Arab-Islamic-US Partnership against Extremism and Iran

terrorism

Riyadh- The Arab-Islamic-US Summit launched by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz in Riyadh on Sunday, in the presence of US President Donald Trump and scores of Arab and Islamic leaders, founded a collective action against extremism, terrorism and Iran, and culminated in the opening of the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology “EATEDAL.”

Addressing the summit from King Abdulaziz International Convention Center in Riyadh on Sunday, King Salman said “the Iranian regime has been the spearhead of global terrorism since the Khomeini revolt and until today.”

He added: “We have been in this country for 300 years and we never knew terrorism until the Khomeini revolution reared its head in 1979.”

The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques said that the Iranian regime and its affiliated groups and organizations such as Hezbollah and the Houthis, as well as ISIS and Al-Qaeda are all similar.

The King accused Tehran of rejecting the initiatives of good neighborhood provided by Arab countries based on good faith.

“Iran replaced these initiatives with expansionist ambitions, criminal practices, interferences in the internal affairs of other countries, flagrant violations of the international law, and violations of the principles of good-neighborliness, coexistence and mutual respect,” King Salman said.

He stressed the need to foil terror financing, adding that Saudi Arabia would never be lenient in sending to justice whoever finances or supports terrorism in any form or under any manifestation as he would be subject to decisive justice.

For his part, President Trump held Iran responsible for “world terrorism,” and called for its isolation by saying: “No discussion of stamping out this threat would be complete without mentioning the government that gives terrorists all three—safe harbor, financial backing, and the social standing needed for recruitment. It is a regime that is responsible for so much instability in the region. I am speaking of course of Iran.”

Trump said that from Lebanon to Iraq to Yemen, Iran funds, arms, and trains terrorists, militias, and other extremist groups that spread destruction and chaos across the region.

“Until the Iranian regime is willing to be a partner for peace, all nations of conscience must work together to isolate Iran,” Trump said.

Also, the US President called on Muslim-majority countries to take the lead in combatting radicalization.

“A better future is only possible if your nations drive out the terrorists and extremists. Drive them out. Drive them out of your places of worship. Drive them out of your communities…,” Trump said.

Tillerson Meets Jubeir: We Will Strengthen Efforts to Counter Iran in Yemen, Syria

Tillerson

Riyadh – Saudi Arabia and the United States announced on Saturday the opening of a new era in ties between them through Custodian of the Two Holy Mosque King Salman’s signing of a Joint Strategic Vision with US President Donald Trump in Riyadh.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir declared during a joint press conference with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on the sidelines of Trump’s visit: “Today marks the beginning of a new phase in relations between the US and Saudi Arabia and the US and the Islamic world.”

Riyadh and Washington also agreed to take joint measures to deter Iran and ensure that its hostile policy in the region comes to an end. They stressed that it should commit to the nuclear deal signed with the 5+1 countries and stop supporting terrorism.

Tehran must also adhere to the United Nations Security Council resolution on its ballistic missile system and cease meddling in the internal affairs of regional countries.

According to Jubeir, King Salman and Trump discussed how to tackle extremist terrorism, increase defense capabilities, work on a defense structure for the region, starting from Saudi Arabia, which will be later joined by other countries.

“The Joint Strategic Vision also encompasses trade, investment and education, and work in all fields in order to bolster our joint interests and confront the challenges facing our two countries,” revealed Jubeir.

“This is unprecedented. We have never signed such agreement between the leaders of two countries to bolster strategic partnership. We want to go ahead with this partnership,” he told reporters.

He emphasized that agreements worth more than $380 billion were signed and they will be implemented in the next ten years.

King Salman and Trump also discussed the importance of achieving peace between Palestinians and Israelis, said Jubeir, revealing that the monarch was optimistic over the US leader’s approach on the issue.

“We believe that he has a vision and determination. We are prepared to work with the United States to achieve peace between the two sides,” stressed the FM.

On Iran, Jubeir refused to comment on the Iranian presidential polls that saw the re-election of Hassan Rouhani for a second term, reiterating that Saudi Arabia will judge Tehran based on its actions, not its words.

“Iranians claim that they want to establish better ties with us, but then they went on to attack our embassy, assassinate our diplomats and arm militias, such as ‘Hezbollah’, Houthis and others in Syria, that are destabilizing the security of nations,” said Jubeir.

“They are interfering in the internal affairs of some Arab countries, such as Syria, Yemen and Lebanon. They support terrorism and have established the largest terrorist organization in the world, ‘Hezbollah’, and they are supporting al-Qaeda leaders. Many of those leaders used to live in Iran, which has ties with the Taliban that is destabilizing Afghanistan. These are not the actions of a good neighbor or those of a country that wants our respect,” he emphasized.

On Yemen, he remarked that there are no more than 50,000 Houthis in a country of more than 28 million, adding: “It is unacceptable to allow them to come to power. They have fired over 40 ballistic missiles against our cities and violated seven truces and 70 agreements.”

He stated that the US support will pressure the Houthis and Saleh and make them head to the negotiations table, according to the Gulf initiative, outcomes of the national dialogue and UN Security Council resolution.

For his part, Tillerson said: “Today (Saturday) truly is a historic moment in US-Saudi relations. The US and Saudi Arabia are really dedicating ourselves to a new strategic partnership, new for the 21st century, and to charting a renewed path toward a peaceful Middle East where economic development, trade, diplomacy are hallmarks of the regional and global engagement. It’s something that we will be working closely together on.”

The Joint Strategic Vision is a very strong message to common enemies, he added.

“At the core of our expanding relationship really are our shared security interests. America’s security at home is strengthened when Saudi Arabia’s security is strong as well. And the US and Saudi Arabia are embarking on a number of new initiatives to counter violent extremist messaging,” he continued.

“We are also going to be pursuing new approaches to disrupting financing of terrorism and advancing defense cooperation. Today, the United States and Saudi Arabia are conducting vital new expansions of the security relationship that really spans over seven decades. But I think one of the real hallmarks of today is the economic cooperation. And if you have strong economic engagement between two countries, that really is foundational to a strong security relationship as well,” Tillerson said.

“Today we announced 23 foreign investment export licenses leading to upwards of more than $350 billion of historic direct investment; 109 billion of that is in arms sales to bolster the security of our Saudi partners. And these are going to result in literally hundreds of thousands of American jobs created by these direct investments in purchases of American goods, American equipment, American technology, but also investment into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as well.”

Tillerson added: “The intended sales of the defense packages in particular fall into five broad categories: border security and counterterrorism, maritime and coastal security, air force modernization, air and missile defense, cyber security and communications upgrades.”

“The package of defense equipment and services supports the long-term security of Saudi Arabia and the entire Gulf region, in particular in the face of malign Iranian influence and Iranian-related threats which exist on Saudi Arabia’s borders on all sides … Additionally, it bolsters the Kingdom’s ability to provide for its own security and continuing contributing to counterterrorism operations across the region. And the important part of this is this huge arms sales package reduces the burden on the United States to provide the same equipment to our own military forces and will strengthen Saudi security forces for the future so that Saudi Arabia is more capable of carrying a greater share of the burden of their own security.”

The US Secretary of State also hailed the new counterterrorism initiative that will see the inauguration in Riyadh on Sunday of the new Global Center for Combatting Extremist Ideology.

“This will be a Saudi-led hub for defeating extremism in the information space. As you’ve heard us say often, we have to defeat ISIS on the battlefield, but we really have to defeat ISIS in the cyberspace,” noted the US official.

“Our partners in the Gulf Cooperation Council, including Saudi Arabia, will be signing a new agreement tomorrow (Sunday) to close gaps in many of these areas, including the financial infrastructure which terrorists can exploit,” Tillerson revealed.

On countering Iran’s meddling in Yemen, Iraq and Syria, he told reporters: “We are closely coordinating our efforts in terms of how to counter Iran’s extremism and its export of extremism, in particular its support for foreign fighters, its payment of foreign fighters, its support of militia that are operating not just in Yemen but in Iraq and in Syria.”

“The leadership really starts here in the Kingdom, with the strong leadership of His Royal Highness as well as the Crown Prince, the Deputy Crown Prince, and certainly the Foreign Minister. They have been wonderful and very strong conveners of others who are likeminded in terms of this fight against terrorism broadly, but specifically Iran’s role in supporting extremist organizations.”

Despite asserting that he will not reject any proposal to hold dialogue, Tillerson ruled out the possibility of contacting his Iranian counterpart Mohammed Javad Zarif any time soon.

“I’ve never shut off the phone to anyone that wants to talk or have a productive conversation. At this point, I have no plans to call my counterpart in Iran, although, in all likelihood, we will talk at the right time,” he said.

On Rouhani’s re-election, he stated: “He now has a new term and we hope he uses that term to begin a process of dismantling Iran’s network of terrorism, dismantling its financing of that terrorist network, dismantling the manning and the logistics and everything that they provide to these destabilizing forces that exist in this region. That’s what we hope he does.”

On Yemen, Tillerson reiterated the US position that is focusing on reaching a political solution and pressuring the insurgents on the ground.

“Our emphasis is on finding a political solution. We view it as a tragic situation, obviously of millions of people on the brink of starvation, because of the impact of the fighting. But we also think it’s important to put the pressure on the parties to come to the table and talk.”

“The rebels in Yemen and those that have taken over the government in Yemen, have overthrown the government, have to know they cannot sustain this fight. They have to know that they will never – they will never prevail militarily. But they’re only going to feel that when they feel the resistance militarily, so it’s important we keep the pressure on them. And many of the armaments we’re providing to Saudi Arabia will help them be much more precise and targeted with many of their strikes, but it’s important that pressure be kept on the rebels in Yemen.”

US Experts: Trump’s Visit to Saudi Arabia Assures Allies, Confronts Enemies

Riyadh- US diplomats and officers have asserted that the visit of President Donald Trump to Saudi Arabia and the choice of the kingdom as the first foreign destination send a strong message to friends and foes that Washington will defend its allies and face enemies decisively.

In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, experts expected that the meetings of Trump with Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and leaders of GCC countries will result in tangible results to protect the region from the aggressive regime in Tehran.

Joseph Ereli, a former US ambassador to Bahrain, said that Trump’s visit to Riyadh is significant and ensures the US support to the kingdom and region.

“Although Obama visited the kingdom four times, his administration failed to assure the Arab world that the US is dedicated to the stability of its allies in the region,” he said.

The US approach towards Iran and its failure to resolve the Iraqi and Syrian files “increased this sense of insecurity,” he added.

Further, former Commander US Naval Forces Central Command/United States Fifth Fleet Adm. John Miller considered that choosing Saudi Araba as the first destination for Trump’s foreign visit sheds light on his awareness of the region’s importance and the role in Riyadh in assuring regional stability.

“The visit represents a normalization of US-Saudi ties after years of tension. During his electoral campaign and the first days of his presidency, the president discussed several times his wish that allies contribute to regional defense and stability. He chose Saudi Arabia due to the historic success of US-Saudi ties and the possibility of signing security agreements that go in tandem with the president’s vision,” Miller told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Responding to a question on results of the Riyadh summits on dealing with Iran and its negative role in the region, Miller affirmed that the new US administration was clear in its wish to achieve security and stability in the region, especially in troubled areas such as Yemen and Syria.

Most Important Political Files at the Saudi-US Summit

Iran

Riyadh – Ways to confront ISIS, al-Qaeda, Iran and the Syrian regime and putting an end to the violence in the region are issues that will be at the heart of US President Donald Trump’s talks with Arab and Muslim leaders at the upcoming summit in the Saudi capital Riyadh on Saturday.

The summit between the US and the Gulf Cooperation Council is also expected to set matters back on track between the two sides through strong partnership in all fields. It will also lead the region towards peace, security and stability after years of conflicts.

US officials have said that Middle East issues, most notably the conflicts in Syria and Yemen, putting a stop to Iranian meddling in the internal affairs of some countries and combatting extremist ideology will be at the top of American priorities at the Islamic-US summit on Sunday.

Political analyst Bernard Haykal stated that contrary to former President Barack Obama’s administration, Trump is completely aware that confronting Iran and ISIS cannot be successful without the Saudi alliance.

Haykal told Asharq Al-Awsat: “Trump’s policy is completely opposite of his predecessor Obama. He believes that Obama made a mistake by trying to settle issues between the US and Iran. He is instead completely convinced that the problem lies with Iran in the first place and then with ISIS. Confronting Iran and ISIS needs to take place through the alliance with Saudi Arabia.”

Furthermore, he noted that through his alliance with Riyadh, Trump is attempting to alter his reputation that he opposes Islam and Muslims.

Haykal remarked that combatting ISIS is already taking place through the international coalition and it will likely continue. Confronting Iran however, will be part of a US-Saudi strategy that is not clear yet. It could start through tackling its influence in Yemen, Syria and Iraq, speculated the analyst.

“The president and all of his aides have clearly stated that Iran is employing terrorist groups, such as ‘Hezbollah’, the Popular Mobilization Units and Houthis, in order to expand its influence and control in many Arab countries,” Haykal added.

Salman Al-Ansari, founder and president of the Washington-based Saudi American Public Relation Affairs Committee (SAPRAC), said that Trump’s upcoming visit will witness political, economic and strategic agreements that will tip the balance in the region and the world towards moderation in wake of the extremist Iranian regime’s meddling.

The regime has tirelessly sought to alter the geo-political map in the region through changing demographics in Yemen, Bahrain, Lebanon, Iraq and Syria by spreading strife and sectarianism, he told Asharq Al-Awsat.

US National Security Advisor, Herbert McMaster had noted that “there was a perception that America had largely disengaged from the Middle East in particular, and that disengagement coincided with this humanitarian and political catastrophe in the region.”

“And so now there’s a broad recognition among all of our partners in the region that American leadership is necessary to help address this catastrophe and to begin to move the region toward the peace, security, and stability that the people there so deserve,” he told a press briefing.

“Who’s against ending this catastrophe; who’s against confronting these terrorists or the enemies of all civilized people; confronting Iran, who’s participating in this cycle of violence; and to bring prosperity and peace to the region and the people who so richly deserve it,” he asked.

He stressed the need for cooperation in order the conflict in Syria, highlighting the need for Russia to rein in Bashar al-Assad’s regime, Iran and its agents in the region.

He added that his trips to the Middle East and Europe “have three core purposes. First, to reaffirm America’s global leadership. Second, to continue building key relationships with world leaders. And, third, to broadcast a message of unity to America’s friends and to the faithful of three of the world’s greatest religions.”

“This trip is truly historic. No president has ever visited the homelands and holy sites of the Jewish, Christian, and Muslims faiths all on one trip. And what President Trump is seeking is to unite peoples of all faiths around a common vision of peace, progress, and prosperity. He will bring a message of tolerance and of hope to billions, including to millions of Americans who profess these faiths. The President will focus on what unites us,” he continued.

“The president’s trip will begin in Saudi Arabia, home to the two holiest sites in Islam. He will encourage our Arab and Muslim partners to take bold, new steps to promote peace and to confront those, from ISIS to al-Qaeda to Iran to the Assad regime, who perpetuate chaos and violence that has inflicted so much suffering throughout the Muslim world and beyond,” McMaster said.

GCC Foreign Ministers Meet Ahead of Riyadh Summits

GCC foreign ministers’ council convenes in Riyadh on Wednesday

Riyadh – GCC countries laid high importance on the summits which will be held in Riyadh on Saturday and Sunday during US President Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia.

They noted that the visit would reflect the leading role assumed by Saudi Arabia in establishing peace and stability on the regional and international levels.

Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmad Al-Khalifa said Wednesday that his country expected much from the planned summit meeting to be held in Riyadh by the GCC leaders and Trump.

The minister added that preparations were underway for the historic GCC-US summit and its joint statement as well as the agenda of the subsequent Islamic-US summit.

The Bahraini minister was speaking to reporters after attending the 143rd meeting of the GCC foreign ministers in Riyadh.

Sheikh Khaled hailed efforts deployed by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia under the leadership of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz in promoting GCC international partnerships.

GCC Secretary General Dr. Abdullatif Al-Zayani said that the 143rd meeting of the GCC foreign ministers approved the agendas of the GCC-US summit and the Islamic-US summit, which will be held in Riyadh on Sunday.

“The ministerial meeting also discussed the agenda topics of the 17th consultative summit meeting of the GCC leaders to be held later on the same day during the visit to Saudi Arabia by US President Donald Trump,” Al-Zayani told reporters on Wednesday.

The schedule of Trump’s trip to Saudi Arabia was uncovered on Tuesday with additional details about the 17th consultative meeting of leaders of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) for Arab States, Gulf-US Summit, and Arab-Islamic-US Summit to be hosted by the Kingdom on Saturday and Sunday.

US National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster said during a press briefing at the White House in Washington Tuesday that his country “will participate in a signing ceremony of several agreements that will further solidify US-Saudi security and economic cooperation.”

McMaster added that the US president’s speech during the Arab-Islamic-US summit “is intended to unite the broader Muslim world against common enemies of all civilization and to demonstrate America’s commitment to our Muslim partners”.

Riyadh Summits: 48 Game-Changing Hours

Saudi

Riyadh – Under the headline of “Together we Prevail,” Saudi Arabia will host US President Donald Trump and the leaders and representatives of 55 Islamic countries on May 20 and 21 in 48 hours of dialogue that will change the rules of the game.

Saudi Arabia launched a website that contains information about the trip and details the program of the various summits that will be held during Trump’s visit.

According to the website, the kingdom will host the US and Muslim leaders during the historic event that will take place on May 20 and 21.

“United under a single vision – Together We Prevail – this highly anticipated event, the first of its kind in history, will renew our mutual commitment to global security and further strengthen already deep business, cultural and political ties,” said the website.

“Over the course of three major summits—the Saudi Arabia and United States summit; the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and United States summit; and the Arab Islamic American summit—historic relationships will be strengthened through a shared belief in tolerance and collaboration. The foundation will be laid for a new beginning and the promise of a brighter future for all,” it stressed.

According to the site, which is available in Arabic, English, French and Russian, Saudi Arabia seeks to “bring the world together to confront violent extremist ideology … we working in partnership with our American and Islamic allies to improve the lives of our people and strengthen our collective economies.”

The program includes a number of summits and they are: the Saudi-US summit, the GCC-US summit, the Arab Islamic American summit and Tweeps 2017. It also includes the inauguration of the Global Center for Combatting Extremist Ideology, the Royal Court Art Exhibition, the Riyadh Forum on Countering Extremism and Fighting Terrorism, the Saudi-US CEO Forum and a visit to the Kind Abdulaziz Historic Museum.

In a message on the website, the Kingdom welcomed the invitees to “Saudi Arabia at this historic moment.”

“We are immensely proud of the opportunity to host this unprecedented gathering of Arab and Muslim leaders and the President of the United States and to showcase the Kingdom’s growing dynamism and potential as a force for good in the region and globally. We look forward to igniting a dialogue between Saudis and with our international partners that we hope will continue long after the meetings have ended and which will foster new relationships based on a shared vision of a brighter future,” it said.

In addition to stressing Saudi Arabia’s commitment to bolstering a secure and peaceful future in the Arab and Muslim worlds, the summit is an important occasion to address the opportunities of Saudi Arabia’s dynamic economic growth. It will also mark an opportunity to demonstrate the strength of the strategic partnership not just with the United States, but with Arab and Islamic states the world over.

“It will be a platform to for all of our American, Arab and Muslim partners to take new bold steps towards bolstering peace and confronting those seeking to spread chaos and violence in all parts of the Islamic world and beyond,” said the website.

The May 20 Saudi-US summit will witness a series of bilateral meetings between the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Trump. They will focus on reaffirming the long-standing friendship, and strengthening the close political, economic, security and cultural bonds between the two nations.

Later that day, Trump will meet with the leaders of the world’s Islamic nations. They will address ways of build more robust and effective security partnerships to counter and prevent the growing threat of terrorism and violent extremism around the globe through promoting tolerance and moderation.

The opening of the Royal Court Art Exhibition will also take place on Saturday. The exhibition aims at highlighting Saudi Arabia’s contemporary art across several generations, with a particular focus on young artists. It also aims at showcasing the Kingdom’s rich culture through the creative artworks of a number of contemporary artists and encouraging the dialogue between Saudi and American cultures through visual artworks demonstrating the artists’ life experiences.

Saturday will also witness the opening of the Riyadh Forum on Countering Extremism and Fighting Terrorism at the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies. It brings together researchers and institutions to sustain, produce and disseminate academic work, as well as to enrich the cultural and intellectual life in the Kingdom. Sponsored by the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC), the forum will explore the nature of terrorism and the future of extremism.

The Saudi-US CEO Forum will also be held on May 20. Bringing together business leaders from across the Kingdom and the United States, the forum is a high-level one-day event designed to strengthen Saudi-US business relationships by providing a platform to enhance bilateral trade and investment and break down barriers to enable closer economic ties.

Trump will conclude the first day of his official trip by visiting the King Abdulaziz Historical Center, which is a cultural and civilization landmark highlighting the prominent history of the Arabian Peninsula and its historical message of disseminating Islam.

Following a royal tour of the Center, a traditional Saudi dinner will be served in honor of the Kingdom’s distinguished guest at the Murabba Palace.

On May 21, the leaders of the GCC will meet with Trump to discuss threats to regional security and stability and the building of stronger commercial ties between America and Gulf countries. The meeting will be held at the King Abdulaziz Convention Center.

The Ritz-Carlton Hotel will then host “Tweeps 2017,” a conference on combating terrorism in the digital age. With millennials and Generation Z increasingly turning to social media for news and information, Trump joins King Abdullah II of Jordan, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Malala Yousafazai, Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed and others for a lively discussion on fighting extremism and terrorism in the digital age.

In addition, Riyadh will also witness the opening of the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology (GCEII), which counters and prevents the spread of extremist ideology through promoting moderation, compassion and supporting the dissemination of positive dialogue. King Salman and Trump will inaugurate the GCEII and discuss, at the Nasiriya Palace, its important contribution to the fight against extremism and terrorism.

Saudi Arabia: Budget Deficit Drops 71%

Saudi

Riyadh – Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan said on Thursday that the Kingdom’s budget deficit fell by 71 percent in the first quarter of 2017, while state revenues jumped by a similar rate of 72 percent, reaching US$38.4 billion (144 billion riyals).

During a news conference held at the headquarters of the Ministry of Finance in Riyadh, Jadaan said that the data of the first quarter report reflected a rise in revenues, a remarkable improvement in the efficiency of spending and reducing the deficit, while basic services provided for citizens have topped priorities on the list of the governmental spending.

“This step applied for the first time in the history of the Ministry comes within the framework of the Government’s commitment to transparency and financial disclosure as it continues to implement the initiatives of National Transformation Program within the Kingdom’s ambitious Vision 2030,” the minister stated.

Jadaan noted that total revenues for the first quarter amounted to SR 144 billion ($38.4 billion), an increase by 72% compared to the same period of last year, while non-oil revenues for the first quarter amounted to SR 32 billion ($8.5 billion), an increase of 1% compared to the same quarter of last year.

He added that total expenditures for the first quarter amounted to around SR 170 billion ($45.3 billion), down by 3% compared to the same quarter last year and the education and military sectors have had the largest percentage of the approved budget compared to other sectors by 23% and 21% of the total estimated budget respectively.

The Saudi finance minister also said that deficit in the first quarter amounted to around SR 26 billion ($6.9 billion), a decrease by 71% compared to the deficit of the same period last year.

He underlined that the trend to issue quarterly reports on the performance of the state budget has reflected the government’s serious efforts to enhance transparency and financial disclosure, noting that the quarterly report on the first quarter, which he said contained better indicators than initial estimates, showed remarkable progress towards achieving a balanced budget.

The minister stressed that the Kingdom was firmly on the right track towards building a more stable, diversified and solid economy, which is less affected by the fluctuations of global markets, especially in the oil sector.

International Conference in Riyadh Agrees on ‘Aid Package’ to Yemen

Yemen

Riyadh – Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan said on Wednesday that the Kingdom and the World Bank would cover 60 percent of a $500 million food aid package, proposed by the Bank to assist the Yemeni population.

Riyadh hosted on Wednesday an international meeting on ways to provide support for Yemen and unify efforts to achieve a secured future for Yemenis, with the participation of 64 states and regional and international organizations.

Organized by Saudi Arabia and the World Bank, with the participation of other donor countries, the conference was entitled: “Recovery and Reconstruction in Yemen,” and saw an agreement by the Kingdom and the Bank to commit $300 million towards an aid package that would address Yemen’s immediate food security needs.

The Saudi finance minister said the World Bank suggested a total package of $500 million to finance imports of rice and wheat to the war-torn country.

“The World Bank has offered $200 million and the kingdom is ready to provide $100 million. So only 60 percent of this expected fund was covered in this meeting. We expect that the rest will be covered in the coming weeks,” Al-Jadaan said.

Vice President of the World Bank for the Middle East and Africa, Hafez Ghanem, said that the Bank would not wait for the end of the crisis in Yemen to launch reconstruction projects.

“There are areas in Yemen where it is possible to (start) work already. There are big needs in these areas,” Ghanem said.

“When we work on reconstruction, we hope that it will give hope to the Yemenis and a push to achieve peace in Yemen,” he added.

A United Nations pledging conference for Yemen last month raised promises of $1.1 billion to support the country’s population.

In earlier remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, Yemeni Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Dr. Mohammad al-Saadi said that the World Bank has committed $816 million to support emergency projects in Yemen.

He explained that the money would be allocated to the areas of education, health, food, import, and welfare.

World Bank Supports Yemen with $816 Mn

Logo for the World Bank

Riyadh-The World Bank has committed $816 million to support emergency projects in Yemen, according to a senior Yemeni official. The announcement comes as Riyadh is scheduled to host an international meeting on Wednesday on ways to provide support for Yemen and unify efforts to achieve a secured future for Yemenis.

The meeting will be organized by Saudi Arabia and the World Bank, with the participation of other donor countries, and it will be entitled: “Recovery and Reconstruction in Yemen.”

Yemeni Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Dr. Mohammad al-Saadi told Asharq Al-Awsat that the World Bank is currently considered a major supporter for Yemen in areas of humanitarian aid, reconstruction, and budget.

Saadi pointed out that the total budget to be spent on Yemen through the World Bank’s portfolio, according to the fiscal year beginning in June is about $816 million.

He explained that the money will be allocated to the areas of education, health, food, import, and welfare.

The Yemeni Minister revealed the arrangements being made to reopen offices of the World Bank and other international organizations in the interim capital of Aden.

“The World Bank is now working through UN organizations, and there are arrangements to reopen the office and other international organizations in Aden,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat.

He also talked about the meeting that will be held in Riyadh today with the participation of representatives for more than 50 countries, organizations, and financial funds.

He noted that it will tackle three major files, which are: food crisis and food security, how to provide supportive means to import of urgent needs to support the Yemeni budget and framework of economic recovery and reconstruction.

Saadi said that UN Special Envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed will participate in this meeting, which will provide financial and logistic support for Yemen during the coming period.

The meeting, according to Saadi, will bring together representatives of donor countries, including members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the United States, EU members, UN agencies and international and regional financial institutions.

Education is Key to Combat Terrorism, Says AUC’s President

Cairo

Riyadh – President of the American University of Cairo said that higher education, especially in universities should play a major role in rationalizing youths and guiding them in the right direction through communication, cooperation, and problem solving. He considered that terrorist exploits religion to achieve political goals.

AUC’s President Francis Ricciardone told Asharq Al-Awsat that among higher education institutions, universities should make doubled efforts to combat terrorism. He added: “The US education method or the so-called liberal education is based on research, analysis, and criticism. This method focuses on four basics: the critical thinking to learn how to ask questions and to seek problems we want to solve, creativity and mind openness in different ways and how to solve problems like art and history; communication by teaching the English language to connect with the world; and cooperation among different groups and teams, which leads to gradual advancement.”

Ricciardone who served as ambassador to the United States in Egypt, Iraq, Turkey, and Afghanistan, noted that education is makes the new generation and ends terrorism.

“Education, art, renovation, openness, religion, sciences, business management, engineering, and sociology, they all make civilization, while terrorism is made of fear, ignorance and hatred. It is a cancer that attacks a sound body; it is oppression and savagery, and education is the cure and the prevention from this cancer,” he stated.

Ricciardone visited Saudi Arabia where he met many officials in the Ministry of Education and national universities and discussed means to strengthen ties and partnerships. He continued saying that we want to tighten the relations between American University and the kingdom, highlight its role worldwide and its keenness to attract students outside Egypt.

He stated: “in the past, the university used to host 20% of non-Egyptian students every year, however, this rate dropped to 5%. We aim to raise this number and attract more students from the Arab countries and the world, and we aim to see fruitful efforts soon.”

Responding to a question on the importance of higher education in fighting terrorism, Ricciardone answered: “during my diplomatic missions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt, and Turkey, the US embassy was a target for many terrorist attacks. I personally faced direct assaults. For me, terrorism is using violence to achieve political goals; it is a criminal act, but this is not the accurate answer, and we have to realize the main source of terrorism, which is composed of a bunch of complicated triggers.”

Commenting on the gap between the universities’ outputs and the labor market, which many Arab countries suffer from, Ricciardone said that this challenge is facing the higher education worldwide. He considered that entrepreneurship with all its dangers and the creation of new job opportunities is the perfect solution for this problem.

He added: “we have to respond to people’s needs. To solve problems of food, population growth, global warming, spread of diseases, pollution, conflicts, and lack of water in the Middle East. All these problems require studies and opportunities so the new generation can use modern technologies and exploit it in addressing these problems.”