Saudi FM says Pakistan visit to reap ‘significant benefits’ amid push for strategic, commercial partnership

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan in Islamabad. (@KSAMOFA)
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Updated 16 April 2024
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Saudi FM says Pakistan visit to reap ‘significant benefits’ amid push for strategic, commercial partnership

  • Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan is in Pakistan to discuss bilateral economic cooperation, investments
  • Prince Faisal's visit comes a week after Saudi crown prince reaffirmed commitment to expedite $5 billion Pakistan investments

ISLAMABAD: Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan on Tuesday described his ongoing visit to Pakistan to discuss investments as “very, very positive” and said Islamabad's focus on results and overcoming hurdles would deliver “significant benefits.”

Prince Faisal arrived in Pakistan on Monday on a two-day visit aimed at enhancing bilateral economic cooperation and pushing forward previously agreed investment deals. His trip comes a little over a week after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in Makkah and reaffirmed the Kingdom’s commitment to expedite investments worth $5 billion.

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.

“We were extremely impressed by the very, very proactive attitude that we saw in our meetings, especially with the [Special] Investment [Facilitation] Council,” Prince Faisal said at joint press conference with his Pakistani counterpart Ishaq Dar. He was referring to a Pakistani civil-military council set up last year to oversee and fast-track all foreign investments.

“I feel very, very confident that the results of this visit and the results of the work being done between the two respective teams, with this attitude, with this approach of a focus on results, focus on overcoming hurdles, will deliver significant benefits,” the Saudi official added. 

He said there was a “significant opportunity” for the Kingdom to increase its investments in Pakistan, adding that his engagements with Pakistani leaders had laid the groundwork for "significant and important work to be done" in the months ahead:

“There is a lot of untapped potential that is clear to everyone. It just needs to be tapped … And here, working together, we will do what we can with our colleagues in the government of Pakistan to make that happen.”

Pakistani foreign minister Dar said both sides had held comprehensive discussions covering various aspects of Pak-Saudi cooperation.

“We discussed ways and means to transform our fraternal cordial relations into a mutually beneficial strategic and economic partnership,” Dar said. “We greatly appreciate the keen interest of the leadership of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in enhancing investments in Pakistan.”

The Pakistani minister said Islamabad was committed to providing Saudi investors with full support, relevant safeguards and a conducive environment for investment.

 

PAKISTAN-SAUDI INVESTMENT CONFERENCE

Earlier, the Saudi foreign minister held meetings with top civilian leadership including the prime minister, president and foreign minister to discuss economic opportunities and also co-chaired an investment conference. He is also expected to meet the army chief before departing for Riyadh.

“We aim to transform our traditionally fraternal ties into a strategic and economic partnership,” Dar said as he addressed a Pakistan-Saudi Arabia Investment Conference in Islamabad, held under the umbrella of SIFC.

“Your investments are not just financial commitments but are crucial in nurturing a deeply valued partnership,” Dar told the visiting dignitary.

Pakistan was blessed with fertile agricultural lands, minerals and a large and dynamic population, complemented by a flourishing IT sector and abundant prospects for renewable energy creation, the foreign minister added.

He said Pakistan’s fertile lands and a vast network of water resources presented numerous investment opportunities in agri-tech and food processing, with the South Asian nation having the potential to become the region’s food basket.

“Our mining sector is marked by untapped potential especially in the expansive Tethyan belt known for its abundant deposits of copper, gold and other valuable minerals,” Dar said. “The strategic advancements in these areas are highlighted by projects such as Riko Diq copper [and gold] project which exemplifies our commitment to leveraging our natural resources for mutual benefit.”

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.

The foreign minister said Pakistan’s goal was to transform the country into a hub of economic activity, and innovation and create an attractive environment for global investors like Saudi Arabia.

“Investing in Pakistan is not merely a placement of capital. It would actually be instrumental toward forging a partnership that promises mutual prosperity and progress,” he concluded.

“Your engagement and investment in Pakistan will be handled with utmost respect and institutionalized commitment from our side, ensuring that together we achieve remarkable success.”

 

MEETINGS WITH PM AND PRESIDENT

Prince Faisal also met Pakistani PM Sharif on Tuesday who said the Saudi official’s visit would herald a "new era" of strategic and commercial partnerships between the two long-time allies.

“The visit is the beginning of a new era of strategic and commercial partnership between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia,” Sharif was quoted as saying in a statement from his office after he met Prince Faisal. “Pakistan wants to further promote cooperation in the fields of trade and investment between the two countries.”

The PM said Pakistan was taking steps to promote foreign investment and make partnerships “mutually beneficial” for allies, adding that Islamabad was grateful to the Saudi leadership for increasing investment.

Informing the Saudi delegation about the wide potential of investment in Pakistan, Sharif briefed them about the Special Investment Facilitation Council and measures the body was taking to promote investment.

Sharif also invited the Saudi crown prince to Islamabad.

“The people of Pakistan are looking forward to the visit of His Highness the Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman to Pakistan,” the PM’s office said.

President Asif Ali Zardari and Prince Faisal also met on Tuesday and reiterated the two nations’ resolve to build a strong partnership and promote mutually beneficial economic cooperation.

Zardari said Pakistan was working to transform its long-standing and decades-old relationship with Riyadh into a “long-term strategic and economic partnership.”

The two sides also discussed regional dynamics and recent developments in the Middle East and called for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire in Gaza and an end to Israeli air and ground offensives there.

INVESTMENT PUSH

In a statement shared with media on Monday, the Pakistan information ministry said the Saudi delegation would consult with Pakistani officials “on the next stages of investment and implementation issues.”

Saudi Arabia’s planned investment in the Reko Diq gold and copper mining project would be discussed during the visit, the ministry said, adding that Riyadh was also interested in investing in agriculture, trade, energy, minerals, IT, transport and other sectors in Pakistan:

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

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 expires this month.

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.


Sync Summit returns with digital call to action

Updated 9 sec ago
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Sync Summit returns with digital call to action

  • US activist urges children’s online safety regulations in sobering discussion
  • Well-known Emirati interviewer and entrepreneur Anas Bukhash moderated a talk titled “Turning Tides: Recalling Humanity in a Digital World”

DHAHRAN: “We have become more concerned with burnt toast than frying our brains,” Abdullah Al-Rashid, director of the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, or Ithra, told the attentive crowd at the opening of the Sync Summit, the two-day event which opened on Wednesday.
Sync Summit, first held in 2022, returned to Ithra with more sobering reminders of why now, more than ever, we need to reset our relationship with the digital world.
Well-known Emirati interviewer and entrepreneur Anas Bukhash returned to the Sync stage where he moderated a talk titled “Turning Tides: Recalling Humanity in a Digital World.” He offered insights as someone who owes his career to the power of the Internet but also recognizes many of its negative aspects.
“A knife can slice bread or stab someone,” Bukhash said, noting technology’s ability to be a tool to build or injure, depending on how one uses it.
His panel included Kristin Bride from the US, an activist focused on children’s safety regulations on social media, and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak.
“Four years ago was the worst day of my life,” Bride told the stunned crowd. Her son, who was in high school, was seemingly thriving, having just landed a summer job at a pizza parlor.
Bride recalled telling her son how proud she was. Her son described how much he was looking forward to the future, but just hours later, he died by suicide during the night.
The activist later found out that her son had been severely bullied on Snapchat by anonymous users. The hundreds of messages she saw when she opened her late son’s account were every mother’s worst nightmare.
Bride fears that young people today lack the tools or the coping mechanisms to deal with online bullying. For the last three years, she has worked tirelessly to advocate for stronger regulations for young users, seeking stricter rules against anonymous users and asking for accountability from Snapchat and Meta.
“I feel sorry for my role,” said Wozniak, mentioning how he holds some guilt in building what has become a tangled World Wide Web.
Social media algorithms track a user’s activity to tailor content, which can sometimes limit the human or organic aspect of social interactions online.
“It’s not just a ‘like’ … you trigger a hundred advertisers,” Wozniak said.
Meanwhile, in a fireside chat, Arab News reporter Lama Alhamawi spoke to legendary football manager Jose Mourinho, who offered his philosophy on the social media usage of football players, describing the role that technology plays in the world of sport.
The summit also included a panel on utilizing technological advancements and finding ways to enhance the accuracy of fake news detection, along with other sessions dedicated to AI and wellness in the digital realm.
Ithra offered other events in the main plaza as well as programs curated for diverse audiences at the Ithra Theater and Ithra Cinema.
The Sync Summit is livestreamed and can be accessed on the Ithra website and social media channels.


Allam platform included in IBM’s watsonx

Updated 23 min 31 sec ago
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Allam platform included in IBM’s watsonx

  • Watsonx is IBM’s commercial generative AI and scientific data platform based on the cloud
  • The director of the National Information Center at the SDAIA commended the watsonx platform’s exceptional technical capabilities

RIYADH: The Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority announced Wednesday that Allam, the AI generative platform serving Saudi Arabia and Arabic speakers around the world, was included in IBM’s watsonx data platform at the IBM Think 2024 conference in its pilot phase as one of the best generative models in Arabic in the world.
Watsonx is IBM’s commercial generative AI and scientific data platform based on the cloud.
In a speech at the annual conference, the director of the National Information Center at the SDAIA, Essam Al-Waqeet, commended the watsonx platform’s exceptional technical capabilities in enabling large language models and simplifying machine learning, as well as enhancing AI governance, compliance and hybrid cloud deployment flexibility, and praised the inclusion of Allam for global use, which significantly strengthens SDAIA’s position as a leader in the field of AI.
“It is acknowledged that large linguistic models trained on high-quality data are the basis for the successful implementation of generative AI, and Allam has been trained on more than 500 billion linguistic units in Arabic. We will seek to expand the addition of high-quality data and work to improve the accuracy of its models,” Al-Waqeet said.
He also reaffirmed the SDAIA’s commitment to make Allam the best generative AI model in the Arabic language in the world.
Al-Waqeet also invited the participants at the IBM Think 2024 to join the third Global Artificial Intelligence Summit, to be organized by the SDAIA in Riyadh from Sept. 10-12 later this year.


Speedy and secure, Haramain High Speed Railway enhances Hajj experience

Umrah pilgrims wearing ihram walk at a Haramain High Speed Railway station. (SPA)
Updated 54 min 11 sec ago
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Speedy and secure, Haramain High Speed Railway enhances Hajj experience

  • The Haramain High Speed Railway plays a crucial role in the Hajj season’s transportation system
  • Its operational plan incorporates more than 3,800 trips, offering more than 1.6 million seats to serve pilgrims and visitors in Madinah

RIYADH: The Haramain High Speed Railway offers pilgrims and travelers a safe and efficient way to navigate between holy sites.

The Saudi Press Agency recently witnessed the smooth operations at the Madinah station, the punctual arrivals and departures of trains carrying hundreds of pilgrims, Umrah performers, citizens and residents.

The train travels with regularity and is easy to use. At the station, SPA witnessed a streamlined process — travelers verify their reservations, head to the departure hall and board the train. The 13 rail cars offer ample seating. One car is dedicated to food and beverages.

Yahya Al-Sharqawi, from Egypt, expressed satisfaction with the ease and safety of the journey, highlighting the convenience of traveling directly from Jeddah airport to Madinah. He commended the Kingdom’s commitment to facilitating pilgrims’ movement.

Anwar Badr, another Egyptian visitor, was pleased with the many transportation options available, and the ease with which the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque can be reached, and expressed gratitude for the exceptional services provided to pilgrims.

Ali Rajabi, from Iran, echoed these sentiments, praising the comfort and convenience offered by the Haramain High Speed Railway. He said that the project serves pilgrims from all corners of the globe.

The Madinah station caters to travelers’ needs with a variety of amenities. Parking is available below the station, and self-service kiosks handle reservations and ticketing.

Information and assistance offices help to navigate the facilities. Multiple arrival and departure halls ensure smooth passenger flow, with seasonal halls specifically dedicated to serving pilgrims during peak periods.

For added convenience, the station boasts retail outlets selling food and beverages, as well as companies offering housing and car rental services. A permanent health center provides on-site medical care.

The Haramain High Speed Railway plays a crucial role in the Hajj season’s transportation system. Its operational plan incorporates more than 3,800 trips, offering more than 1.6 million seats to serve pilgrims and visitors in Madinah.

This efficient and modern railway system is a testament to Saudi Arabia’s dedication to ensuring a smooth and fulfilling Hajj experience for all, SPA reported.


Saudi Arabia showcases geospatial innovation at Ghana forum

Updated 22 May 2024
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Saudi Arabia showcases geospatial innovation at Ghana forum

  • The conference highlights the significance of investing in technologies, artificial intelligence, and innovation in surveying and geospatial activities

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s General Authority for Survey and Geospatial Information is participating in the annual Conference of the International Federation of Surveyors in Accra, Ghana, from May 19-24.

The conference highlights the significance of investing in technologies, artificial intelligence, and innovation in surveying and geospatial activities, aiming for a flexible environment and sustainable management of natural resources.

Attendees will exchange expertise and learn best practices in the field.

The Saudi authority delivered a technical presentation, “Surveying and Geospatial Information in Saudi Arabia: Past, Present, and Future Aspirations,” during the event, attended by FIG President Diane Dumashie, vice presidents and experts.

Saudi ambassador to Ghana and Togo, Sultan Al-Dakhil, visited the authority’s booth, appreciating its efforts to strengthen partnerships with international organizations.

With more than 1,500 participants from 80 countries, the conference facilitates international collaborations among government bodies, the private sector, academia, and global expertise centers through 70 scientific sessions.


Saudi fund boosts film financing at Cannes festival

Updated 22 May 2024
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Saudi fund boosts film financing at Cannes festival

RIYADH: The Cultural Development Fund, a vital financial engine for Saudi Arabia’s culture sector, along with partners from the Kingdom’s film industry, are presenting film financing and investment opportunities at the 77th annual Cannes International Film Festival, held from May 14 to 25.

The fund is present at the festival for the third year, in line with its mission of nurturing the domestic film scene and strengthening its role as a key enabler of cultural growth.

The fund highlights its Film Sector Financing Program at the Saudi pavilion, led by the Film Commission. The program offers comprehensive financial packages that support the entire filmmaking process, from creation and production to distribution, for both local and foreign companies working on film and TV series in Saudi Arabia.

It also provides an opportunity for companies and investment funds to participate in the Kingdom’s film industry and contribute to its development.

Its participation in the Cannes event aligns with its continuous efforts to attract filmmakers and investment.

The fund aims to be a leader in the Saudi film industry and collaborates with other stakeholders to build a sustainable film sector that contributes to the national gross domestic product.

Established under the National Development Fund in 2021, the fund aims to invigorate Saudi Arabia’s cultural scene. By supporting a range of cultural endeavors and facilitating investment, the fund fosters a thriving domestic cultural sector, aligning with the National Culture Strategy and Saudi Vision 2030.