What to expect as Japan’s PM Kishida begins tour of Saudi Arabia, UAE and Qatar

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The Saudi-Japan Vision 2030 is a cooperation framework that has existed since 2016, helping to boost bilateral trade relations. (Reuters / file photo)
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Japan Prime Minister Kishida Fumio embarks on his first middle East tour with stops in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar, starting on Sunday and lasting three days. (AFP)
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A delegation of students from Saudi universities are visiting Japan with the participation of 224 male and female participants representing 17 Saudi universities. (Supplied)
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Updated 17 July 2023
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What to expect as Japan’s PM Kishida begins tour of Saudi Arabia, UAE and Qatar

  • Tour intended to develop Japan’s ties with GCC nations and build cooperation in various fields
  • Energy security, green technologies to top the agenda on Kishida’s first Middle East visit

TOKYO: Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida begins a tour of the Middle East on Sunday — the first by a Japanese leader since the late Shinzo Abe paid a visit in 2020.

Kishida will arrive in Saudi Arabia on July 16 before traveling to the UAE and finally Qatar on July 18.

The trip is intended to help Japan develop its ties with Gulf Cooperation Council countries and build cooperation in various fields, particularly energy.




Japan Prime Minister Kishida Fumio embarks on his first middle East tour with stops in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar, starting on Sunday and lasting three days. (AFP)

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Qatar are responsible for more than 80 percent of Japan’s total crude oil imports, with the Kingdom representing 40.68 percent as of the beginning of the year.

Amid Russia’s war with Ukraine, which has caused energy supply concerns, Kishida is expected to urge the Arab countries to stabilize the oil market by increasing production.

With the UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) taking place in the UAE later this year, Kishida also plans to discuss cooperation on cutting greenhouse gas emissions by promoting the transition to hydrogen power.

Japan is actively developing greener and renewable energy technologies as it wants to be carbon neutral by 2050.

Kishida will also try to promote Japanese know-how, as energy-producing countries also have ambitious green targets.

In 2022, Saudi Arabia and Japan signed a memorandum of cooperation in the fields of circular carbon economy, carbon recycling, clean hydrogen, and ammonia fuel.

In March, Japanese trading house Marubeni Corp. agreed to study clean hydrogen production in Saudi Arabia together with the Kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund, as Riyadh is looking to add other types of energy sources, including cleaner fuels and renewables, to diversify its economy.

Kishida had planned to visit the three countries last year, but his tour was called off after he contracted COVID-19.

On July 13, Matsuno Hirokazu, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, said that the war in Ukraine and other international issues would feature on the agenda during Kishida’s meetings on his Middle East tour.

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Matsuno said a delegation of Japanese businesspeople would also be joining Kishida on his trip, which would help Japanese companies expand investment opportunities in the region.

During his visit, the prime minister will also hold meetings with the leaders of these countries to discuss a wide range of topics, such as bilateral relations, a foreign ministry statement said.

“Through this visit, Prime Minister Kishida intends to confirm cooperation with each country in various fields, including energy, and to promote the maintenance and enhancement of the free and open international order based on the rule of law in light of the outcome of the G7 Hiroshima Summit,” the statement added.

Kishida is scheduled to depart Tokyo and arrive at Jeddah on Sunday, where he will take part in a Saudi-Japan summit and other meetings with Saudi officials.


READ MORE: Kishida’s Arab Tour


On Monday, he will depart from Jeddah and head to Abu Dhabi, where he will attend a Japan-UAE summit and other meetings. He will then head to Doha on Tuesday, where the Japan-Qatar summit, among other bilateral meetings, will be held.

He is scheduled to arrive back in Tokyo on Wednesday.

Kishida’s predecessor Abe undertook a similar tour in 2020, visiting Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Oman. During his time in the Kingdom, he met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in AlUla, where they discussed regional developments.




Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman receiving then Japanese PM Shinzo Abe in  AlUla on January 12, 2020. (SPA)

At the time, tensions with Iran were on the rise. However, Kishida is now visiting at a time when diplomatic ties have been restored between Riyadh and Tehran following an agreement brokered by China.

Abe also promised that Japan would fully support the crown prince’s reform efforts through Saudi-Japan Vision 2030, a cooperation framework that has existed since 2016.

The crown prince expressed full support at the time for Japan’s deployment of a Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer and patrol aircraft to the Middle East.

Abe also secured the crown prince’s backing for an MSDF mission aimed at gathering information to ensure safe navigation in the region.

INNUMBERS

$5.08 billion Value of Japanese exports to Saudi Arabia in 2022, primarily vehicles.

1.17 million Barrels per day of oil imported by Japan from Saudi Arabia in 2018.

947 Number of Japanese nationals residing in Saudi Arabia as of Dec. 2019.

Two P-3C patrol planes of the MSDF set out on their mission in January 2020 and the MSDF’s Takanami-class destroyer left for the Middle East on Feb. 2 of that year.

According to Japanese news media, the mission was extended and departed from the Middle East on Dec. 26, 2021. The two leaders agreed to maintain efforts that would ensure stability and peace in the region.

While in AlUla, Abe helped cast a spotlight on the ancient Nabataean site, which opened its doors to the public later that year. It was there that he also met with King Salman. The two statesmen discussed cooperation ahead of the G20, which was hosted by Saudi Arabia in 2020.

King Salman told Abe that he expected the Kingdom and Japan to deepen their strategic partnership in various fields, not only in the energy sector.




Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud (L) is welcomed by Japanese Emperor Akihito (R) prior to their luncheon at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on March 14, 2017. (AFP)

That was the fifth meeting between the two leaders since the start of Abe’s administration in December 2012. At that time, King Salman was crown prince.

Two years after leaving office, Abe was killed by a lone shooter during a campaign rally in the city of Nara on July 8, 2022. He left a legacy of strong relations with many nations, not least Japan’s Middle East allies — relations that Kishida appears eager to continue.

Before his Middle East tour, Kishida embarked on a trip to Lithuania and attended a NATO summit on July 12. He asked for NATO’s increased commitment to the Indo-Pacific region to counter China’s military activities.

He also held talks with Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO secretary-general, and discussed a new Japan-NATO document on space cooperation.

Stoltenberg said member countries failed to agree on a plan to establish a liaison office in Tokyo.




Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, left, joins US President Joe Biden, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and G7 leaders including Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni at an event to announce a Joint Declaration of Support for Ukraine during the NATO Summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, on July 12, 2023. (Pool Photo via AP)

“The issue of a liaison office is still on the table. It will be considered in the future,” Stoltenberg said after the two-day summit in Vilnius.

France has opposed the Tokyo office plan out of concern over a potential backlash from China. French President Emmanuel Macron has said the Indo-Pacific was not the North Atlantic.

Kishida also met South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol on the sidelines of the NATO summit and outlined Japan’s plans to release treated water from the stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant into the ocean.

In Lithuania, Kishida held talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to pledge Tokyo’s continued support for Kyiv in the war with Russia.




Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida addresses the media after an EU-Japan summit in Brussels, Belgium on July 13, 2023. (AP Photo)

In Belgium, on July 13, Kishida met European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to discuss security and economic cooperation.

European leaders will be watching Kishida’s Middle East tour with interest as they, too, consider their own energy security prospects and options for green transition.

 


More than 1.4 million people visit Al-Rawdah Al-Sharifa during last six weeks

More than 1.4 million people visited Al-Rawdah Al-Sharifa at the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah during the last six weeks. (SPA)
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More than 1.4 million people visit Al-Rawdah Al-Sharifa during last six weeks

RIYADH: More than 1.4 million people visited Al-Rawdah Al-Sharifa at the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah during the last six weeks, Saudi Press Agency reported on Sunday.

762,101 males and 641,539 females visited the sacred site between Dhul-Qadah 1 and Dhul-Hijjah 14, SPA said.

The Holy Rawdah lies between the Sacred Chamber (known as the Prophet’s house), and the Prophet’s Minbar (or pulpit).This southeastern section of the Prophet’s Mosque is where his house once stood, where he lived with his wife Aisha bint Abu Bakr and is buried. It is of extremely great religious value to Muslims.

The area of Al-Rawdah Al-Sharifa is 330 square meters and has a capacity to accommodate 800 visitors per hour, with each visitor spending an average of 10 minutes in the area.

Appointment bookings are verified through the Nusuk and Tawakkalna applications, and visitors scan their QR codes on arrival at the mosque. They are then directed to waiting areas before entering the holy area.


Saudi border guards foil smuggling attempts near Jazan

Updated 23 June 2024
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Saudi border guards foil smuggling attempts near Jazan

RIYADH: Border Guard land patrols have foiled an attempt to smuggle 135 kilograms of qat in Al-Dayer sector of Jazan Region. 
Also in Jazan region, border police thwarted an attempt to illegally transport 160 kilograms of qat in Al-Ardah. 
Legal procedures were followed, and the seized items were handed over to the concerned authority.
Meanwhile, two Pakistani residents attempting to sell 4.7 kilograms of methamphetamine in Jeddah. The individuals were referred to the Public Prosecution for legal action.


KSrelief continues humanitarian activities in Lebanon, Sudan

Updated 23 June 2024
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KSrelief continues humanitarian activities in Lebanon, Sudan

RIYADH: King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center’s (KSrelief) philanthropist works in Lebanon and Sudan continues with its latest provision of medical support and basic food requirements for needy individuals.

In the Miniyeh region of northern Lebanon, the Souboul Al-Salam Social Association ambulance service being funded by KSRelief completed 56 emergency missions, which involved the transport of patients to and from hospitals as well as the provision of first responder services to individuals involved in traffic incidents.

In Sudan, the Saudi aid agency distributed 620 food packages to displaced families staying at the Shelter Center in Blue Nile State, or about 6,131 individuals receiving the subsistence items under the third phase of the Food Security Support Project for the country.


Saudi woman Sondos Jaan set to climb the highest peak in the Arab world

Updated 22 June 2024
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Saudi woman Sondos Jaan set to climb the highest peak in the Arab world

  • Adventurer tackles Mount Toubkal in Morocco

DHAHRAN: Sondos Jaan embarked on the journey to the highest peak in the Arab world on June 20.

It is the latest episode in Jaan’s love for mountain adventures, but to understand the fascination it is important to take a look back at her childhood.

She told Arab News: “I am from Madinah. I was born in a city where I could see a mountain from my bedroom window, and as I walked the streets I would see mountains.”

A picture of Sondos Jaan aged about 5 on the top of a mountain with her father. (Supplied)

Those peaks were an important part of her early childhood. There are pictures of Jaan aged about 5 on the top of mountains. She said: “I call these pictures ‘Sondos between two mountains,’ the real mountain carved in nature, and my father.”

During family camping trips, she would sneak away the moment her family was not paying attention in order to climb a mountain.

HIGHLIGHTS

• For her latest adventure, Sondos Jaan is climbing Morocco’s Mount Toubkal, which is a height of 4,167 meters.

• The climb has two routes: The first takes three days of climbing, and the second takes two days but is more challenging.

She added: “I would hear my father calling me, telling me to stay put and to wait for him. My dear father would come to me and we would then climb together, step by step, him telling me where to place my feet until we reached the summit, and then we would descend together, just the two of us.”

Sondos Jaan from Madinah hopes that young Saudi girls reading about her adventures will feel encouraged to take up sports and hobbies they are passionate about. (Supplied)

Her father was the first adventurer she knew. He was always prepared, she says, and “his car was always ready for a trip.”

She said: “He would tell me stories when he returned from hunting trips, whether on land or at sea. I would imagine the stories as if he were the hero in one of the animated films I watched. Sometimes he would take me with him, and I felt like I was part of the story.”

Sondos Jaan from Madinah hopes that young Saudi girls reading about her adventures will feel encouraged to take up sports and hobbies they are passionate about. (Supplied)

Her love for adventure was instilled in her by her father from a very early age. And it seems mountain climbing is in her DNA.

Jaan said: “My father is my primary mountain-climbing coach, and I certainly inherited the spirit of adventure and love for travel, experiences, and camping from him.

Sondos Jaan from Madinah hopes that young Saudi girls reading about her adventures will feel encouraged to take up sports and hobbies they are passionate about. (Supplied)

“He taught me swimming, horse riding, hunting, fishing, and the basics of camping.”

For her latest adventure, Jaan and a friend are climbing Morocco’s Mount Toubkal, which is a height of 4,167 meters. The climb has two routes: the first takes three days of climbing, and the second takes two days but is more challenging.

A file photo of Sondos Jaan when she was about five years old. (Supplied)

They started the climb early, continuing for about nine to 11 hours, followed by an overnight stay at an elevation of 3,200 meters above sea level.

She believes that elements of nature are instilled within each of us and it is our duty — and a privilege — to find and channel those elements.

She said that climbing to Everest Base Camp was the hardest trek she has yet attempted. It was a two-week journey and she added that she was not able to sleep, eat well or breathe properly due to oxygen deficiency in the two days leading up to arrival at the base camp. However, those were not the main factors behind it being her most difficult climb.

She said: “The (main) reason was simply managing expectations. I was emotional after walking all that time and reaching what was supposed to be the summit for that trip, only to realize it wasn’t even the summit.

“It was the main camp where climbers camp for two months every year before attempting to reach the Everest summit, allowing their bodies to acclimatize to the oxygen deficiency, training, and waiting for the right time to climb the summit.”

The experience taught her a valuable lesson, and she added: “I remember descending and as soon as we settled in one of the tea houses, I cried.

“They asked me why. I said I wanted pizza, crying real tears. The owners of the house tried hard to make pizza for me. I ate one slice and gave the rest to their dog. I reflected on my feelings and asked myself, ‘Why did I act that way?’ And the simple answer was, we didn’t reach the summit, we just saw it up close.”

She considers the thrill of the journey, and not only the destination, to be one worth embracing. She now believes that the feeling of almost giving up happens during every climb; she sees it as a healthy sign.

She added: “It is a reminder that I am human. It is also a reminder that I am capable of doing things that might seem impossible, not because I have superhuman strength, but because I am a human capable of overcoming challenges. This gives me the motivation to complete the climb.”

She believes her latest adventure also serves a greater purpose. Seeing Saudi women participate in various fields, especially sports, helps encourage her to keep striving for the highest heights.

She hopes that young girls reading about her adventures will feel encouraged to take up sports and hobbies they are passionate about, and that her experiences will help to push them to their limits to break stereotypes and barriers along the way.

She is to continue her climb, whether it be a mountain to conquer, or toward the goals of her gender.

For those starting out, she advised: “(You must) start with small, achievable goals and gradually increase the difficulty level. Ensure you have the right gear and training: it’s important to be physically and mentally prepared.

“Join a community or group of climbers for support and motivation. Most importantly, believe in yourself and enjoy the journey.”

 


Migratory birds bring ecological balance to Saudi Arabia’s Northern Borders region

The Aman Environmental Society has launched awareness campaigns and created water basins to support and sustain migratory birds.
Updated 22 June 2024
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Migratory birds bring ecological balance to Saudi Arabia’s Northern Borders region

  • Nasser Al-Majlad: “They contribute to plant reproduction and diversity through pollination, while also helping to control pests by consuming insects, reducing the need for harmful pesticides in agriculture”

RIYADH: Every year, nearly 300 bird species use Saudi Arabia’s Northern Borders region as a migration path. The area’s diverse landscapes and balanced ecosystem create a natural sanctuary for these avian visitors.

Nasser Al-Majlad, president of the Aman Environmental Society in the Northern Borders region, highlighted the crucial ecological and cultural role played by migratory birds.

FASTFACT

The migratory birds have a positive impact on soil health and ecosystem balance by aiding in soil aeration and seed dispersal near bodies of water.

“They contribute to plant reproduction and diversity through pollination, while also helping to control pests by consuming insects, reducing the need for harmful pesticides in agriculture,” he said.

According to a report by the Saudi Press Agency, Al-Majlad also emphasized the positive impact birds have on soil health and ecosystem balance by aiding in soil aeration and seed dispersal near bodies of water.

NUMBER

300

Every year, nearly 300 bird species use Saudi Arabia’s Northern Borders region as a migration path, Saudi Press Agency reported.

He also stressed the necessity of protecting migratory birds from poaching and environmental problems. The National Center for Wildlife has enacted strict anti-poaching legislation, he noted.

The Aman Environmental Society has launched awareness campaigns and created water basins to support and sustain migratory birds.