visit to attend the Saudi-Chinese summit held in Saudi Arabia from Dec. 7 to 9, state news agency SPA reported on Tuesday.

The summit will be chaired by King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. It will look at relations between the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council and Arab states with the People's Republic of China,

Discussions are expected to focus on strengthening joint cooperation in economy and development.


Crown Prince announces Sindalah, NEOM’s first luxury island development

Updated 06 December 2022

Crown Prince announces Sindalah, NEOM’s first luxury island development

  • Extending over 840,000 square meters, Sindalah is expected to create 3,500 jobs for tourism, leisure services
  • The island will act as main gateway to the Red Sea and is expected to start welcoming guests from early 2024

RIYADH: NEOM’s first luxury island destination Sindalah will play host to superyachts and top-end apartments, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman revealed as he announced the latest project set to boost Saudi Arabia’s tourism industry.

Extending over an area of approximately 840,000sq. m., Sindalah is one of a group of islands that will be developed in the giga-project, and is expected to create 3,500 jobs for the tourism sector and hospitality and leisure services.

The island will act as a main gateway to the Red Sea, offering bespoke nautical experiences and is expected to start welcoming guests from early 2024, according to the Saudi Press Agency.

The Crown Prince said: “This is another significant moment for NEOM and a major step in the Kingdom realizing its tourism ambitions under Vision 2030. 

“Sindalah will be NEOM’s first luxury island and yacht club destination in the Red Sea, providing a scenic gateway to the Red Sea that will become the region’s most exciting and attractive tourism location. 

“It will be a destination where travelers can experience the true beauty of NEOM and Saudi Arabia, above and below the water, making Sindalah the future of luxury travel.”

Speaking to Arab News, Chris Newman, executive director of hotel development at NEOM, set out the range of events and activites that the island will see once it has opened.

"Sindalah expects to host sophisticated cultural events, grand sporting spectacles and glamorous social celebrations throughout the year," he said, adding "There will be a year-round calendar of imaginative experiences, curated across various seasons."

These will include a social season from December to February which will offer guests access to exclusive music concerts, art and culture events, hosted in inspiring creative venues.

The 'Glamour season' will run from March to May, and then from October and November, and will coinciding with the peak yachting event season. gGuests will enjoy exclusive access to concerts, fashion and culinary festivals as part of the glamour season.

The active season from June to September will offer guests a range of family-friendly beach and recreational activities.

"Sindalah is one of many islands in NEOM. There are additional islands in development, and we will make the announcements in due course as more information becomes available," Newman added/

Mohammed bin Salman, who is also the chairman of NEOM’s Board of Directors, said the launch of Sindalah is a major step in realizing the Kingdom’s tourism ambitions, in line with the goals outlined in Vision 2030.

Sindalah will have an 86-berth marina, as well as hosting 413 ultra-premium hotel rooms, in addition to 333 top-end serviced apartments. 

Other attractions in Sindalah include a luxe beach club, yacht club and 38 unique culinary offerings that will provide an incomparable experience in the Red Sea.

Sindalah is also expected to become a popular golfing destination by offering enthusiasts the opportunity to experience a world-class 6,474-yard (5,920 meters) par 70 course. With its 18 tees, the Sindalah golf course will deliver two unique nine-hole experiences.

NEOM, the $500 billion smart city, is one of the most important projects supporting Saudi Arabia’s national tourism strategy, as the Kingdom steadily diversifies its economy which was heavily dependent on oil for decades. 

In November, speaking at the World Travel and Tourism Council Global Summit, Nadhmi Al-Nasr, CEO of NEOM said that the hanging stadiums in the smart city will make tourists reimagine and visualize the future. 

“In The Line, we want people to come and see how sports stadiums are built, and where they are built. The sports stadiums in NEOM are 300 meter high, loose and hanging in the air,” said Al-Nasr.

He also added that OXAGON, the industrial city in NEOM also has all the potential to become a world-class tourist destination, where visitors can come and see how the future will be.

“It is in OXAGON where all industries will be, and it is the port of NEOM. Yet, we would like to see tourists spending a day or two in OXAGON. They will see the future of industries in OXAGON. Everything in NEOM is built for the future era. We want them to come and see how future sea ports will operate,” he added.


US director Oliver Stone explores Saudi film scene at Red Sea International Film Festival

Updated 04 December 2022

US director Oliver Stone explores Saudi film scene at Red Sea International Film Festival

  • Oliver Stone’s latest documentary 'Nuclear' is screening at the festival on Sunday
  • The 'Scarface' director, RSIFF jury president earlier took to stage at opening ceremony

JEDDAH: Lauded US director Oliver Stone took part in a roundtable discussion at the ongoing Red Sea International Film Festival in Saudi Arabia on Saturday.  

When asked by Arab News if he would consider filming in Saudi Arabia, he said: “My time is limited, I’m 76 years old. What do you want me to do, come down here and learn a whole different culture? No, I don’t think that’s possible. I have one project in mind, which I can’t tell you because nobody knows about it and if I can get that done, I would be very happy.” 

“The Middle East has tremendous potential, economically too. People are putting money here, no question,” he added.  

When commenting on film’s ability to act as a cultural bridge, he said “I imagine cinema has played a huge role, but on the other hand cinema is also very violent and revenge-motivated — those stories always seem to work — so you could say that’s not a good example for the world… so it’s double-edged, it depends on the movie.” 

Stone’s latest documentary “Nuclear” is screening at the festival on Sunday.  

Prior to his private discussion, the “Scarface” director and RSIFF jury president took to the stage at the opening ceremony of the festival on Thursday to share his views on Saudi Arabia.  

Stone said the country is “much misunderstood in the present world – people who have judged too harshly should come and visit to see for themselves.” He also noted “changes” and “reforms” taking place in the Kingdom, which he said make it worth a visit.  

Commenting on the 15-strong competition slate, the Oscar-winning director said: “These films stick to very basic ideas of survival, migration, suffering. There’s a real spirit here, which is growing,” according to Variety.  

The event will continue until Dec. 10 under the slogan “Film is Everything.”  

The festival is set to showcase 131 feature films and shorts from 61 countries, in 41 languages, made by established and emerging talents. Seven feature films and 24 shorts from Saudi Arabia will also be shown.