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

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Updated 28 January 2022

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 organisation 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.

What Madame Goulet has said to Arab News about Islamic Relief supporting Hamas and ‘sponsoring terrorism all over Europe’ is completely untrue. It is also untrue that our board was ‘dismissed for anti-Semitism’ and that our organization ‘works against European standards’ – in fact we are a trusted partner of the European Community Humanitarian Organisation (ECHO) and we elected a new board in 2020 as part of a long-planned change to our governance model. The EU funds Islamic Relief Germany received last year amount to €118,477 and not €700,000 as Mme Goulet claims, while Islamic Relief’s total income was £149 million and not £60 million.

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 organisation. 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 organisation 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.

 


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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