Saudi Arabia, Qatar ‘deepen and expand’ economic, security ties

Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad welcomes Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Qatar. (SPA)
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Updated 06 December 2023
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Saudi Arabia, Qatar ‘deepen and expand’ economic, security ties

  • Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad hold talks in Doha
  • Focus also on boosting tourism, sports, culture, entertainment sectors

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia and Qatar are working to “deepen and expand” their economic, military, sports and cultural ties, according to a statement issued on Tuesday.

The statement comes in the wake of the Saudi-Qatari Coordination Council meeting attended by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad, the emir of Qatar.

The crown prince and his delegation of senior officials arrived in Doha on Tuesday for the 44th GCC’s supreme council and the seventh Saudi-Qatari Coordination Council meetings, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The statement said the two leaders “considered this council to be one of the most important means of communication and coordination between the two countries that embodies these established relations, and that it is necessary to strive with all seriousness to deepen and expand the areas of bilateral cooperation in a way that achieves a future sustainable renaissance and growth for the two countries and their peoples.”

Sheikh Tamim congratulated Prince Mohammed on Saudi Arabia’s winning bid to host the World Expo 2030 in Riyadh, and nomination to hold the 2034 World Cup.

Prince Mohammed and Sheikh Tamim expressed their satisfaction with the agreements and memorandums of understanding signed during various subcommittee meetings of the Saudi-Qatari council.

On regional and global political issues, the two nations would continue to consolidate and enhance cooperation, the statement added.

There would also be heightened consultations on security and military matters, with a commitment to provide training and scholarships for the two nations’ personnel.

On the sports front, special mention was made of the cooperation between Riyadh and Doha in the hosting of the Qatar World Cup, which would continue as Saudi Arabia bids to host the sport’s premier event in 2034.

There would be cooperation in the culture, tourism and entertainment sectors, including improving access for international tourists.

In the economic, trade and investment fields, the two sides would continue working within the frameworks of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 and Qatar’s National Vision 2030, the statement added.


Foundation stone laid for Prophet’s Biography Museum in Islamabad

Updated 8 sec ago
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Foundation stone laid for Prophet’s Biography Museum in Islamabad

  • PakistaniPM praises Muslim World League’s role in advancing Qur’anic education
  • Shehbaz Sharif: This museum will serve as a pilgrimage destination not just for Pakistanis, but for people worldwide

RIYADH: Muslim World League Secretary-General Dr. Mohammed bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa recently attended the closing ceremony in Islamabad to honor, under the patronage and in the presence of Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, the winners of a Qur’anic competition for young memorizers under the age of 10.

Sharif and Al-Issa then laid the foundation stone for a branch of the International Fair and Museum of the Prophet’s Biography and Islamic Civilization, an extension of its main headquarters in Madinah.

The ceremony, attended by Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to Pakistan Nawaf bin Said Al-Malki, opened with a recitation from the Qur’an by Irshadullah bin Muti’e, the competition winner.

Sharif praised the pivotal role played by the MWL in advancing Qur’anic education, highlighting the stature of the Kingdom and its leadership in the global Islamic sphere.

He underscored Pakistan’s embrace of the forthcoming Museum of the Prophet’s Biography, recognizing its potential to advance Islamic principles worldwide and deepen understanding of Prophet Muhammad’s life.

“This museum will serve as a pilgrimage destination not just for Pakistanis, but for people worldwide,” Sharif said, affirming that the Pakistani people would deeply appreciate the museum, a gift from Saudi Arabia.

In his address, Al-Issa celebrated the young Qur’an memorizers, emphasizing Pakistan’s deep-rooted commitment to Qur’anic education and the religious dedication of its population.

He said that Qur’anic schools and institutions throughout the Islamic world should not focus merely on memorization but also on imparting understanding and insight into its meanings.

The ceremony culminated in the distribution of prizes to outstanding participants throughout Pakistan, followed by a visual presentation about the International Fair and Museum of the Prophet’s Biography and Islamic Civilization.


Saudi foreign minister arrives in Pakistan on two-day official visit

Updated 11 sec ago
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Saudi foreign minister arrives in Pakistan on two-day official visit

  • Prince Faisal accorded red-carpet welcome at Nur Khan air base, received by Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar
  • Pakistan says Saudi delegation to consult on next stages of investment and issues of implementation 

ISLAMABAD: Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan arrived in Pakistan today, Monday, on a two-day visit aimed at enhancing bilateral economic cooperation, with local media widely showing footage of the Saudi official being received by Pakistani Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar.

The Saudi foreign minister’s visit comes a little over a week after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in Makkah and reaffirmed the Kingdom’s commitment to expedite an investment package worth $5 billion that was previously discussed. 

Upon his arrival at the Noor Khan air base in the garrison town of Rawalpindi, the Saudi foreign minister, who is leading a high-level delegation comprising several top ministers, was accorded a red-carpet welcome by Pakistani officials.

“A week after Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif's visit to Saudi Arabia (April 6-8), a high-level delegation of Saudi Arabia is coming to Pakistan,” the Pakistani information ministry said in a statement shared with journalists.

“The Saudi delegation will consult on the next stages of investment and implementation issues,” the statement added, saying Saudi Arabia’s planned investment in the Reko Diq gold and copper mining project would also be discussed during the visit.

On Sunday, Pakistani state media reported Saudi Arabia was likely to invest $1 billion in the mine project in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province, one of the world's largest underdeveloped copper-gold areas.

Riyadh was also interested in investing in agriculture, trade, energy, minerals, IT, transport and other sectors in Pakistan, the statement said.

“As a result of this visit, Pakistan's export capacity will increase, joint ventures will be launched and new opportunities will be paved.”

The Pakistani foreign office said last week the Saudi delegation would comprise the foreign minister, minister of water and agriculture, minister of industry and mineral resources and deputy minister of investment as well as senior officials from the Saudi energy ministry and the Saudi Fund for General Investments.

The Saudi delegation is expected to hold meetings with the Pakistani president, the prime minister, the foreign minister and other ministers, as well as the army chief and members of the apex committee of Pakistan's Special Investment Facilitation Council, set up last year to oversee all foreign funding.

The Saudi government has not yet commented on the agenda of the visit.

Cash-strapped Pakistan desperately needs to shore up its foreign reserves and signal to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that it can continue to meet requirements for foreign financing that has been a key demand in previous bailout packages. Pakistan's finance minister, Muhammad Aurangzeb, is currently in Washington to participate in spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank and discuss a new bailout program. The last loan deal expired this month. 

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia enjoy strong trade, defense and cultural ties. The Kingdom is home to over 2.7 million Pakistani expatriates and the top source of remittances to the cash-strapped South Asian country.

Saudi Arabia has often come to cash-strapped Pakistan’s aid in the past, regularly providing it oil on deferred payments and offering direct financial support to help stabilize its economy and shore up its forex reserves.

Last year, Saudi Arabia's finance minister said the Kingdom was changing the way it provides assistance to allies, shifting from previously giving direct grants and deposits unconditionally.

"We used to give direct grants and deposits without strings attached and we are changing that. We are working with multilateral institutions to actually say we need to see reforms," Finance Minister Mohammed al-Jadaan said at the World Economic Forum in Davos last January. 

"We are taxing our people, we are expecting also others to do the same, to do their efforts. We want to help but we want you also to do your part."

Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab states like the United Arab Emirates and Qatar have increasingly moved towards investing rather than extending direct financial aid.


KSrelief contributes $10m to World Food Programme to support Ukrainians

Updated 15 April 2024
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KSrelief contributes $10m to World Food Programme to support Ukrainians

  • Saudi donation will help provide 50m meals in institutions supported by UN agency
  • WFP: ‘We’re grateful that KSrelief chose to support a vital component of our emergency programmes in Ukraine’

KYIV/RIYADH: Saudi aid agency KSrelief has contributed $10 million to the UN World Food Programme to support Ukrainians affected by war with daily hot meals in 1,200 institutions nationwide.
The agreement was signed by KSrelief Supervisor General Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah and WFP Executive Director Cindy McCain.
Saudi Arabia’s donation will help provide 50 million meals in institutions supported by WFP such as hospitals, shelters for internally displaced persons, orphanages, and psychiatric and geriatric facilities.
Many of these institutions have faced increased strain and budget shortfalls due to the war and massive internal displacement.
“We’re grateful that KSrelief chose to support a vital component of our emergency programmes in Ukraine, which provides relief to the most vulnerable Ukrainians while also strengthening the local institutions and organizations that care for them,” Marianne Ward, WFP country director in Ukraine, said in a statement.
Ahmed Al-Baiz, KSrelief’s assistant supervisor general of planning and development, said in a statement: “We are pleased to be part of this important emergency programme to respond to the urgent humanitarian needs of the affected population in Ukraine.
“KSrelief humanitarian assistance will provide lifesaving food assistance to the most vulnerable communities throughout the country.”
The contribution will enable WFP to procure and deliver approximately 7,600 tonnes of food commodities, including flour, pasta, buckwheat, oatmeal, peas, sugar and oil — all of which are bought inside Ukraine to support the local economy and food systems.
These commodities are complemented by other foods bought directly by the institutions to prepare nutritious daily meals for residents and people under their care.
Over the next six months, WFP plans to provide food assistance to 210,000 vulnerable Ukrainians through its institutional feeding program.
The KSrelief contribution will cover approximately 67 percent of the program’s needs, supporting 140,000 Ukrainians.


Saudi FM stresses GCC-Central Asia cooperation for regional stability

Updated 15 April 2024
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Saudi FM stresses GCC-Central Asia cooperation for regional stability

  • Prince Faisal addressed the second GCC-Central Asia Strategic Dialogue ministerial meeting in Tashkent, Uzbekistan
  • Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan sign visa-exemption deal for diplomatic, special passport holders

RIYADH: Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan on Monday emphasized the importance of promoting the interests of Gulf Cooperation Council countries and Central Asian states so the two regions become safe, stable and prosperous, offering hope for a better future for all.

Prince Faisal was speaking at the second GCC-Central Asia Strategic Dialogue ministerial meeting in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

In his speech he affirmed the importance of continuing to strengthen coordination and consultation between GCC countries and Central Asian states based on joint values, interests and historical ties, noting the broad growth in relations over the past years.

Prince Faisal pointed out the broad consensus between GCC countries and Central Asian states on the importance of achieving peace, promoting negotiated solutions and supporting security, stability and development.

He emphasized the importance of joining efforts to ensure the Palestinian people’s internationally recognized rights and to achieve peace through negotiation, in accordance with the Arab Peace Initiative and the principles of international law.

The Saudi minister also highlighted the ongoing efforts to achieve peace and stability in the region, as well as the need to pursue a sustainable ceasefire, lift the blockade of the Gaza Strip, and ensure the delivery of humanitarian and relief assistance.

He called for the forced displacement of Palestinians to cease and emphasized the need for the international community and the UN Security Council to permanently stop Israel’s aggression against the Palestinian people.

Prince Faisal also met with his Uzbek counterpart, Bakhtiyor Saidov, and the two signed a reciprocal visa-exemption agreement for holders of diplomatic and special passports.

The parties held official talks during which they discussed ways to strengthen cooperation, as well as opportunities for further bilateral and multilateral cooperation on issues of mutual interest.

The GCC ministerial council also held an extraordinary meeting at the Qatari embassy in Tashkent on the military escalation in the Middle East on Monday.

In a statement issued after the meeting, the council expressed its deep concern about the military escalation in the region and its negative impact on its security and stability.

It stressed the importance of reducing the escalation immediately to maintain regional security and stability, and the need for all parties to settle disputes diplomatically, exercise the utmost self-restraint, and spare the region and its people from the dangers of war.

The council also called on the United Nations Security Council to assume its responsibility towards maintaining international peace and security, especially in the Middle East, and to prevent the worsening of the crisis there that will have serious consequences if it expands.


Gulf Cinema Festival showcases region’s rich cultural tapestry

Updated 15 April 2024
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Gulf Cinema Festival showcases region’s rich cultural tapestry

RIYADH: The fourth Gulf Cinema Festival, which runs until April 18, is currently taking place in Riyadh.

Organized by the Saudi Film Commission under the patronage of Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan, the minister of culture and chairman of the commission’s board of directors, the event brings together several pioneers of Gulf cinema.

Dignitaries, cultural and media figures, as well as prominent activists and influencers in the film industry, are also taking part.

The festival’s schedule features film screenings, interviews and workshops, giving visitors the chance to explore the film industry from the perspectives of both makers and critics.

Film Commission CEO Abdullah bin Nasser Al-Qahtani delivered the culture minister’s speech at the start of the event. In it, Prince Badr said: “This edition of the festival represents a crucial milestone in cultural cooperation among the Gulf Cooperation Council countries and embodies our leadership’s commitment to enhancing collaboration among us.

“This festival reflects the strong connection between ambition and the cultural strategy of the GCC countries, which play a significant role in enhancing cultural exchange, expanding infrastructure, drawing inspiration from successful experiences, and encouraging Gulf talents to offer more.”

The opening ceremony also featured a film highlighting the depth of Gulf cinema and the festival’s contribution. It is hoped the event will enrich national cinema, providing creative platforms for talented individuals to showcase their work and share their experiences.

A rich and diverse program is planned across the five days, with the screening of 29 films — including feature-length, short films and documentaries — produced by renowned Gulf filmmakers across various categories.

Specialized training workshops will cover topics such as “How to make an impactful documentary film” by Abdulrahman Sandokji, “The relationship between the music composer and the film director” by Mohammad Haddad, and “Art, writing and script development” by Mohammad Hassan Ahmed.

Discussion sessions include “Challenges of producing adapted films,” “Film festivals in Gulf countries,” “Support funds and joint financing,” “Independent films and small budgets” and “The experience of exhibition platforms in the Middle East.”

Gulf filmmakers are also competing for nine awards recognizing various aspects of filmmaking such as directing, photography, music and acting.

The festival aims to promote the growth and development of the regional cinema industry while honoring prominent Gulf cinema figures who have contributed significantly to the global cultural scene. It also fosters cultural and knowledge exchanges among those taking part.