Crown prince’s Acropolis visit puts Saudi-Greek cultural partnership in the spotlight

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was welcomed to the iconic Acropolis in Athens by Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 28 July 2022

Crown prince’s Acropolis visit puts Saudi-Greek cultural partnership in the spotlight

  • A memorandum of understanding between the two countries was signed in a special ceremony at Acropolis Museum
  • Saudi-Greece annual bilateral trade of $1 billion includes the exchange of cultural goods, services and skills

RIYADH: When Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman paid a visit on Tuesday night to the archaeological site of the Acropolis in Athens, the purpose was more than to take in the greatest architectural and artistic complex bequeathed by Greek antiquity to the world.

The crown prince went to the Acropolis Museum, where he and Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the Greek prime minister, witnessed the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Saudi Arabia and Greece for cooperation in the cultural field.

The agreement was signed from the Saudi side by Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al-Saud, the Kingdom’s culture minister, who previously visited Athens in May 2021 to discuss aspects of cultural cooperation.




The crown prince oversaw the signing of a major cultural cooperation deal with Greece. (SPA)

During his visit to the Acropolis, the crown prince, who was accompanied by Prime Minister Mitsotakis and Dr. Lina Mendoni, minister of culture and sports of Greece, was briefed on the ancient buildings, areas and theaters contained within the archaeological site.

Those include the Erechtheion, the Belvedere, the Parthenon, the Theater of Dionysus, and the ancient Odeon of Herodes Atticus theater.

Later in the evening, the crown prince was honored with a dinner banquet at the Acropolis Museum hosted by Mitsotakis. Opened to the public in 2009, the world-famous archaeological Acropolis Museum houses Bronze Age, Roman and Byzantine artifacts discovered at the site of the Acropolis.




Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his delegation are shown around the Acropolis by Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. (AFP)

Hosting the agreement-signing ceremony at this venue was rich in symbolism. “This has never happened before,” Adonis Georgiadis, the Greek minister for development and investment, told Arab News on Tuesday ahead of the Saudi crown prince’s arrival in Athens.

“We have never signed an MoU with any other country in the world in the Acropolis Museum. And this is just a (message) from our prime minister to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to show how we feel, that you are something very exceptional to us.”

FASTFACT

In September 2021, the Saudi-Greek Business Council was set up to enhance bilateral trade and investment.

The Saudi-Greece annual trade relationship of almost $1 billion includes the exchange of cultural goods, services and skills. One of the main initiatives to come out of a strengthened Saudi-Greek cultural relationship are “Cultural Weeks” to be held in both countries.

These events could facilitate collaborative outcomes such as cultural heritage exchanges, art exhibitions and festivals




Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al-Saud, Saudi minister of culture, and Dr. Lina Mendoni, minister of culture and sports of Greece, signed a major cultural cooperation deal. (SPA)

During Prince Badr’s previous visit, both Greece and Saudi Arabia pledged to work together to protect tangible and intangible heritage, counter illicit trafficking of cultural property and manage the impacts of climate change.

“As Saudi Arabia’s cultural transformation continues at pace, we welcome closer relations with our Greek friends,” Prince Badr had said after meetings with Mendoni.

“Both our countries have a deep and rich heritage, stretching back millennia, and a shared outlook on the positive power of cultural exchange, and the need for its protection and preservation. As the Kingdom looks to share its culture with the world, Greece’s insight and experience has much to offer us.”

In the run-up to the Saudi crown prince’s visit, Alexis Konstantopoulos, Greek ambassador to Saudi Arabia, told Arab News: “We have deep-rooted ancient civilizations and tourism, because people-to-people relations are extremely important and Greece is a very touristic country.

“On culture, hopefully we’ll be able to do groundbreaking things together. We can explore the possibilities to do archaeological excavations and the setting up of museums together.”

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s delegation included the ministers of energy, sports, foreign affairs, culture, trade, investment, telecommunications and information technology, as well as the national security adviser.

The official engagements on Tuesday evening began with a formal reception ceremony for the crown prince at Maximos Mansion, the official seat and residence of the prime minister of Greece.

Afterward, the two leaders held a bilateral meeting, during which Mitsotakis welcomed the crown prince and wished him and the Saudi delegation a pleasant stay.




Greek Prime Minister Mitsotakis briefs the Saudi crown prince on the important features of the Acropolis. (SPA)

Later, Mitsotakis and the crown prince held an expanded meeting in the presence of the delegations of the two countries.

The two leaders witnessed the signing of the agreement to establish the Saudi-Greek Strategic Partnership Council, besides the exchange of a number of bilateral agreements and memoranda of understanding between the two countries.

The deals sealed by the two sides included:

  • an agreement in the field of energy
  • an MoU for cooperation in the field of sports
  • an agreement on cooperation in the fight against crime
  • an agreement to protect and encourage investment between the two countries
  • an MoU for cooperation in the health field
  • an agreement for cooperation in the military field
  • an MoU in the field of scientific and technical cooperation
  • a technical cooperation program in the fields of standards and quality
  • an agreement of cooperation in the field of documents and archiving, and
  • a submarine cable agreement.

The agreement in the field of energy, signed between Saudi Minister of Energy Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman and Nikolaos Dendias, the Greek minister of foreign affairs, sets a framework for cooperation in the fields of renewable energy, electrical interconnection, exporting electricity to Greece and Europe, and clean hydrogen and its transfer to Europe, according to a Saudi Press Agency report.

The agreement will also look at working together in the areas of energy efficiency and the oil, gas and petrochemical industries, while adopting the circular economy approach to carbon and technologies to reduce the effects of climate change.




Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is shown around the Acropolis. (SPA)

Both countries will explore the scope of reusing, transporting and storing the gas, as well as capturing carbon directly from the air.

As for the submarine cable agreement, it is designed to promote digital transformation and innovation in the fields of energy, including cybersecurity, while working to develop qualitative partnerships to localize materials, products and services related to all energy sectors and their associated supply chains, and technologies.

Concurrently, a strategic partnership was announced between the private sectors in the two countries to build a data cable project linking East and West, in a way that would ensure the smooth digital supply of data globally at a time when the world is witnessing an annual growth rate in data traffic of more than 30 percent.




Saudi Minister of Investment Khalid Al-Falih and Greek Minister for Development and Investment Adonis Georgiadis attend a Greek-Saudi business meeting in Athens on July 27, 2022. (Reuters)

Another high point of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit was the Saudi-Greek Investment Forum, held in Athens on Wednesday and attended by ministers and representatives of the private sector from both sides.

The forum discussed ways to enhance investment and economic cooperation between the two countries in all sectors. Dialogue sessions were held to discuss various topics, including communications, transport, logistics and energy.

Khalid Al-Falih, the Saudi minister of Investment, attended a meeting of private sector representatives, alongside Minister of Communications and Information Technology Abdullah bin Amer Al-Swaha and Minister of Commerce and Acting Minister of Media Majid bin Abdullah Al-Qasabi.

The meeting culminated in the signing of 21 investment agreements in the fields of logistics, transportation, defense, renewable energies, manufacturing, environment services, aquaculture, import and export, engineering and agriculture. 

Saudi and Greek government and private sector representatives discussed mutually beneficial investment opportunities, further bolstering commercial relationships.

 

Druze: the great survivors
How the world's most secretive faithhas endured for a thousand years

Enter


keywords

 

Related


UK sanctions Russian and Iranian officials, citing human rights abuses

Updated 55 min 23 sec ago

UK sanctions Russian and Iranian officials, citing human rights abuses

  • ‘Today our sanctions go further to expose those behind the heinous violations of our most fundamental rights’

LONDON: Britain on Friday announced sanctions against 30 people worldwide, including Russian and Iranian officials, targeting those it deems responsible for acts of torture, sexual violence, and the violent repression of street protests.
The move came a day after France announced plans for new European Union sanctions against Iran over human rights abuses in its security crackdown on popular unrest there as well as its supply of drones to Russia before Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
The British government said its sanctions were coordinated with international partners to mark International Anti-Corruption Day and Global Human Rights Day. They encompassed individuals involved in activities including the torture of prisoners and the mobilization of troops to rape civilians.
“Today our sanctions go further to expose those behind the heinous violations of our most fundamental rights,” Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said in a statement.
Those sanctioned include Russian Col. Ramil Rakhmatulovich Ibatullin for his role as the commander of the 90th Tank Division, which has been involved in fighting since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this year.
The government said there have been multiple allegations made against serving members of the 90th Tank Division, including the conviction in Ukraine of a senior lieutenant on sexual abuse charges during the conflict.
Russia, which has said it is conducting a “special military operation” in Ukraine to eliminate threats to its security, has denied committing war crimes or targeting civilians.
Britain also sanctioned 10 Iranian officials connected to Iran’s prison systems. This included six people linked to the Revolutionary Courts that have been responsible for prosecuting protesters with sentences including the death penalty.
Nationwide protests that erupted after the death in police custody of 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman Mahsa Amini on Sept. 16 have posed one of the biggest challenges to the Islamic Republic since its establishment in 1979.
The British government sanctioned Ali Cheharmahali and Gholamreza Ziyayi, former directors of Evin prison in Tehran, which it said was a facility notorious for the mistreatment of both Iranian and foreign detainees.
The foreign office said the sanctions against 11 countries across seven sanctions regimes were the most that Britain has ever imposed in one package.
Britain also sanctioned figures involved in Myanmar’s military, which it said were involved in committing massacres, torture and rape.
Among those sanctioned by Britain were Myanmar’s Office of the Chief of Military and Security Affairs, which it said had been involved in torture since last year’s military coup, including rape and sexual violence.

Related


Russia says ties with US still in ‘crisis’ despite prisoner swap

Updated 56 min 30 sec ago

Russia says ties with US still in ‘crisis’ despite prisoner swap

  • Kremlin’s Dmitry Peskov: Relations between the two countries remain in a ‘sorry state’
  • Moscow-Washington tensions lately soared over range of issues

MOSCOW: Russia said Friday that its ties with the United States were still in “crisis” despite a prisoner swap involving US basketball star Brittney Griner and Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.
Tensions between Moscow and Washington have soared in recent months over a range of issues, peaking after President Vladimir Putin sent troops into pro-Western Ukraine.
“It is probably wrong to draw any hypothetical conclusions that this could be a step toward overcoming the crisis that we currently have in bilateral relations,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the Izvestia newspaper.
Ties “continue to remain in a sad state,” he said, adding that talks with US authorities allowed “a Russian citizen, who was basically held captive by the Americans for 14 years... to return to his country.”
Dubbed the “Merchant of Death,” Bout was released Thursday in a prisoner swap in Abu Dhabi involving WNBA star Griner, 32, who was jailed in Russia for possessing vape cartridges with cannabis oil.
Bout, 55, was accused of arming rebels in some of the world’s bloodiest conflicts.
He was arrested in an American sting operation in Thailand in 2008, extradited to the United States and sentenced in 2012 to 25 years in prison.


India’s Modi wins huge in home state

Updated 09 December 2022

India’s Modi wins huge in home state

  • Modi’s party wins at least 147 seats in Gujarat’s 182-seat legislature
  • Modi was state premier in 2002 in Gujarat when 1,000 people were killed in riots

AHMEDABAD, India: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party won by a crushing landslide in his home state, election results showed Thursday, in a strong performance ahead of a national vote due in 2024.

In its best-ever performance in the western state of around 60 million people, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party won at least 147 seats in Gujarat’s 182-seat legislature, up from 99, and was expected to win another nine once all votes were counted.

Modi campaigned hard in Gujarat, the state where he was chief minister for 12 years before ascending to become prime minister in 2014, and which voted on December 1 and 5.

Thanking the people of Gujarat, Modi said on Twitter he was “overcome with a lot of emotion” by the results.

“People blessed politics of development and at the same time expressed a desire that they want this to continue at a greater pace,” Modi tweeted.

Modi was state premier in 2002 when around 1,000 people, most of them Muslims, were killed in one of the worst outbreaks of sectarian violence in post-independence India.

The once-mighty Congress party managed just 16 seats, its worst performance ever in the state.

The BJP also saw off a challenge from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which governs the capital New Delhi and Punjab and which was hoping to expand its reach. It won just five seats.

The BJP has ruled Gujarat continuously for 27 years, and the party and its allies head governments in 16 of India’s 28 states.

The deep-pocketed party with a strong social media operation pulled out all the stops in the campaign, fielding many new faces including a former Congress activist, Hardik Patel, along with the wife of a star cricketer.

Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, a political analyst, said that the result was all the more remarkable after 135 people died in a bridge collapse in Gujarat in October that was blamed on corruption.

Voters “see their welfare in Modi’s political security,” he told AFP.

“This kind of result in Gujarat no doubt smoothens BJP’s path to 2024 (national elections).”

Earlier this year, the BJP scored a strong win in Uttar Pradesh to become the first party to win two back-to-back elections in India’s most populous state, which also sends the most members to the national parliament.

However, the BJP lost power to Congress in Himachal Pradesh, election results in the small northern state of around seven million people showed.

The next national elections in the world’s biggest democracy are due in 2024 when Modi, 72, is widely expected to run for a third term.


Frustration in Romania and Bulgaria after Schengen rejection

Updated 08 December 2022

Frustration in Romania and Bulgaria after Schengen rejection

  • Now some observers warn that both countries face a rising tide of euroscepticism as they remain outside the coveted zone
  • At Giurgiu, on the Romanian-Bulgarian border, a queue of trucks several kilometres begins forming from dawn

GIURGIU, Romania: After more than 10 years waiting to be admitted into the Schengen zone, Bulgaria and Romania were once more turned away after two EU countries vetoed their admission.
Now some observers warn that both countries face a rising tide of euroskepticism as they remain outside the coveted zone through which passport checks are not normally required.
Romanian Prime Minister Nicolae Ciuca spoke of his “profound disappointment” after Austria blocked their admission.
In Bulgaria, President Rumen Radev regretted what he described as the “internal borders” he said were being put up with the European Union bloc.
Their failure to win admission to the Schengen’s vast zone of free movement means that the long lines at various border crossings will continue.
At Giurgiu, for example, on the Romanian-Bulgarian border, a queue of trucks several kilometers begins forming from dawn.
Jaded long-haul drivers speaking to AFP in early December in Giurgiu, on the Romanian side, told of long hours waiting for the customs checks before they could enter Bulgaria.
Alexandru Birnea, 36, a long-haul driver for 13 years, said joining the Schengen zone would improve the lives of thousands of truckers.
“We would like to avoid losing all this time and therefore money in endless queues so that we can get back to our families more quickly,” he said.
But his pessimism about the outcome of the vote turned out to be well founded.
The European Commission has long expressed its wish for a widened Schengen zone.
But while tourist hotspot Croatia received the green light on Thursday, Romania and Bulgaria were left out in the cold.
Both countries joined the European Union back in 2007, before Croatia. Both countries met the technical criteria set out by Brussels.
But both countries were asked to make progress on judicial reform and anti-corruption efforts and were monitored for improvements.
When that process ended, both countries were hopeful that they had cleared the final hurdle. improvements.
But Austria hardened its stance, denouncing an influx of asylum seekers that it said could grow if the Schengen zone expanded.
“The migratory flows do not pass through Romania,” but mainly through Serbia, Romanian Interior Minister Lucian Bode argued.
He pointing to the nearly 140,000 migrants on the western Balkan route recorded by the European agency Frontex since January.
Prime Minister Ciuca said Austria’s refusal was based on “incorrect” figures.
But for political analyst Sergiu Miscoiu, Austria’s veto was more a reflection of internal political pressures, given the rise in polls of the far right there.
The Netherlands finally changed its position and gave Romania the green-light after long being opposed. But it maintained its concerns about “corruption and human rights” in Bulgaria.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said last week that he wanted to be assured that no-one could “cross the border with a 50-euro note.”
Bulgarian Interior Minister Ivan Demerdzhiev rejected what he described as “insulting” remarks, especially given the “exceptional efforts” they had made to meet Brussels’ demands.
Bulgarian weekly magazine Capital commented: “We expect the impossible from the poorest and most corrupt country in the EU: don’t let migrants pass through (the country), but give asylum to every migrant who enters,” it remarked.
And analyst Miscoiu warned that a negative vote could “strengthen the euroskeptics, especially in Bulgaria, which has already had four elections in the past two years.”
Romanian president Klaus Iohannis also warned that rejection “might compromise European unity and cohesion, which we so need, especially in the current geopolitical context.”


Griner for Bout: WNBA star freed in US-Russia prisoner swap

Updated 09 December 2022

Griner for Bout: WNBA star freed in US-Russia prisoner swap

  • The deal, the second such exchange in eight months with Russia, procured the release of the most prominent American detained abroad
  • “Moments ago, I spoke to Brittney Griner. She is safe. She is on a plane. She is on her way home,” Biden tweeted

WASHINGTON: Russia freed WNBA star Brittney Griner on Thursday in a dramatic high-level prisoner exchange, with the US releasing notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, American and Russian officials said.
The swap, at a time of heightened tensions over Ukraine, achieved a top goal for President Joe Biden, but carried a heavy price — and left behind an American jailed for nearly four years in Russia.
The deal, the second such exchange in eight months with Russia, procured the release of the most prominent American detained abroad. Griner is a two-time Olympic gold medalist whose monthslong imprisonment on drug charges brought unprecedented attention to the population of wrongful detainees.
Biden’s authorization to release a Russian felon once nicknamed “the Merchant of Death” underscored the escalating pressure that his administration faced to get Griner home, particularly after the recent resolution of her criminal case and her subsequent transfer to a penal colony.
The swap was confirmed by US officials with direct knowledge of the negotiations who were not authorized to publicly discuss the deal before a White House announcement and spoke on condition of anonymity. Biden spoke with Griner on the phone Thursday while her partner, Cherelle, was in the Oval Office. The president was to address reporters later in the morning.
“Moments ago I spoke to Brittney Griner. She is safe. She is on a plane. She is on her way home,” Biden tweeted.
The Russian Foreign Ministry also confirmed the swap, saying in a statement carried by Russian news agencies that the exchange took place in Abu-Dhabi and that Bout has been flown home
Russian and US officials had conveyed cautious optimism in recent weeks after months of strained negotiations, with Biden saying in November that he was hopeful that Russia would engage in a deal now that the midterm elections were completed. A top Russian official said last week that a deal was possible before year’s end.
Even so, the fact that the deal was a one-for-one swap was a surprise given that US officials had for months expressed their their determination to bring home both Griner and Paul Whelan, a Michigan corporate security executive jailed in Russia since December 2018 on espionage charges that his family and the US government has said are baseless.
In releasing Bout, the US freed a a former Soviet Army lieutenant colonel whom the Justice Department once described as one of the world’s most prolific arms dealers. Bout, whose exploits inspired a Hollywood movie, was serving a 25-year sentence on charges that he conspired to sell tens of millions of dollars in weapons that USofficials said were to be used against Americans.
The Biden administration was ultimately willing to exchange Bout if it meant Griner’s freedom. The detention of one of the greatest players in WNBA history contributed to a swirl of unprecedented public attention for an individual detainee case — not to mention intense pressure on the White House.
Griner’s arrest in February made her the most high-profile American jailed abroad. Her status as an openly gay Black woman, locked up in a country where authorities have been hostile to the LBGTQ community, infused racial, gender and social dynamics into her legal saga and made each development a matter of international importance.
Her case not only brought unprecedented publicity to the dozens of Americans wrongfully detained by foreign governments, but it also emerged as a major inflection point in US-Russia diplomacy at a time of deteriorating relations prompted by Moscow’s war against Ukraine.
The exchange was carried out despite deteriorating relations between the powers. But the imprisonment of Americans produced a rare diplomatic opening, yielding the highest-level known contact between Washington and Moscow — a phone call between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov — in more than five months.
In an extraordinary move during otherwise secret negotiations, Blinken revealed publicly in July that the US had made a “substantial proposal” to Russia for Griner and Whelan. Though he did not specify the terms, people familiar with it said the US had offered Bout.
Such a public overture drew a chiding rebuke from the Russians, who said they preferred to resolve such cases in private, and carried the risk of weakening the US government’s negotiating hand for this and future deals by making the administration appear too desperate. But the announcement was also meant to communicate to the public that Biden was doing what he could and to ensure pressure on the Russians.
Besides the efforts of US officials, the release also followed months of backchannel negotiations involving Bill Richardson, the former US ambassador to the United Nations and a frequent emissary in hostage talks, and his top deputy Mickey Bergman. The men had made multiple trips abroad in the last year to discuss swap scenarios with Russian contacts.
Griner was arrested at the Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport in February when customs officials said they found vape canisters with cannabis oil in her luggage. She pleaded guilty in July, though still faced trial because admitting guilt in Russia’s judicial system does not automatically end a case.
She acknowledged in court that she possessed the canisters, but said she had no criminal intent and said their presence in her luggage was due to hasty packing.
Before being sentenced on Aug. 4 and receiving a punishment her lawyers said was out of line for the offense, an emotional Griner apologized “for my mistake that I made and the embarrassment that I brought on them.” She added: “I hope in your ruling it does not end my life.”
Her supporters had largely stayed quiet for weeks after her arrest, but that approach changed in May once the State Department designated her as unlawfully detained. A separate trade, Marine veteran Trevor Reed for Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot convicted in the US in a cocaine trafficking conspiracy, spurred hope that additional such exchanges could be in the works.
Whelan has been held in Russia since December 2018. The US government also classified him as wrongfully detained. He was sentenced in 2020 to 16 years in prison.
Whelan was not included in the Reed prisoner swap, escalating pressure on the Biden administration to ensure that any deal that brought home Griner also included him.