Saudi-French relations are experiencing a ‘quantum leap,’ Adel Al-Jubeir tells Arab News en Francais

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Updated 20 June 2023

Saudi-French relations are experiencing a ‘quantum leap,’ Adel Al-Jubeir tells Arab News en Francais

  • Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs says both nations have “young leaders who have visions, ambitions and courage to move their countries to a better level”
  • Kingdom is “well placed” to secure World Expo 2030, boosted by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Paris visit, he adds
  • Climate envoy lauds Kingdom’s moves toward supplying Europe with clean, renewable energy, and partnerships on hydrogen power

PARIS: The relationship between Saudi Arabia and France is going through a “quantum leap,” Adel Al-Jubeir, the Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs, told Arab News en Francais in Paris, as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman continues his official visit to the French capital this week.

“We’re witnessing a quantum leap in Saudi-French relations,” said Al-Jubeir. “Saudi Arabia and France have been strategic partners and allies for many, many decades. We have commonality of outlook with regards to international relations, with regards to the sovereignty of nations, the principle of non-interference, respect for international law.

“We both believe in our people. We both believe in empowering youth and women. We both believe in providing opportunity. We both believe in connecting with the world. And we both are working to connect with the world and be connected with the world.

“The relationship between our two countries is very strong, has been very strong. And we’re looking forward to elevating the relationship on a personal level between our leaders. It is a very strong personal relationship.”

The crown prince arrived in Paris for an official visit at the end of last week, meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace on Friday to discuss bilateral, regional and international affairs.

In Al-Jubeir’s view, the strength of the Saudi-French relationship is owed, to a great extent, to the shared values of the two leaders, who are of a similar age and outlook.

“We have young leaders who have visions and ambitions and courage to move their countries to a better level. And this is all the coming together of all of these different elements,” he said.

“We have tremendous opportunities to further our trade and investment relationship. We have tremendous opportunities to further our cultural and educational relationships. We have tremendous opportunities to further our people-to-people relationships, and nothing comes better, more clearly, than when you have a summit.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attended the Kingdom’s official reception for Expo 2030 bid on Monday. (SPA) 

“And this is what we have during this visit: His royal highness’s meeting at the Elysee with the president of France, the Saudi business and investment delegation in France with the accompanying events, the meeting of the Bureau of International Exhibitions, and the bid announcement for Saudi Arabia to host Expo 2030 in Riyadh.”

One issue on which France seeks Saudi support is Ukraine. French media outlets recently indicated that Paris wants Riyadh to leverage its relationship with Russia to help find a peaceful solution to the conflict.

Asked by Arab News en Francais whether there was any basis to these reports, or any progress on the issue, Al-Jubeir highlighted the Kingdom’s proactive role in prisoner exchanges, the facilitation of grain exports from Ukrainian ports, and engagement with the international community to try and bring a negotiated end to the conflict.

“There is a dialogue and an exchange of views on how to deal with any challenges and how to overcome obstacles. And we do this through a serious and intensive consultation mechanism. The objective of both countries is to bring peace and stability to the Middle East region and to the world,” he said.

Saudi Arabia’s relationship with France and other European nations goes beyond strategic partnerships. Energy security, particularly as the world makes the transition to cleaner sources of energy, has become a significant area of cooperation.

Long a major supplier of hydrocarbons, Saudi Arabia is now moving to supply Europe and its neighbors in the Middle East with clean and renewable sources of energy.

“We are one of the largest investors in the world in renewable energy, whether it’s solar energy, whether it’s wind, whether it’s hydro,” said Al-Jubeir.

“We are working on building, as we speak, transmission lines into neighboring countries so we can more efficiently distribute the energy to other countries. We are working with Europe to see how we can provide Europe’s requirements for green hydrogen.

“We are, in particular, working with Germany and with the Netherlands, because of the Port of Rotterdam, and Germany is a strategic partner in technologies for green hydrogen. We are building the largest green hydrogen plant in the world in NEOM.

“We are also working on providing Europe with electricity generated from renewable energy because Europe requires up to 30 percent of its electricity (to come from renewables) in the coming decades. They may require that that be important and we want to be the supplier of that energy.

“And we have agreements with, or understandings with, Cyprus and Greece with regards to energy cooperation and with regards to transmission lines, so we can deliver this energy efficiently to Europe.”

Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir being interviewed by Arab News Editor-in-Chief Faisal J. Abbas in Paris on Monday. (AN photo )      

Saudi Arabia’s investment in renewables is part of a wider environmental strategy, implemented through the Vision 2030 social reform and economic diversification agenda, the Saudi Green and Middle East Green initiatives, and the Kingdom’s embrace of the circular carbon economy.

“Saudi Arabia’s climate agenda is very clear and very, very ambitious,” said Al-Jubeir. “The issue is really to employ what we call the circular carbon economy approach, where we look at environmental and climate issues in a holistic manner and we seek a solution to it in a holistic manner, rather than in a one-size-fits-all approach.

“The approach we take is producing energy more efficiently and more cleanly, capturing carbon, sequestering carbon, working on redesigning our cities to make them more efficient so we reduce the amount of time that people drive … We work on better standards for energy consumption in all aspects, whether it’s household appliances, whether it’s public buildings.

“The other part of the circular carbon economy is also to use nature in order to capture carbon more effectively. We have designated 30 percent of Saudi Arabia as protected areas and we’re working on making sure that that’s in place.

The NEOM Green Hydrogen plant is expected to begin green hydrogen production using 100 percent renewables in 2026. (NEOM)

“We have committed to designating 30 percent of our oceans as designated protected areas. We are now at about 22 percent. We will be reaching 30 percent in the next very few years.

“We are part of the global methane pledge and we doubled our commitment to reducing methane; that was announced last year, where we doubled our goal because we were able to acquire the technology and the ability to do more. We were one of only three G20 countries to do so.”

Given the breadth of achievements that Saudi Arabia has to share, it is perhaps no surprise that the Kingdom has made its bid to host World Expo 2030 such a high priority. Indeed, the event would coincide with the completion of the Vision 2030 reform drive.

The crown prince himself is presenting the Saudi bid during the International Bureau of Exhibitions meeting in Paris this week, and on Monday night he participated in an official reception for 179 countries as part of the Kingdom’s bid.

Asked by Arab News en Francais whether the crown prince’s personal presence in Paris to promote Riyadh’s bid is a signal that Saudi Arabia feels it has already secured the nomination, Al-Jubeir said: “The vote will be in November. We are in a good position. We will be in a much, much better position thanks to the presence of his royal highness here in Paris to talk to delegates and to oversee the opening of the Saudi bid for hosting Expo 2030.

The crown prince met French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace on Friday to discuss bilateral, regional and international affairs. (AP)

“Having his royal highness the crown prince here at the presentation of our bid is very significant because he is the driving force behind Vision 2030 … I have no doubt that his presence here, during the launch of Saudi Arabia’s bid, is going to have a huge impact on signaling the commitment of Saudi Arabia to this expo, signaling the commitment of his royal highness to this expo and to his Vision 2030.”

If Riyadh secures the nomination, Al-Jubeir said the World Expo venue would become a permanent part of the city’s cultural fabric and a monument to its achievements.

“The exhibition that Saudi Arabia has in mind, and that his royal highness charted out, is that this is going to be an unprecedented exhibition,” he said.

“It will be an exhibition like no other. We are allocating tremendous resources to this exhibition. We want this exhibit to be a permanent exhibit, not a temporary exhibit. We want it to become part of the cultural scene of Riyadh.”

He added: “I have no doubt that the world will be positively stunned by what the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is able to do, should we have the honor of receiving the votes to be able to host this important event in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, in the city of Riyadh, in 2030.”

Pilgrims cast stones at Jamarat on first day of Tashreeq

Updated 15 sec ago

Pilgrims cast stones at Jamarat on first day of Tashreeq

MINA: Hajj pilgrims began the ritual stoning of the devil, throwing pebbles at the Jamarat, three stone pillars, on the first day of Tashreeq, which also coincides with the second day of Eid Al-Adha.

The ritual stoning began with Jamarat Al-Oula (the small pillar), continuing with Jamarat Al-Wusta (the middle pillar) and finally Jamarat Al-Aqaba (the large pillar), following in the Prophet Muhammad’s footsteps, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

Numerous designated pathways across the various floors of the Jamarat facility ensured a smooth flow of pilgrims and eased crowd management. The innovative, multilevel structure was engineered to distribute pilgrims efficiently during the throwing ritual.

Pedestrian bridges connect the Jamarat to the Al-Mashaaer Al-Mugaddassah Metro Line and surrounding pilgrim camps in Mina, allowing for safe and convenient movement, SPA reported.

Guidance heroes of Hajj help pilgrims find their way

Updated 17 June 2024

Guidance heroes of Hajj help pilgrims find their way

  • Scouts can be found in all pilgrimage areas wearing blue caps, brown vests and green neckerchiefs, helping pilgrims

RIYADH: The Technical and Vocational Training Corporation trained scouts to serve during the Hajj season to provide guidance and advice to pilgrims.

These scouts can be found in all pilgrimage areas wearing blue caps, brown vests and green neckerchiefs, helping pilgrims.

Hajj scout Ramadan Swailek says that his duty is to serve and assist the pilgrims at various locations in Makkah.

“We are roaming scouts, and we have specialists from various fields present in the holy sites, such as guidance, health, and safety. The mission of a guidance scout involves guiding lost pilgrims. If a pilgrim is lost, we use maps to help them find their way.”

Swailek said that pilgrims can get cold refreshments and take a rest at the guidance stations.

“This is the first year we are working as roaming guides. In the past, we always provided stationary guidance, helping lost pilgrims who might have been wandering for three or four hours, often frustrated. Guiding them to their destination brings immense relief, and it is a highly rewarding experience. People truly compete for this role because it offers a profound sense of fulfilment,” he said.

Abdulrahim Saad Al-Maliki is another scout helping pilgrims this Hajj season.

“We come here with the intention of serving the pilgrims, as my colleague Ramadan mentioned, and we cover five areas in Mina. There is a lot of roaming, guiding and assisting in various aspects. We thank God for the blessings of Islam, our faith, and the security and safety we enjoy. We are always at the service of the pilgrims. This is my first year, and I hope to continue serving the pilgrims in the coming years, God willing.”

The Scout Commission from the TVTC in the Madinah region won the best headquarters at the camp level this year.

The TVTC was established in 1990 and has 283 training facilities covering all parts of the Kingdom.

KSrelief distribute food aid as Muslims start Eid celebrations

Updated 17 June 2024

KSrelief distribute food aid as Muslims start Eid celebrations

  • The program is part of Saudi Arabia’s efforts, represented by KSrelief, to strengthen food security in Yemen

RIYADH: The Saudi aid agency KSrelief has distributed nearly 1,600 food baskets across Yemen, benefiting more than 11,000 people, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Monday.

The aid was sent to the districts of Al-Mawasit, Al-Ma’afer and Ash Shamayatayn in Taiz, as well as Al-Hawtah district in Lahij, and Al-Ghaydah district in Al-Mahra Governorate on Sunday.

The program is part of Saudi Arabia’s efforts, represented by KSrelief, to strengthen food security in Yemen.

Also in Yemen KSrelief launched a project on Sunday to distribute adahi meat in Aden Governorate.

The meat of 300 sacrificial animals was distributed on the first day of Eid Al-Adha, in Al-Mansoura city, benefiting 2,800 people who are vulnerable, disabled, displaced and those with chronic diseases.

The project aims to distribute the meat of 2,330 adahi animals to 32,620 families in the governorates of Aden, Marib, Hadhramaut, Al-Mahrah, and Lahij.

KSrelief also distributed 25 tonnes of dates sent to Kazakhstan as a gift.

The aid was handed over in Astana on Sunday by the Saudi ambassador to Kazakhstan, Faisal bin Hanif Al-Qahtani, to the deputy head of the religious administration of the Muslims of Kazakhstan in the presence of a team from KSrelief.


Pilgrims perform final rites of Hajj as Muslims celebrate Eid Al-Adha

Updated 17 June 2024

Pilgrims perform final rites of Hajj as Muslims celebrate Eid Al-Adha

  • More than 850,000 pilgrims had performed Tawaf Al-Ifadah by Sunday night in Makkah
  • The stoning is among the final rites of the Hajj, which is one of the Five Pillars of Islam

MINA: More than 850,000 pilgrims had performed Tawaf Al-Ifadah by Sunday night in Makkah, the ritual marking the final days of the Hajj and the start of the Eid Al-Adha celebrations for Muslims around the world.

The long day started with masses of pilgrims embarking on a symbolic stoning of the devil in Muzdalifah under the soaring summer heat. The stoning is among the final rites of the Hajj, which is one of the Five Pillars of Islam.

It came a day after more than 1.8 million pilgrims congregated at a sacred hill, known as Mount Arafat, outside the holy city of Makkah, which Muslim pilgrims visit to perform the annual five-day rituals of Hajj. The Tawaf Al Ifadah is performed by Hajj pilgrims after the returning from Mina.

In a press conference on Sunday night, Col. Talal bin Abdulmohsen Al-Shalhoub, spokesperson of the Saudi Ministry of Interior, said that all pilgrims safely returned to their tents in Mina after departing from Muzdalifah.

He emphasized that security forces are continuing their operations to ensure the security and safety of the Guests of Allah throughout their stay in Mina, including their rituals at the Jamarat Bridge and within the Grand Mosque.“These services encompass crowd control and management on all routes connecting their accommodations in tents, the bridge, and the Grand Mosque, as well as during their tawaf. I urge all guests to adhere strictly to the instructions governing their ritual performances,” he stated.

Pilgrims cast stones at pillars in the symbolic stoning of the devil, one of the last rites of Hajj, at the Jamarat in Mina, near the holy city of Makkah, on June 16, 2024. (SPA)

The spokesperson also advised pilgrims not to carry personal belongings when heading to the Jamarat Bridge or the Holy Mosque.

“Furthermore, I urge those intending to leave Mina on the second day of Tashreeq to follow the specified guidelines,” he added.

The days of Tashreeq are the three days that follow the 10th of Dhu al-Hijjah, Eid al-Adha, and are known for the ritual of stoning the three pillars in Mina, symbolizing the rejection of temptation and evil.

However, it is permissible for pilgrims to leave Makkah before sunset on the 12th day of Dhul Hijjah.Al-Shalhoub further reported that the 911 center in the Makkah region had received a total of 78,872 calls on the 10th of Thul Hijjah, covering security reports and service inquiries, all of which were promptly addressed.

He highlighted the close monitoring by Saudi leadership of all security sectors, noting continuous enhancements in their performance each year.“Our security personnel serve as exemplary role models in fulfilling their duties and facilitating the Hajj journey for pilgrims,” he concluded.

For his part, Ayedh Al-Ghuwainem, deputy minister of Hajj and Umrah for Hajj affairs said that the organizational plans and efforts were implemented in harmony with all the participating Hajj agencies.

“The stoning process occurred safely and tranquilly within just ten hours, achieving a compliance rate of 95 percent with the instructions,” he said.

He further added that the plans were designed to accommodate the diverse jurisprudential preferences of pilgrims using modern technology and preplanned schedules for grouping the pilgrims.Al-Ghuwainem stated that more than 800,000 pilgrims had arrived in Mina before dawn on Sunday, and by 8 a.m., all pilgrims had reached Mina.

On their arrival at the Jamarat Bridge, some 70 percent of the pilgrims used the first and fourth floors, while the rest of them went through the second and third floors, according to the deputy minister.

“Moreover, more than 850,000 worshippers have so far performed the Ifadah tawaf since midnight using shuttle bus services from and to the Grand Mosque,” he said.

The deputy minister added that the challenge they faced along with the concerned authorities was that most of the pilgrims preferred to go on foot, despite all the awareness campaigns and the availability of all means of transportation. He also urged the pilgrims to follow the instructions.

Saudi crown prince receives phone call from president of European Council

Charles Michel (L) and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. (SPA)
Updated 17 June 2024

Saudi crown prince receives phone call from president of European Council

  • They reviewed Saudi-EU cooperation and ways to strengthen in various areas

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has received telephone call from the president of the European Council Charles Michel on Sunday.

During the conversation, they reviewed Saudi-EU cooperation and ways to strengthen in various areas.

A number of regional and international issues were also discussed as well as efforts made to achieve security and stability in the region, SPA reported.