Saudi Arabia to Establish a Leadership, National Sustainable Development Center


Riyadh – Saudi Arabia announced plans to establishing a center for leadership, discipline and building up national sustainable capacities. The news came in light of launching a committee for digital transformation, in hopes of investing comprehensive strategy and international exchange of expertise in the Kingdom’s future.

Digital transformation is the core strategy of Saudi Vision 2030, with Saudi companies increasingly adapting themselves to be part of the vision program.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sponsored the 2nd International Conference on C4I Solutions on Wednesday in hopes of boosting this trend.

These systems combine a variety of technologies including: command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, sensors, Internet of Things (IoT), remote control and autonomous systems that decision-makers rely upon to supply and process accurate analytical data, as well as collect and display information in the most timely, context-appropriate and format-suitable manner, using smart technologies and state-of-the-art sensors.

This is not to mention their vital role in connected battlespace management and in monitoring and protecting critical infrastructures.

The concept of leadership and control requires the availability of human resources, advanced infrastructure, ability and efficiency in carrying out missions, said Chief of General Staff of Royal Saudi Armed Forces General Abdul Rahman bin Saleh al-Bunyan.

Gen. Al-Bunyan said that investment in command and control is no longer an option as much as it is a national demand, requiring radical changes across many levels.

Gen. Al-Bunyan believes that this approach will contribute to keeping up with the latest standards, such as moving from C4I to C5 and integrating combat operations into a modern system.

He noted the importance of the 2nd International Conference on C4I Solutions in keeping track with rapid developments in this field, which the Defense Ministry has dedicated efforts to through its fruitful cooperation with King Saud University, benefiting from modern technologies.

The conference is set to shed light on the role of command and control centers in combating conventional and unconventional terrorism, and their alliances relying on advanced integration systems for complex operations and command, control, communications, cyber security (C4I). In addition, the conference will address all aspects of C4I in military as well as civilian arenas.

The chairman of the conference’s organizing committee, Dr. Abdullah bin Sharaf Al-Ghamdi, announced that the conference was held under the theme of “coalition against terrorism”, for the importance of this issue at the present time, and the pivotal role played by Saudi Arabia in confronting terrorism and extremism in the region and the world.

“Command and control systems are now the vital nerve of the armed forces in confronting terrorism, both through field operations and technical confrontation through cyberspace,” he said.

The conference’s panels and working papers by international experts discuss the importance of strengthening international alliances, achieving integration in the armed forces’ command and control systems and providing them with proactive capabilities to monitor and respond to terrorist operations in its various shapes and locations.

“The conference focuses on transferring technology knowledge and the localization of specialized expertise in command and control systems as one of its main themes, in line with the Saudi 2030 vision,” Dr. Al-Ghamdi added.

The conference targeted major industrial and financial sectors, which are also vulnerable to terrorist assaults through hacking attacks on their information systems which pose a direct threat to the highest interests of the countries.

This is in addition to strengthening the partnership between the various relevant sectors, especially security and defense, with research centers specialized in command and control systems, aiming to move towards a new and more secure generation of cybersecurity, communication, command and control systems.

The conference brought together more than 700 participants including senior military officers from Saudi Armed Forces as well as from other armed forces members of the International Alliance against Terrorism.

Sudan Looks forward to be Off US’ Terror List with Saudi Arabia’s Support


Riyadh – Sudan is looking forward to Saudi Arabia’s continuous support for Khartoum’s efforts, to lift Sudan’s name of the blacklist of countries’ sponsoring terrorism, according to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Information Ahmad Bilal Othman.

Othman expected that after the lift of economic sanctions, international, Gulf and regional investors will rush to Sudan. He revealed that Sudan is planning a commission to counter corruption in the country.

The deputy PM stated that placing the Arab Coalition on UN’s blacklist is part of a malicious political agenda adopted by the international organization. He reiterated Sudan’s rejection to that move and stated that Khartoum and Sudan are in this together.

Othman told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that Saudi-Sudanese relations are at its best, with continuous coordination between the leadership on all pressing regional and international issues.

He pointed out that both Khartoum and Riyadh are developing strong relations, adding that he received an invitation from the Saudi Minister of Culture and Information Awwad al-Awwad to discuss media issues that concern both countries. He added that “we will enhance communications between the two countries on an exchange expertise and information as well as television, radio, and training programs”.

The minister stated that Sudan is currently facing challenges about the lift of US sanctions and attracting foreign investments in all vital sectors such as agriculture, industry, and mining.

He indicated that the support exerted by the Saudi leadership, represented by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, resulted in the lift of US sanctions which also revealed the depth of this relations given the strategic and pivotal role of Riyadh in the Middle East.

Sudan’s position on the other side of the Red Sea also grants this strategic relation with Riyadh another dimension, according to Othman, and he expected Saudi investments to increase in Sudan – which would benefit people of both countries. He pointed out that the lift-off US sanctions further enhances this relation.

Asked about the accusations against Arab coalition, Othman confirmed that the goal is to defame this successful campaign to restore legitimacy in Yemen. He reiterated that Western organizations deal with fair Arab causes with a form of duality, adding that Sudan is Saudi Arabia’s partner and should look into such deluding campaigns.

He stated that the cases against the coalition are named as a violation of children’s rights and they forget that the main cause of this campaign is to stand against the insurgents as the biggest violator of human rights.

The minister stated that Sudan had long suffered from these double standards of the international organizations; such as the malicious plans to call President Bashir to stand before the criminal court based on fabricated information and evidence.

He explained that the international organization is forming its report without any scientific basis and solely for political purposes, which is why Sudan is against this. He explained that the same had happened with Darfur when the number of affected children was fabricated and exaggerated.

Deputy Prime Minister indicated that US’ boycott of Sudan was comprehensive and includes sides other than the financial aspects, including the ban to use Bashir’s image especially in channels like CNN and Fox Channel.

Othman concluded that Sudan should be exempted from its debts, which was admitted by the International Bank and Fund, adding that debts were originally no more than $8 billion but increased to $44 billion because of interests.

CESI: Saudi Arabia has Potential to Lead Regional Energy Production

Riyadh — Italian Chief Executive Officer of CESI Matteo Codazzi said that Saudi Arabia enjoys all the conditions needed to become a leading energy production giant—especially in light of its ambitious programs on technology and localization of the renewable energy industry on an international scale.

Codazzi said in an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat that Saudi Arabia is taking serious and driven steps based on Kingdom Vision 2030 concerning the transport and development of experiences in renewable and solar energy.

CESI, a global technical consulting and engineering company which started its operations in the Middle East in 2012 and is among the few notified bodies in the industry involved in regulatory framework development, envisions to ‘shape a better energy future.’

Codazzi added that CESI’s presence in Saudi Arabia is a key building block in the energy industry and will become one of the most important contributors to Vision 2030’s vision for localization of the electrical, renewable and solar industries in terms of international standards.

“We are committed to facilitating the region’s ambition of ecological footprint reduction,” said Matteo Codazzi, Chief Executive Officer of CESI. “We address the region’s critical sustainability issues and work towards achieving green goals including that Vision 2030 Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

He pointed out that Saudi Arabia is moving forward in the development of its industrial capabilities to become a more sustainable country, taking into consideration the security and safety measures, and applying them, providing testing services related to the electromechanical industry, as well as consulting and engineering services related to the energy sector.

He said that the agreement signed by the company with the Gulf Laboratory for testing electrical equipment recently in Riyadh, including the establishment and development of the first laboratory equipped with the latest technical and electromechanical specifications for the conduct of electrical tests for high and low voltage.

Global technical consulting and engineering company Cesi and GCC Electrical Testing Laboratory (GCC Lab) have signed a term sheet for the development and operation of a state-of-the-art electrical testing facility in Saudi Arabia.

The testing platform will perform a wide range of electromechanical testing activities and provide technical services. The lab will be a key asset to support the policies promoted by Saudi Arabia in order to sustain the electrical industry in the GCC region.

The agreement will also cover the needs and objectives of the local market to form the basis for advanced capabilities of the electrical testing market in the region and increase the quality of manufacturing to bring this industry and sector to the highest level.

Military Deals with Russia: Long-Term Saudi Strategy


Riyadh – Military and political experts described the military deals signed between Saudi Arabia and Russia as “strategic” agreements that will help transfer Russian technology and techniques to the kingdom. This will transform Riyadh into a military producer and exporter, which will enable it to possess advanced military technology.

Military expert and strategic analyst Hassan al-Shahri told Asharq Al-Awsat that major powers, including Russia, have realized that Saudi Arabia represents a guarantee for security in the Middle East because it is a guiding force for Muslims and is member of the G20.

He noted that the faith that the Russian leadership has in the kingdom led it to request that Saudi Arabia become its partner in this strategic military deal.

Saudi-Russian ties will rise to become strategic ones that will bolster the economy and transfer Russian technology to the kingdom, he continued.

The military deals may be small, but they are significant in their connotations, said Shahri.

Saudi Arabia is a semi-continent that needs to protect is land, air and marine borders through possessing air defense capabilities and other weapons that will enable it to lead tactical military work, he explained.

The addition of the advanced military technologies to the Saudi forces will lead to stability and security that will not be limited to the regional scene, but the international one as well, he stressed.

Saudi academic and political analyst Dr. Khalil bin Abdullah al-Khalil told Asharq Al-Awsat described as “historic” Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz’s visit to Russia due to the outcomes it achieved in regards to regional and international policy.

The former Shura council member hailed the visit and the comprehensive agreements that were signed, especially the military ones.

The deals ensured that advanced military equipment and Russian expertise will reach Saudi Arabia to prepare strong armies that possess the best weapons in the world, he added.

World Bank: Reforms Bolster Trust in Saudi Economy

Riyadh – The World Bank said that Saudi reforms, which fall under the framework of Vision 2030, have increased the level of trust in the Kingdom’s economy, noting that growth rate is expected to rise by 2 percent between 2018 and 2019, compared to 0.6 percent this year due to low oil production.

“Saudi Arabia is leading the region through 10 strategic reform programs, including comprehensive structural reforms in public finance and economy,” Dr. Nader Mohammed, Middle East regional director for the World Bank, told Asharq Al-Awsat.

“Plans to build a social safety network will help mitigating the impact of reforms on low- and middle-income citizens,” he added.

The World Bank official warned, however, that the economic outlook for the region was exposed to risks under the foggy atmosphere resulting from the geopolitical developments in the region.

He underlined that OPEC’s reduction of the production ceiling could also be undermined by non-traditional energy producers in North America.

“Any disorder in the global financial markets could affect the cost of financing areas that still have huge financing needs,” Mohammed stated.

He pointed out that international changes and the decline in oil prices have had a direct and significant impact on the economies of the GCC countries over the recent years, despite the significant reform efforts aimed at restructuring the countries’ economies.

The Gulf economy is expected to witness a rising growth rate from 1.3 percent in 2017 to 2.6 percent in 2019, according to the World Bank regional director.

The rise in spending and the level of confidence in the non-oil sector are likely to be slow, in the wake of stable oil prices, a soft fiscal austerity and the implementation of major reforms planned for the region, he added.

Red Sea Project: New Income Sources for Saudi Arabia


Riyadh – Observers have affirmed that the Red Sea Project which was launched on Monday by Vice Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Prince Mohammed bin Salman will contribute in reinforcing the tourism and recreation sectors in the Kingdom, generating hard currency, attracting foreign investment and diversifying the economy and income sources.

Abdul Rahim Naqi, secretary general of the Federation of Chambers of the Gulf Cooperation Council, stated to Asharq Al-Awsat that the international Red Sea Project represents a significant step in the right direction and is expected to attract domestic, Arab, Gulf and international investments.

“Such a project would cement partnerships between the public and private sectors and would boost the tourism sector,” he added.

Nasser Al-Tayyar, deputy chairman and president of Al Tayyar Travel Group, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the endeavor “represents one of the most significant projects that the Kingdom needs right now. This is the second project of its kind and would have a huge impact on the Saudi economy.”

He added that the tourist project would reduce exporting hard currency and increase it instead. Tayyar also expected the project to create job opportunities and reinforce the craft industry sector and other economic activities.

Prince Mohammed announced on Monday the launch of the Red Sea international tourism project, which will be built in one of the world’s most beautiful and diverse natural spots.

It aims to develop exceptional resorts on more than 50 natural islands between the cities of Amlaj and Al-Jawh. It will break ground in the third quarter of 2019 and complete its first phase in the fourth quarter of 2022.

Governor of Sudan’s Central Bank: ‘We are Preparing for Post-US Sanctions Phase’


Riyadh- Governor of the Central Bank of Sudan Dr. Hazem Abdul Qader unveiled a new strategy to deal with the latest developments and consequences of the lifting of the US sanctions imposed on his country and to accommodate these changes.

Abdul Qader said that his talks with the Saudi side on Friday resulted in a pledge to address the problem of the inability to transfer Saudi Riyal to his country.

In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat in Riyadh, Abdul Qader said, “following the announcement of the lifting of US sanctions on Sudan on 13 January, we have sat down to agree on a new strategy to accommodate these developments.”

“There is a strategy to prepare the internal environment to secure and review all laws and assets as a system according to a specific timetable through visiting foreign central banks and Sudanese commercial banks visiting their correspondents abroad.”

Abdul Qader added that as the Central Bank was working on this strategy when the US extended on July 17 the freeze of lifting sanctions on Sudan till October.

“We are currently working on the remaining strategic plans on lifting the sanctions that will end by October, and there is cooperation and also understanding between us and different US institutions.”

A mission from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank has recently visited Sudan to provide technical assistance to maximize monetary and financial policies for the post-US sanctions phase.

“September will witness a visit by an IMF mission to Sudan to assess some of the ongoing efforts and provide technical assistance in various areas. This assistance that is provided to the Central Bank and the Ministry of Finance is not related to the lifting of US sanctions as it comes in the framework of the current proposed programs,” the Sudanese Governor stressed.

Regarding the instability in the exchange rate, the devaluation of the Sudanese pound against the US dollar and the resulting concern among investors, Abdul Qader said: “The dollar has increased as a natural result of the supply and demand of foreign currency in Sudan.”

He admitted that some people have kept their money in anticipation of the stability of the market, and the result was the lack of supply at a time when the demand was large, which doubled prices without the process of selling and buying of the currency.

On the other hand, he said that there are companies in the private sector that are currently buying gold to export it and use the hard currency it generates in the private sector. This is why, in his opinion, the price of gold has increased since there is a significant correlation between the price of gold and the currency.

Abdul Qader denied any intervention from a government body or entry to the market through the Central Bank of Sudan as a government entity, but he added that there are telecommunication companies, aviation, steel factories and large companies that have entered the currency market to buy their future needs fearing a mad rise in the price of the dollar.

Within the meetings of the Joint Ministerial Committee between the Kingdom and Sudan, “I discussed with the Governor of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) the bilateral banking relations, and we discussed means of developing these relations to contribute to the transfer of remittances, investments and commercial transactions,” Abdul Qader explained in regards to the discussions he had held earlier in Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia, Russia to Improve Economic Cooperation

Riyadh- Asharq Al-Awsat has learned that the Saudi-Russian committee will convene in October amid expectations that this meeting will transform economic cooperation between the two countries in the fields of energy, gas and oil.

These expectations coincide with calls for removing obstacles that are represented in double taxation, opening direct shipping lines and launching bank branches to provide facilities and letters of credit.

Abdulaziz al-Karidis, vice-chairman of the Saudi-Russian committee, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the coming months will witness a fruitful investment, commercial and economic movement between Riyadh and Moscow, saying cooperation will be bolstered in fields of energy, gas and oil as well as in exchanging expertise.

He added that Saudi-Russian bilateral trade volume stands at USD1 billion only, which is not up to par with the economic size of both countries.

Karidis noted that cooperation between Riyadh and Moscow will boost their positions in international arenas and will be an opportunity to stabilize oil prices, especially that Moscow is a non-OPEC oil producing country.

There is a meeting in October for the committee, said Karidis, lauding the fact that the Saudi-Russian Joint Council discussed with Speaker of the Russian Federation Council Valentina Matviyenko obstacles to boosting economic cooperation between the two countries.

He called on Russian parties to work on exempting double taxation, providing financial facilities and expanding banking branches between Russia and Saudi Arabia to offer letters of credit in addition to opening shipping channels and direct lines.

Karidis noted that Saudi exports don’t reach Russia in a direct way and this increases costs and delays period of delivery.

Lebanon Looks to Investment Partnerships with KSA in Petrochemicals, Industry, Leisure


Riyadh- The Lebanese Labor and Investment Council in Saudi Arabia said it was looking forward to increasing investment partnerships between Riyadh and Beirut in the sectors of health, services, petrochemicals, industry, leisure and tourism.

It added that the resumption of “Flynass” flights to Beirut would enable the business sector in both countries to implement qualitative partnerships and encourage tourism in Lebanon.

In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, Rabih al-Amin, the council’s secretary said: “We need a Lebanese economic vision that simulates Vision 2030 and Saudi Arabia’s visionary programs, and that benefits from the stability of the Kingdom, under the aspirations of Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is one of the pillars of stability and prosperity in the Kingdom and the Arab region.”

Al-Amin noted that major opportunities await the Lebanese investors, especially with the adoption of Saudi Vision 2030.

In this regard, he stated that promising opportunities included investments in the sectors of health, services, petrochemicals, industry, leisure and tourism.

However, the official warned of geopolitical circumstances, which might have an impact on the regional situation and would negatively affect progress on the Lebanese arena.

He noted that since the last visit of the Lebanese President Michel Aoun to Saudi Arabia, “some Lebanese officials did not invest in this visit and its outcome in a way that serves the interest of Lebanon”.

He also praised efforts deployed by the Saudi Chargé d’Affaires in Beirut, Walid Boukhari, who he said was able to build a distinguished presence through activities and initiatives of the embassy in Beirut, including the establishment of the Saudi Lebanese Business Center.

Sudanese President Values Saudi Efforts to Improve Relations between Sudan, US


Riyadh– Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir announced his country’s agreement to continue to communicate positively with US government in the coming period in response to a request made by the leadership of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

According to a statement issued, both Saudi Arabia and Sudan stressed the importance of combating and financing terrorism and extremism as it is the greatest threat to peaceful societies around the world. They also affirmed their commitment to all international resolutions in this regard.

The president also thanked the Kingdom’s leadership for their efforts to improve relations between Sudan and US.

“In this context and in response to a request by the leadership of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, President al-Bashir agreed to continue to communicate positively with the government and the official organs of the United States in the coming period for the final lifting of sanctions imposed on Sudan as well as lifting the name of Sudan from the list of countries sponsoring terrorism and resolve all problems existing between the two countries,” according to the statement published by Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

Al-Bashir praised the relations between his country and Saudi Arabia as distinct and strong. He expressed his appreciation for the Kingdom’s efforts in serving Muslims and thanking them for their continued support for Sudan in all fields.

Meanwhile, a Sudanese official told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that the talks held between President al-Bashir and Custodian of Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Tuesday focused on Saudi Arabia’s support to lifting sanctions imposed on Sudan.

The official also said that the talks between Saudi King and Sudanese President discussed the US sanctions on Sudan and Saudi support to the country. The sanctions’ freeze has been postponed few months.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed al-Jubeir announced that the Kingdom is working with Sudan to lift sanctions imposed on Sudan and lift Sudan from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

He stated that the talks between the two leaders were fruitful and dealt with issues of the region, bilateral relations and confronting the scourge of terrorism and extremism. He pointed out that a large Sudanese community resides in the Kingdom and contributes to the development of the country and is appreciated in the Kingdom.

“The two countries are also key partners in the Islamic alliance to confront terrorism and extremism, and partners in the coalition to support legitimacy in Yemen, and the two countries are partners in working to counter terrorism and extremism,” said Jubeir during a joint press conference with his Sudanese counterpart Ibrahim Ghandour.

He expressed the Kingdom’s appreciation for Sudan’s positive positions which are supportive of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, stressing that this is not surprising between two brotherly countries.

FM Jubeir expressed his country’s belief that Sudan has achieved significant progress to reach the lifting of these sanctions.

He also added that Saudi Arabia will continue to coordinate with Sudan and others in the region to find a solution to this situation so that Sudan can return to its normal state and focus on development, economy, and prosperity.

For his part, Sudanese FM Ibrahim Ghandour expressed thanks and appreciation to the leadership of the Kingdom and its people for what they offer to Muslims all over the world and to Sudan.

Ghandour said that these efforts are appreciated by the Sudanese leadership and the Sudanese people, who have a special love and appreciation for the Kingdom and its leadership.

Ghandour told the press that he held talks with FM Jubeir that discussed bilateral relations, and it was agreed to continue the dialogue in Khartoum, Sudan.

Meanwhile, Sudanese Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Badawi al-Sanosi told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that his country has fulfilled all US conditions and requirements which conditioned the lift-off the sanctions.

He added that Sudan had executed the five tracks which include maintaining regional ceasefires, enhancing counter-terrorism cooperation, and improving humanitarian access.

Sanosi stressed that his country is in no way linked to Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), which Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni confirms.

In mid-January, US administration of former President Barack Obama announced an easing of the two-decades-long sanctions to see Khartoum’s commitment to a five-track deal.

In a January 2017 report, the US Department of State said Sudan had made “significant progress” in each of the five areas in the period leading up to Obama’s partial lifting of sanctions.

The State Department delayed a decision on sanctions until October when the three-month extension is set to end.

Sudan is on the US list of a state sponsor of terrorism since 1993.