Saudi-Bahraini Naval Forces Conclude ‘Bridge 18’ Drill

Manama, Dhahran – Joint naval exercise “Bridge 18” was concluded on Thursday between the Royal Saudi Naval Forces and the Royal Bahrain Naval Forces in the water of the Arabian Gulf.

The Saudi Royal Navy is being represented by the Eastern Fleet.

The naval drill included increasing the level of combat capability and professional performance in all types of maritime operations, uniting the tactical concepts of command and control in addition to enhancing coordination procedures among the forces involved in managing the naval battles.

The exercises also contributed to enhancing security and inspection in protecting the regional water and repelling any aggression.

The exercise carried out the operations of controlling in territorial seas, protecting vital and important installations and the main waterways in the area, conducting live ammunition, counter-terrorism, surveying and reconnaissance operations, diving exercises and sea landing operations on coasts and beaches.

On the occasion, Commander of the Eastern Fleet Rear Admiral Fahd al-Ghafili said that this exercise is an extension of the series of drills carried out in both countries simultaneously to increase the combat preparedness and exchange experiences between the two countries in implementing the joint operations against any potential threat.

He added that this drill will strengthen and support the supply of joint forces in any armed conflict overseas, and the development of joint operational coordination between naval units.

The participants practiced drills on conventional and unconventional threats, naval security operations and securing naval infrastructures such as harbors and marine bases.

Commander of “Kingdom of Bahrain” fleet Rear Commander Eyad al-Mannai pointed out that the maneuvers will increase the level of battle readiness and performance in all marine operations. He added that it will unify control and leadership tactical concepts and enhance marine battle management.

Mannai believes that the importance of the drill lies in the security cooperation between both countries in light of both navies capabilities and their need to exchange training, technical and intel expertise.

Tillerson Heads to the Gulf, Kuwaiti FM Discusses Crisis with Qatar Emir

Washington and Dammam – The US State Department announced that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will begin on Friday a tour that will take him to Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Pakistan, India, and Switzerland.

In Riyadh, Tillerson will take part in the inaugural Coordination Council meeting between the governments of Saudi Arabia and Iraq. He will also meet with various Saudi leaders to discuss the conflict in Yemen, the ongoing Gulf dispute with Qatar, stance on Iran, and a number of other important regional and bilateral issues.

The statement also mentioned that Tillerson will then travel to Doha, where he will meet with Qatari leaders and US military officials to discuss joint counter-terrorism efforts, the ongoing Gulf dispute, and other regional and bilateral issues, including Iran and Iraq.

Earlier, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah al-Khaled al-Hamad al-Sabah arrived in Qatar to discuss the latest developments of the Gulf crisis and the Kuwaiti efforts to settle it through dialogue.

The FM and his accompanying delegation met with Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani where the two discussed “the close and brotherly relations between the two countries as well as regional and international issues,” according to Qatar News Agency.

Sabah also conveyed the greetings of Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah and his wishes of more progress and prosperity to the Emir and the Qatari people.

On Monday, Kuwait’s Emir went to the Saudi capital Riyadh where he met King Salman bin Abdulaziz to discuss the Qatar crisis and the latest developments in the region.

In Cairo, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry announced that the four countries boycotting Qatar are constantly coordinating and will continue to do so until they detect a positive response from Doha.

Speaking at a joint press conference with his Portuguese counterpart Augusto Santos Silva, Shoukry mentioned that the quartet is coordinating on possible measures against Qatar, which has refused to respond to the principles concerning the national security of the four countries boycotting Doha: Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, and Bahrain.

The Egyptian FM stated that efforts will be exerted until the national security of the four countries is guaranteed and positive outcomes are detected which will lead to a change in Syria and Iraq.

He concluded that the measures of the quartet resulted in re-stabilizing the region.

King Salman Sends Message to Bouteflika

A soldier patrols in front of the OPEC headquarters in Vienna

Kuwait- Prime Minister of the Republic of Algeria Ahmed Ouyahia received a message sent by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to President Abdelaziz Bouteflika of the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria. It was conveyed by Minister of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources Khalid al-Falih who was received in Algiers.

Falih reviewed with the Prime Minister areas of cooperation and joint work between the two countries, including cooperation in the efforts to rebalance the oil markets.

He and his accompanying delegation also met with Algerian Minister of Energy Mustapha Qaitouni. During the meeting, they discussed the latest developments in the world oil markets – the two countries stressed the need for adhering to oil production cuts.

They also discussed preparations related to the scheduled meeting between OPEC and non-OPEC producing countries in November in Vienna, as well as possible ways to make the meeting a success and emphasize trust in producers’ efforts.

Further, reliable sources revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat that Falih will visit three oil producing countries besides Algeria.

Last month, Falih visited Kazakhstan and discussed with his UAE and Kazakhstan counterparts the possibility of keeping the extension of oil output cut deal an option to be discussed in the upcoming meeting in November.

UAE Energy Minister Suhail bin Mohammed al-Mazroui said on Wednesday he was hopeful that the meeting will help re-balance the market in 2018. OPEC Secretariat will present a couple of suggestions to be evaluated under the framework of reaching balance in the market.

60 Saudi Firms Seek Investment Opportunities in Baghdad International Fair

60 Saudi Firms Seek Investment Opportunities in Baghdad International Fair

Riyadh- Saudi Export Development Authority is part of the Saudi pavilion at the Baghdad International Fair in its 44th session, from October 21 to 30, with 60 companies from various industrial and service sectors.

The Saudi Export Authority is seeking through the exhibition to discover market opportunities for Saudi products in Iraq and to facilitate export procedures to Iraq in cooperation with the relevant authorities.

Secretary-General of the Saudi Export Development Authority Saleh al-Salami said that the Authority’s participation in the Baghdad International Fair comes from its role in encouraging Saudi products to reach the international markets.

He pointed out that the gross domestic product of Iraq amounted to about 643 billion riyals in 2016, the service sector was the largest share of them by 57 percent, and 38 percent for the industrial sector, while agriculture accounted for five percent.

The highest sectors in terms of the value of imports in Iraq are food products, according to the data of 2016, amounting to 21 billion riyals, followed by heavy equipment and electronics by about 20.3 billion riyals and then building materials by more than 15.8 billion Saudi riyals, which makes Iraq a market opportunity and a good export destination for Saudi products, Salami added.

Salami confirmed that the decision to head towards the Iraqi market was the result of a discussion sessions held by the Saudi Export Authority with a group of exporters to discuss the major challenges they have been facing, to find effective solutions to overcome them and reach means to facilitate the arrival of the Saudi product to the Iraqi market.

“The Authority strives to provide all tools and means that contribute to overcoming the obstacles that hinder the arrival of the national product to compete internationally in order to develop Saudi non-oil exports in the Iraqi market in particular and international markets in general.”

A statement issued by the Saudi Export Development Authority said that its participation at the Baghdad International Fair this year under the slogan of ‘industries that transcend borders and bring peoples closer,’ is one of the most important participations that will contribute to the establishment of economic trade relations between Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

Saudi Arabia to Establish a Leadership, National Sustainable Development Center

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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.

UN Envoy to Submit to Hadi New Initiative for Crisis Resolution

UN Secretary-General Special Envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed speaks to media after the Yemen peace talks in Switzerland in Bern

Jeddah – UN Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed is expected to arrive in Saudi Arabia on Saturday to meet with Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi and ministers in the Yemeni government, to present highlights of his new initiative for a political solution in the war-torn country.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdul Malek al-Mekhlafi told Asharq al-Awsat that during the upcoming meetings, the government would only listen to Ould Cheikh’s ideas then agree on the next measures to be taken. He noted that the government had not received any details about the new initiative.

He also said that the UN envoy would meet during his visit to Saudi Arabia with the ambassadors of the permanent members of the Security Council, and would hold another round of meetings with the Saudi side, noting that talks would focus on the new ideas for the solution in Yemen.

Yemeni sources said that optimism of Yemeni political leaders and the public opinion with the ability of the United Nations to reach a solution to the crisis is gradually diminishing in light of the failure of many previous initiatives and proposals, the latest of which was putting the port of Hodeidah under UN administration and lifting the siege on Taiz.

The UN envoy’s visit to Saudi Arabia comes two weeks after the UN issued its annual report on the situation of children in armed conflicts, in which it accused the Saudi-led coalition of breaching children’s rights in Yemen.

The report was met with a wave of international condemnation for containing inaccurate information and figures, which were based on unreliable sources. This issue will also be tackled during Hadi’s meeting with Ould Cheikh Ahmed.

Qatar Emir Says Open to Dialogue with Arab Quartet

Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani is seen during a joint news conference with Indonesian President Joko Widodo at the presidential palace in Bogor

Dammam– Qatar is “open to dialogue” in resolving a dispute with the Arab quartet, its emir said during a visit to Indonesia on Wednesday. Whereas, Qatari Minister of Foreign Affairs claimed that the war on ISIS has been affected because of the blockade on his country.

Qatar is a base to thousands of US troops engaged in the battle against the terrorist organization, and according to the FM, the quartet wants to destabilize Qatar and their behavior shows they are not willing to reach a solution.

Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, who arrived in Indonesia on Tuesday after his visit to Malaysia, said at a joint news conference with Indonesian President Joko Widodo at the presidential palace in Bogor, West Java, that the standoff is hurting all the countries involved.

“We conveyed that Qatar is ready to conduct a dialogue to solve the problem as we already know that no one will win,” the Emir told the press, reiterating: “we are all brothers and we have suffered losses due to this crisis.”

He then added that Qatar is ready to start a dialogue to reach an agreement that must be respected by all parties based on the sovereignty of the state.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates cut ties with Qatar on June 5 due to its support for extremist groups in the region and its close ties with Iran. They also banned Qatar Airways from using their airspace, closed off the country’s land border with Saudi Arabia and blocked its ships from using their ports.

Speaking to CNBC in an interview, Qatari Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani stated that the battle against ISIS has suffered as a result of the conflict taking place. He explained that 90 percent of the country’s supplies of food supply, medicine supply comes through the land border and those supplies part of it is going to al-Udeid base of US troops.

He added that as air space is now blocked to Qatari aircraft that offer strategic support, those planes can only now use one path, north toward Iran.

Qatari forces, part of US Naval Forces Central Command in Bahrain, were ordered in June to leave the country.
“They are not allowed to fly over their skies so it’s only allowed to use one path which is toward the north, toward Iran. So this is an effect as well as our officers who were participating in the coalition activity and the Fifth Fleet in Bahrain they’ve been expelled because of this,” he explained.

The FM added that many factors in this crisis undermine global efforts in countering ISIS, including the blockade and measures the Quartet has taken against Qatar.

Saudi Arabia, Iraq Hold Military Discussions

A model of Saudi airline Flynas is on display during a ceremony to sign a deal between Airbus and Flynas in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia January 16, 2017.

Riyadh, Baghdad- Iraq’s Major General Othman al-Ghanmi, accompanied by a military delegation, headed Wednesday morning to Saudi Arabia, in response to an invitation from his Saudi counterpart Chief of Defense Gen. Abdulrahman bin Saleh Al-Banyan.

This two-day visit is the first of its kind visit since decades for such a high-rank Iraqi officer.

A statement revealed that the visit aims to discuss vital topics in the coming period via cooperation and coordination in fields of fighting terrorism and opening border facilities – it is a significant step to cement ties between the two sisterly countries, exchange intelligence information and discuss challenges facing the region’s security and safety.

In the same context, a Saudi civil airplane arrived in Baghdad International Airport on Wednesday to be the first since 27 years ago when flights were suspended between Iraq and Saudi Arabia after former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein ordered his troops into neighboring Kuwait.

Tickets for the maiden flight were advertised for as low as SAR27 ($7.2) excluding taxes as flynas CEO Bandar al-Muhanna said the move to reopen the route would help “link the two sisterly countries”.

He added: “We worked hard to see that flynas flights to the brotherly nation of Iraq are operational as quickly as possible in order to connect the two brotherly nations economically and socially after a 27-year-long break.”

King Salman Receives Princes, Kingdom’s Mufti, Citizens

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Riyadh – Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz received at al-Yamamah Palace princes, the Kingdom’s Grand Mufti, scholars and a group of citizens who came to greet the King.

The audience was attended by Prince Saad bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz bin Turki, Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz, Governor of Riyadh region, and a number of princes.

Saudi Flynas Makes First Commercial Flight to Baghdad Since 1990

Saudi Arabia’s budget airliner flynas announced on Wednesday making the first commercial flight from Riyadh to Baghdad since 1990, as ties with neighboring Iraq improved over the last period.

National flag carrier Saudia, also known as Saudi Arabian Airlines, is also scheduled to operate a flight to Baghdad from Thursday.

“Our first flight took off today from Riyadh to Baghdad,” Flynas wrote on Twitter, posting pictures of the cabin crew and passengers.

According to AFP, Tickets for the maiden flight were advertised for as low as $7 (six euros) excluding taxes as flynas CEO Bandar al-Muhanna said the move to reopen the route would help “link the two sisterly countries”.

Flights between Iraq and Saudi Arabia were suspended some 27 years ago in August 1990 after former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein ordered his troops into neighboring Kuwait.

After years of tense relations, ties between Saudi Arabia and Iraq have begun looking up in recent months.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir headed to Baghdad in February for talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on the first visit of its kind since 2003.

Abadi then visited Riyadh in June, followed the next month by influential Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr, who led a militia that fought against the US occupation of Iraq.

Private carrier flynas, in which Saudi billionaire Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal holds a 34-percent stake, plans to expand its routes from Saudi airports to major cities across Iraq.