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Under the National Transformation Plan unveiled by the Saudi Arabia this month, the Kingdom has allocated nearly $1 billion (€0.9 billion) to preserve its cultural heritage. In an ambitious bid to end reliance on oil, the Kingdom is investing in tourism, aiming to increase spending by Saudis at home instead of on holidays abroad. Encouraging visits to local places of beauty or interest is a key Vision 2030 goal. The Kingdom has several world-class sites, some in remote areas, which are all but unknown outside of the Kingdom. For instance, Watan Emosudah, with its low-covered alleyways thick with debris and highly grown thistles, is one of around 4,000 old villages in Asir, where measures will be taken to save agricultural tradition and boost the tourism sector in Saudi Arabia.

 

Saudi Vision 2030: Taking Pride In Our Cultural Heritage

 

The Kingdom takes immense pride in the historical and cultural legacy of its Saudi, Arab and Islamic heritage. Saudi Arabian land was, and continues to be, known for its ancient civilizations and trade routes at the crossroads of global trade. This cultural heritage has given Saudi society the richness and diversity it is known for today.

 

The Kingdom recognizes the importance of preserving this sophisticated heritage in order to promote national unity and consolidate true Islamic and Arab values. Saudi Arabia will endeavour to strengthen, preserve and highlight its national identity so that it can guide the lives of future generations. It will continue to work on the restoration of national, Arab, Islamic and ancient cultural sites and strive to have them registered internationally to make them accessible to everyone and, in the process, create cultural events and build world-class museums which will attract visitors from near and far.

Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with technology giant Microsoft during the official Saudi delegation’s visit to the US last week.

 

The trip, which began in Washington and included stops in California, came as part of broader efforts to promote the Kingdom’s strategic technological and economic advancements.

 

Under this agreement, Microsoft will train emerging Saudi leaders in computing technology. In return, the Kingdom will welcome an enlarged Microsoft presence at its support centre in the Royal Court. “Microsoft will come out with technology to translate the Vision 2030 into a reality, with a focus on human capital and innovation, and we aspire to achieve it as early as possible,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said.

 

As part of the Kingdom’s pioneering Vision 2030 reforms, Saudi Arabia will expand scholarship and training opportunities to grow local innovation in advanced technologies. In order to increase the international competitiveness of the Kingdom’s economy, officials have stated, the nation will invest in digital and information technology as sources of job creation and knowledge-sharing.

 

In recognition of the dynamic global economy, Vision 2030 aims to improve the quality of life for all Saudis by ensuring that financial disturbances in the oil market do not affect those residing in the Kingdom. Economic diversification is a pillar of the national vision plan and basis of ongoing efforts to localize key technology endeavours.

 

Vision 2030 was promptly followed by the Saudi National Transformation Program, which strives to double information technology revenue as part of the country’s non-oil GDP and create 450,000 jobs by 2020. This unprecedented restructuring of the Saudi economy will leverage the specialized expertise that international partnerships offer.

 

The Deputy Crown Prince also signed an MoU with Cisco Systems in a campaign to develop a state-of-the-art telecommunications network in Saudi Arabia. He met with the Chairman of the California-based tech giant John T. Chambers and his executive team. Prince Muhammad was also briefed on the latest research in the telecommunications industry during the meeting.

 

The agreement with Cisco Systems will help develop the digital infrastructure in the Kingdom as part of the Vision 2030 reform plans, which set out a specific goal of improving high-speed broadband access in the Kingdom and provide housing coverage of 90 percent in densely populated cities and 66 percent in other urban zones.

  • June 28, 2016

Saudi Arabia in Focus June 2016

This issue covers the EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini’s productive visit to Jeddah, the steps the Kingdom is taking to combat terrorist financing and the Saudi delegation’s visit to the United States, as well as several updates on the progress of the Vision 2030 economic roadmap for the Kingdom and the humanitarian activities we are pursuing.

  • June 22, 2016

Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visited the United States this month accompanied by a large delegation including the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Energy, the Minister of Trade and Investment and the Minister of Culture and Information, as well as officials. The aim of the visit was to reinforce the historic and strategic relationship between the Kingdom and the US, and to exchange views and ideas on issues of the day, and on challenges that the two countries face in the region and in the world.

The Prince held a series of meetings with President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, a bipartisan delegation of legislators from the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, as well as business leaders from the private sector.

The President and the Deputy Crown Prince discussed themes of  security cooperation and economic reform. President Obama expressed appreciation for Saudi Arabia’s contributions to the campaign against ISIL. On Syria, they reaffirmed the importance of supporting the cessation of hostilities and a political transition away from Assad. The President and Deputy Crown Prince also agreed to build support for Libya’s Government of National Accord.

With regard to Yemen, the President welcomed Saudi Arabia’s commitment to concluding a political settlement of the conflict and of GCC support to address urgent humanitarian needs and to rebuild the country.

The timing of the visit by the Deputy Crown Prince was significant because it follows the announcement of Saudi Vision 2030, an economic roadmap built around three primary themes: a vibrant society, a thriving economy and an ambitious nation. President Obama commended the Deputy Crown Prince’s commitment to reforming Saudi Arabia’s economy and underscored strong US support for achieving the recently-announced Vision 2030 goals, reaffirming the strategic partnership between the US and Saudi Arabia.

WASHINGTON June 13, 2016 – Saudi Ambassador to the United States Abdullah Al-Saud issued the following statement on Sunday:

“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia condemns in the strongest terms the attack on innocent people in Orlando, Florida, and sends its deepest condolences to the families and friends of the victims and to the people of the United States. We stand with the American people at this tragic time. We pray for the recovery and the healing of all those injured in the attack, and we will continue our work with the United States and our partners in the international community for an end to these senseless acts of violence and terror.”

  • June 13, 2016

Since its inception, King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre has done its best to assist those in need across all Yemeni governorates. The most important projects implemented by the centre and its partners have focussed on women and children. One of the centre’s first projects involved providing medical care to more than 7,600 children and mothers living as refugees in Djibouti. This project was carried out in cooperation with UNICEF, with a total expenditure of €309,652.

Another project was put in place in response to an urgent UN flash appeal for immediate humanitarian assistance to Yemen; this €26.2 million project was again carried out in coordination with UNICEF. The project provided food, therapeutic and preventative interventions to save the lives of children under the age of five, and also provided protection for the health of pregnant and nursing mothers.

The table below contains statistics about programmes put in place by KSrelief in partnership with a number of United Nations organisations and national and international NGOs in support of women and children in the Republic of Yemen.

Aid category Children aided Women aided Total cost (US$)
Food security 7,033,441 4,974,873 129,740,269
Medical aid 6,774,269 5,187,790 49,669,086
Humanitarian aid 2,997,895 2,795,591 43,480,101

In a briefing today on Saudi Arabia’s counterterrorism efforts, the Ministry of Interior’s security spokesman, Major General Mansour Al-Turki said the Kingdom has been a major target of terrorist organizations, but is determined to defeat it and prevent terrorists from using any resources from Saudi Arabia.

 

“We have faced more than 63 terrorist attacks by Al-Qaeda and ISIL, 26 of them just in the last two years,” said Gen. Al-Turki. “More than 200 citizens and policemen were killed in terrorist attacks. More than 2,800 suspects have been arrested since 2015.”

 

In order to crush terrorism and cut off terror financing, Gen. Al-Turki said the Kingdom has enforced laws to criminalize all terrorist-related activities, including joining, supporting, or recruiting for extremist groups. Saudi Arabia has taken major actions to prevent radicalization and recruiting, and has provided citizens with a phone number to report any suspected terror-related activities.

 

The Kingdom has established a money intelligence department to monitor and investigate any suspected financial transactions. Investigations are typically done in coordination with the Saudi Monetary Agency and the Saudi banks. The Intelligence Security Department within the Ministry of Interior coordinates investigations in order to monitor any abnormal transactions going through bank accounts, and will then freeze the account.

 

“This has led to convicting more than 226 persons of terrorism financing activities, prosecuting more than 240 suspects, freezing and investigating more than 117 suspected bank accounts, closing all unlicensed charity collection locations,” said Gen. Al-Turki.

 

“We have contributed to international community efforts to combat terrorism and its finance through exchanging information,” he said, and said that some of that information had played a major role in “saving lives in other countries.”

 

Gen. Al-Turki also noted that the King Salman Center for Relief and Humanitarian Aid is responsible for any external charitable contributions from Saudi Arabia or Saudi citizens.

 

Saudi Arabia co-chairs the Counter ISIL Finance Group, along with the U.S. and Italy.  The CIFG was established in 2015 to disrupt ISIL’s sources of revenue and its ability to move and use funds to wage its campaign of terror.

Ministers from the Middle East Quartet (United States, European Union, Russia, United Nations), the permanent members of the Security Council as well as Saudi Arabia and other Arab and European partners met in Paris on June 3, 2016 to reaffirm their support for a just, lasting and comprehensive resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Participants reaffirmed that a negotiated two-state solution is the only way to achieve an enduring peace, with Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. They expressed alarm that actions on the ground, in particular continued acts of violence and ongoing settlement activity, are dangerously imperilling the prospects for this two-state solution.

The participants underscored that the status quo is not sustainable, and stressed the importance of both sides demonstrating, with policies and actions, a genuine commitment to the two-state solution in order to rebuild trust and create the conditions for fully ending the Israeli occupation that began in 1967 and resolving all permanent status issues through direct negotiations in line with UN resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative.

Speaking after the discussions, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir said “The Arab peace initiative has all the elements for a final settlement,” and ought not be watered down to suit Israel. “It is on the table and a solid basis for resolving this long-standing dispute. It provides Israel with a lot of incentives and it’s incumbent on the Israelis to accept that.”

Ministers discussed possible ways in which the international community could help advance the prospects for peace, including by providing meaningful incentives to the parties to make peace. The participants also highlighted the potential for regional peace and security as envisioned by the Arab Peace Initiative. The participants highlighted the key role of the Quartet and key regional stakeholders. They welcomed the interested countries’ offer to contribute to this effort. They also welcomed France’s offer to coordinate it, and the prospect of convening before the end of the year an international conference.

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A group photo with participants attending the conference meeting on the Middle East Peace Process. Photo: F. de La Mure/maedi

The Council of Economic and Development Affairs (CEDA) has approved the final draft of the National Transformation Plan, part of the reforms to be adopted as part of Vision 2030. The 2030 vision is the economic roadmap spearheaded by the Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz

The Council, chaired by the Deputy Crown Prince, met in Jeddah on the evening of 5 June to discuss a number of economic and development issues, including the national transformation program, which the council decided to submit it in its final version to the Council of Ministers for consideration of approval.

Details of the plan, a program of wide-ranging economic reforms, will be disclosed in daily news conferences with government ministers starting today, Monday evening, 6 June. The wider reforms are to include subsidy cuts, tax rises, sales of state assets, a government efficiency drive and efforts to spur private sector investment. Last month the International Monetary Fund said the plans were “appropriately bold and far reaching”.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) concluded its 169th Ministerial Conference in the Austrian capital Vienna yesterday. The Saudi delegation to the meeting was led by Minister of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources Khalid Bin Abdul Aziz Al-Falih.

The conference observed that, since its last meeting in December 2015, crude oil prices have risen by more than 80%, and underlined the importance of OPEC members continuing to monitor the market and cooperate both internally between member states and with the producing and exporting countries outside OPEC.

The conference decided to appoint Mohammed Sanusi Barkindo, from Nigeria, as Secretary General of the organization, with effect from 1st August 2016, for a period of three years. In doing so, the conference expressed its appreciation to Abdalla Salem El-Badri for his leadership of the secretariat and the organization during his tenure as Secretary General.
The conference paid a special tribute to Ali I. Naimi of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for his outstanding contribution to OPEC and commitment to the work of the organization over the past two decades.

At the end of the conference, Khalid bin Abdulaziz al-Falih said he was delighted to head the kingdom’s delegation at this conference, and the discussion with the rest of the ministers of OPEC.

He added that the conference proved the strength and cohesion of OPEC and its quest for oil market stability for the interests of producing and consuming countries and the international oil industry in the short, medium and long terms. He expressed optimism about the stability and balance of the oil market and the improvement of prices during the rest of this year and next year.

Asked by reporters about Saudi oil production, al-Falih said “We will be very gentle in our approach and make sure we don’t shock the market in any way,” adding that “there is no reason to expect that Saudi Arabia is going to go on a flooding campaign.”

The next ordinary meeting will convene on Wednesday, 30th November 2016 in Vienna, Austria.