Saudi air defenses intercept Houthi drone targeting Khamis Mushait

(AFP/File)
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Updated 28 August 2021

Saudi air defenses intercept Houthi drone targeting Khamis Mushait

DUBAI: The Arab Coalition announced on Saturday the successful interception and destruction of a drone launched by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.

In a statement, the coalition confirmed the Houthi militia’s escalating attempts to target the Kingdom and its civilians in the last week.

The rebels’ attempt to launch an attack on Khamis Mushait on Saturday is the third since Wednesday, drawing international condemnation.


Saudi, French companies sign 27 MoUs at Jeddah investment forum as Macron visits kingdom

Updated 22 sec ago

Saudi, French companies sign 27 MoUs at Jeddah investment forum as Macron visits kingdom

JEDDAH: A group of leading Saudi and French companies signed 27 memorandum of understanding at an investment forum in Jeddah as French President Emmanuel Macron met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman today during his official trip to the Gulf region, where he is visiting Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar between Dec. 3 and 4.

Around 101 Saudi companies and 84 French companies attended six workshops at the forum, which was opened by Khalid Al Falih, Minister of Investment, Saudi Arabia and Franck Riester, Minister Delegate for Foreign Trade and Economic Attractiveness.

"The memorandums of understanding signed today were a cause for optimism and satisfaction," Al Falih said in a tweet after the event.

Represenatives of French companies and banks including EDF Renewables, Engie, Sanofi, and BNP Paribas are meeting with chairmen and CEOs of leading Saudi firms including ACWA Power, Banque Saudi Fransi, Riyad Bank, and Saudi Military Industries Co. Officials from the Public Investment Fund and Royal Commission of AlUla among others are also participating in the forum. 


President Macron’s visit to Saudi Arabia signals new era in French-Saudi cooperation

Updated 35 min 20 sec ago

President Macron’s visit to Saudi Arabia signals new era in French-Saudi cooperation

  • Wide-ranging joint statement and slew of agreements testify to a growing Saudi-French bilateral partnership
  • Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and President Macron held telephone meeting with Lebanon PM Najib Mikati

JEDDAH: A joint statement covering a wide range of issues and the signing of a slew of agreements were the highlights of a visit to Saudi Arabia by French President Emmanuel Macron during the final leg of a two-day Gulf tour.

The agreements related to economic cooperation were announced by Saudi and French companies on Saturday while Macron held talks with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The crown prince met Macron at Al-Salam Palace, where they discussed bilateral cooperation and held a telephone call with Lebanon’s Prime Minister Najib Mikati.

The three countries agreed to work together to support comprehensive reforms necessary in Lebanon, according to official reports, which added that Saudi Arabia and France emphasized their keen desire to see security and stability prevail in the country.

French President Emmanuel Macron met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as the president continued his multi-country tour of the Gulf. (SPA)

“The two sides stressed … that reforms should include the sectors of finance, energy, combating corruption and border control. The two sides also agreed to work with Lebanon to ensure the implementation of these measures,” the joint statement, carried by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), said.

“They also emphasized the need to limit arms to legitimate institutions of the state, and that Lebanon should not be a launching pad for any terrorist acts that destabilize the security and stability of the region, or a source of drug trafficking.

“They also … agreed to establish a Saudi-French mechanism for humanitarian assistance that ensures complete transparency, and expressed their determination to find appropriate mechanisms in cooperation with friendly countries and allies to alleviate the suffering of the Lebanese people.”

Saudi Arabia and France have committed to enhancing cultural cooperation and exchange across a broad range of cultural fields. (SPA)

On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, “the two sides reiterated their support for achieving peace in the Middle East, and the importance of reaching a comprehensive settlement … to be based on the two-state solution, the relevant legitimate resolutions and Arab Peace Initiative in a way that ensures the right of the Palestinian people to establish their state on 1967 borders with East Al-Quds (Jerusalem) as its capital, calling, in this context, for an end to the Israeli settlement policy that threatens the two-state solution.”

With regard to Iran, the joint statement said: “The two sides expressed their deep concern over the development of the Iranian nuclear program and the lack of cooperation and transparency with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

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$4.37bn French direct investment in KSA economy.

“France stressed its determination not to allow Iran to develop or acquire a nuclear weapon. They also agreed on the need to confront Iran's destabilizing activities in the region, including the use and transfer of drones and ballistic missiles that led to attacks on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

Addressing the Yemen crisis, the statement said “France affirmed its full support for the Saudi peace initiative that was presented on March 22, 2021, and condemned the ballistic missile and drone attacks launched by Houthi militia and affirmed its historical commitment to preserving the security of the Kingdom.”

In other developments on Saturday, Dr. Mohammed bin Saud Al-Tamimi, CEO of the Saudi Space Commission, and Philippe Baptiste, CEO of the French National Center for Space Studies, signed a joint cooperation agreement in the field of the peaceful use of outer space, according to the SPA.

The Saudi Arabia, France and Lebanon agreed to work together to support comprehensive reforms necessary in the mediterranean country. (SPA)

The agreement “aims to provide a framework for cooperation in space activities in the peaceful uses of space, facilitate the exchange of information and technologies, contribute to capacity building and competencies, organize mutual visits and meetings, hold training courses and specialized workshops, as well as the joint cooperation to develop a mechanism for space-based climate monitoring.”

The SPA also reported that a memorandum of understanding was signed on Saturday that cements cultural
relations between Saudi Arabia and France. “Coming only weeks after Saudi Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Farhan Al-Saud met with his French counterpart, Dr. Roselyn Bachelot, in Paris, the MoU is the latest example of strengthening cultural ties between the two countries,” the report said.

It added: “Under the five-year agreement, Saudi Arabia and France have committed to enhancing cultural cooperation and exchange across a broad range of cultural fields, including architecture, audiovisual production, design, film, heritage, literature, performing arts and visual arts.

The crown prince met the French president at Al-Salam Palace in Jeddah. (SPA)

“In addition, the MoU will facilitate the two countries to explore cultural regulations and policies. There will also be opportunities to increase the participation of Saudi and French artists in residency exchange programs and strengthen cooperation between artists and cultural institutions in both countries.”

The SPA said that a separate agreement to enhance tourism cooperation between the two countries was co-signed by Ahmed Al-Khateeb, the Saudi tourism minister, and Franck Riester, the French minister delegate for foreign trade and economic attractiveness.

It quoted Al-Khateeb as saying: "France, through its knowledge and experience, will help the Kingdom in developing its tourism activity to attract investments with a cost of $810 billion, which will provide the country with tourism opportunities outside the Hajj season. The Kingdom is expected to have new investment opportunities with a cost of $6 trillion by 2030, and this is a matter of excitement.”


French President Macron meets Saudi crown prince in final Gulf stop

Updated 05 December 2021

French President Macron meets Saudi crown prince in final Gulf stop

  • France stressed its determination not to allow Iran to develop or acquire a nuclear weapon
  • The president's visit to Saudi Arabia was the final stop in a two-day tour of three Gulf states

RIYADH: French President Emmanuel Macron was received by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the Al-Salam palace in Jeddah on Saturday.

The two leaders dicussed bilateral cooperation, the latest developments in the Middle East, and efforts to achieve international stability and peace.

The crown prince hosted a working lunch for the president and it was also attended by Bahrain's Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad and other officials.

A joint Saudi-French statement welcomed the strength of economic relations between the two countries and agreed on the importance of strengthening economic partnership, enhancing private sector participation, exchanging expertise, developing human capabilities, and utilizing opportunities offered by the Kingdom's Vision 2030 and France's 2030 economic plan in various sectors of joint interest.

The Kingdom welcomed the increased cooperation of French companies in sectors within Vision 2030, including energy, water, and waste management, sustainable cities, transportation, civil aviation, mobility solutions, digital economy and health.

France also desires to attract Saudi investments in the public and private sectors, namely in new technologies, emerging companies and industries of the future, the statement said.

The Kingdom, meanwhile, aspires to boost Saudi private sector investments in the French market.

The two sides commended the signing of different contracts and agreements in all economic fields during meetings that took place on the sidelines of the visit and that renewed the deep private sector partnership in both countries.

France and Saudi Arabia agreed on the need for the Lebanese government to carry out comprehensive reforms in the finance, energy, and anti-corruption sectors.

The two sides also agreed to work with Lebanon to ensure the implementation of these measures and emphasized the need to limit arms to legitimate state institutions.

They said that Lebanon should not be a launch pad for any terrorist acts that destabilize the security and stability of the region, or be a source of drug trafficking.

The two countries also expressed their deep concern over the development of the Iranian nuclear program and Tehran’s lack of cooperation and transparency with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

France stressed its determination not to allow Iran to develop or acquire a nuclear weapon.

They also agreed on the need to confront Iran's destabilizing activities in the region, including the use and transfer of drones and ballistic missiles that have led to attacks on the Kingdom.

Macron arrived in Jeddah earlier on Saturday and was received at the airport by Makkah governor Prince Khalid Al-Faisal.

The president's visit to Saudi Arabia was the final stop in a two-day tour of three Gulf states.
Earlier in the day, Macron was in Qatar, where he praised the state’s role in assisting with evacuation efforts of European citizens out of Afghanistan following the Taliban’s takeover of the country over the summer.


Frankly Speaking: Saudi Arabia sets example on combating terror financing, says French Senate member Nathalie Goulet

Updated 04 December 2021

Frankly Speaking: Saudi Arabia sets example on combating terror financing, says French Senate member Nathalie Goulet

  • Leading French politician and foreign affairs expert makes the comments as President Macron embarks on Saudi visit
  • Gulet gives her views on “Frankly Speaking,” the series of video interviews with regional and international policymakers

DUBAI: France and the rest of Europe can learn from Saudi Arabia’s approach to combating the financing of terrorism, a leading French politician and foreign affairs expert has told Arab News.

Nathalie Goulet, a member of the Senate of France and the country’s commission on foreign affairs and defense, said: “Saudi Arabia has its own place on the subject of fighting financing of terrorism, and they do it very seriously. It is matching international standards on the subject.”

Goulet, who recently returned from a visit to the Kingdom for meetings with senior policymakers about the campaign to halt terrorism finance, highlighted Saudi initiatives with Etidal, the center for combating extremist ideology, as well as actions by the Saudi Central Bank, and financial intelligence services.

“In Europe and especially in France there has sometimes been a kind of bad habit to link Saudi Arabia with the financing of terrorism and we have to break this image and what is now purely fake news,” she added.

Nathalie Goulet noted that the Muslim Brotherhood was still playing a significant role in terrorism funding in Europe.

Goulet, speaking just before a visit to the Kingdom by French President Emmanuel Macron, gave her views on “Frankly Speaking,” the series of video interviews with prominent regional and international policymakers and businesspeople.

In a wide-ranging interview, she also spoke of the rising threat from the Muslim Brotherhood and its role in terrorism finance, the volatile relationship between France and Algeria, and the reforms in Saudi Arabia under the Vision 2030 strategy.

On terror funding, she contrasted the practice among the Muslim community in France, where zakat donations are made in cash and therefore harder to control, with the situation in the Kingdom.

“Saudi Arabia put in place a system to prevent any collection of zakat by cash. Everything is by banking transfer to a special NGO and that is very useful, very clever, and also very, very safe.

“On collecting zakat, Saudi Arabia can be an example for us because we are absolutely unable to track the money and, at the same time of course, most of the zakat is giving (money) for good purposes. But sometimes it’s not and we try to ban cash as much as possible. Saudi Arabia is giving us an excellent example,” she said.

Frank Kane hosts Frankly Speaking: Watch more episodes.

She noted that the Muslim Brotherhood was still playing a significant role in terrorism funding in Europe and pointed out the organization’s influence in the Islamic community and within humanitarian organizations.

“First of all, they have a lot of humanitarian actions but then they use the same money to sponsor terrorism all over Europe. We have to ban those people, definitely. Austria already banned the Muslim Brotherhood from Austria; Germany is on the way. France – not yet – but I am pushing them a lot,” she added.

Goulet hit out specifically at the role of the Islamic Relief organization, which she alleged had been aiding terrorism finance, supported the terror-designated Hamas organization in Palestine, and claimed its executives had been responsible for spreading anti-Semitic messages on social media.

“So, what we have to do is track the money and then try to ban any financing for those people. We have to check and have strong investigations into how they collect money and what they are doing with this money, and we have to stop any terror financing absolutely,” she said.

The Kingdom’s resolve in tackling the funding of terrorism was an example of the positive changes taking place in the country under the Vision 2030 reform plan, which was having a profound effect on life in Saudi Arabia.

“When you see the difference on the streets, the way that the youth is happy in the country, and when you see the development, it is clear that something has happened. And it’s the Vision 2030 of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman which has brought it about and will bring such a lot of hope in the country,” Goulet added.

On French foreign policy toward Muslim countries, she thought that the issue was complicated by France’s colonial history. “It’s always very emotional,” she said.

With regard to Algeria, France’s former colony, relations with which have been strained owing to comments made by Macron, and some visa issues, Goulet expected the situation to improve, adding that “links with Algeria are very strong.”

On Lebanon, a country Macron has visited several times in attempts to help it through its intensifying crisis, she said the Lebanese people should look to a new political generation to repatriate the proceeds of corruption held in overseas havens, rather than seeking financial bailouts from countries such as France.

However, she spoke out against French policy in Lebanon with regard to Hezbollah. “The government for the last 15 years has been treating Hezbollah in a very strange way – like there is a political Hezbollah and a military Hezbollah, and we have to ban the military Hezbollah to discuss with the political Hezbollah.

“But the reality is that there is just one Hezbollah. Just as there is one Hamas, there is one Hezbollah, there is not one military and one political. It’s the same terrorist group,” she said.
Goulet was also critical of attitudes toward Arabs and Muslims within France. A recent Arab News survey with YouGov showed that 64 percent of French people had a negative impression of the minority groups.

“I think it’s a fact unfortunately and it’s because of the major political leaders surfing on the wave of populism right now. It’s something which will help them collect votes,” she added, referring to the presidential elections in France next year.

“We also have the yellow vests (movement) and street agitation, along with conspiracy theories, and everything is boiling in the same pan to produce something that smells very bad.”

Goulet, who is a member of the Centrist Union political grouping in the French Senate, was disparaging of the presidential prospects of Eric Zemmour, the rightwing populist who recently gained ground in opinion polls.

She said: “I think these things will collapse soon. It was just like a small fire. His campaign will collapse. That is not France, I mean that cannot be France. I mean this guy is a pure populist. He has no team and I hope he will run out of money soon and then will disappear in the trash because he doesn’t deserve anything else but trash.”

The politician expressed hope that relations between France and Britain – under increasing strain since Brexit and the arrival of the government of Boris Johnson – could improve but noted that the “misunderstandings” in Anglo-French affairs went all the way back to French military leader Napoleon Bonaparte.

With regard to the latest flashpoint – the migration of refugees across the English Channel – Goulet said the situation was “unbearable,” but pointed out that higher levels of social benefits were available to refugees in the UK compared to France and other EU countries.

“I know for sure that Britain attracts emigrants because it’s easier for them to live there and have some subsidies and help. So, maybe one of the keys is for Britain to be more restrictive regarding migrants so it doesn’t look so attractive – maybe.”

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Statement by Islamic Relief Worldwide

Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW) categorically denies funding terrorism and also denies any support for Hamas. As a registered charity regulated by the Charity Commission of England and Wales, IRW is independently audited on behalf of governments, UN bodies, and other significant institutional donors several times a year. Between 2009 and 2019, the organization underwent over 500 internal and external audits which found no evidence of using funds for anything other than saving lives and contributing to the global humanitarian agenda in line with the important humanitarian principles of neutrality, impartiality, and independence.

We have stringent checks in place to ensure that money only goes to where it is needed – helping the most vulnerable. We routinely screen all trustees, senior management, staff, volunteers, partners, and contractors to ensure they have no links to proscribed groups or entities of any kind.

IRW rejects and condemns terrorism and believes that all forms of discrimination – including anti-Semitism – are unacceptable. Regrettably, there have been historic cases of individuals falling short of our values, but these have been dealt with firmly and swiftly, and the individuals involved are no longer with the organization. Following these past incidents, the Charity Commission of England and Wales conducted a fact-finding review last year which concluded that we had responded thoroughly and appropriately. In addition, an independent review was conducted by the former UK Attorney General Dominic Grieve QC, which found that the organization was not institutionally anti-Semitic.


You can find a link to the Independent Commission report here.

You can find the Charity Commission’s statement on the completion of its fact-finding review here.

 


At Jeddah’s Qasr Khuzam, Argentina art event BIENALSUR enthralls with sight, sound and shadow

Updated 03 December 2021

At Jeddah’s Qasr Khuzam, Argentina art event BIENALSUR enthralls with sight, sound and shadow

  • More than 30 creative contemporary artworks, including 5 by Saudis, highlight a wide range of themes

JEDDAH: BIENALSUR 2021, the second edition of the cultural event of contemporary art from Argentina to the world, arrived in Jeddah, and residents are in for a breathtaking cultural experience.

Twenty artists from 13 countries are showcasing their work at the exhibit that opened its doors on Dec. 1 at Qasr Khuzam. Hosted by the Ministry of Culture, the exhibition titled “Echoes: A World Between Analogue & Virtual” is composed of immersive works, which play with the visitors’ shadows, the echo of their voices, and the reverberations of the surrounding sounds.

Qasr Khuzam served as the first residence in Jeddah for King Abdulaziz Al-Saud. The palace is characterized by its unique architectural style featuring art nouveau and art deco influences, with large entry halls and symmetrical staircases succeeded by interconnected wings. These attributes serve as a striking backdrop for the exhibition, addressing the acoustic phenomena of echo and reverberation, utilizing them as metaphors for how people naturally move in the world between analog and virtual situations. 

Saudi artist Ahaad Al Alamoudi displays her artwork at the exhibition.

With more than 30 works by artists being showcased, including five by Saudis, the display deals with themes ranging from environmental awareness, artistic politics to transit and migrations.

Organized by the Universidad Nacional de Tres de Febrero in Buenos Aires under the direction of its rector and passionate art collector, Aníbal Jozami, and the event’s creative director, Diana Wechsler, the second edition of the International Biennial of Contemporary Art of South America was based on a global network of institutional collaboration that erases distances and borders, as well as upholding singularity in diversity.

Both Wechsler and Jozami told Arab News that its presence in Saudi Arabia is part of the dialogues for peace and international integration through art and culture, which BIENALSUR contributes to.

It will be the first time that an exhibition of visual arts, designed to converge with other ways of thinking, is presented to the Saudi public. 

“We want to change the art map of the world, the paradigms. We believe that there are cultural and artistic expressions that have always remained,” said Jozami. “BIENALSUR is the proof that there’s still space for surprising and innovative ideas.”

Wechsler added: “The exhibition seeks to convey to the viewer a reflection on this way of inhabiting the present. This varied selection of artists and works aim to recreate such a flow of the contemporary individual from a poetic dimension. 

“We invite visitors to explore spaces that are not fully acknowledged and to identify images that will arouse surprise and reflection.”

The exhibition “recovering stories, recovering fantasies” occupied most parts of the restored Jeddah Regional Museum architecture building — considered one of the best museums in Jeddah — with works by Saudi artists Ahaad Al-Amoudi, Lina Gazzaz, Felwa Nazer, Muhannad Shono, and Daniah Alsaleh. 

There are also works by Tony Oursler and Chris Larson from the US, Darren Almond from Britain, Argentina’s Matilde Marin; Carola Zech, Hugo Aveta, from Spain. Daniel Canogar and Tanja Demanrom will feature from Croatia. From Switzerland, there is Sève Favre, and from Mexico, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer. Polish artist Angelika Markul will attend alongside French artists Anais Lelievre, Cecile Bart, and photographer Valérie Jouve. From South Korea there’s Sujin Lim, and Joel Andrianomearisoa from Madagascar.

Among all those international artists, Darren Almond’s work offers two altered modalities of one of the latest ways to display hours as a mode of expressing time digital clocks.

Saudi artist Ahaad Al-Amoudi tries to understand the correlation between light and darkness through her video. “In the piece itself, I am studying how sometimes light is projected to us whether through family or friendships or personal needs and how we stripe toward the light,” she said.

Al-Amoudi introduces the premises that give rise to her video installation, which are focused on how information is shared and at the same time defines us as subjects in society.

South Korean artist Sujin Lim explores the dimensions of change in the natural environment and, along with it, the landscape on another horizon from another island.

While entering her dark exhibition room, Saudi artist Lina Gazzaz’s project “Shadow/Light Room” explores and seeks to capture the action of light on the elements to activate ideas from these lights in different manners.

“The room is part of a larger study that includes different artistic applications such as glass, sculpture, drawings, prints and experiments are still ongoing. The room also is arranged according to the echo system between the 40 images and the number of woods around 2,000 slow careful movements which is part of the experience,” she said.

The exhibitions travel the world to countries such as Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, France, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, Paraguay, Peru, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Switzerland, Uruguay, and others.