Riyadh hosts high-level talks with former world leaders to address global issues 

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Chairing the panel as a keynote speaker was Prince Turki Al-Faisal,  chairman of the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies. (AN photo by Abdulrahman bin Shalhoub)
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Shoura council member Huda bint Abdulrahman Al-Halisi takes part in the talks in Riyadh. (AN photo by Abdulrahman bin Shalhoub)
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Two days of talks in Riyadh are focused on several issues, including the regional politics of the Middle East and challenges of maritime security. (AN photo by Abdulrahman bin Shalhoub)
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Two days of talks in Riyadh are focused on several issues, including the regional politics of the Middle East and challenges of maritime security. (AN photo by Abdulrahman bin Shalhoub)
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Updated 19 May 2024
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Riyadh hosts high-level talks with former world leaders to address global issues 

  • Theme of the talks is “The Middle East in a Changing World: uncertainties, risks, and opportunities”
  • Topics at the meeting will build on and further develop the actions decided at the sustainable development goals summit in September 2023 as well as COP28

RIYADH: Two days of talks in Riyadh are focused on several issues, including the world order, its challenges and opportunities, the regional politics of the Middle East, such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and challenges of maritime security.

The talks, from May 19-20, are being hosted by the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies in partnership with Nizami Ganjavi International Center and the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations. The theme of the talks is “The Middle East in a Changing World: uncertainties, risks, and opportunities.”

“By having these kinds of sessions, we develop our own thinking,” Ismail Serageldin, co-chair of Nizami Ganjavi International Center, told Arab News. 

“You hear one point of view and the counterpoint of view, and you weigh all of that, and these are all very influential people. They were all former presidents and prime ministers, and they had influence on their delegations of the countries there. And they may be able to mediate between different opinions when we have a more formal proposal coming up later,” he said. 

Other topics of discussion include the urgency of global dialogue, climate change, economies in the Middle East, and the Middle East in the age of artificial intelligence. 

“We hope to gather these insights for the summit of the future in the United Nations in September and then again in the COP29, in Baku in November,” Serageldin said. 

Topics at the meeting will build on and further develop the actions decided at the sustainable development goals in September 2023 as well as the COP28 meeting in Dubai in December 2023. 

Chairing the panel as keynote speakers were Prince Turki Al-Faisal,  chairman of the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, and Vaira Vike-Freiberga, co-chair of Nizami Ganjavi International Center and former president of Latvia.

Also attending were Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Waleed El-Khereiji, Miguel Angel Moratinos, the high representative for the UN Alliance of Civilizations, and Maria Fernanda Espinosa, president of the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly and former minister of foreign affairs and minister of defense of Ecuador. 

Other participants on the panel included Ivo Josipovic, the former president of Croatia, Mladen Ivanic​​​​​, former president of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Stefan Lofven​​​​​, former prime minister of Sweden, Rosen Plevneliev, former ​​​​president of Bulgaria, and Montenegro’s former minister of defense, Milica Pejanovic.

Discussing the list of high-level officials on the panel Serageldin said: “Many of them are former presidents, former prime ministers, who have had enormous international and national and regional experience. We want to develop insights in a framework that allows us to discuss, without the formality of official delegations presenting proposals and reacting to the proposals of another country. Global challenges require global responses.

“The first session discussed the new global order, not just how to deal with the problems of the Middle East,” Serageldin said. 

Another speaker at the session, Volkan Bozkir, president of the 75th session of the UN General Assembly and former minister of EU affairs for Turkiye, said: “We must not only concentrate on Russia and Ukraine issues.

“There are horrible things happening in other parts of the world, like Sudan, there is famine, people are dying there, we must show our coordination to help those countries, there is a fight in the Latin American countries, drug lords are capturing societies,” Bozkir said. 

He emphasized the need to go beyond the Russia-Ukraine conflict and jointly tackle other challenges around the world. 

Plevneliev discussed the crises in Gaza and put a question to the meeting: “What happens on the day after in Gaza?”

He highlighted the importance of having a strategy for the future of Gaza, underlining the need for “sustainable solutions for peace.”

Shoura council member Huda bint Abdulrahman Al-Halisi discussed multilateralism and the need to bridge local and global. 

“If we all agree that multilateralism is in crisis, we need to discover the root causes and the possible solutions,” she said. “We all agree that all countries have or should have an equal voice.  

“We all want justice, we want development, we want peace, but we are not achieving this globally because there is a weakening of democracy around the world, we see that it is only right that we hold governments into account for not keeping to their commitments,” Al-Halisi said.

She called for the need to push for transparency and accountability, the rule of law, responsiveness, and inclusivity. 

“We need to bridge the local with the global,” she said. 

In an interview with Arab News, Serageldin emphasized the need to turn back to the UN. 

“It was rightly said that the UN is the only institution that has global legitimacy. Everywhere in the world somebody recognizes the UN, but we all recognize that it is hampered, it is tied up, it can’t function,” he said. 

“We need to find ways of reviving it (UN) and giving it the hope that we all have to bring to the task of global peace and security,” he said. 


Saudi authorities thwart drug smuggling operations

Updated 20 June 2024
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Saudi authorities thwart drug smuggling operations

Arab News RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s drug control authority seized large quantities of narcotics and arrested several people involved in smuggling following a number of operations across the Kingdom, reported Saudi Press Agency.

Border guards in Asir province thwarted an attempt to smuggle 123 kg of hashish and 89,355 narcotic tablets, while in Jazan four Ethiopian nationals were arrested for trafficking 75 kg of qat.

In Riyadh, the General Directorate of Narcotics Control arrested two Pakistani residents attempting to sell 26 kg of methamphetamine.

Saudi security authorities are urging people to report any activities related to drug smuggling or promotion by calling 911 in the Makkah, Riyadh and Eastern Province regions, and 999 in the rest of the Kingdom.

Alternatively, information can be emailed to [email protected]. All reports are treated in confidence.


The art of playing the drums — a popular part of Najran cultural heritage

Updated 20 June 2024
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The art of playing the drums — a popular part of Najran cultural heritage

RIYADH: Drumming is an important and popular part of cultural heritage in Najran, especially during holidays and special occasions.

The art of playing the drums is considered one of the most famous and creative Najran dances and is the only one in which all vocal and movement arts are included. 

Drummers begin collectively in a single straight row as they move in harmony to the beat of drums and tambourines while chanting. 

The dancers then divide into two rows, one beating tambourines and the other the drums. At the same time, they chant poetic verses with a range of melodies and rhythms.

Najran’s cultural dancers once again enthralled families and visitors during this year’s Eid Al-Adha celebrations, treating them to an exhilarating performance.


AI-enhanced visual medical service proved useful during Hajj

Updated 20 June 2024
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AI-enhanced visual medical service proved useful during Hajj

  • The service uses a high-tech capsule to conduct the necessary medical examinations within six minutes for each individual

RIYADH: A high-tech visual medical service trialed by the Saudi Ministry of Interior on security personnel during this year’s Hajj season proved successful, Saudi Press Agency reported.

The service uses a capsule enhanced with artificial intelligence and modern communication technology to conduct medical examinations in the workplace, completing each one within six minutes.

A report from the ministry’s General Administration of Medical Services said the capsule enabled 26 physiological measurements, the most important of which were height and weight, body and muscle mass, blood pressure, temperature, oxygen levels, energy requirements, heart rate, and heart rate variability.

Each person’s health status data is analyzed by the built-in AI system, followed by a remote medical consultation with a doctor. Any necessary medications are then prescribed via the Wasfaty system.

The service reduces the need for hospital or health care center visits and provides a safe, private environment for conducting workplace health examinations and medical consultations.

Personnel currently covered by the service are from the Ministry of Interior and the Presidency of State Security.


Saudi Arabia’s Mashaer Train transports more than 2.2m Hajj pilgrims 

Updated 19 June 2024
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Saudi Arabia’s Mashaer Train transports more than 2.2m Hajj pilgrims 

RIYADH: Saudi Railways on Wednesday hailed the success of the Mashaer Train operation at this year’s Hajj season, saying the metro service had transported more than 2.2 million passengers between the nine stations in Arafat, Muzdalifah and Mina, operating 2,206 trips.

More than 29,000 worshippers were transported on the first day of the pilgrimage, while more than 292,000 pilgrims were carried from Mina to Arafat, Saudi Press Agency reported.

The Mashaer Train then transported over 305,000 people during the pilgrimage from Arafat to Muzdalifah, and more than 383,000 worshippers from Muzdalifah to Mina.

During the days of Tashreeq, the train carried more than 1.2 million pilgrims from stations Mina 1, Mina 2, and Muzdalifah 3 to Mina 3 station (Jamarat), which offered easy access to the Jamarat Bridge.

Bashar Al-Malik, CEO of SAR, said that the success of the operating plan was built on unlimited support for the railway sector from the Saudi leadership.


Riyadh targets Expo 2030 ‘by the world, for the world’

Updated 20 June 2024
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Riyadh targets Expo 2030 ‘by the world, for the world’

  • Saudi organizers deliver their first progress report to event bureau chiefs in Paris

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is on target to deliver an Expo 2030 “by the world, for the world,” organizers have told event chiefs in Paris in their first progress report since Riyadh was chosen as host city.

Abdulaziz Alghannam, director general of the Riyadh Expo 2030 office at the Royal Commission for Riyadh City, led the Saudi delegation at the general assembly of the Bureau International des Expositions in the French capital.

Efforts were fully underway for Expo registration and preparation for creating the legal framework to enable international participation in the event, he told the bureau.

Riyadh was chosen to host the event at the bureau’s last general assembly in November 2023. The expo will take place  from Oct. 1, 2030 to March 31, 2031, when the Saudi capital will host 197 countries and 29 international organizations.

The theme – “The Era of Change: Together for a Foresighted Tomorrow” – encapsulates Saudi Arabia’s commitment to using the Expo to accelerate progress toward the planned sustainable development goals. The event will focus on harnessing science and innovation for a better future.

Preparations are underway at the highest levels, including infrastructure development, legislative and financial measures, the master plan for the Expo site, and legacy plans.