Saudi leaders condole with China on victims of airliner crash

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Updated 22 March 2022

Saudi leaders condole with China on victims of airliner crash

  • The foreign ministry affirmed the Kingdom’s solidarity and support with China’s government
  • The jet was carrying 123 passengers and nine crew members

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia's King Salman sent a cable of condolences and sympathy to Chinese President Xi Jinping on victims of the passenger jet that crashed in the mountains of southern China on Monday, the Saudi Press agency reported on early Tuesday.
“As we share with you the pain of this affliction, we send to Your Excellency, the families of the deceased and the Chinese people, our deepest and sincere condolences,” the king said.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman also sent a similar cable to the Chinese president.
Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry also expressed its sincere condolences and sympathy on Monday.
The ministry affirmed the Kingdom’s solidarity with and support for China’s government.
The jet was carrying 123 passengers and nine crew members.
The Boeing flight from the city of Kunming to the southern hub of Guangzhou “lost airborne contact over Wuzhou” city in the Guangxi region on Monday afternoon, the Civil Aviation Administration of China said.
China Eastern confirmed that at least some people involved in the crash had been killed, without providing more information.

Saudi Arabia participates in UN Ocean Conference for first time

Updated 14 sec ago

Saudi Arabia participates in UN Ocean Conference for first time

  • ‘Blue Saudi’ pavilion sheds light on Kingdom’s efforts in ocean regeneration

JEDDAH: June 28 marked the opening of the Saudi pavilion at the 2022 UN Ocean Conference, which takes place in Lisbon, Portugal, and runs until July 1.

The Saudi pavilion, titled “Blue Saudi,” is aimed at shedding light on the health of the Red Sea and the Kingdom’s leading role in researching its unique habitats and ecosystems, and protecting and regenerating the region.

The 2022 UN Ocean Conference, in its second edition, got underway on June 27 and is co-organized by the governments of Portugal and Kenya.

It aims to inspire a global effort to rebuild marine life, emphasizing the critical role that the oceans play in stabilizing climate systems.

The first edition of the conference was in 2017 and took place at the UN’s headquarters in New York.

This year’s conference theme is “Scaling Up Ocean Action Based on Science and Innovation for the Implementation of Goal 14: Stocktaking, Partnerships, and Solutions.”

According to the UN website, Sustainable Development Goal 14 is about “Life below water” and is one of the 17 SDGs established by the UN in 2015. The official wording is to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development.

In line with the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development 2021-2030, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stressed the importance of international unity to help oceans and marine life survive. 

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Guterres said in a statement during the opening ceremony of the conference: “The ocean connects us all — sadly we have taken the ocean for granted and today we face what I would call an ocean emergency.”

He added: “We must turn the tide. Global warming is pushing ocean temperatures to record levels, creating fiercer and more frequent storms … Much more needs to be done by all of us together.”

Saudi Arabia has previously announced several key commitments as part of broader ambitions to drive sustainability, including increasing the percentage of marine protected areas to 30 percent of its waters and planting 100 million mangroves by 2030.

Dr. Mohammad Qurban, head of the Saudi delegation to the UN Ocean Conference, said: “Our presence at this globally significant conference demonstrates our commitment to not only taking part in the conversation but sharing the lessons learned about our coastline and oceans.

“The goal is to play a connecting role, bringing together countries who border these waters, to ensure a comprehensive approach to protecting the Red Sea is developed and successfully delivered.”

Qurban, who is also the CEO of the Saudi National Center of Wildlife, said: “Ultimately, the Kingdom hopes to export the scientific learnings discovered and the positive application of innovative solutions, with the rest of the world, as we all unite together to confront some of the biggest challenges facing people and planet today.”

The “Blue Saudi” pavilion showcases many ambitions and ongoing efforts in the field of ocean regeneration.

Since the Red Sea is the world’s warmest and saltiest ocean, and provides a home to extensive coral reef banks and a narrow deep central axis as large in area as the Great Barrier Reef, the Kingdom is highly focused on researching these unique habitats to provide a better understanding of their challenging conditions.

It is also aiming to develop technologies to help expand coral habitats and to enable biodiversity to flourish.

On the opening day, the pavilion hosted an event to facilitate conversations around the role of science and innovation in enabling regenerative development of the Red Sea, and how meaningful partnerships and collaboration, coupled with good governance, are driving positive action in the marine environment.

To register interest and attend the event visit:


Diplomatic Quarter: Palestinian ambassador praises KSA generosity over decades

Updated 14 min 26 sec ago

Diplomatic Quarter: Palestinian ambassador praises KSA generosity over decades

RIYADH: Palestine’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia has praised the Kingdom for its financial assistance and support over several decades.

Basem Abdullah Al-Agha met Ahmed bin Ali Al-Baiz, assistant supervisor general for operations and programs at the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center, to discuss issues of common interest related to humanitarian affairs.

Al-Agha told Arab News on Wednesday that the talks followed on from previous meetings with KSrelief, and were “an extension of our gratitude to the Kingdom, King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and to the generous Saudi people for their ongoing support and the assistance over decades.”

Support from KSrelief reaches about 80 countries, he said.

The center offered assistance to Palestine’s Ministry of Health during the pandemic, including the provision of vaccines.

“It’s our duty to give our gratitude to the center,” Al-Agha added.

He also expressed hope that further assistance will be provided to meet Palestinians’ health needs, including support for hospitals in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.

Saudi Arabia remains one of the top providers of financial aid for Palestine.

Between 2000-2018, the Kingdom provided more than $6.4 billion in aid to Palestine, according to the Kingdom’s humanitarian groups.

Khaled Manzlawiy, Saudi Arabia’s deputy permanent representative to the UN, said in May 2020 that the Kingdom is proud to be one of the largest donors to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.

“Knowing the role the agency serves for more than 5 million Palestinian refugees — and because of its belief in the (importance) of the Palestinian cause — the Kingdom has supported UNRWA with more than $1 billion since 1994, which the humanitarian organization described as clear evidence of the Kingdom’s wish to ensure Palestinian refugees enjoy dignity and well-being,” Manzlawiy said during a virtual briefing on the investigations of the Office of Internal Oversight Services and various UNRWA initiatives.

Saudi Arabia on April 27 this year reaffirmed to the UN its stance over Palestine, calling for end to the Israeli occupation, the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as capital, and the guaranteed right of return for refugees.

Mohammed Al-Ateeq, charge d’affaires of the permanent mission of Saudi Arabia to the UN, highlighted the Kingdom’s position during a UN Security Council session on the Middle East and Palestinian situation.

Misk fellowship competition bootcamp underway in London

Updated 28 June 2022

Misk fellowship competition bootcamp underway in London

  • Both bootcamps are designed to equip young Saudis with the skills needed to become effective leaders
  • Misk Fellowship Program 2022 runs for six months and ends in December

LONDON: Saudi students are participating in a competition bootcamp in London this week as part of the Misk Fellowship Program 2022.
It started on Monday and followed the first week of the program, which saw the 60 students participate in a leadership bootcamp.
Both bootcamps, spanning a total of 10 days, are designed to equip young Saudis with the skills and behavior needed to become effective leaders.

Fellows listen to a session presented by Afnan Ababtain  during the competition kickoff bootcamp in London on Tuesday. (AN photo)

Critical thinking, problem-solving, self-motivation, self-awareness, teamwork, and leadership best practices are some of the competencies the bootcamps will focus on.
Abdulrahman Alhenaki, the project officer for the Misk Fellowship Program, told Arab News that the competition kickoff bootcamp would focus on helping fellows find sustainable development solutions to challenges faced by Saudi Arabia with assistance and guidance from Misk partners.

Fellows discuss ideas during the competition kickoff bootcamp in London on Tuesday. (AN photo)

These partners include the Saudi Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, the Kingdom’s Research, Development, and Innovation Authority, the UN Development Programme, the Small and Medium Enterprises General Authority (Monsha’at), and management consulting firms Bain & Company and Strategy&.
He said the fellows would return to the countries where they were studying once the current bootcamp was over and start the second part of the fellowship program virtually.
“They will start thinking about what kinds of solutions they will come up with to fix these challenges and also participate in other components of the program, including being coached and mentored. We also have placement opportunities to enhance their journey and to make them ready for the job market in the future.”

Fellows listen to a lecture during the competition kickoff bootcamp in London on Tuesday. (AN photo)

Fellows will work in groups of six on their solutions and present them in early September.
“There will be three winners chosen by the judges who will win internships, incentives, and opportunities to participate in other Misk programs. There will also be two other winners. The first will be selected by the audience that day for the best presentation and the other will be selected by the social media audience.”
Dr. Basem Hassan, general manager for technology transfer and commercialization at the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, said his organization was helping to guide the students in their challenges.
“Our role in this program is to define the Sustainable Development Goals and challenges facing Saudi Arabia. We defined 12 challenges and, on Monday, we had a session with the students. We presented the innovative ecosystem in Saudi Arabia and all the transformations happening in the ecosystem.

A fellow asks a question during the competition kickoff bootcamp in London on Tuesday. (AN photo)

“We also presented some of the latest technologies and projects in Saudi Arabia addressing global challenges and sustainable climate solutions. Then we talked about the 12 challenges that have been defined for them for the competition, and presented some of the innovative solutions from around the world that address parts of these challenges.”
The director of the women’s and social entrepreneurship department at Monsha’at, Afnan Ababtain, presented a session on Tuesday.
“We are happy to be part of the Misk fellowship. Today we are sharing with the fellows Monsha’at’s strategy in social entrepreneurship and what kinds of services we are providing for social entrepreneurs to make sure that we will have scalable businesses owned by social entrepreneurs,” she said.
Misk fellow Nawaf Bin Awshan told Arab News he was glad to be part of the program.
“It is an insightful program that provides the next generation of leaders with focused points of leadership. This program focuses on how to move students from the student stage to the leader stage. I really enjoyed the first part of the fellowship, the leadership bootcamp. This week, we have started a competition and we will deal with how to solve some of the challenges faced by Saudi Arabia.”
Another Misk fellow, Dana Almudayfi, described the program as “informative and wonderful.”
“This has been a really informative and wonderful program insofar as it has given us the tools to be leaders, which is the most important thing.”
She said she was looking forward to using the skills she had learned over the last two weeks in the workplace.
The program runs for six months and ends in December.


Saudi farmer engineers a blooming desert in the desert

Updated 27 June 2022

Saudi farmer engineers a blooming desert in the desert

  • Secret is research and data, says Sofian Al-Bishri, CEO of Mojan Farms
  • Engineer grows basil, Japanese cabbage, lettuce, cherry tomatoes

KHULAIS: The last thing one expects to find in the middle of dusty and dry Khulais, located on the western side of the Saudi Arabian desert, is a farm blooming with all sorts of herbs and vegetables.

Yet this is exactly what Sofian Al-Bishri, the 24-year-old CEO of Mojan Farms, has done. The qualified engineer has proven that combining technical know-how with a little ingenuity can go a long way to fulfil his dream of greening the environment, while also running a sustainable business.

Al-Bishri explained to Arab News that despite the lack of water in the area, he was able to construct a full ecosystem using sustainable farming methods such as bumble-bee pollination, hydroponic saltwater technology, and a fully automated monitoring system.

On a 15,000-square-meter strip of family land, Al-Bishri established Mojan Farms in 2020 with five greenhouses, each containing a different type of herb or vegetable.

Hydroponic technology allows for the cultivation of crops without soil, with roots growing in a liquid nutrient solution or inside moist inert materials like Rockwool and Vermiculite.


Despite the lack of water in the area, Sofian Al-Bishri was able to construct a full ecosystem using sustainable farming methods such as bumble- bee pollination, hydroponic saltwater technology, and a fully automated monitoring system.

The water of the liquid nutrient solution is a mixture of essential plant food, allowing faster crop growth than traditional planting methods.

The farm has various crops, including basil, Japanese cabbage, lettuce and cherry tomatoes. “Every house is a separate ecosystem. We do this to eliminate cross-contamination, so each house is separate and has its designated variety.”

Mojan Farms is environmentally friendly because the system captures and reuses water, rather than allowing it to drain away. “We use drip irrigation, it reduces the water usage by 40 percent, and we work with a company locally that produces biopolymers, which are formed into gels that we have under the ground right now.”

“When talking about wasted water, the problem is when you irrigate the crops, the water just gets drained down. It doesn’t get retained in the soil. So these polymers hold the water which transforms into a gel full of water, allowing enough time for the plant to absorb it, so we get to irrigate much less.”

There is also considerable automation in place, which allows for cooling and irrigation. “We need to believe in research and data, this is our game. I invested in some retrofitted tech from other industries to cut down on labor requirements and time.”

Instead of having an engineer constantly monitor water usage and the spreading of fertilizers, Mojan’s greenhouses are equipped with a sensor system.

“All of these smart devices that we have are automatically connected to the cloud, it all tunes into risk management, so we protect ourselves from any loss of crops.”

Al-Bishri said that he grows crops that are in demand by industry, and is constantly gathering data, sometimes over months, from restaurants, distributors and importers. “So we find those strains that are usually imported, and we find ways to grow them locally.”

Al-Bishri said his farms produce 300 to 400 kilograms of produce ever month. He chooses to grow some Italian strains such as Genovese basil which is different from local ones. In addition, he produces Lola Rossa and Lollo Bionda lettuces, both red Italian types, used mostly to garnish burgers.

He has now decided to go public with his operation. “This farm has been private, it’s just for my father and me, we just come here in winter ... we decided we had enough entertainment here ... and it’s time to share (this project).”

He also plans to plant over 3,000 mango trees as a long-term investment. “Within two years, we’re hoping that it will provide enough shade for us to create artificial lakes and open that for picnics and for the public and families, and to make it an actual park.”

“And the reason we’ve decided to do this now, as opposed to before, is that we’re actually now working with a local startup to provide tech for that strip of land that reduces water by 80 percent, which means we can do it at a more sustainable rate. That’s both good for me and good for the environment.”

First Moroccan pilgrims arrive in Jeddah through Makkah Route Initiative

A Moroccan pilgrim breezes through the immigration line at the King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah, thanks to the Mak
Updated 27 June 2022

First Moroccan pilgrims arrive in Jeddah through Makkah Route Initiative

  • Morocco is the fifth country to participate in the Makkah Route Initiative, after Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, and Bangladesh

JEDDAH: King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah received its first Moroccan pilgrims through the Makkah Route Initiative.

They departed from the Makkah Route hall at Mohammed V International Airport in Casablanca and were greeted by Moroccan Consul General Ibrahim Ajouli, Col. Suleiman Mohammed Al-Yusuf, and representatives from the initiative at KAIA.

The Makkah Route Initiative was launched for the first time this year in Morocco, adding to the four countries already participating in the project: Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.

A Moroccan pilgrim gets gets "processed" without hassle at the immigration desk of the King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah. (SPA)

It aims to simplify procedures for pilgrims by issuing e-visas, completing passport procedures at the airport of the country of departure following the completion of health requirements, and dealing with luggage procedures, transport, and accommodation.

Upon arrival, pilgrims directly move to buses transporting them to their accommodation in Makkah and Madinah while authorities deliver their luggage to their lodgings.

Serving pilgrims is one of the Interior Ministry's programs contributing toward Vision 2030.

The initiative was first launched in 2019 in a few airports and expanded this year, saving pilgrims up to 12 hours upon arrival at Saudi airports.


Makkah Route Initiative

Inaugurated by King Salman in 2019, the Makkah Route Initiative is a program that seeks to provide visitors to the holy sites in Saudi Arabia with the finest possible services to help them perform their Hajj rituals easily and comfortably. Five countries are currently participating in the initiative: Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Morocco, and Bangladesh.