King Salman: KSA Will Face Whoever Dares to Harm Its Stability, Security

Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz

The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has said that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is determined to firmly face whoever dares to harm its stability and security and hold them accountable.

This came in telephone calls the monarch made today with the fathers of two soldiers who were killed in terrorist attacks in Al-Masuara district in Qatif governorate yesterday.

Lance Corporal Adel bin Faleh bin Ayed Al-Otaibi and Corporal Abdullah Traiki Al-Turki were killed when their patrols were hit by two projectiles from unknown attackers.

Egypt Repeats Call on Interpol to Arrest Fugitives in Qatar and Turkey

A general view of a street in downtown Cairo

Cairo – Egypt will once again send the Interpol a list of Muslim Brotherhood fugitive members currently residing in Qatar and Turkey calling for their arrest, according to a security source at the Egyptian Ministry of Interior.

Speaking to Middle East News Agency (MENA), the security source said that the list of fugitives includes several persons wanted in Egypt for criminal investigations or convicted in criminal cases.

The list includes Youssef el-Qaradawi, Wagdi Ghoneim, former investment minister Yehia Hamed, former prime minister Hesham Qandil, leading Gamaa Al-Islamiya figure Tarek el-Zomor, Qatari al-Jazeera presenter Ahmed Mansour and Brotherhood youth figure Ahmed el-Moghier.

The list also includes a number of political analysts and journalists: Mohamed el-Gawadi and Mohamed el-Qudoussi, Wael Kandil, Alaa Sadeq, Ramy Jan and Selim Azouz.

Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE presented Qatar with a 13-point list of demands, including that Doha hand over wanted individuals being harbored in Qatar.

The list of demands also includes cutting ties with Iran, severing all alleged ties with the Muslim Brotherhood and with other groups, shutting down al-Jazeera TV channel, closing a Turkish military base and scaling down ties with Iran as well as providing detailed information to the four countries on opposition figures from each of the countries who have received support from Qatar.

Embrace a New Saudi Arabia

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends a graduation ceremony and air show marking the 50th anniversary of the founding of King Faisal Air College in Riyadh

Saudi Arabia has a new crown prince. Mohammed bin Salman, known as MbS, is clearly now slated to succeed his father, King Salman. At 31, the kingdom has never seen anyone like him. He has been given very wide responsibilities as defense minister and overseer of the Saudi economy and its transformation. As one Saudi minister said to me shortly before I met him, “You are about to meet our force of nature.”

There is no question that he is driven. He believes that Saudi Arabia must diversify its economy and modernize the state, its governance and even its sociology. He knows that in an age of rapid technological change, Saudi Arabia must create a knowledge-based economy.

Visit the college of entrepreneurship in King Abdullah City and it feels like being on the Google campus. But it is not just the layout, it is the coed students, who exude an energy and sense that they can reshape the country. And there is little doubt that MbS is their inspiration.

Whether they and the new crown prince can succeed remains to be seen.

Saudi Arabia is a deeply conservative country where social change in general, and particularly for women, will not come easily.

In an era of reduced oil prices, the crown prince’s task becomes more difficult still. Already some of the salary cuts he imposed to reduce the budget deficit have been rolled back given the opposition they engendered.

Still, he is pushing forward, promising to diversify the sources of revenue, working to change the culture – bringing concerts and dance troupes to the kingdom, even as he seeks to transform the Saudi educational system. His minister of education wants, for example, to do away with the old textbooks, replacing both their content and changing the rote style of instruction by introducing interactive digital tablets in place of books.

The challenges are not only internal. External threats start with Iran. The crown prince sees Iran as an existential threat and is determined to counter it. Saudi Arabia drew a line in Yemen when it saw the Iranian hand in the Houthi overthrow of the Yemeni government (and was convinced the Obama administration would never act against Iranian aggression).

In addition, the kingdom, along with the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt, is now embroiled in an effort to force Qatar to change its policy of double-dealing – being a putative partner to these states and the US while it also provides material support and a platform for the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Taliban and al-Qaida affiliates.

The four countries have now conveyed 13 conditions through Kuwait, which is acting as a mediator with Qatar. There are surely some, like seeking “reparations and compensation” for damages caused by Qatar’s policies, that go too far, but there are others that do not.

For example, expelling Iranian Revolutionary Guard members from Qatar, severing ties to terrorist groups, and stopping the funding of organizations and individuals that have been designated as terrorists by Saudi Arabia as well as the United States and other countries are appropriate and necessary.

Maybe it is too much to ask the Qataris to shut down Al Jazeera, but isn’t it time to stop its subsidizing the network when it gives a platform to those like Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi who legitimize terrorism?

Thus, the US should be supporting the effort to get Qatar to change its ways.

We have a stake in the successful transformation of Saudi Arabia, and finding the right way to work with the crown prince is the place to start.

(The New York Times)

Emir of Qatar Stresses Enhancing Relations with Iran


Riyadh – In less than a week, Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani has said his country enjoyed deep and historical ties with Iran, and said during a phone conversation with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Saturday, that he wanted the ties with Tehran to be “stronger than ever before.”

The remarks confirm lingering suspicions circulating in the media world about the Emir’s statement, which Doha tried to deny and claimed its state news agency had been hacked.

The Emir called President Rouhani to congratulate him on the Holy Month of Ramadan. The phone call was preceded by another, right after the Riyadh summit was over during which he congratulated Rouhani on his re-election.

Sheikh Tamim expressed his belief that there is no obstacle on the way of deepening Iran-Qatar relations, adding that negotiations and dialogue are the only way of resolving regional issues.

According to Rouhani’s website, the president said there are ample grounds and potentials for developing Iran-Qatar cooperation in political and economic fields and the two countries should make the best use of them to promote relations.

Rouhani added: “Continuing cooperation with neighboring countries, especially the Persian Gulf neighbours, is one of Iran’s basic policies and we believe that we can remove the obstacles and strengthen brotherly bonds by firm resolve from both sides”.

Tamim’s statements are similar to the previously denied statements published by Qatar’s news agency (QNA). Officials claimed that the agency had been hacked and statements published were not true.

Earlier, QNA published a statement by Sheikh Tamim a day after the Arab-Islamic-US summit held in Riyadh during which he said “Iran represents a regional and Islamic power that cannot be ignored and it is unwise to face up against it.” The news also reported him saying Tehran is a big power in the stabilization of the region.

Saudi Political Expert Ahmad al-Farraj stated that the phone call of congratulations confirms that Qatar began new relations with Iran, adding that this move is against Riyadh summits which were against terrorism in the region backed by Iran.

During a phone call with Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, Farraj said that Doha is inaugurating new strategic relations with Tehran in response to Riyadh’s relations with Washington. He considered Qatar as part of the axis of Iran.

He added that Qatar’s message was clear and delivered to Saudi Arabia, hoping it will be received in the US in a manner that exposes Doha’s intentions in the region.

Previous events confirm that Emir of Qatar is keen on maintaining good relations with Iran as he previously described the relations with the republic as very good and friendly.

In March 2015, Tamim said during his reception of Speaker of the Iranian Shura Council
Ali Larijani that since the revolution, Iran had never created any problem.

Within the framework of enhancing relations, Qatar and Iran had signed in October 2015 a military security agreement, during a time Iran faces an international campaign to counter its terrorism in the region.

During a joint press conference with the Somali Foreign Minister, Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani stressed that the agency was hacked reiterating that this is part of a conspiracy against Qatar.

In Riyadh, the Custodian of Two Holy Mosques King Salman said during the summits that Iran is the spearhead of all terrorism since the Khomeini revolution until today, which is also reflected by the US administration’s confirmation that Iran spreads chaos in the region and is responsible for funding terrorists.

UN Special Envoy to Yemen Urges New Round of Talks before Ramadan

United Nations envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed speaks to reporters upon his departure at Sanaa airport following a visit to Sanaa, Yemen

Geneva –UN Special Envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed expressed his hope for a new round of peace talks between Yemen’s warring parties before Ramadan month.

The Envoy told AFP that currently, things are at the preliminary stage, but time is also a real constraint and he aims to finish all of this before Ramadan, or the end of May.

Ould Cheikh Ahmed added that negotiations were underway to stave off a feared military attack on the vital Red Sea port of Hodeida, in what he hoped would be the first step towards a ceasefire. He explained that prevention of an attack on Hodeida could allow “a real cessation of hostilities and to go back to the talks.”

When asked about concerns of the coalition that the port may be used to smuggle weapons, Ould Cheikh Ahmed told AFP: “We believe that any military operation on Hodeida will have major humanitarian consequences and could lead to a very high level of civilian casualties.”

He assured that they are trying to explore various options by which inspection mechanisms can be reinforced in order to put an end or minimize the risk of any additional smuggling.

As for Houthis, the UN Envoy said they had expressed their interest in his proposals and that he aimed to invite them to a meeting in Oman next month to discuss different options.

“I’m a bit optimistic, (because) if we are able, as I am hoping, to stop the military operation in Hodeida, I think we are paving the way for new talks,” he said, adding that the negotiations would likely be held in Geneva or Kuwait.

In a related matter, Yemeni Prime Minister Ahmed Obeid bin Daghr reiterated that the legitimate authority in Yemen will not allow the division of the country or the toppling of the authority. He added that no respected official would allow his country to be divided or be put under the control of armed militias.

Speaking at a press conference in Geneva on the sidelines of the High-Level Pledging Event for the Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen, Daghr said Yemen is the only Arab country that was able to exit the Arab Spring crisis safely. He explained that a comprehensive dialogue was held among all political parties and NGOs, adding that Yemenis agreed on the outcomes of the dialogue, which included all political forces as well as Houthi-Saleh’s militias.

The PM also reviewed stages of Houthi militias describing it as a military wing serving Iran since the launch of its insurgency in 2004 in Saada, according to Saba News Agency.

Houthis then extended to nearby governorates before taking control over the capital and waging wars on the constitutional legitimacy until they reached Bab al-Mandab Strait.

“Everything has collapsed after the militias stormed into Sana’a and toppled the regime,” he said.

Daghr praised the huge sacrifices of the Yemeni people, government, and army to reestablish the authority and stop the Iranian plan.

The government transferred the central bank to the transitional Capital of Aden after militias looted the fund reserve and other financial funds allocated for the governmental institutions. Yet, the government made sure to pay all employees their salaries all over Yemen even though insurgents confiscated all returns in areas under their control. Daghr demanded that revenues be returned to the Central Bank in Aden.

He reiterated the government’s position towards peace that is based on the three references: GCC Initiative, the outcomes of the National Dialogue Conference and UN Resolution 2216. He warned that deviating from those references could prolong the war. Also, he thanked the countries of the Arab Coalition, mainly the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, for their continuous support to the Yemeni legitimate government and people.

Along with the UN, the PM confirmed that all humanitarian aid announced in the conference must be given to all citizens including those in areas under the control of militias.

“Militias’ representatives went to Geneva 1 and 2 feeling more confident, but with their continuous military failures on all fronts, they should implement the UN resolutions and end their rebellion for the greater good of the citizens and the country,” Daghr stated.

He concluded the press conference emphasizing that Yemeni people have agreed on their federal state based on the outcomes of the national dialogue, adding that the legitimacy will continue to restore all Yemeni territories under its jurisdiction.

Saudi Arabia Launches Programs to Enhance Fight against Terrorism

Secretary General of King Abdulaziz Center for National Dialogue Faisal bin Abdulrahman bin Muammar. SPA

Riyadh-King Abdulaziz Center for National Dialogue launched a supporting strategy for the security efforts in Saudi Arabia to enhance aspects of combating terrorism and extremism and averting its harm to the society’s cohesion.

Secretary General of King Abdulaziz Center for National Dialogue (KACND) Faisal bin Muammar told Asharq Al-Awsat that the center relies, through its various programs to combat terrorism and extremism, on security and intellectual efforts and the positive interaction of the community with all activities and programs of the center.

Bin Muammar said that the strategy comes from the intellectual and security achievements and from the efforts of all the community institutions in this field, confirming that the concerted efforts between government and civil society contribute to fighting extremism and warding off its damage on the society.

He explained that one of the most important topics the center has been working on is to question the silent majority in the society, which is the largest segment of the society.

This segment represents the general trend in Saudi Arabia and contributes to combating radicalism, bin Muammar said.

“Through dialogues and training programs, extremism can be defeated in all its forms.”

Regarding posting the center’s programs on social media, bin Muammar said that the center focuses on spreading awareness and education on social media in order to be able to spread the principles and values of dialogue.

He stressed that the center has recently launched a number of programs aiming at bringing different points of view closer on issues with multiple perspectives. The intellectual arena is currently witnessing wide, unorganized and non-objective debates on social media, he explained.

“Social media falls within the framework of each team standing against the other, which does not serve the coexistence, understanding, and cooperation,” bin Muammar added.

KSA, Iran Conduct Necessary Arrangements for Iranian Pilgrims Participation in Hajj Season

Muslim pilgrims pray around the holy Kaaba at the Grand Mosque ahead of the annual hajj pilgrimage in Mecca

The Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah and the Iranian Hajj organization have completed all the necessary procedures for Iranian pilgrims joining this year’s annual pilgrimage, the official Saudi Press Agency reported on Friday.

“The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah and the Iranian organization have completed all the necessary measures to ensure Iranian pilgrims perform hajj 1438 H according to the procedures followed by all Muslim countries,” said SPA, referring to this year in the Islamic calendar.

The Saudi Hajj Ministry said that the kingdom, the birthplace of Islam and custodian of its holiest sites, welcomes “all pilgrims from different nationalities and backgrounds”.

Government of Saudi Arabia of dedicates all potentials to serve the pilgrims and visitors to ensure their safety and comfort during performance of Hajj and Umrah.

KSRelief Provides Decent Life to Yemeni Camps

A saudi man walks next to a truck loaded with aid offered by King Salman Center for Relief and Humanitarian Aid to be sent to the Yemeni people, in Riyadh April 17, 2016. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser - RTX2ACFF

Riyadh- Set by King Salman Center for Humanitarian Aid and Relief (KSRelief), camps accommodating Yemenis were given all kinds of care to provide fundamentals of ordinary life including medical treatment, housing and education.

The projects included educational services, two satellite channels broadcasting about 4,000 lectures to more than 1,000,000 students, in addition to therapeutic projects, construction of housing units and addressing the situation of refugees in Yemen.

The center has launched a comprehensive education program that includes an electronic portal to broadcast its content by Yemeni teachers. It also consists of a satellite channel and an interactive training portal to enhance the levels of teachers in Yemen.

During 2016, King Salman Center carried out five projects targeting 39,000 beneficiaries with a total cost of $57 million, including the transferring of more than 3,000 Ethiopian refugees from Yemen to Ethiopia, at a cost of $1.7 million, and transferring 1240 stranded Yemenis by field teams at the center in seven different countries at a cost of $14.1 million.

Riyadh Condemns Israeli Settlement Units

kIng Salman chairs cabinet session

Riyadh- Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz briefed the Saudi Cabinet on the phone call he received from U.S. President Donald Trump and what they discussed regarding historic relations, developments in the world and the region, strategic partnership and the importance of reinforcing economic, security and military cooperation.

The Cabinet, chaired by King Salman at Al-Yamamah Palace on Monday, was informed of the agreements reached by King Salman and Trump in the field of combatting terrorism and extremism and standing against any party that seeking to upset security and stability in the region.

King Salman informed the Cabinet of his support for the establishment of safe zones in Syria proposed by the U.S. President and his support to the Saudi Vision 2030.

King Salman also briefed the cabinet on discussions with Sudanese President Omar Bashir of fraternal relations and possible ways to strengthen relations in all fields in addition to updates on regional and international levels and the message received from French President Francois Hollande.

Following the sessions, Minister of Culture and Information Adel Al-Toraifi stated that the cabinet hailed efforts of security guards in various sectors to combat terrorism. The cabinet also decried the Israeli authorities’ approval to establish hundreds of settlement units, stressing that these measures aim to Judaize a wide part of the West Bank including Jerusalem, according to Toraifi.

On a different note, the Cabinet approved that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is to join the memorandum of understanding on the conservation of migratory sharks and the memorandum of understanding on the conservation of migratory birds of prey in Africa, Europe and Asia.

The Cabinet approved the unified agreement on value added tax (VAT) and selective taxes in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Member States.

In addition to issuing other decisions, the Cabinet was briefed on a number of general topics on its agenda.

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Receives Letter from President of Niger

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz with Speaker of the Parliament of Niger Ousseini Tinni. / SPA

Riyadh – The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz, received a message from President Issoufou Mahamadou of the Republic of Niger during his meeting with Speaker of the Parliament of Niger, Ousseini Tinni, and his delegation at al-Yamamah Palace on Monday.

The Speaker conveyed to the King the greetings of the President of Republic of Niger; while the King sent his greetings to the President.

During the meeting, the two discussed bilateral relations between the countries, especially in the parliamentary field.

The audience was attended by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Naif bin Abdulaziz, Deputy Premier and Minister of Interior; Speaker of Shura Council Abdullah bin Mohammed Al al-Sheikh; Minister of State and Cabinet’s Member Musaed bin Mohammed Al-Aiban; and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Nizar bin Obaid Madani.