Macron to host Arab foreign ministers for Gaza talks

Macron will on Friday host the foreign ministers of four key Arab states for talks on the war in Gaza. (AP)
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Updated 25 May 2024
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Macron to host Arab foreign ministers for Gaza talks

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron will on Friday host the foreign ministers of four key Arab states for talks on the war in Gaza between Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas, his office said.
Joined by his own top diplomat Stephane Sejourne, Macron will discuss the situation with Qatar’s Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, Egypt’s Sameh Shoukry, Ayman Safadi of Jordan and Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud, the Elysee said.


Saudi woman Sondos Jaan set to climb the highest peak in the Arab world

Updated 2 min ago
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Saudi woman Sondos Jaan set to climb the highest peak in the Arab world

  • Adventurer tackles Mount Toubkal in Morocco

DHAHRAN: Sondos Jaan embarked on the journey to the highest peak in the Arab world on June 20.

It is the latest episode in Jaan’s love for mountain adventures, but to understand the fascination it is important to take a look back at her childhood.

She told Arab News: “I am from Madinah. I was born in a city where I could see a mountain from my bedroom window, and as I walked the streets I would see mountains.”

A picture of Sondos Jaan aged about 5 on the top of a mountain with her father. (Supplied)

Those peaks were an important part of her early childhood. There are pictures of Jaan aged about 5 on the top of mountains. She said: “I call these pictures ‘Sondos between two mountains,’ the real mountain carved in nature, and my father.”

During family camping trips, she would sneak away the moment her family was not paying attention in order to climb a mountain.

HIGHLIGHTS

• For her latest adventure, Sondos Jaan is climbing Morocco’s Mount Toubkal, which is a height of 4,167 meters.

• The climb has two routes: The first takes three days of climbing, and the second takes two days but is more challenging.

She added: “I would hear my father calling me, telling me to stay put and to wait for him. My dear father would come to me and we would then climb together, step by step, him telling me where to place my feet until we reached the summit, and then we would descend together, just the two of us.”

Sondos Jaan from Madinah hopes that young Saudi girls reading about her adventures will feel encouraged to take up sports and hobbies they are passionate about. (Supplied)

Her father was the first adventurer she knew. He was always prepared, she says, and “his car was always ready for a trip.”

She said: “He would tell me stories when he returned from hunting trips, whether on land or at sea. I would imagine the stories as if he were the hero in one of the animated films I watched. Sometimes he would take me with him, and I felt like I was part of the story.”

Sondos Jaan from Madinah hopes that young Saudi girls reading about her adventures will feel encouraged to take up sports and hobbies they are passionate about. (Supplied)

Her love for adventure was instilled in her by her father from a very early age. And it seems mountain climbing is in her DNA.

Jaan said: “My father is my primary mountain-climbing coach, and I certainly inherited the spirit of adventure and love for travel, experiences, and camping from him.

Sondos Jaan from Madinah hopes that young Saudi girls reading about her adventures will feel encouraged to take up sports and hobbies they are passionate about. (Supplied)

“He taught me swimming, horse riding, hunting, fishing, and the basics of camping.”

For her latest adventure, Jaan and a friend are climbing Morocco’s Mount Toubkal, which is a height of 4,167 meters. The climb has two routes: the first takes three days of climbing, and the second takes two days but is more challenging.

A file photo of Sondos Jaan when she was about five years old. (Supplied)

They started the climb early, continuing for about nine to 11 hours, followed by an overnight stay at an elevation of 3,200 meters above sea level.

She believes that elements of nature are instilled within each of us and it is our duty — and a privilege — to find and channel those elements.

She said that climbing to Everest Base Camp was the hardest trek she has yet attempted. It was a two-week journey and she added that she was not able to sleep, eat well or breathe properly due to oxygen deficiency in the two days leading up to arrival at the base camp. However, those were not the main factors behind it being her most difficult climb.

She said: “The (main) reason was simply managing expectations. I was emotional after walking all that time and reaching what was supposed to be the summit for that trip, only to realize it wasn’t even the summit.

“It was the main camp where climbers camp for two months every year before attempting to reach the Everest summit, allowing their bodies to acclimatize to the oxygen deficiency, training, and waiting for the right time to climb the summit.”

The experience taught her a valuable lesson, and she added: “I remember descending and as soon as we settled in one of the tea houses, I cried.

“They asked me why. I said I wanted pizza, crying real tears. The owners of the house tried hard to make pizza for me. I ate one slice and gave the rest to their dog. I reflected on my feelings and asked myself, ‘Why did I act that way?’ And the simple answer was, we didn’t reach the summit, we just saw it up close.”

She considers the thrill of the journey, and not only the destination, to be one worth embracing. She now believes that the feeling of almost giving up happens during every climb; she sees it as a healthy sign.

She added: “It is a reminder that I am human. It is also a reminder that I am capable of doing things that might seem impossible, not because I have superhuman strength, but because I am a human capable of overcoming challenges. This gives me the motivation to complete the climb.”

She believes her latest adventure also serves a greater purpose. Seeing Saudi women participate in various fields, especially sports, helps encourage her to keep striving for the highest heights.

She hopes that young girls reading about her adventures will feel encouraged to take up sports and hobbies they are passionate about, and that her experiences will help to push them to their limits to break stereotypes and barriers along the way.

She is to continue her climb, whether it be a mountain to conquer, or toward the goals of her gender.

For those starting out, she advised: “(You must) start with small, achievable goals and gradually increase the difficulty level. Ensure you have the right gear and training: it’s important to be physically and mentally prepared.

“Join a community or group of climbers for support and motivation. Most importantly, believe in yourself and enjoy the journey.”

 


Migratory birds bring ecological balance to Saudi Arabia’s Northern Borders region

The Aman Environmental Society has launched awareness campaigns and created water basins to support and sustain migratory birds.
Updated 2 min 13 sec ago
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Migratory birds bring ecological balance to Saudi Arabia’s Northern Borders region

  • Nasser Al-Majlad: “They contribute to plant reproduction and diversity through pollination, while also helping to control pests by consuming insects, reducing the need for harmful pesticides in agriculture”

RIYADH: Every year, nearly 300 bird species use Saudi Arabia’s Northern Borders region as a migration path. The area’s diverse landscapes and balanced ecosystem create a natural sanctuary for these avian visitors.

Nasser Al-Majlad, president of the Aman Environmental Society in the Northern Borders region, highlighted the crucial ecological and cultural role played by migratory birds.

FASTFACT

The migratory birds have a positive impact on soil health and ecosystem balance by aiding in soil aeration and seed dispersal near bodies of water.

“They contribute to plant reproduction and diversity through pollination, while also helping to control pests by consuming insects, reducing the need for harmful pesticides in agriculture,” he said.

According to a report by the Saudi Press Agency, Al-Majlad also emphasized the positive impact birds have on soil health and ecosystem balance by aiding in soil aeration and seed dispersal near bodies of water.

NUMBER

300

Every year, nearly 300 bird species use Saudi Arabia’s Northern Borders region as a migration path, Saudi Press Agency reported.

He also stressed the necessity of protecting migratory birds from poaching and environmental problems. The National Center for Wildlife has enacted strict anti-poaching legislation, he noted.

The Aman Environmental Society has launched awareness campaigns and created water basins to support and sustain migratory birds.

 


ICRC official describes Rafah as a ‘ghost town’

Updated 3 min 35 sec ago
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ICRC official describes Rafah as a ‘ghost town’

  • Desperation among Gaza’s 2.4 million population has increased as fighting rages, sparking warnings from agencies that they are unable to deliver aid

JERUSALEM: Days after Israel announced a daily pause in fighting on a key route to allow more aid into Gaza, chaos in the besieged Palestinian territory has left vital supplies piled up and undistributed in the searing summer heat.
More than eight months of war have led to dire humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip and repeated UN warnings of famine.
William Schomburg, International Committee of the Red Cross chief in Rafah, described Rafah City as a “ghost town.”
“It is a ghost town in the sense that you see very few people, high levels of destruction, and just another symbol of the unfolding tragedy that has become Gaza over the last nine months,” he said.
The UN food agency has said its aid convoys have been looted inside Gaza by “desperate people.”
Desperation among Gaza’s 2.4 million population has increased as fighting rages, sparking warnings from agencies that they are unable to deliver aid.
Israel says it has let supplies in and called on agencies to step up deliveries.
“The breakdown of public order and safety is increasingly endangering humanitarian workers and operations in Gaza,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, said in a briefing.
“Alongside the fighting, criminal activities and the risk of theft and robbery has effectively prevented humanitarian access to critical locations.”
But Israel says it has allowed hundreds of trucks of aid into southern Gaza, trading blame with the UN over why the aid is stacking up.
It shared aerial footage of containers lined up on the Gazan side of the Kerem Shalom crossing and more trucks arriving to add to the stockpile.
With civil order breaking down in Gaza, the UN says it has been unable to pick up any supplies from Kerem Shalom since Tuesday, leaving crucial aid in limbo.

 

 


Pro-Palestine protest in Islamabad concludes after 40 days following government negotiations

Updated 5 min 45 sec ago
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Pro-Palestine protest in Islamabad concludes after 40 days following government negotiations

  • ‘Save Gaza Campaign’ wanted Pakistan to formally protest to envoys of the countries supporting Israel
  • Two activists were killed and four others injured when a speeding car had an accident at their protest site

ISLAMABAD: A group of pro-Palestine protesters in Pakistan’s federal capital, Islamabad, decided to call off their sit-in after holding a meeting with Federal Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi on Saturday.
The activists belonging to the Save Gaza Campaign set up their camps near the high-security Red Zone to express solidarity with the people of Palestine who have been targeted by the Israeli war machine since Oct. 7, 2023.
The protesters stayed in the area for nearly 40 days, asking the Pakistani authorities to take practical steps, such as formally protesting to the envoys of the countries supporting Israel, to help the people of Gaza.
“Every Pakistani feels the same about Palestine as they do in their heart,” the interior minister said while referring to the Save Gaza Campaign activists after successful negotiations with the group. “And what they are saying, definitely, there is nothing in it that we object to. Pakistan is already playing its role [to demand a ceasefire]. But we have also promised them [the activists] that we will act on their suggestions.”
“My request to them, which they have agreed to, is that they are going to end their sit-in,” he added.
Last month, the Save Gaza Campaign activists decided to hold their ground after an accident involving a speeding vehicle killed two of them on the roadside and injured four others.
Naqvi also mentioned the incident while praying for the deceased activists and promising quick justice in the case.
Israel has killed over 37,000 Palestinians in Gaza, most of them women and children, since the beginning of the war.
While the conflict followed a surprise attack by Hamas, which said it was retaliating to the deteriorating condition of Palestinians under occupation, Israel’s response was widely viewed as disproportionate, bordering on genocide.


Dyna.Ai sets its focus on Saudi Arabia’s fintech sector

Updated 3 min 52 sec ago
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Dyna.Ai sets its focus on Saudi Arabia’s fintech sector

  • Singaporean AI-powered startup cements its local presence with domestic office

CAIRO: Saudi Arabia’s financial technology sector is attracting a new breed of artificial intelligence startups aiming to take part in the already booming industry.  

With presence in seven countries, Singaporean AI-powered startup Dyna.Ai is moving its focus to the Saudi fintech market as it aims to cement its local presence with a domestic office. 

In an interview with Arab News, Tomas Skoumal, chairman of Dyna.Ai, shared that the company is in the process of registering in the Saudi market.  

“We are already in the process of securing our registration which we hope will be completed within the next quarter. The feedback from our partners in Saudi Arabia has been extremely encouraging, and we are looking forward to having a physical presence very soon,” Skoumal said. 

The company plans to establish a local office in the Kingdom, reflecting its commitment to the region.  

“We will have an office there and we will be hiring locally. Saudi Arabia is a crucial part of our global growth strategy, and we are committed to supporting job creation as well as building long-term partnerships with our clients,” he said.  

“The financial sector faces numerous challenges, and businesses need to accelerate their transformation rapidly by digitizing services to meet the needs of modern customers,” Skoumal explained. 

Dyna.Ai offers solutions that address these challenges by providing end-to-end offerings through products for customer acquisition, marketing, risk management, and operational productivity.  

Skoumal noted that the company’s Result-as-a-Service business model is designed to ensure clients realize tangible benefits from the deployment of their products.  

“We work with traditional banks, digital banks, fintechs, insurtechs, and other sectors providing various AI-powered solutions,” he said. 

Dyna.Ai’s immediate goals include embedding AI solutions at the heart of the financial sector and hiring local talent to support their operations.

Embedding AI in fintech 

“By investing in domestic talent with a commitment to constantly upskill them, we are excited about the opportunities to demonstrate Saudi Arabia’s commitment and sector leadership to the global AI ecosystem,” Skoumal emphasized.  

 The company’s long-term vision involves creating a significant impact on the Saudi financial services sector, which is projected to benefit from AI advancements significantly.  

“Artificial intelligence solutions are expected to create a $320 billion impact on the Middle East, with the largest gains of $135.2 billion expected to be seen in Saudi Arabia,” Skoumal noted. 

Dyna.Ai’s expansion strategy in Saudi Arabia includes a strong local presence and collaboration with governmental bodies. 

We work with traditional banks, digital banks, fintechs, insurtechs, and other sectors providing various AI-powered solutions.

Tomas Skoumal, chairman of Dyna.Ai

Skoumal explained that the company is already in conversation with government-backed institutions and semi-government entities to tailor their solutions for the Kingdom. 

The company’s growth objectives for the next year include launching the office, expanding their product portfolio, and deepening industry expertise in Saudi Arabia and the wider Middle East and North Africa region.  

“To achieve these objectives, we will invest in our local team and collaborate with government, local partners, academic institutions, and research organizations,” Skoumal said.  

Dyna.Ai has also introduced new products specifically tailored for the Saudi market, including Dyna Avatar and Dyna Athena, which are designed to enhance customer interaction and communication in local dialects. 

“The operating environment for AI businesses is constantly changing, and around the world where we operate, we ensure that we are closely working with policymakers to ensure alignment with local regulations,” Skoumal explained.  

He further praised Saudi Arabia’s advanced and welcoming regulations in the fintech sector that allow businesses to operate in a sandbox while testing services and solutions. 

The Saudi market is pivotal for Dyna.Ai’s due to its rapid adoption of innovative AI solutions and its young, tech-savvy population, Skoumal explained.  

“Saudi Arabia is one of the most exciting markets for technology businesses in the Middle East. The pace of change and adoption of innovative AI solutions is not just inspiring but extremely exciting,” he said. 

“Further, the Kingdom is home to one of the youngest populations in the region with 63 percent under the age of 30,” Skoumal pointed out.

He added that the Kingdom’s geographic location and its role as the region’s largest economy make it an ideal hub for driving AI adoption in the Middle East. 

FASTFACT

The company’s growth objectives for the next year include launching the office, expanding their product portfolio, and deepening industry expertise in Saudi Arabia and the wider Middle East and North Africa region.

Assessing the current market landscape, Skoumal remarked: “The AI sector around the world, and in Saudi Arabia, is still at an early stage. However, the progress of the technology is fascinating, with incredible advances in very short periods.” 
“AI is expected to create a multi-billion dollar impact on the Saudi economy by 2030, and by investing early in the Kingdom, we believe that we will be well positioned to empower work and enrich lives,” he stated. 
Dyna.Ai aspires to not only provide advanced solutions to the financial sector but also to equip Saudi youth with cutting-edge skills and technology access. Looking at future industry trends, Skoumal highlighted several opportunities.  
“The AI and fintech landscape is constantly evolving, with new technologies, competitors, and regulatory requirements emerging regularly. We see increasing demand for AI-driven solutions across industries, expansion of AI applications into new areas, and the emergence of new technologies and business models,” he said. 
These trends present significant opportunities for Dyna.Ai. 
“We are continuously investing in the local market, swiftly refining our localized solutions, establishing a more professional local team, and developing collaborative models that align with local requirements. This approach allows us to maximize our grasp on these opportunities,” Skoumal said. 

Business fundamentals 
Regarding profitability, Skoumal stated: “We have strong unit economics and robust fundamentals. At the moment our focus is on growth, and deploying our solutions with clients. As with the enterprise technology sector, profitability will be achieved as we grow, and our global expansion is a crucial part of this.” 
The motivation behind founding Dyna.Ai stemmed from Skoumal’s extensive experience in the global financial sector.  
“Financial institutions are generally slow to adopt modern technology due to concerns over security, regulations, deployment, and other factors,” he noted.  
While Dyna.Ai is well-capitalized and focused on growth, expansion, and local hiring, Skoumal emphasized that the company is continuously looking for opportunities to innovate and refine its solutions.  
“We are extremely proud of the fact that 50 percent of our workforce is dedicated to research and development efforts, which means we are able to constantly innovate while bringing new solutions and updates to market very quickly,” he highlighted.