World should make immediate Gaza ceasefire a priority – Saudi foreign minister

Arab-Islamic Ministerial Committee holds press conference on Gaza ceasefire in Washington on December 8, 2023. (SPA)
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Updated 09 December 2023
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World should make immediate Gaza ceasefire a priority – Saudi foreign minister

  • Prince Faisal bin Farhan says that governments worldwide do not appear to see an immediate ceasefire as a priority
  • Arab-Islamic Ministerial Committee held joint press conference before meeting with US state secretary in Washington

WASHINGTON: There must be an immediate end to the fighting in Gaza but governments worldwide do not seem to see it as a priority, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said on Friday in Washington, adding that there must also be a credible roadmap to establish a Palestinian state.

At a joint press conference before meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, a group of foreign ministers said the focus should remain on stopping the fighting immediately in the Palestinian enclave between Hamas militants and the Israeli military.

“Our message is consistent and clear that we believe that it is absolutely necessary to end the fighting immediately,” Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said.

“One of the disturbing facts of this conflict is that ending the conflict and the fighting doesn’t seem to be the main priority for the international community,” he said.

“I certainly would hope that our partners in the US will do more... we certainly believe they can do more,” the Saudi minister added.

Humanitarian aid to civilians in Gaza needed to be significantly increased, he said, adding that it is “unacceptable” that aid “is being restricted and has been restricted” because of “bureaucratic obstacles.”

A UN Security Council vote on a demand for an immediate humanitarian cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war was delayed by several hours on Friday until after Blinken’s planned meeting with Arab ministers and the foreign minister of Turkiye. The Arab-Islamic Ministerial Committee comprises ministers of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority and Turkiye.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi told the press conference that if the resolution fails on Friday, it would be giving a license to Israel “to continue with its massacre.”

“Our priority for now is to stop the war, stop the killing, stop the destruction of Gaza’s infrastructure,” he said.

“The message that’s being sent is that Israel is acting above international law ... and the world is simply not doing much. We disagree with the United States on its position vis-a-vis on the cease-fire,” he said.

“The solution is a cease-fire,” said Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, while his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi called putting an end to the fighting the number one priority.

“If the UN Security Council fails to adopt the resolution that is simply calling for humanitarian pauses, that is giving Israel a license to continue its massacre against civilians in Gaza,” he said.

Meanwhile, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called for an immediate end to the war in Gaza and said an international peace conference should be called to work out a lasting political solution leading to the establishment of a Palestinian state.

(With Reuters and AFP)


MDLBEAST launches Beast House for music enthusiasts in Diriyah

MDLBEAST on Sunday inaugurated Beast House, a members-only club in Diriyah, Riyadh. (Supplied)
Updated 11 sec ago
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MDLBEAST launches Beast House for music enthusiasts in Diriyah

  • As part of its overarching strategy, MDLBEAST aims to venture into music venues, strengthening the Kingdom’s music ecosystem
  • Beast House, an innovative hub in Jax District, fosters talents, offering a creative space for artists and music enthusiasts

RIYADH: MDLBEAST, the leading Saudi music entertainment company, on Sunday inaugurated Beast House, a members-only club in Diriyah, Riyadh.

As part of its overarching strategy, MDLBEAST aims to venture into music venues, strengthening the Kingdom’s music ecosystem. This includes boosting production capabilities, empowering talents, and curating immersive musical experiences globally.

Beast House, an innovative hub in Jax District, fosters talents, offering a creative space for artists and music enthusiasts.

The club includes a cutting-edge recording studio, production rooms, designated spaces for workshops and music seminars, and a versatile stage for concerts and musical events.

Beast House provides four membership tiers, each with unique benefits. The studio membership, designed for creative individuals, grants access to recording studios and specialized programs to enhance musical skills, fostering engagement with the vibrant creative community.

Ramadan Al-Haratani, CEO of MDLBEAST, said: “Our aim is to establish innovative spaces and a supportive community that (empowers) musical talent and cultivates production capabilities, providing creative individuals with an inspiring environment to transform ideas into captivating music experiences.”

MDLBEAST will unveil new music venues, showcasing innovative ideas and pushing boundaries in the music scene while fostering creativity. In collaboration with NEOM, the company is creating a modern beach club on Sindalah Island, and additional venues are slated for 2024.


Saudi date industry targets East Asian markets, says official

The value of Saudi Arabia’s date exports increased by 14 percent in 2023. (NCPD)
Updated 03 March 2024
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Saudi date industry targets East Asian markets, says official

  • Kingdom’s date exports hit $390m, marking a 14% rise in 2023

RIYADH: The value of Saudi Arabia’s date exports increased by 14 percent in 2023, reaching SR 1.462 billion ($390 million), compared to SR 1.280 billion in 2022, according to a report released by the National Center for Palms and Dates.

By the end of 2023, the number of countries importing Saudi dates had reached 119. The total value of date and date by-product exports increased by 152.5 percent since 2016, from SR579 million in 2016 to SR1.462 billion in 2023, with a compound annual growth rate of 12.3 percent.

The rate of increase in 2023 compared to the previous year and the market entry of about 120 countries “mean a lot to us,” while the cumulative annual rate (12 percent annually) — compared to the base year 2016 — indicates that “we are steadily entering global markets and expanding steadily as well,” said Dr. Mohammed Al-Nuwairan, CEO of the center.

Date exports to Singapore recorded an 86 percent increase in 2023, while South Korea saw a 24 percent increase, and France experienced a 16 percent increase.

Currently, more than 20 Saudi companies are approved by Chinese customs, and this is reflected in the expansion of the Kingdom’s exports of dates to China. There is a focus on East Asian markets more clearly than other global markets, Al-Nuwairan added.

Dr. Mohammed Al-Nuwairan, CEO of the National Center for Palms and Dates. (Supplied)

He told Arab News that Saudi Arabia is not limited to exporting dates only, “but rather the export extends to include date derivatives such as molasses, pastes, and others, which enhances the presence of exports from the sector outside Saudi Arabia.

“East Asian countries are receiving attention from Saudi exports of dates, especially to Singapore, situated in the heart of countries targeted for exporting dates and their derivatives, such as Indonesia, Malaysia, and also China in particular. What supports this is the high demand for Saudi dates, which possess high nutritional values and production quality,” Al-Nuwairan added.

He expects the growth rate of date exports to increase, “or to remain stable at least,” in the next five years.

Al-Nuwairan pointed out that there is a significant trend from local and international partners to invest in the sector, especially concerning plastic wood derived from palm trees, and date products such as powder, molasses, pastes, and vinegar that can be derived from dates.

The date derivatives can be used in various products such as dairy, bakery, ice cream, and confectionery factories.

“We are currently engaged in serious discussions with large international food companies to include date derivatives in food industries,” Al-Nuwairan said.

He affirmed the concerted efforts between Saudi date producers, exporters, and government sectors to support marketing activities in targeted countries. This includes participation in local and international exhibitions, trade missions, facilitating export procedures, and collaborating with the private sector under a joint strategy, all under ambitious and supportive leadership.

Al-Nuwairan emphasized that efforts are ongoing to enhance the presence of Saudi dates worldwide, noting that Saudi date exports have witnessed significant increases in many countries. He pointed out that date exports to China increased by 121 percent last year compared to 2022.

Through its strategy and partnership with the private sector, the National Center for Palms and Dates aims to achieve its strategic objectives, with Saudi dates being the first choice for consumers globally, according to Al-Nuwairan.

The center implements several initiatives, including increasing national exports of dates and their derivatives, improving agricultural and industrial practices to enhance production quality, providing marketing services, and necessary information about the sector, and empowering the sector, he added.


Saudi authorities seize 1.3m Captagon pills in Jeddah

Updated 03 March 2024
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Saudi authorities seize 1.3m Captagon pills in Jeddah

RIYADH: Maj. Marwan Al-Hazmi, the Saudi General Directorate of Narcotics Control’s spokesperson, has announced that the Kingdom’s authorities have seized about 1.3 million Captagon tablets in Jeddah, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The directorate’s officials, in collaboration with the Zakat, Tax and Customs Authority, thwarted an attempt to smuggle 1,298,886 highly addictive and illegal amphetamine pills, which were concealed within a shipment of electric ovens at Jeddah Islamic Port.

Authorities apprehended the intended recipients of the shipment in Riyadh and Jeddah, a Sudanese national and a Saudi citizen.

Initial statutory procedures have been completed, and both individuals have been referred to the Public Prosecution.

The Zakat, Tax and Customs Authority also thwarted two attempts to smuggle more than 63,000 Captagon pills hidden in two vehicles coming into the Kingdom through the Al-Haditha border crossing.

One vehicle contained more than 41,000 pills and the authority, coordinating with the General Directorate of Narcotics Control, arrested five intended recipients.

The authority said that it was enhancing customs control over the Kingdom’s imports and exports, in coordination with the General Directorate of Narcotics Control, as bodies concentrate on cracking down on smuggling operations.

The authorities have called upon the public to report all information regarding drug smuggling or selling by calling 911 in Makkah, Riyadh, and the Eastern Province, and 999 in the rest of the Kingdom. Alternatively, contact by email at [email protected].

Reports of suspected cases of drug smuggling are treated with strict confidentiality. Financial rewards are offered for information leading to arrests.


New scheme to promote Saudi comedians

Updated 03 March 2024
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New scheme to promote Saudi comedians

RIYADH: A new initiative to uncover and promote emerging Saudi comedy and theater talents has been launched in the Kingdom.

Turki Al-Sheikh, chairman of the General Entertainment Authority, said the body would be backing the Comedy Factory project, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The authority aims to create a supportive environment in which up-and-coming young comics can develop content reflecting the Saudi identity and community issues, with guidance from industry experts.

The Comedy Factory is part of a series of initiatives organized by the authority to boost the country’s entertainment sector and will include workshops, training courses, and competitive events.

To register for the chance to join the scheme visit https://sauditheaters.com/ar.


Saudi Arabia distributes 10,000 Qur’an copies at Muscat book fair

Updated 03 March 2024
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Saudi Arabia distributes 10,000 Qur’an copies at Muscat book fair

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Dawah, and Guidance distributed 10,000 copies of the Qur’an in various sizes from the King Fahd Complex for the Printing of the Holy Qur’an at the 28th Muscat International Book Fair.

The fair, held from Feb. 21 to March 2 at the Oman Convention and Exhibition Center in Muscat, highlighted the importance of literature and knowledge exchange, showcasing a diverse array of works from both within and beyond Oman.

The ministry’s pavilion saw a significant turnout from visitors who expressed admiration for the exhibition and the ministry's efforts in serving Islam.

The visitors also praised the Kingdom’s role in promoting Islam and disseminating the values of tolerance and moderation.

On display at the ministry’s pavilion were various copies of the Qur’an, along with translations into 77 foreign languages.

This year’s fair featured works from 847 publishing houses across 34 countries for a total of 622,000 titles, including 19,000 Omani books.