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, Bulgarian foreign ministers hold talks

Updated 27 May 2022

Saudi, Bulgarian foreign ministers hold talks

SOFIA: Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan on Thursday met his Bulgarian counterpart Teodora Genchovska during an official visit to Bulgaria’s capital Sofia.

During their meeting, they discussed ways to further strengthen cooperation between the two countries in various fields and reviewed the latest developments on a number of regional and international issues.

Prince Faisal and Genchovska also talked about consolidating economic ties in relation to the Saudi Vision 2030 reform plan, stepping up political cooperation, and promoting bilateral efforts to bolster international peace and security.

Saudi Ambassador to Bulgaria Khalid Fakih, and the director general of the office of the Saudi foreign minister, Abdulrahman Al-Daoud, also attended the meeting.

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AmChamKSA discusses women empowerment during 2nd Women in Business Committee meet

Updated 27 May 2022

AmChamKSA discusses women empowerment during 2nd Women in Business Committee meet

  • The main theme of the AmChamKSA’s diwaniya was women empowerment and leadership in the business world

JEDDAH: The American Chamber of Commerce in Saudi Arabia (AmChamKSA) has held its second Women in Business Committee diwaniya at Sunbulah Group’s head office in Jeddah.

In Saudi culture, a diwaniya is a gathering of people in a special room at home or casual setting, usually for tea or coffee, where different issues or friendly conversations on political and social issues affecting the community are discussed.

The main theme of the AmChamKSA’s diwaniya was women empowerment and leadership in the business world. Attendees enjoyed monologues from two guest speakers, Mrs. Kaya Ikuma, wife of the consul general of the US, and Dr. Abeer Bar, who focuses on educational leadership and policy studies. They shared their inspirational life experiences as career women and mothers. 

Dr. Abeer Bar

Dr. Bar briefed everyone with a well-received presentation about higher education, current research in female leadership under the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plans, and how advanced education impacts empowering women and the mindset and policies in place to boost the country’s economy.

“Women from different sectors and around the world face similar challenges. It is important to celebrate women in their multiple roles in society and business and share experiences through such a platform that will help encourage and motivate women of different nationalities,” she told Arab News.

She added: “The Women in Business Committee spotlights women who have made it in their respective fields and recognizes those who go above and beyond in their work areas. Being an educator, I highly appreciate AmChamKSA for the warm welcome and for creating an inviting atmosphere to freely talk about the trials and triumphs in my career journey.”

The event was followed by an open dialogue that circulated around the topic, with a few attendees sharing their personal experiences and struggles in balancing careers and family life.

Some of them shared their experiences in changing sectors after many years so they could concentrate on family life.

Rozana Al-Tayyar, a professional mediator in business disputes, was one of the attendees who shared her amazing career-changing inspirational story from banking to arbitration during the open dialogue.

All of the attendees expressed how there is power in sharing stories for inspiration, education and uplifting others. The AmChamKSA members chose to share authentic stories from a diverse range of Saudi women in leadership roles. Each woman bravely contributed their story in the hope of encouraging others.

Among the many success stories, the members of AmChamKSA welcomed two iconic Saudi women who are excelling in their fields and climbing the stairs to leadership roles: Roaa Zaki, founder and CEO of the Design Studio, and Nouf Aldhahri, assistant F&B manager at the Jeddah Hilton. 

Nouf Aldhahri and Mohamad Tafesh

Rola Osta, the engagement manager of the chamber’s Jeddah chapter, said: “The AmChamKSA and Women in Business Committee members were highly interested in attending more of these insightful events, building the bilateral relationship between Saudi and US businesses while focusing on creating the engagement on the advancement of women as outlined in the Vision 2030 development goals.”

Mohammad Tafesh, vice president of the Jeddah chapter, said that these events help attendees build connections and enjoy thoughtful conversation on issues that focus on empowering, inspiring and motivating each other.

“As an organizer, we aim to hold more events, seminars, and panel discussions to bring in business leaders — both men and women — to share stories and to foster more diverse, more equitable, and more inclusive workplaces. Through this event, I am hopeful that everyone will leave with clear ideas on how to empower women and create workplaces that empower them,” Tafesh said.

Decoder

Diwaniya

In Saudi culture, a diwaniya is a gathering of people in a special room at home or casual setting, usually for tea or coffee, where different issues or friendly conversations on political and social issues affecting the community are discussed.


French envoy praises Yanbu, as ancient port city looks to the future

Updated 26 May 2022

French envoy praises Yanbu, as ancient port city looks to the future

  • ‘The tourist potential of Yanbu is impressive. It is captivating, both the traditional architecture of its historic district, and the beauty of its coasts and exceptional rich seabed’

RIYADH: The French ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Ludovic Pouille, has highlighted Yanbu’s tourist potential during a visit to the ancient Red Sea port city in Saudi Arabia’s western region.

Pouille was welcomed by Yanbu Gov. Saad Al-Suhaimi, along with the consul general of France in Jeddah, Mostafa Mihraje, on Wednesday for discussions on industrial and tourist development in the governorate and the strengthening of ties with France.

Pouille told Arab News en Français: “The tourist potential of Yanbu is impressive. It is captivating, both the traditional architecture of its historic district, and the beauty of its coasts and exceptional rich seabed, as well as its surrounding mountains that offer promising perspectives in eco-tourism.” 

The French ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Ludovic Pouille, concluded his first day in the old town of Yanbu with a “very pleasant” visit to the traditional night souk. (Supplied)

Yanbu, a few hours’ drive west from Madinah, is the second-largest city on the shores of the Red Sea after Jeddah.

Pouille praised Yanbu’s gastronomy, saying that it “offers the best fresh fish in the country and the most delicious Sayadieh brown rice.”

The French envoy visited the Royal Commission in Yanbu and met with its CEO, Fahad Dhaifallah Al-Qurashi, and his team. 

On the second day of his tour in Yanbu, the Ambassador visited on Thursday the industrial and commercial port of King Fahad, one of the most important ports in the Red Sea. (Supplied)

Pouille and Al-Qurashi discussed the contribution of French companies to the economic development of the industrial city.

The ambassador also met with the mayor of Yanbu, Yasser Al-Rifai, for discussions that focused on the city’s promising industrial, energy, cultural and tourist outlook.

Pouille said that within the framework of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 plan, “the industrial development plans of the city and the port should double in the next 15 years, and also create many opportunities for strengthening Franco-Saudi economic relations.” 

Captain Ali Salem Al-Mehwari, Director General of King Fahd Industrial Port and Yanbu Commercial (right) and French ambassador Ludovic Pouille. (Supplied)

He ended his first day in the old town of Yanbu with a visit to a traditional night souq, where products made by the women’s cooperatives of the region are displayed and sold as part of the women’s empowerment policy steered by the governorate.

On the second day of his tour, the ambassador on Thursday visited the industrial and commercial port of King Fahd, one of the most important ports in the Red Sea.

Thanking Capt. Ali Salem Al-Mehwari, director general of King Fahd Industrial Port and Yanbu Commercial, for his warm welcome, Pouille said: “The greeting I received there from the authorities and the population confirms, if need be, the renowned Saudi hospitality.”

The French envoy ended his tour by visiting the industrial city, where he met with the CEO of the Yasref Refinery, Hicham Al-Adel, who established a strategic partnership with the French multinational Air Liquide group in the field of hydrogen production.


The Gulf-European Parliamentary Committee holds 5th meeting

Updated 26 May 2022

The Gulf-European Parliamentary Committee holds 5th meeting

  • The Gulf-European Parliamentary Committee is one of the permanent committees emanating from the periodic meeting of the heads of the Shoura, Representatives, National and Nation Councils in the GCC

RIYADH: The Shoura Council hosted today the fifth meeting of the Gulf-European Parliamentary Committee. The meeting was held virtually with the participation of several members of the Shoura, Representatives, National, and Nation Councils in the Gulf Cooperation Councils.

The meeting began with the committee offering its deepest condolences to the government and people of the UAE for the passing of Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

The committee also congratulated and sent its sincere blessings to Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan on his election as president of the UAE, wishing him and the country more success, progress and prosperity.

In his speech, Shoura Council member and Chairperson Dr. Ibrahim Al-Nahas stressed the importance of coordinating Gulf stances to unify parliamentary diplomatic efforts towards all Gulf-European issues.

The committee agreed that the presiding state will work with the GCC General Secretariat to initiate a bilateral meeting with the European Parliament delegation for relations with the Arabian Peninsula.

The committee will also coordinate between the presiding state and the General Secretariat regarding communication with the European Parliament to determine the date of the mutual visits.

The Shoura Council delegation participating in the meeting included council member and chair of the meeting, Dr. Ibrahim Al-Nahas, the secretary-general of the Shoura Council, Mohammed Al-Mutairi, and council member Dr. Tariq Al-Shammari.

The Gulf-European Parliamentary Committee is one of the permanent committees emanating from the periodic meeting of the heads of the Shoura, Representatives, National and Nation Councils in the GCC.

The committee is concerned with studying issues related to parliamentary relations between the legislative councils in GCC countries and the European Parliament.


Human Rights Commission chief and New Zealand Foreign Ministry official hold talks in Riyadh

Updated 26 May 2022

Human Rights Commission chief and New Zealand Foreign Ministry official hold talks in Riyadh

RIYADH: Awwad Al-Awwad, president of the Saudi Human Rights Commission, met Jonathan Kerr, the director-general of the Middle East and Africa Department at the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, in Riyadh on Wednesday to discuss a number of issues relating to human rights and the development of bilateral cooperation.

Also present at the meeting was Barney Riley, New Zealand’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

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