Frankly Speaking: Saudi Arabia, US ‘working closely on multiple fronts’ to resolve Middle East conflicts, says Fahad Nazer

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Updated 12 July 2021

Frankly Speaking: Saudi Arabia, US ‘working closely on multiple fronts’ to resolve Middle East conflicts, says Fahad Nazer

  • Spokesperson for KSA embassy in Washington, DC says US-Saudi relations continue to strengthen, deepen and broaden
  • Appearing on Frankly Speaking, he set out the Kingdom’s view on many aspects of US policy vis-a-vis Middle East

DUBAI: Relations between Saudi Arabia and the US are strong and enduring, despite differences of opinion on some issues between the Kingdom and the administration of President Biden, Fahad Nazer, the chief spokesman of the Saudi embassy in Washington, told Arab News.

“Saudi-US relations are long-standing; they have endured for the past 75 years. Not only have they endured but they have continued to deepen and to strengthen and to broaden under both Republican and Democratic administrations,” he said.

But he cautioned that the Kingdom had concerns about some aspects of the Biden administration’s policy in the Middle East, notably the approach toward Iran.

“We’ve always had some concerns about the ‘sunset clauses’ of the agreement which in effect render it temporary in nature. We want something more permanent. And we also had concerns about the missile program in Iran, and perhaps most importantly we’ve always had concerns about not addressing Iran’s support of militant and non-state actors in the region,” he said.




The Iranian flag is shown in Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant during an official ceremony to kick-start works on a second reactor on November 10, 2019. (File/AFP)

Nazer, who has been the spokesman for Ambassador Princess Reema bint Bandar since 2019, was appearing on Frankly Speaking, the series of video interviews with leading policy-makers.

In a wide-ranging conversation, he also set out the Kingdom’s view on many aspects of US policy toward the region, including the conflict in Yemen, the recent withdrawal of some Patriot air defense systems from Saudi Arabia, and the possibility of normalization of relations with Israel.

Nazer, a former journalist with Arab News in the US, also spoke of the need to have “open channels of communication” with the American media, which has sometimes been critical of Saudi Arabia.

He discussed the “multi-dimensional” relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia.

“There’s a political component to it, there’s a military and security component, there’s an economic component and there’s a very much — somewhat underrated — people-to-people component as well, which explains why it has endured and withstood the test of time for so long,” he said.

In Yemen, Nazer said the two countries were cooperating on efforts to end the conflict, despite the Biden administration’s early decision to remove the Houthi rebels from the international terror designation.

“Saudi Arabia and the US are actually working very closely on multiple fronts to resolve a number of conflicts in the region, and the conflict and ongoing crisis in Yemen is certainly at the top of our agenda.




The Hashed al-Shaabi in Iraq is one of the militias supported by Iran, posing a threat to regional stability. (File/AFP)

“I think that our policies align to a great extent; we are both supportive of the UN efforts to resolve this conflict. We both are trying to advance a political resolution of the conflict. We are also both providers of humanitarian aid. In fact Saudi Arabia is the top provider of humanitarian aid to Yemen,” he said.

Prince Khalid bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s deputy defense minister, had meetings with top US officials on a recent visit to Washington. According to Nazer, “it’s very clear from our engagements with the administration and from the statements, especially from the Yemen envoy Tim Lenderking, that the US understands the threat that the Houthis present.”

He said that the recent removal of some Patriot air defense systems from the Kingdom did not amount to the US “turning its back” on Saudi Arabia.

“The cooperation on the security and military front remains a pillar of this relationship. I think the US appreciates and understands the real threat that Saudi Arabia faces on his southern border from the Houthi militia,” Nazer said.

“We also work very closely on countering the threat that the international community and the region faces from non-state actors and terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda and Daesh.”




An Iranian delegation attends a meeting of the Joint Commission on Iran's nuclear program (JCPOA) in Vienna, Austria, on December 6, 2019. (File/AFP)

The Kingdom and the US have had “ongoing and robust dialogue” about the negotiations with Iran over renewing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on nuclear policy. “We have made our concerns known about the JCPOA back when it was first signed, even though ultimately we did support it,” he said.

“We will support anything that ensures that Iran does not possess the knowhow or the technology to produce nuclear weapons.”

He added that Saudi Arabia maintains good relations with both ruling Democrats and Republicans in Congress over Iran. “It’s become clear to us over the past few months that the leadership in Congress understands the very serious security concerns that Saudi Arabia faces in Iran,” he said.

Normalization of relations between more Arab countries and Israel, following last year’s Abraham Accords, remained a possibility, he said, but would depend on progress toward the conditions of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative — a two-state solution and recognition of the 1967 borders.

“That deal is still on the table. We believe that once that core dispute is resolved and peace is reached between Israelis and Palestinians, that certainly opens the way not only for peace with Saudi Arabia but with the rest of the members of the Arab League,” Nazer said.

A recent visit by John Kerry, the US special envoy on climate, resulted in a joint statement by the US and the Kingdom on the need for international cooperation to achieve the Paris Agreement goals.

“Saudi Arabia is fully committed to sustainable development. We have embraced it. We’re taking the threat to our climate very seriously. We also believe that harnessing the power of science and technology will enable us to meet some of these challenges, including the challenges to our climate,” Nazer said.

He pointed out that the Kingdom has “competitive advantages” in technologies like wind and solar power, as well as advanced programs to develop carbon capture and other techniques to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

Nazer also underlined the cooperation between the Kingdom and the US in the initiative to stabilize international energy markets after dramatic fluctuations in the price of oil since the pandemic struck.

Saudi foreign policy in recent years has made a feature to reach out to countries other than traditional allies in the West, like China, Russia and India. However, Nazer does not believe this will not be to the detriment of older alliances. “We do not see our foreign policy through a zero-sum prism,” he said.

Aside from political work in Washington, Nazer has been involved in a program of public diplomacy outside the capital, meeting business and civic leaders across the US and undertaking a series of media interviews around the country.




Saudi Embassy spokesman Fahad Nazer says much of his time is spent engaging with the US news media, which has not always given the Kingdom the easiest ride. (File/AFP)

“We have always obviously realized that the US is a big country and it’s become very clear to us that there are other groups outside Washington that are very much interested in developments in the Kingdom,” he said.

“They are interested in Vision 2030. So, we’re talking about whether it’s academic institutions, civil society groups and certainly the business community. We have made it a point to engage with all these communities, because it’s become clear that many of them want to maintain long-standing relationships.”

But the majority of his time is spent engaging with the US news media, which has not always given the Kingdom the easiest ride, especially over human-rights issues.

“Obviously the American press is a very big institution and — since your show is called Frankly Speaking — I will say, frankly speaking, some media outlets I think are perhaps more balanced than others. But we are genuinely open to engaging with any media outlet that is interested in anything Saudi related,” Nazer said.

He has had a chance to witness up close the diplomatic style of Princess Reema, the Kingdom’s first female ambassador and the daughter of legendary Saudi diplomat Prince Bandar bin Sultan, who was the ambassador in Washington for more than two decades.

“It has certainly been a privilege and an honor to work under the leadership of Princess Reema. She maintains excellent relations with officials here in Washington, but as you said she has also been speaking to all sorts of Americans outside of the capital over the past couple of years.

“I think she likes the US and I think she certainly feels passionately about the relationship,” Nazer said, adding: “I think that comes through in all her engagements.”

 

 

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Twitter: @frankkanedubai


Saudi Arabia protecting endangered turtles through rescue programs

Updated 16 January 2022

Saudi Arabia protecting endangered turtles through rescue programs

  • Five of seven sea turtle species in world have been discovered in the Kingdom’s territorial waters
  • The Saudi National Center for Wildlife aims to protect nesting sites of these endangered sea turtles

JEDDAH: The Saudi National Center for Wildlife has rescued and rehabilitated five turtles found on the coasts of Saudi Arabia.
According to the center, the world’s oceans include seven species of sea turtles, five of which have been discovered in the Kingdom’s territorial waters of the Red Sea and Arabian Gulf.
For more than 100 million years, sea turtles have crossed great distances across the world. They play a vital role in maintaining the health and balance of the marine ecosystem.
The Kingdom has recorded sightings of green, hawksbill, loggerhead, olive ridley and leatherback turtles.
According to the center, during nesting season, sea turtles lay 60 to 160 eggs at once. This can be repeated up to six times over the course of a nesting season. In some cases, turtles have been seen to return to the same areas that they were born in more than 40 years later.

FASTFACT

For more than 100 million years, sea turtles have crossed great distances across the world.

The islands of Karan and Jurayad along the Kingdom’s coasts on the Arabian Gulf are found to be primary nesting sites for both the hawksbill and green turtles.
And on the Red Sea, Ra’s Baridi, Farasan Island, Shakir Islands, Ras Al-Shaaban, Jabal Hassan and Sanafir Island are also important locations for the two species.

Sea turtles are facing many threats, including overfishing, pollution, climate change and habitat destruction, mainly due to development in coastal areas and the wildlife trade. (Shutterstock)

Sea turtles are facing many threats, including overfishing, pollution, climate change and habitat destruction, mainly due to development in coastal areas and the wildlife trade.
The World Wildlife Fund has listed the hawksbill and green turtles as “endangered,” while loggerhead, olive ridley and leatherback turtles are classified as “vulnerable.”
Through rehabilitation programs and research studies, the Saudi National Center for Wildlife aims to protect nesting sites of endangered sea turtles to maintain an environment in which they can thrive.
The Kingdom is committed to preserving and restoring its marine biodiversity through initiatives.
Among the many projects to restore and protect marine life, NEOM has launched programs to protect endangered species such as the hawksbill sea turtle and hammerhead shark.
The Red Sea Development Company also works towards implementing initiatives to protect marine life and endangered sea turtles in the Kingdom.
The company, in cooperation with King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, early last year worked on the rehabilitation of two hawksbill turtles.
The turtles were safely returned to the waters of Waqadi Island, which will remain untouched and undeveloped as a protected area overseen by the The Red Sea Development Company.
The Saudi National Center for Wildlife continues to set standards for sustainable development initiatives to lay the foundation for marine protection in all future development plans.


Saudi Arabia celebrates ‘Year of Saudi Coffee’ at Expo 2020 Dubai

Updated 15 January 2022

Saudi Arabia celebrates ‘Year of Saudi Coffee’ at Expo 2020 Dubai

  • A short film discussed the importance and status of coffee in Saudi society
  • Visitors at the pavilion were able to taste the different types of coffee grown in the regions of the Kingdom

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s initiative designating 2022 as “Year of Saudi Coffee” spilled over at its pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai with an information campaign emphasizing the importance of celebrating one of the Kingdom’s main elements of culture and folklore.
A short film discussed the importance and status of coffee in Saudi society, with its different types, flavors and tastes, as these types represent multiple regions of the Kingdom, state news agency SPA reported.
Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s most coffee consuming countries, and is currently striving to achieve self-sufficiency in Khawlani coffee beans and raising its economic return, with the aim of contributing to raising the non-oil GDP.

A picture of Khawlani coffee plantation, planted in Saudi Arabia's Jazan region, is displayed in Saudi pavilion at the Dubai Expo 2020 in Dubai, UAE, on October 11, 2021. (@KSAExpo2020/Twitter)

The short film featured scenes about the importance of coffee in the Saudi society, with its different types and flavors, as each kind represents multiple regions of the Kingdom.
Visitors at the pavilion were able to taste the different types of coffee grown in the regions of the Kingdom.
The Saudi pavilion has so far attracted “over 2 million visitors over the first three months,” according to Hussain Hanbazazah, the commissioner general of the pavilion.


Qatari, Omani, Kuwaiti and Bahraini forces arrive in Saudi Arabia for GCC security exercise

Updated 14 January 2022

Qatari, Omani, Kuwaiti and Bahraini forces arrive in Saudi Arabia for GCC security exercise

RIYADH: Security forces from Qatar, Oman, Kuwait and Bahrain arrived in Saudi Arabia on Thursday to take part in a joint tactical exercise of Gulf Cooperation Council member states.

First to arrive was a contingent from the Royal Oman Police, commanded by Colonel Salim Mubarak Al Abrawi.

The Qatari force, which came on board a Boeing C-17 Globemaster military cargo plane, is commanded by Maj. Yousef Al-Hamad.

Kuwait's contingent is commanded by Brigadier General Abdullah Al-Ateeqi, who explained that the exercise is aimed at "raising the level of coordination and field cooperation" among the GCC states.

Bahrain's team arrived in a motorcade through the King Fahd Causeway, which connects Saudi Arabia's eastern city of Alkhobar to the island nation.

Omani security forces arrived in Saudi Arabia on Thursday to join the GCC security exercise. (Royal Oman Police photo)

UAE’s security forces arrived in the Kingdom on Wednesday. 

Arab Gulf Security 3 will take place this month in Dammam in the Eastern Province, the Saudi Defense Ministry has said. 

In a statement carried earlier by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), the Saudi Ministry of Interior on Tuesday said "the exercise aims to strengthen the bonds of cooperation between the Gulf Cooperation Council countries in the security field and raise the level of coordination and the degree of readiness of the security services to confront crises and emergencies and to address all threats and risks to the Arabian Gulf region.” 

 

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Female business owner kitting out camels at King Abdulaziz Camel Festival

Updated 14 January 2022

Female business owner kitting out camels at King Abdulaziz Camel Festival

  • Noura’s company Safayef specializes in customized camel capes, covers, necklaces and other accessories

RIYADH: Female camel owners last week had the chance, for the first time ever, to showcase their animals in a camel beauty contest at the annual King Abdulaziz Camel Festival in Saudi Arabia. But they were not the only women to play a prominent role at the event; others contributed by providing the impressive accessories that helped the camels catch the eyes of the judges.

Noura Al-Ghannam, for example, is the owner of Safayef, a company that specializes in making customized camel capes, covers, necklaces and other accessories.

“I started my business two years ago, in 2019, but a year before that we studied the local market and the problems in traditional products and how they are limited,” she told Arab News.

She came to the conclusion that traditional capes for camels were very plain and simple and lacked style, so she decided to brighten them up with the addition of colorful embroidery and by offering a variety of fabrics. The name of the business, Safayef, refers to the decoration made from woolen threads that appears on the camel accessories.

“I realized that we need different fabrics for camel capes that are suitable for winter and summer, and some are only suitable for formal occasions,” Al-Ghannam said. “We also work on necklaces and medals.” 

Each colorful, embroidered cape is customized and meticulously stitched as per the precise measurement of the camel to ensure a perfect fit. (Supplied)

Sewing has been one of her passions since a very young age, she added.

“I loved embroidering and adding accessories on fabrics, and while most designers tend to design traditional clothes, I wanted to differ from them and decorate camels, as I have an interest in them,” she said.

One of the challenges she faced in setting up her business was the bespoke nature of the accessories she provides, which require precise measurements to ensure they perfectly fit the camel they are made for.

“One of the reasons why we don’t have a retail store is because these clothes are specially tailored and customized for one camel at a time,” Al-Ghannam said. “When we get an order we have to take the measurements of the camel so it can fit the clothes perfectly. 

Each colorful, embroidered cape is customized and meticulously stitched as per the precise measurement of the camel to ensure a perfect fit. (Supplied)

“One of the biggest challenges that we had was taking the measurements for a camel. However, after a year of working with camels, we overcame the problem and now it has become easier to do so.”

Al-Ghannam said that she wants to expand her business to all Gulf countries and aspires to it becoming the leading specialist brand for camel accessories.

Her clients include camel owners and the organizers of camel festivals, and she revealed that she also receives many requests for horse accessories.

“I know many horse owners want accessories for their horses,” she said. “However, Safayef is a business specializing in camel accessories only — and in any business, it is very important to focus on what you do best.”

Al-Ghannam said that when she started her business she contacted the Kingdom’s Camel Club and explained her business plans. They welcomed her with open arms, she added, and this year she participated in the King Abdulaziz Camel Festival for the first time by providing flags, necklaces, scarves and embroidered covers.

Safayef has also supplied camel capes and team uniforms to the Eid Caravans initiative, organized by the Ahyaha Humanitarian Foundation in cooperation with the Saudi Camel Club, Diriyah Gate Development Authority, and the Imam Mohammad bin Saud Charity Society. The initiative involved a convoy of 14 camels loaded with gifts that were distributed to more than 400 homes. In addition, Safayef has participated in other special events, including for Saudi National Day and Eid.


Saudi walking wonder completes latest trek to promote AlUla, personal fitness

Updated 14 January 2022

Saudi walking wonder completes latest trek to promote AlUla, personal fitness

  • In 2020, Nayef Shukri walked in the footsteps of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) following the old Hijrah road, and last year he hiked from Jeddah to NEOM on what he dubbed his Vision 2030 trip

JEDDAH: Saudi walking wonder Nayef Shukri has been putting his best foot forward in a solo mission to promote fitness and his country’s rich heritage.

In his latest marathon meander around the Kingdom, the 33-year-old adventurer recently completed a 760-kilometer trek from Jeddah to AlUla to highlight the desert tourist destination.

Battling through extreme weather conditions and the pain barrier, Shukri covered the distance in 22 days, sleeping along the way in places including gas stations and under trees, and proudly carrying the Saudi national flag.

 

 

With just a backpack and a change of clothes, his only companion was manager Abu Hatem who shadowed him by car to light the route during the night.

Shukri, from Jeddah, said his walk to AlUla had been prompted for two main reasons. “First, out of absolute love for my country and to support tourism in AlUla with the start of the AlUla Season. Another reason for the march, was fitness. I wanted to promote the idea of keeping fit and setting an example for both young and old. 

“It wasn’t just my family and friends who supported this trip. Wherever I went, people would come out in droves to wave and cheer for me. They didn’t know me, nor did I know them, but everyone who saw me walking the flag wished me luck and encouraged me. I felt the true spirit of Saudi Arabia on this trip,” he added.

He pointed out that he wanted to encourage young people to travel within the Kingdom, visit historic sites, learn more about the country’s heritage, and enjoy experiences away from the daily routines of city life.

“Everyone has to discover the abilities in their own body and challenge themselves to discover new skills,” he said. 

In 2020, Shukri walked in the footsteps of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) following the old Hijrah road, and last year he hiked from Jeddah to NEOM on what he dubbed his Vision 2030 trip.

During his walks he has visited many archaeological, historical, and cultural sites including in Makkah, Madinah, Jeddah, Taif, Yanbu, Dammam, Jubail, Al-Ahsa, Asfan, and Badr. 

“It relates to the biography of the Messenger (peace be upon him), and I completed my journey walking in the footsteps of the Messenger, and across the Hijrah Road, the old road, where I covered the distance in eight days and nine nights,” he added.

On his recent AlUla walk, Shukri said: “The hospitality was overwhelming. We knew we would be welcome but the hospitality we received along the way was amazing.”

And posting on social media, he told followers of his joy at arriving in the old city of AlUla. “Finally, we reached it, thanks to God. Thank you all for your support.”

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