Barzani Condemns Court Order ‘Targeting’ his Deputy amid Kurdish Displacement

Riyadh, Baghdad, Washington – The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud made on Thursday a telephone call to Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi, during which they reviewed bilateral relations between both countries in various fields and ways of enhancing and developing them through the Saudi-Iraqi Coordination Council.

The King’s phone call is the second to al-Abadi in a week, after he had called the prime minister last Sunday to assert Saudi Arabia’s support for the unity, security and stability of Iraq.

The Saudi-Iraqi talks came as Washington announced that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson would kick off on Friday a tour that involves Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Pakistan, India and Switzerland.

A statement released by the State Department said that Tillerson would first travel to Riyadh, where he would take part in the inaugural Coordination Council meeting between the governments of Saudi Arabia and Iraq. The Secretary will also meet with various Saudi leaders to discuss the conflict in Yemen, the ongoing Gulf dispute, Iran, and a number of other important regional and bilateral issues.

Concerning the latest developments in Iraq, an Iraqi Court issued on Thursday an arrest warrant for Kurdish Vice President Kosrat Rasul for publicly insulting Iraqi forces.

The court order came following Rasul’s latest comments in which he said the Iraqi forces in Kirkuk were “occupying forces.”

Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani issued a statement condemning the arrest warrant and said the court’s decision “is political and it clearly shows what the ruling mentality in Baghdad is like.”

Meanwhile, Kurdish officials confirmed that around 100,000 Kurds were displaced from Kirkuk as they fear revenge after the Iraqi forces controlled the city.

For its part, the UN expressed concern “about reports regarding the destruction and looting of houses, businesses and political offices, and forced displacement of civilians, predominantly Kurds, from disputed areas.”

Abadi Says Referendum is Over, Calls for Dialogue ‘Under the Constitution’

Riyadh, Baghdad, Irbil- The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz briefed the Cabinet Tuesday on a telephone conversation he held with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi during which the King stressed Riyadh’s support for Iraq’s unity, security, stability, and the adherence of all parties to the country’s constitution for the interest of Iraq and its people.

The King chaired the Cabinet session at Al-Yamamah Palace in Riyadh on Tuesday afternoon.

Meanwhile, as Kurdish Peshmerga forces continued to gradually withdraw from the disputed areas between Baghdad and Irbil, Abadi announced that the Kurdistan region’s referendum on independence is over.

“The referendum is finished and has become a thing of the past,” Abadi said in a press conference on Tuesday.

He called for a dialogue with the Kurdish leadership “under the Constitution.”

For his part, Kurdistan President Masoud Barzani said that after the withdrawal, the new borders between the Peshmerga and Iraqi forces would be as they were before the Mosul operation launched on Oct. 17, 2016.

However, Barzani said: “The loud voices you raised for the independence of Kurdistan that you sent to all nations and world countries will not be wasted now or ever.”

Meanwhile, Iraqi President Fouad Massoum held the Kurdistan Region president, without naming him, responsible for what happened in Kirkuk.

In a statement, Massoum said that he had exerted immense efforts to reach a solution between the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Region government, but said the “latter insisted to hold the referendum.”

The president also called on all parties to engage in urgent dialogue to prevent a worsening of the crisis in Iraq and he reminded everyone that they should resort to the constitution to solve the crisis in Kirkuk.

On Tuesday, the Peshmerga forces withdrew from the disputed area of Khanaqin, near the border with Iran.

Meanwhile, Reuters quoted oil officials in Baghdad as saying that all the fields near Kirkuk were working normally on Tuesday after coming under the central government’s control.

Reuters said Iraq’s dollar-denominated bonds jumped nearly one cent on Tuesday, more than making up for Monday’s losses.

King Salman Praises US Strategy on Iran

Riyadh – Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz has affirmed his country’s support to the US strategy towards Iran.

During a telephone conversation with US President Donald Trump on Saturday, King Salman welcomed the firm strategy announced by the president towards Iran, its aggressive activities and support for terrorism in the region and the world.

The White House said Sunday King Salman lauded Trump’s decision to decertify the Iran nuclear deal in a call.

“King Salman praised President Trump for his visionary new Iran strategy and pledged to support American leadership,” the statement regarding the telephone call between the two leaders read.

The king praised the leadership role of the new US administration, which recognizes the magnitude of these challenges and threats, stressing the need for concerted efforts and taking firm positions on terrorism and extremism and its first sponsor, Iran.

Trump expressed his appreciation for the initiative of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and his support, and stressed US keenness to work with its allies to achieve world security and peace.

“President Trump thanked King Salman for Saudi Arabia’s support and emphasized the importance of the Gulf Cooperation Council in countering Iran’s destabilizing activities in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, and elsewhere in the region,” explained the White House statement.

The two sides also discussed relations between the two countries and ways of developing them, as well as issues of mutual concern.

Saudi Royal Order to Establish National Development Fund

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Jeddah – Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud issued a royal order on Tuesday establishing the National Development Fund to be under the mandate of the Prime Minister.

The royal orders also included a minor cabinet reshuffle where Minister Sulaiman al-Hamdan was assigned to the Ministry of Civil Service and head of the Saudi Ports Authority Nabeel al-Amudi was appointed transport minister.

The royal order stated that the Fund was established to enhance the performance of other funds and development banks in the kingdom.

The National Development Fund will oversee the functions of the Saudi Fund for Development, the Saudi Industrial Development Fund, the Agricultural Development Fund, the Social Development Bank and the Human Resources Development Fund.

The Fund will supervise the functions of its affiliated bodies and will assume all tasks and powers, and make decisions, take progressive measures and other actions deemed necessary for establishing the fund.

The Fund’s board of directors will be headed by the deputy prime minister and will comprise a membership of not less than seven members nominated by the prime minister. It shall have a governor with a minister’s rank, who will be the executive officer of the fund.

According to the royal decree, an Experts Committee from the Council of Ministers will prepare a draft regulation for the operations of the fund, taking into account the aims and objectives stipulated by the king’s order within a period not exceeding thirty days from the date of this order.

Another royal order was issued appointing Sulaiman Abdulfattah bin Sulaiman Mashat as deputy minister of Hajj and Umrah, Saad bin Moqbil al-Maimooni as governor of Taif, Isam bin Hamad bin Ali al-Mubarak as governor of the Real Estate General Commission with excellent rank, and Majid bin Ibrahim al-Fayadh as general executive supervisor of the general corporation of King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center.

In addition, a royal decree relieved Mohammad Ibrahim bin Abdulaziz al-Hasan from his post as director of Najran University and appointed Falah bin Faraj bin Ali al-Sobaiei in his place.

Also, Nabil bin Abdulqadir bin Hamzah Koshak was relieved from his position as director of al-Baha University while Abdullah bin Yahia bin al-Hussein Qasim was appointed as director.

Abdullah bin Mifrih bin Nahar al-Rooqi was appointed as director of Tabuk University with excellent rank.

King Salman Visits Russia Thursday, $10 Billion in Joint Projects

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Riyadh- Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz will kick off next Thursday his official visit to Russia where he will discuss with President Vladimir Putin joint cooperation between the two countries in addition to regional and international issues, mainly the region’s crises.

Abdurrahman Al-Rasi, Saudi ambassador to Russia, told Asharq Al-Awsat on Monday that the visit of the Saudi King that came in response to an invitation from President Putin, would boost bilateral relations.

“We will see a qualitative leap of those relations in various domains of cooperation,” the ambassador said.

Al-Rasi described the visit as important in its content and timing for being King Salman’s first trip to Russia in the historic and long-term relations between both countries.

“The visit crowns the Saudi-Russian relations following the trips made by Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, deputy premier, minister of Defense and chairman of the Council of Economic and Development Affairs to Russia in the last two years,” he said.

The Saudi diplomat also said that the King’s visit would have a great impact, not only on boosting mutual relations between both countries, but on the situation in the entire region.

“This trip will surely help finding solutions to many crises in the region,” Al-Rasi said.

Meanwhile, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said in an interview broadcast by Al Arabiya TV on Monday that Saudi Arabia and Russia plan to set up a $1 billion fund to invest in energy projects.

“Our focus is not just on strengthening our cooperation within the framework of the OPEC and non-OPEC (agreement) but also the strengthening of cooperation in oil, gas, electricity renewable energy and other projects for oil and gas equipment,” he told the television channel regarding the fund’s activities.

Novak said that the Saudi-Russian sides have already set $10 billion to fund joint projects in several other fields than the oil sector.

Saudi-Russian Summit Next Thursday

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Moscow- The Kremlin said it hopes that the upcoming visit of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud to Moscow next week will give a new powerful impetus to the development of bilateral relations with Riyadh which is the leader of the Arab world.

“Russia is interested in maintaining a dialogue, including in the framework of the discussion of the situation in the Middle East and Syria,” the press secretary of the Russian president Dmitry Peskov said on Friday.

King Salman is expected to arrive in Moscow next Wednesday on an official visit to Russia.

A summit between the Saudi King and Russian President Vladimir Putin will be held on Thursday to discuss enhancing and developing bilateral relations, and would also tackle a number of regional and international issues. The visit will last until Sunday.

“We hope that this visit will give a new powerful impetus to the development of bilateral relations, because the potential of our relations is much richer than the de facto situation, and we want to develop our dialogue in every possible way,” Peskov said.

Saudi King’s official visit will also witness the signing of Russia of a number of memorandums and agreements with 6 Saudi governmental bodies.

Two Saudi companies will also sign a number of deals with four Russian companies. The visit will also see the delivery of a number of investment permits.

Asked whether the visit of King Salman constitutes a sign of the rapprochement of positions between Moscow and Riyadh, particularly concerning the Syrian crisis, Peskov said: “Saudi Arabia is a state that plays an important role in Arab and inter-Arab affairs. It is the leader of the Arab world.”

He added that Russia is undoubtedly interested to keep its dialogue with the Kingdom.

King Salman Grants Saudi Women Right to Drive

King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. SPA

Jeddah- Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud issued on Tuesday a Supreme Order that allows Saudi women to drive cars in the Kingdom.

The decree said that women would not be allowed to drive immediately as the new order is scheduled to take effect in June 23, 2018.

The Supreme Order, addressed by the King to the Interior Minister, said a high-level committee of the internal affairs, finance, labor and social development ministries should be formed to study the necessary arrangements for enforcing the decision and should issue their recommendations in a one month period.

Saudi sources told Asharq Al-Awsat on Tuesday that the delay in implementing the decision “is linked to the need of providing all the suitable elements and the needed infrastructure for women to safely drive their cars.”

The sources added that the royal decree received on Tuesday the approval of the majority of the members of the senior scholars council, who considered the legitimacy of this issue to be “in terms of origin,” and agreed that the decision does not contradict with the principles of the Islamic Sharia adopted by Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Ambassador to Washington Prince Khaled bin Salman said women would not need permission from their guardians to get a license or have a guardian in the car and would be allowed to drive anywhere in the kingdom, including the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, according to Reuters.

The ambassador said that women with a license from any of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries would be allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia.

According to the King’s Order, the decision will be effective in accordance with the approved Sharia and regulations and completion of what is required by it.

The decision received a wide support inside and outside Saudi Arabia.

On Tuesday, the US Secretary of State praised the King’s decision and described it as “a great step in the right direction.”

In his decision, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques also referred to the negative consequences of not allowing women to drive vehicles and the positive aspects of allowing them to do so, taking into consideration the application of the necessary legal controls and adherence to them.

“The state – with the help of God- is guardian of the values and of legitimacy, it is the preservation and care in the list of priorities, whether in this matter or another, will not hesitate to take all that would maintain the security and safety of society,” King Salman said in the Order.

He added: “We adopt the application of the provisions of the Traffic Law and its Executive Regulations – including the issuance of driving licenses – to both males and females.”

Saudi Arabia Celebrates National Day

Jeddah and Riyadh– The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will celebrate the 87th anniversary of its National Day on Saturday amid increasing regional challenges.

On this day, late King Abdulaziz bin Abdulrahman declared the unification of the country under the name of “Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” on the 19th of the month of Jumada I of 1351 AH. The unification was achieved after 32 years of struggle during which late King Abdulaziz laid strong foundations for the Kingdom adhering to the teachings of his ancestors.

On this occasion, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Deputy Premier and Minister of Defense, delivered a speech commending the Kingdom’s growth and prosperity under the great leadership of King Salman.

The Prince said that this great anniversary happens while the Kingdom witnesses a glorious era and a blessed renaissance with more security and stability under the great leadership of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.

He affirmed that the 87th anniversary of the Kingdom’s unification is an occasion to recall the achievements of the founder and builder of our country’s renaissance, late King Abdulaziz bin Abdulrahman.

“We thank Allah Almighty for honoring this country for the service and care of the two holy mosques and their pilgrims, Umrah performers and visitors, so it has exploited all its capabilities to achieve this great message. We also thank Allah Almighty for the blessing and giving of security, safety, tranquility and prosperity of our country whose success depends on adhering to the Holy Quran and the teachings of Sunnah of His Messenger as an approach in all matters and dealings,” the Crown Prince reiterated.

In his speech, the Crown Prince said: “We thank Him for the abundant resources, potential and qualified human resources of our country and its strategic position qualifying it to be among the world’s top developed countries, leading us to maintain our gains and continue to work for further progress and success.”

The Crown Prince stated that what the Kingdom is witnessing today is due to King Salman’s efforts to continue what has been done by the former kings of this country.

The Crown Prince lauded the role of King Salman and his outstanding deed in the service of his people, the homeland and the nation.

He asserted the Kingdom’s effective and influential status and role at regional and international levels, with its commitment to work for the achievement of international peace and security and its pursuit for the good of all humanity.

The Crown Prince also mentioned that as an active member of the Economic Group of Twenty (G20), which includes the world’s strongest economies, “we aspire the Kingdom becomes a pioneering model at all levels, depending on the role of male and female young citizens in this regard with the strive for the achievement of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, which marks the beginning of a new phase of development and hard work for future advancement as well as the pursuit for everything in the interest of the country and continues moving closer to top-ranked developed countries, while adhering to the principles of our religion and our noble values.”

The Prince stated that under the leadership of the Custodian the country affirmed its right to uphold the truth and commitment to its principles to achieve justice as well as its quest for the achievement of regional security and world peace.

Crown Prince Mohammed commended the efforts of the protectors of the country and its heroic soldiers who risk their lives to save their religion and homeland, as well as the efforts of the security forces to maintain the security of the country.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman became an influential leading person through the success he achieved and his outstanding presence on the political, social, and economic arenas in the Kingdom.

Due to the Prince’s efforts and leadership of King Salman, Saudi Arabia launched the initiative to restore legitimacy in Yemen through operations “Decisive Storm” and “Restoring Hope”.

The prince also announced Saudi Arabia’s adoption of the Islamic Military Alliance to Combat Terrorism headquartered in Riyadh. He also toured several countries around the world and discussed several issues on the Arab, Islamic, and international arenas.

Prince Mohammed bin Salman is the “godfather” of Saudi Vision 2030 set as a road-map for Saudi Arabia’s economic development.

Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Naif also delivered a speech during which he considered the National Day “an occasion to understand the true meaning of pride and respect for the efforts exerted by our ancestors to achieve development, growth and prosperity, which was the founder king’s wish.”

The Prince stated that stability is one of the best things in the Kingdom, the most important factor that helped the state grow, thrive and develop to become an internationally pioneering state.

“Since its establishment, the Kingdom has exerted all possible efforts to serve Saudis, expatriates, and pilgrims from all over the world, and preserve the sacred sites. It faced the most difficult and dangerous challenges that threatened the security of many states, such as terrorism that disrupted regional stability and security,” Prince Abdulaziz asserted.

“However, the Kingdom was able to thwart many terrorist plans and dismantle terrorist networks thanks to the government’s support of the Ministry of Interior and the security forces,” he concluded.

Phone Call between King Salman and Turkish President

Jeddah– Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz and President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan discussed regional matters during a phone conversation on Wednesday.

During the call, the two sides reviewed bilateral relations between the two countries and developments in the region and the world.

The two leaders also stressed the depth of the strategic relations between their two countries and means to strengthen them to serve the two brotherly peoples.

Earlier, King Salman received at al-Salam Palace former President of the Republic of Turkey Abdullah Gul.

During the meeting, they exchanged talks on a number of topics of mutual interest.

The audience was attended by Minister of Interior Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Naif bin Abdulaziz, Minister of State and Cabinet’s Member Musaed bin Mohammed al-Aiban, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Nizar bin Obaid Madani and Turkish Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Yunus Demirer.

King Salman: Manchester Attack Contradicts Principles and Ethics of Islam

Saudi King Salman: Manchester Attack Contradicts Principles and Ethics of Islam

Riyadh – Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz expressed Saudi Arabia’s strong denunciation of the terrorist act that took place in the British city of Manchester, noting that it contradicts the principles and ethics of Islamic religion.

In a telephone call to the British Prime Minister Theresa May, the monarch extended his sincere condolences and sympathy to the families of the victims, wishing the injured a quick recovery, reported Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

During the conversation, King Salman confirmed the stance of the Kingdom with all its might with Britain in the war against terrorism.

For her part, PM May expressed her appreciation to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques for his noble feelings, confirming joint efforts of the two countries to confront terrorism.

Earlier, the Custodian sent a cable of condolences to the British Prime Minister following the terrorist bombing in Manchester.

According to SPA, King Salman strongly condemned in his cable the criminal act, wished a speedy recovery to the injured and stressed the importance of international efforts to confront and eradicate terrorism.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdul Aziz, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, also sent a cable of condolences to May following the terrorist bombing in Manchester.

In the cable, the Crown Prince strongly condemned this shameful criminal act and wished continued security and stability for Britain.

For his part, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, the Second Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, sent a cable of condolences to PM May following the terrorist bombing in Manchester.

The Deputy Crown Prince strongly condemned this cowardly criminal act, wishing the injured a speedy recovery.