Saudi Arabia welcomes move by Norway, Ireland and Spain to formally recognize Palestinian state

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Above, a boy waves a Palestinian flag as demonstrators march during a protest in Barcelona on Jan. 20, 2024. Spain would recognize an independent Palestinian state on Tuesday May 28. (AP)
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A demonstrators holds a sign in support of Palestine, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, during a ‘Stand Together’ solidarity march against war, hate and racism, in Dublin, Ireland. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 23 May 2024

Saudi Arabia welcomes move by Norway, Ireland and Spain to formally recognize Palestinian state

  • Palestinian Authority and its rival group Hamas both welcomed the recognition
  • Israel recalls envoys to Spain, Ireland and Norway for consultations

RIYADH/COPENHAGEN: Saudi Arabia said Wednesday it welcomed the “positive” decision taken by Norway, Spain, and Ireland to recognize a Palestinian state. 
The Kingdom said it appreciated this decision “which confirms the international consensus on the inherent right of the Palestinian people to self-determination,” in a foreign ministry statement. 

The kingdom also called on more countries to swiftly take the same stance, “which would contribute to finding a reliable and irreversible path to achieve a just and lasting peace that fulfills the rights of the Palestinian people.”

Leaders of Norway, Spain and Ireland said on Wednesday they were formally going to recognize Palestine as a state.

Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store said: “There cannot be peace in the Middle East if there is no recognition.”

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez also announced that the country’s council of ministers would recognize an independent Palestinian state on Tuesday May 28.

“Next Tuesday, May 28, Spain’s cabinet will approve the recognition of the Palestinian state,” he said, adding that his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu was putting the two state solution in “danger” with his policy of “pain and destruction” in the Gaza Strip.

Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris said it was a move coordinated with Spain and Norway, marking “an historic and important day for Ireland and for Palestine.”


The Palestinian Authority and its rival group Hamas both welcomed the recognition of a Palestinian state by Ireland, Spain and Norway.

The Palestinian Authority exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank territory while Hamas runs Gaza.

Jordan hailed the coordinated move as an “important and essential step towards Palestinian statehood.”

“We value this decision and consider it an important and essential step towards a two-state solution that embodies an independent, sovereign Palestinian state along the July 1967 borders,” Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi told a press conference.

Qatar’s foreign ministry welcomed the announcement as an “important step in support of a two-state solution,” expressing hope that other countries would follow suit.

The six-member Gulf Cooperation Council also spoke out in support of the European countries’ move, with secretary general Jasem Mohamed Albudaiwi saying it represented “a pivotal and strategic step towards achieving the two-state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a statement said.

The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, based in the Saudi city of Jeddah, similarly welcomed the move as an “important historic step”.

Several European Union countries have in the past weeks indicated that they plan to make the recognition, arguing a two-state solution is essential for lasting peace in the region.

Israel recalled envoys to Spain, Ireland and Norway over their moves to recognize a Palestinian state.

“Today, I am sending a sharp message to Ireland and Norway: Israel will not go over this in silence. I have just ordered the return of the Israeli ambassadors from Dublin and Oslo to Israel for further consultations in Jerusalem,” Foreign Minister Israel Katz said in a statement.

Sanchez said in March that Spain and Ireland, along with Slovenia and Malta, had agreed to take their first steps toward Palestinian recognition, seeing a two-state solution as essential for lasting peace.

The efforts come as a mounting death toll in Gaza from Israel’s offensive to rout Hamas prompts calls globally for a ceasefire and lasting solution for peace in the region.

Norway, which is not a member of the European Union but mirror its moves, has been an ardent supporter of a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians.

“The terror has been committed by Hamas and militant groups who are not supporters of a two-state solution and the state of Israel,” the Norwegian government leader said.

“Palestine has a fundamental right to an independent state,” Gahr Store told a press conference.

The move comes as Israeli forces have led assaults on the northern and southern edges of the Gaza Strip in May, causing a new exodus of hundreds of thousands of people, and sharply restricted the flow of aid, raising the risk of famine.

The Scandinavian country “will therefore regard Palestine as an independent state with all the rights and obligations that entails,” Gahr Store said.

Norway’s recognition of a Palestine state comes more than 30 years after the first Oslo agreement was signed in 1993.

Since then, “the Palestinians have taken important steps toward a two-state solution,” the Norwegian government said.

It said that the World Bank determined that Palestine had met key criteria to function as a state in 2011, that national institutions have been built up to provide the population with important services.

“The war in Gaza and the constant expansion of illegal settlements in the West Bank still mean that the situation in Palestine is more difficult than it has been in decades,” the Norwegian government said.

8th Saudi-US Trade and Investment Council Meeting held in Washington

Updated 23 June 2024

8th Saudi-US Trade and Investment Council Meeting held in Washington

  • Council tackles bilateral trade and investment issues, promotes market access

RIYADH: The eighth meeting of the Saudi-US Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) Council in the United States kicked off on Sunday in Washington DC.
The Saudi delegation was led by the General Authority of Foreign Trade (GAFT), and it included 20 government entities.
The council's goal is to monitor trade and investment relations in order to identify opportunities for expansion, work on removing trade and investment barriers, improve a promising trade and investment environment, and foster economic development between the two countries.
The council tackles bilateral trade and investment issues, promotes market access, protects and enforces intellectual property rights, manages data and e-commerce, builds capacity, and reviews trade and investment policies.
The Saudi delegation is scheduled to attend several meetings and workshops on the sidelines of the meeting, which will last until Friday.
These include a workshop titled "Trade Opportunities between the Middle East and the United States," which will be attended by US ambassadors in Gulf countries, and the opening session of the Select USA Investment Summit, which will be chaired by US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.
The delegation will also participate in the fifth GCC-US Trade and Investment Dialogue Forum, a panel discussion titled "Saudi Investment in Technology," the US-Saudi Forum titled "Investing in Our Shared Future," the GCC-US Roundtable, and the Saudi-US Roundtable, all of which will include private sector participation from both sides.
The trade volume between Saudi Arabia and the US in 2023 was approximately $34 billion, with mineral products and fertilizers being the most significant Saudi exports to the US, while machinery, mechanical appliances and spare parts, and automobiles and spare parts were the top US imports.

Madinah branches out with tree transplant program

Updated 23 June 2024

Madinah branches out with tree transplant program

  • Relocation of trees to expand green spaces, expedite lengthy process of growth and restoration

JEDDAH: Perennial plants, with their remarkable ability to endure harsh conditions such as droughts, climatic variations, and human activities, play a crucial role in our ecosystem, providing sustenance for people and animals, and contributing to the overall well-being of the environment.

Recognizing the importance of these invaluable assets, the National Center for Vegetation Cover Development and Combating Desertification has embarked on a program to relocate and care for perennial trees in the Madinah region.

In a four-month operation, some trees were moved to Al-Bayda Al-Bari Park as part of the Kingdom’s efforts toward environmental sustainability and vegetation development. (Supplied)

In a four-month operation, the center moved some trees to Al-Bayda Al-Bari Park as part of the Kingdom’s aims regarding environmental sustainability and vegetation development.

Khalid bin Saadullah Al-Saidi, representative of the general administration of grazing and the general administration of protection, supervision, and inspection of NCVC in the Madinah region, told Arab News: “The goal is to preserve the vegetation and relocate these perennial plants to maintain and care for them, achieving the desired objectives through collaboration and initiatives with environmental advocates across the Kingdom.”


The National Center for Vegetation Cover Development and Combating Desertification has embarked on a program to relocate and care for perennial trees in the Madinah region.

The relocation process involves a thorough selection of trees, based on their type, size, condition, age, and benefits.

Specialists from the center use modern methods to relocate the trees, minimizing damage and ensuring survival.

The criteria used in selecting the trees depend on the type of tree, whether it is wild or cultivated, its size, condition, age, and the extent of its benefit. (Supplied)

The process involves preparing the new site, digging, and manufacturing wooden molds to hold the trees, as well as providing carriers, equipment, and special transport tractors.

Perennials, such as Acacia ehrenbergiana, the Latin thorn tree (Acacia tortilis) and the Maerua crassifolia, that obstruct projects and development lines also will be relocated.

The process of relocating trees involves preparing the new site, digging, and manufacturing wooden molds to hold the trees, as well as providing carriers, equipment, and special transport tractors. (Supplied)

“Acacia ehrenbergiana trees are important local trees in the Kingdom, characterized by their large size, numerous branches, and ability to withstand harsh climatic conditions,” Al-Saidi said.

The wild acacia tree can act as a windbreak, and also provides shade and shelter for birds, as well as sustenance for livestock. The trees can grow to a height of about nine meters, and bear yellow flowers, mostly blooming from mid-February to May. These attract grazing bees, which produce “Salim” honey.

The relocation process went smoothly, thanks to the presence of experts from the center, Al-Saidi said.

“We also acknowledge the cooperation of the Ministry of Transport branch in the region in transporting the trees on main roads, and the interest and cooperation of citizens in this initiative,” he added.

This endeavor makes a substantial contribution to conserving and enriching biodiversity in the Madinah region. Focusing on indigenous tree species, which are integral to the environment and resilient to various conditions, is essential for ensuring sustainability for both present and future generations. The relocation of these trees not only expands green spaces, but also expedites the lengthy process of growth and restoration.

Earlier, on the occasion of World Environment Day, Al-Saidi said: “It is always the duty of individuals to care for the environment and practice proper behaviors to ensure sustainability for the current and future generations.”

NCVC continues to work on such activities and initiatives throughout the year, aiming to safeguard mature and rare trees, ensuring their long-term sustainability, and enriching biodiversity and eco-tourism efforts.

The center’s efforts will lead to the preservation of a wide variety of trees across the Kingdom, promoting environmental sustainability and conservation.


Over 1.3m medical services rendered to pilgrims, says Saudi health minister

Successful execution of health management efforts was made possible through efforts of health system and Hajj security forces.
Updated 23 June 2024

Over 1.3m medical services rendered to pilgrims, says Saudi health minister

  • Health protocols effectively mitigated heat stress
  • Free health services to pilgrims commenced even before their arrival

RIYADH: Saudi Health Minister Fahd Al-Jalajel has announced the successful execution of health management efforts during Hajj 2024.

“This achievement was made possible through the coordinated efforts of the health system and the Hajj security forces, with no recorded outbreaks of epidemics or widespread diseases,” he said in an interview. “The health system provided more than 465,000 specialized treatment services, including 141,000 services to those who didn’t obtain official authorization to perform Hajj."
Al-Jalajel gave his reassurance about the overall health condition of the pilgrims, despite the high temperatures experienced at the holy sites.
He highlighted the positive impact of the health authorities’ swift responses, and the effective support of the Hajj security forces in managing and reducing the effects of heat stress.
The health system addressed numerous cases of heat stress this year, with some individuals still under care. Regrettably, the number of mortalities reached 1,301, with 83 percent being unauthorized to perform Hajj and having walked long distances under direct sunlight, without adequate shelter or comfort. Among the deceased were several elderly and chronically ill individuals.
The health minister underscored the significant efforts made by the competent authorities to raise awareness on the dangers of heat stress and the importance of preventive measures.
He extended his condolences, saying: “May God forgive and have mercy on the deceased. Our heartfelt condolences go to their families. May God accept their deeds and grant them recompense for their suffering. All reports have been compiled, families of the deceased notified, and identification completed, despite the initial lack of personal information or identification documents. Proper processes were followed for identification, burial, and honoring the deceased, with death certificates provided.”

The minister also detailed that the Kingdom’s provision of free health services to pilgrims commenced even before their arrival, with awareness programs at air, sea, and land border crossings. About 1.3 million preventive services were delivered, including early detection, vaccinations, and medical care upon arrival.

The healthcare services offered included open-heart surgeries, cardiac catheterization, dialysis, and emergency care, totaling over 30,000 ambulance services, with 95 air ambulance operations ensuring the delivery of advanced health services in medical cities across the Kingdom.
Additionally, the healthcare system made available nearly 6,500 beds and rooms. Measures to combat heat stress included the development of devices that enable the rapid and effective rescue of affected individuals.

King Abdulaziz Foundation organizes Saudi-Chinese relations seminar in Beijing

Updated 23 June 2024

King Abdulaziz Foundation organizes Saudi-Chinese relations seminar in Beijing

  • Seminar discussed maritime trade between two countries, role of Chinese libraries in caring for Arabic manuscripts

LONDON: The King Abdulaziz Foundation for Research and Archives, organized a scientific seminar on cultural and economic relations between Saudi Arabia and China from June 19-23 in Beijing, Saudi Press Agency reported.
The seminar was held as part of the Beijing International Book Fair, which featured the Kingdom as the guest of honor. It discussed a variety of topics, including maritime trade between the two countries and its cultural and economic implications, the role of Chinese libraries in caring for Arabic manuscripts and preserving Arab heritage, and Arab heritage in China.
Numerous agreements of cooperation in the fields of energy, trade, and investment have strengthened the two countries' strategic partnership. Both countries participated in initiatives aimed at boosting global trade, including joint projects to develop ports, railways, and industrial zones.
Cultural exchanges and academic programs have helped to improve understanding between the two peoples, and Saudi Vision 2030 has broadened the scope of economic cooperation with China in areas such as technology, renewable energy, and infrastructure development.

Saudi Arabia to host 56th International Chemistry Olympiad

Updated 23 June 2024

Saudi Arabia to host 56th International Chemistry Olympiad

  • Participation of more than 340 students expected 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is set to host the 56th International Chemistry Olympiad, with participation from more than 340 students and 400 university professors and chemistry teachers from 90 countries, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The prestigious event, which will run from July 21-30 at King Saud University, is organized by the Ministry of Education, and King Abdulaziz and his Companions Foundation for Giftedness and Creativity, and boasts exclusive sponsorship from the Saudi Basic Industries Corporation.

The event is a global chemistry competition in which talented high-school students from around the world compete in the subject. It aims to inspire interest in the subject through the solving of complex and creative chemistry problems; promote international communication in the field; and foster friendships among young science enthusiasts from diverse nationalities.

It will mark the first time Saudi Arabia has hosted the event.

Secretary-General of Mawhiba Amal bint Abdullah Al-Hazzaa said Saudi Arabia’s hosting of the olympiad was testament to the Kingdom’s commitment to supporting talent, science, and innovation, in line with the goals of Vision 2030.

Al-Hazzaa added that Mawhiba had prepared for the event through several parallel tracks, including strengthening coordination with partners to ensure an exceptional hosting experience; preparing talented students for strong competition; and aiming to achieve new milestones for the nation.

Members of the International Steering Committee for the International Chemistry Olympiad praised the Kingdom’s comprehensive preparations during a recent visit to Riyadh.

Their visit included meeting the Saudi minister of education, who launched the awareness campaign for the event in January.

The Kingdom has collected 14 silver and 25 bronze medals at the event in the past, and the Saudi team secured four prestigious awards at the 2023 International Chemistry Olympiad in Switzerland.