Saturday, 30 April 2016

Opinion: The Destruction of Aleppo - Until When?

Syrian regime warplanes deliberately chose their targets; hospitals and civilian neighbourhoods in their vicinity were bombed violently and did not face resistance because residents are unable to defend themselves on the ground due to the international embargo. The regime has repeatedly carried out bombings in the last few days and has burdened rescue workers with searching for living people under the rubble of buildings that were bombed.

The victims are doctors, nurses, aid workers and residents of the neighbourhoods that were bombed. Most of them are women and children who were unable to flee to the Turkish border nearby. The bombings have been going on for several days and hundreds of civilians are dying in the city which was left at the mercy of the Assad regime, its militia and Russian forces, at a time when the international community stood by and watched, despite the fact that Syria, and the city of Aleppo in particular, is supposed to be covered by the ceasefire agreement that is one of the conditions for negotiations that the United Nations sponsored!

Is it possible to commit all of these massacres every day, without the parties sponsoring the Geneva negotiations taking any form of action except for making worthless statements calling for calm?

What is happening to Aleppo is terrifying. It is supposed to push the opposition to reject the false truce and the theatrical negotiations, just as the massive destruction is supposed to provoke nations that have opposed the killing of the Syrian people during the years of the unjust war.

It is inconceivable that the Gulf states keep quiet and compromise on what we see as an unprecedented and dangerous escalation! The Syrian people have no one after they were abandoned by the Turks, and the west which defines the plight of 24 million Syrians only with the existence of ISIS.

Since the Russians entered the war, the city of Aleppo in particular has been a target for destruction. It is considered the largest city in Syria and the city that is targetted the most by the Syrian regime and the Russians. Other cities are also being bombed continuously – Damascus, Ghouta, the countryside of Latakia and others. However, international activity has been limited to sending more military reinforcements to ISIS controlled areas.

The United States sent 150 soldiers to Al-Hasakah and the Turks are threatening to enter the border to hunt down Kurdish rebels. As for the Syrian people, they have been left at the mercy of the Assad regime’s forces which aim to destroy what remains of the neighborhoods of major cities. Aleppo has become desolate, relief supplies have been cut off from it, and roads have been blocked in the face of people who are trying to flee north to the Turkish border.

The United Nations did not honour its pledge that negotiations would take place simultaneously with the ceasefire, and that aid workers would be allowed to deliver aid. Rather, the massacres taking place during the days of the truce have exceeded the massacres in the days of war. This confirms that the negotiations are only trying to support the Syrian regime which has been sustained by its Iranian and Russian allies, and that hopes to achieve what it was unable to gain during the days of former armed confrontations.

Opinion: The Destruction of Aleppo - Until When?

Hariri: Negative Intrusion Witnessed Withholds Establishing Relationships with Iran

Beirut- Former Prime Minister and Future Movement leader Saad Hariri said that the negative interference of Iran in regional cases makes establishing an upright relationship with the country.

Hariri, after meeting with the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, confirmed that he has not visited Moscow or Turkey to promote a Lebanese candidate for presidency. However, his visit headlined explaining the dangers entailed by the present void.

Erdogan received Hariri, yesterday, at the Yıldız Palace, located in Istanbul. The two addressed the latest developments concerning Lebanon and the region. The spillover of the Syrian crisis and the bilateral relationship shared by Turkey and Lebanon were two topics also discussed at the hour and a half meeting.

After the meeting, Hariri spoke to reporters, “we discussed issues concerning the region and especially the current events in Syria,” Hariri said.

“We believe that Turkey can play a great role in bringing peace into the country,” pointing out to Erdogan “the extent to influence projected by the presidential void in Lebanon, especially on the economic and political life of the country,” Hariri added.

Hariri went on saying “we have talked over the Iranian regional role, and we seek establishing good relationships with Iran. However, the negative intrusion witnessed stops good relationships from being established.”

Hariri gave emphasis to his concerns on keeping Lebanon a part of the political arena, and that everyone recognizes that the country is being crippled over multiple spheres.

The Future Movement leader conferred with Erdogan one of the main issues Lebanon is subjected to, which is the mass influx of Syrian refugees.

“President Erdogan made it clear to me that Turkey suffers the same situation. Which is why we have agreed to cooperate on urging the international community to contribute further into helping with the problem,” Hariri said.

Hariri: Negative Intrusion Witnessed Withholds Establishing Relationships with Iran

Sadiq Khan to Asharq Al-Awsat: British Muslims Demand Integration and Learning English

London- With impending mayor elections waiting just around the corner, due on the 5th of May and would succeed the current London Mayor Boris Johnson, Labor Party candidate Sadiq Khan corroborated his determination for censoring social media outlets as to brazen out extremism and bolster security in minority inhabited areas.

Candidate Khan, of Pakistani provenance, in his interview with Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper laid out the threatening capacity of social media introducing extremism into homes. Khan, in turn, if elected Mayor, promised to first shutdown websites promoting radical ideology and to review all provided available tactics on emergency identification and response to terrorist attacks or potent threats.

The Conservative Party saves no effort on associating the current Labor Party Muslim candidate with extremism, hoping that it would later play out in favor of Conservative Party candidate Zac Goldsmith in next week’s elections.

Goldsmith’s campaign is going downhill, so much that the conservative candidate spends most of his time speaking about his opponent, Khan said.

However, Goldsmith’s campaign managers have overlooked the fact that the people of London respect each other despite religion or ethnic background, Khan added.

Goldsmith works on dividing the London society and the people will not allow for that to happen, Khan believes.

Following is a selected set of questions answered by Candidate Sadiq Khan:

You have undertaken the responsibility of preserving London against terrorist attacks… similar to those who devastated Brussels and Paris… what solutions are you laying forth?

I have experienced the July 7th attacks that shook London in 2005. We have all witnessed the devastating attacks both Paris and Brussels suffered, and it is possible for the attacks to reoccur here in London.

Among the responsibilities any Mayor must account for is securing the safety of his city, and taking over the task on running the police department. Based on that, the first thing I plan on doing is to review all provided emergency services on identifying terrorist attacks and response mechanisms.

I will also make sure to take a look over linkages between the London transportation systems, terrorist emergency services, and how we could respond to similar patterns on terrorist attacks.

Whether witnessed by Europe or Mumbai, patterns showing the terrorists panicking spread into streets will be scrutinized. I will work on making sure that everything is under control.

How do you perceive the statement on it being easy to recruit terrorists through members from within the country?

It is important to direct attention to the fact that it is now possible to entice extremist ideology inside homes through social media outlets; there is no longer any need for face-to-face interaction, which would lead to expose or track down the inciter. For example, the three London girls who had left their homes and fled to Syria last year. The girls’ beliefs were affected from within their sleeping chambers.

I undertake the responsibility of closing down websites inciting terrorestic ideology, and will carry on collaboration with companies providing electronic services as to see that through. Twitter has taken positive measures concerning this matter. We must also rewire the police department to the residents of suburbs and neighborhoods. When speaking to counter-terrorism experts, they convey that one of the information sources that lead police to terrorism, prior to the attack’s engagement, is the surrounding community.

Based on that, when the public loses trust in the police department, a grave issue would surfaces and the police will no longer be able to procureuz valuable information. In fact, I believe in the significance of citizens’ voluntary contribution to police efforts.

Concerning other means of confronting extremism, we must support role models presenting exemplary stances among British Muslims, show them what a great job they did, that this country does not hate them and that they can succeed here while conserving their religious values.

Integration is considered an important factor as well. In line with my vision, I wish to encourage more social integration so that a person has a diverse array of friends with different ethnic backgrounds.

Do you believe that the United Kingdom needs to increase efforts spent on helping Muslims effectively assimilating with the British community?

The first measures required for the government, is to work on reforming its agenda for prevention, which represents one of the four elements to the governmental counter-terrorism strategy. It is clear that this agenda is unsuccessful and that citizens currently do not have trust in it.

As for social integration, I would like to set an example: I believe that there is nothing wrong in people learning how to speak in English, and there should be no shame in that because that is the only way to communicate with neighbors, apply for a job, speak to instructors at your children’s school and to fit in the British community.

On its behalf, a few years ago, the government cut down funds going to colleges accountable for teaching English; which I consider was a wrong decision. Now, they criticize people who do not speak English. Which is why, I believe that encouraging people to speak English is achieved through guaranteeing the availability of colleges arranging free sessions for teaching English.

Sadiq Khan to Asharq Al-Awsat: British Muslims Demand Integration and Learning English

Britain's Labor Party Launches Anti-Semitism Inquiry

LONDON – Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn who is a close ally of party veteran Livingstone stated late on Friday that he would recommend a new code of conduct explicitly banning anti-semitism and other forms of racism.

Noting that Britain’s opposition Labor party has launched an inquiry into how to tackle anti-Semitism after suspending former London mayor Ken Livingstone days before it contests elections in London, Scotland and Wales.

Corbyn said that there is no place for anti-semitism or for any form of racism in the Labor party, or anywhere in society. Adding that Labor suspended Livingstone on Thursday after he said Hitler was “supporting Zionism” when he proposed in 1932 that Jews be moved to Israel. Livingstone served as mayor from 2000 to 2008.

Labor has been finding it hard to pull together after Corbyn, from the party’s hard-left, swept into the leadership in September on a wave of enthusiasm among younger members for change and an end to ‘establishment politics’.

In regard of polls, it is suggested that as its current candidate for London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, is on course to defeat his Conservative opponent Zac Goldsmith, on May 5, however it also shows that Labor risks losing ground in a series of elections elsewhere in Britain.

It was reported again by British media on Saturday that Corbyn could face a leadership challenge if the results are not as hoped to be. Goldsmith, in a BBC radio interview on Saturday, said Khan was “part of the same movement in the Labor party” as Livingstone and had not been clear enough in his condemnation of anti-semitism until recent weeks.

Goldsmith said “You need to be very clear on these issues not to ride two horses. Until the mayoral campaign began, Sadiq Khan has not been anything like as clear on this issue as he has been in recent weeks”.

Khan called Livingstone’s remarks about Hitler appalling and pressed for him to be suspended.

Labor’s inquiry into anti-semitism will be led by Shami Chakrabarti, the former head of civil rights charity Liberty. She will consult Jewish and other minority groups on what counts as anti-semitism and racism, and how to deal with allegations.

Livingstone denied his remarks were anti-semitic, and said supporters of the Israeli government frequently used the charge to silence criticism of its policies.

Britain's Labor Party Launches Anti-Semitism Inquiry

The Death Toll of Nairobi’s Building Collapse has Risen

NAIROBI- After rescuers were still searching in the scene of the six-story building that collapsed in Nairobi’s Huruma residential estate on Friday, today the death toll in Kenya’s capital has risen to 7 where in addition to those who have lost their lives, the number of injured people so far remains still at 121, as stated by police on Saturday.

Meanwhile there are rescue operations that are still taking place to pull others from under the rubble.

Recalling that the building collapsed late on Friday following floods that were left in different parts of the city due to consecutive days of heavy rains.

Nairobi County police boss reported that so far 7 are confirmed to be dead, and 121 have been rescued and instantly rushed into be taken care of in different hospitable in Nairobi.

“The search and rescue operation is ongoing for people feared trapped inside the collapsed building of the six-storey building” the latter added.

Kenya Red Cross said on its Twitter feed late on Friday that people from 150 households were taking shelter in a nearby village. Further, Kenyan television stations showed on Saturday rescue and security workers examining through the rubble.

Noting that it is still not known how many people were in the building at the time of its collapse.

The Death Toll of Nairobi’s Building Collapse has Risen

Friday, 29 April 2016

Syrian Regime Commits Genocide in Aleppo

Washington denounces the regime’s strikes and calls on Russia to use its influence on Damascus

The US State Department said that the air strikes carried out by the Syrian regime on a hospital in Aleppo is “reprehensible” and called on Russia to use its influence to put pressure on Bashar Al-Assad’s government to stop the attacks.

The Spokesman for the US State Department John Kirby said that the attack bore the features of attacks made by regime forces on medical facilities and emergency workers in the past. He added that the cessation of hostilities in Syria is at risk because of persistent violations.

The Al-Quds Hospital massacre in Aleppo and the subsequent intensification of indiscriminate shelling of the city yesterday authenticate the announcement made by the pro-Syrian Al-Watan newspaper that regime forces are braced for a “final battle” that will not take long.

Meanwhile, the opposition described what is happening in the city as “genocide” because “battle should be between two equally equipped parties and not against peaceful civilians”. According to what Abdul Jabbar Al-Oqaidi told Asharq Al-Awsat, what is taking place in Aleppo proves beyond doubt that the ceasefire has been broken. Al-Oqaidi is a commander of and spokesman for the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in Aleppo and a former colonel in the Syrian Arab Army.

Al-Oqaidi confirmed that the death toll of those killed in the Al-Quds Hospital massacre on Thursday night has reached 52 people. All of the dead were civilians and amongst them was the last paediatrician in the liberated areas of Aleppo, Dr Mohammed Waseem Maaz who was 35 years old.

Syrian Regime Commits Genocide in Aleppo

Finnish-NATO Membership Would Lead to Crisis with Russia

HELSINKI- According to a report commissioned by the Finnish government on Friday, it was stated that there could be serious crisis with neighboring Russia, incase it happens for Finland to join NATO.

As for instance the membership of the military alliance would reinforce Finland’s security nevertheless from the other side it probably going to trigger a tough reaction from the Kremlin, which in effect will leave negative influence on trade between the countries, according to the report prepared for Prime Minister Juha Sipila’s centre-right government.

Noting that no direct recommendation was given through the report on whether Finland should seek membership, but stated that a joint Finnish-Swedish application would be a better strategic option than either Nordic country joining the alliance alone.

Finnish Prime Minister Sipila said that small nations do not often change their basic foreign policy guidelines, then added that leeway was needed in case the security situation changed. In regard of Finns, according to a recent poll by public broadcaster YLE, it was shown that only 22 percent of them support joining NATO, while 55 percent are opposed.

It’s clear in regard of what the report mentioned that without Sweden, Finland would be an isolated outpost which NATO would have difficulty defending, though Finnish membership of NATO would double the length of the border between the alliance and Russia and increase the NATO presence in the Baltic Sea.

Nordic countries have stepped up military cooperation since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. This month two Russian warplanes flew simulated attack passes near a U.S. destroyer in international waters in the Baltic, according to the U.S. military.

On Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview that if Sweden joined NATO, Moscow would take “necessary military-technical measures”.

Though 4 opposition parties showed their desire of the membership, Sweden’s government has said it will not join the alliance. Finland won independence during Russia’s revolution of 1917 but nearly lost it fighting the Soviet Union in World War Two.

It kept close economic and political ties with the West during the Cold War but avoided confrontation with Moscow.

Finnish-NATO Membership Would Lead to Crisis with Russia

Opinion: Hologram Presidency May Not End With Obama

As President Barack Obama draws closer to exit, speculation is rife about likely changes in US foreign policy under his successor. Guesswork on that score isn’t easy.

One problem is that, because foreign policy has not featured much in the current campaign, there are few indications of what the candidates might or might not do.

Another problem is that this year’s campaign is still open to surprises.

On the Democrat side Mrs. Hillary Clinton is often regarded as the “inevitable” nominee, at least in theory. But even then it is not at all certain that she would secure enough support to ignore her party’s more radical wing led by Senator Bernie Sanders.

On the Republican side, though the term “inevitable” is seldom used for him, Donald Trump appears to be best placed to clinch the nomination, especially after a series of wins in Tuesday’s primaries. But there, too, it is doubtful that even if he is the nominee, Trump would be strong enough to impose his vision, provided he has one.

Mrs. Clinton has enough experience in foreign affairs and national security to at least know the main issues. Because he is a novice in national security and foreign policy, Trump would be more dependent on his team, notably his vice-president, to shape and implement a new strategy.

There is still a chance, though increasingly remote, that the “stop-Trump” campaign by Republican Party grandees might bring another rabbit out of the hat. But even then, neither of the two likely rabbits, Senator Ted Cruz and Governor John Kasich, knows enough about foreign policy and national security to develop a new strategy on his own.

Based on the scant evidence produced during the campaign, as president, Hillary Clinton would tend to redirect US foreign policy to its classical channels. Clinton could be a cautious but determined player, though certainly not an innovator. All indications are that ties with Europe and Japan will be strengthened while the US would help the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) repair some of the damage done to it under Obama.

As for Trump, the evidence available is even more scant. The real estate mogul turned politician has been disparaging about both NATO, calling it “pretty useless”, and the European Union, claiming its members ride on America’s back, at different times. And, yet, he has given no hint that, as president, he might want to clip the wings of either.

Both Clinton and Trump have hinted they would abandon the strategic retreat that Obama initiated in the face of various challengers, among them Russia in Europe, the Islamic Republic in Iran and the People’s China in the Far East.

However, neither, has offered any hint as how they mean to do that.

One thing is certain: whoever is president by next January, US global policy is unlikely to be put into a different gear immediately. The new president would need a year to complete his or her administration and forge the consensus required for major changes of policy.

The next step would be to seek or revive contacts across the globe in the hope of reassuring old allies and finding new ones. Thanks to Obama’s bizarre manoeuvres, trust in the US is at its lowest for decades, especially in Europe and the Middle East.

Two, perhaps more important, points need to be considered as well.

The first is that Obama has succeeded in subverting reality through perception. His foreign policy could be compared to a hologram, a three-dimensional picture that offers different images when seen from different angles (for example it is an angel from one side and a devil from another!).

Obama’s “historic” move on Cuba is a hologram: from one side it appears as a gesture helping Cubans choose a better direction for their unhappy land. From another angle, it looks like a boost for the Castro clan’s despotic rule.

The so-called nuclear deal with the mullahs of Tehran is another hologram. Seen from one angle it is a detailed 179-page accord to put a stop to Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. But seen from another angle, it doesn’t even exist let alone block the Islamic Republic’s path to a nuclear arsenal.

There are other examples of Obama’s success in subverting reality with perception. Obama claims that he has restrained Russia’s expansionism after Vladimir Putin annexed the Crimean Peninsula while establishing a toehold in eastern Ukraine. On May 11 Putin will also annex South Ossetia before moving to annex Abkhazia in October.

As for China, its strategy of building cat’s paws in dozens of atolls in the waters to its east and south continues unabated. However, Obama boasts that, thanks to “21st century diplomacy”, he has persuaded Beijing not to chew a big morsel, so far.

Another hologram is the 6-Point “strategic cooperation” Obama concluded with eight Arab states. Seen from one angle it looks like a dramatic new alliance. Look at it from another angle and you see a fathomless vacuum. All the promises are postponed until 2017, long after Obama has retired to write his memoirs.

The so-called “historic” pact on the environment, negotiated with fanfare in the “Club 21” in Paris, represents another hologram. From one angle you see the oceans receding as Obama points his finger at them. From another angle, it looks like a tedious bureaucratic concoction designed never to be taken seriously even after the start of “implementation” when at least 54 nations have legislated it into their national law.

Those who hope that the US may soon close Obama’s chapter would have to consider another disturbing possibility. What if Obama’s strategy of dodging issues and ducking leadership is actually popular with Americans? What if you could fool enough of the people enough of the time to be able to kick the cans down the road while everyone applauds?

These questions are not fanciful. Obama may have persuaded a majority of Americans that the only choice they have is between full-scale invasion of other countries, something they dread, and surrendering to the “reality” of appeasement of all manner of bullies, which they might swallow with sugar-coating of the President’s eloquence.

The latest poll, dated 24 April by Gallup, gives Obama a 51 per cent approval rating, an unprecedented figure for an incumbent US president at the end of his term. In contrast, the approval ratings of French President Francois Hollande who is also at the end of his term is only 15 per cent!

As Obama fades into the sunset, his legacy may linger awhile.

Thus, it would be prudent to hope for the best but to be prepared for the worst.

Opinion: Hologram Presidency May Not End With Obama

Promising Discovery…Diabetes’ Drug Could Cure Alzheimer Patients

London- A new breakthrough study held in Denmark revealed that a drug can stop the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, and it could be available within five years.

The breakthrough was made a Denmark’s Aarthus University and trials have now begun at Imperial College London, with neuro-scientists said to be ‘really excited’, reported “The Express”.

Tests have shown that a cheap drug commonly used to treat diabetes called Liraglutide stopped the brain disease from advancing and in some cases even gave sufferers a cognitive boost.

Moreover, no study has ever shown before such dramatic results, and it could mean those who detect the disease at an early stage could live a lifetime of normal brain function.

Professor Jorgen Rungby, who led the study in Denmark, said: ‘This is a significant step. We now have a drug that appears to have some kind of effect on how the brain works in Alzheimer’s.

‘We are eagerly awaiting the results of larger studies but this would suggest we are on the right track.”

The drug is commonly used to treat diabetes and scientists recognized a link between type 2 Diabetes and Alzheimer’s, as the brain being unable to utilize sugar is a symptom of dementia.

A 26-week test on 38 patients resulted in ‘proof in principle’ that the drug halted the progression of the disease, with patients maintaining their brain metabolism.

It is now being tested on 206 people in 20 hospitals around the UK, who will be given the drug via insulin pen, then have their memory and thinking assessed by doctors.

For his part, Dr Paul Edison, consultant physician at Imperial College, London, is leading the UK trials and expects the results by 2018.

He said: “If effective, there could be a potential new and safe treatment for Alzheimer’s in the next five years.”

Promising Discovery…Diabetes’ Drug Could Cure Alzheimer Patients

Amman: Saudi-Jordanian Coordination Council Will Start Operating Soon

The Jordanian Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Imad Fakhoury said yesterday that the “Saudi – Jordanian Coordination Council” which was founded during King Abdullah II’s visit to Saudi Arabia on Wednesday will begin to convene its meetings shortly and that these meetings will be held regularly.

Fakhoury told Asharq Al-Awsat that agreements and memoranda of understanding that were signed during the Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to the city of Aqaba on the 11th of April will be actively followed up by both sides during the meetings.

Fakhoury added that the development of military cooperation between the two countries, strengthening cooperation in the fields of energy, uranium mining and the production of electricity using nuclear power are priorities for discussion. Cooperation with regards to trade and increasing the volume of trade exchange between the two countries are also priorities of the Council.

Fakhoury considers the formation of the Saudi – Jordanian Coordination Council a response to sceptics and stressed that relations between the two countries have always been and remain strong, solid and strategic.

On his part, the Chairman of the Saudi – Jordanian Business Council Mohammed Al-Odah told Asharq Al-Awsat that the “Saudi – Jordanian Coordination Council will work towards eliminating the bureaucracy that hinders the flow of economic and trade activity between the two countries”.

Al-Odah pointed out that the volume of trade between the two countries exceeded 20 billion riyals ($ 5.3 billion) at the end of 2015, and noted that there are 1650 joint ventures between the two countries in various fields.

Amman: Saudi-Jordanian Coordination Council Will Start Operating Soon

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Republicans, Obama Immigration Chief Clash Over Criminal Immigrants

WASHINGTON – During a congressional hearing on the crimes that are recorded to be committed by illegal immigrants, a fiery exchange took place, where Republicans grilled top Obama administration immigration official Sarah Saldana. The main problem is that Republicans are calling for more control of U.S. borders.

However Saldana shielded her record and appealed for comprehensive immigration reform where she stated that she cannot express how disheartening it is to sit where she is and hear a very important issue related to the topic of immigration reform be “bandied about as a political football”.

Noting that Republicans on a House oversight committee blamed ICE for releasing undocumented immigrants from jail whom they said went on to commit homicides, sexual assaults and drunk driving offenses.

Further, the release of the illegal immigrants who commit later crimes gained attention on the campaign trail last year after Kathryn Steinle, 32, was shot and killed in San Francisco by Juan Lopez-Sanchez, an undocumented immigrant and convicted felon who had previously been deported to Mexico five times.

And on the incident Trump said in July that Steinle’s death showed the need for tighter control of the U.S.-Mexico border.

Saldana explained that the Obama administration has a policy of deporting immigrants who pose a violent threat, but it releases some who have served prison sentences for their crimes and are deemed not dangerous.

When undocumented immigrants have served their jail time but cannot be repatriated, immigration authorities have no choice but to release them, she said. Only specific crimes require mandatory jailing of immigrants, Saldana said, adding that Congress should consider changing that policy.

Countries such as Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti and Guinea have refused to take back some of their citizens after they have been ordered deported from the United States, Saldana said. Saldana said she is meeting with the State Department to persuade them to enforce visa restrictions on countries who do not take back their citizens.

Republicans, Obama Immigration Chief Clash Over Criminal Immigrants

U.N. Chief Urges European Leaders to Support Refugees

Europe’s tight approach to deal with migrants and refugees in Europe is sending off the wrong signal about countries’ responsibilities according to international humanitarian law, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Thursday.

Ban, the first foreign dignitary to address a session of the Austrian parliament, uttered his deep concern a day after lawmakers passed some of Europe’s toughest asylum rules and plans for a fence at Austria’s Alpine border with Italy were revealed.

“I am alarmed about growing xenophobia here and beyond,” he said during a visit to Austria, where anti-immigrant far-right candidate Norbert Hofer won over a third of the votes in a first round of a presidential election and faces a run-off next month.

“European countries are now adopting increasingly restrictive immigration and refugee policies,” Ban said. “Such policies and measures send a very negative message about the obligations of member states under international humanitarian law and European law”.

He stressed that he would welcome open discussions in Europe on integration and urged all European Union leaders to meet the principles that have guided them in the past.

Under the law passed on Wednesday, Austria will be able to turn migrants away at the border within an hour if lawmakers decree public order is threatened.

Austria has mostly served as a conduit into Germany for refugees and migrants from the Middle East and Africa but it has also let in around 100,000 asylum seekers since last summer.

After initially welcoming refugees, the government capped the number of asylum claims it would agree to take this year to 37,500. It has already received more than 16,000 since January.

Furthermore, Vienna has imposed tough restrictions on movement, including coordinating border closures with nearby Balkan countries over the past months. It is now preparing stricter border controls at the important Brenner Pass Alpine passage with Italy.

U.N. Chief Urges European Leaders to Support Refugees

Turkey Detains Fifteen Suspects over Suicide Bomb in Turkey

Turkish authorities said on Thursday they detained 15 people over a suicide bombing in the northwestern city of Bursa where a woman injured eight bystanders as she blew herself up on Wednesday near the city’s main mosque, Turkish media said on Thursday.

The bombing on Wednesday took place near Bursa’s 14th century Grand Mosque, a historic symbol of the city that was the first capital of the Ottoman Empire.

“A woman packed with a (bombing) mechanism believed to be a suicide bomber blew herself up,” said a statement from the local governor’s office.

Security sources confirmed that the blast was a “suicide attack”, while Turkish media identified the bomber as a 25-year-old woman.

A dozen people were injured and many had light injuries such as cuts from shattered windows.

The attack was the fifth suicide bombing in a major urban center in Turkey this year.

The TRT and CNN Turk television stations quoted Interior Minister Efkan Ala as giving the total and saying evidence pointed to a link with a militant group, but gave no details.

“Fifteen people have been detained in connection with the Bursa attack. There are strong indications that it is related to a group,” the broadcasters quoted Ala as saying.

Some of those detained were brought in from outside of Bursa and were being interrogated at the provincial police headquarters, CNN Turk said.

Bursa is Turkey’s fourth-largest city and an industrial hub directly south of Istanbul across the Marmara Sea. It’s not a major tourist destination, but it attracts some foreign visitors with its Ottoman-era architecture.

Police cordoned off the site of the blast, and passersby were ushered away as ambulances and forensics teams arrived.

The mosque is located in a busy neighborhood, on a street dotted by jewelry shops. The explosion came shortly after a funeral and afternoon prayers, broadcaster CNN Turk said.

No group has claimed responsibility. Two attacks this year in Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city, have been blamed on the ultra-radical ISIS movement. Two in the capital Ankara were claimed by a Kurdish militant group.

Turkey has also faced attacks from far-left groups, mostly targeting police and security forces. The Bursa attack came a day after the United States warned American citizens in Turkey about credible terrorist threats to tourist areas.

“The US government continues to receive credible indications that terrorist groups are seeking opportunities to attack popular tourist destinations throughout Turkey,” the embassy said on its website.

“The US embassy reminds US citizens that foreign tourists in Turkey have been explicitly targeted by terrorist organizations, and advises US citizens to be mindful of the potential for danger in crowded public areas and at popular tourist destinations.”

Turkey Detains Fifteen Suspects over Suicide Bomb in Turkey

Admiral Donegan: Al-Qaeda, ISIS, and Houthis Threaten Naval Security

Dammam- Admiral Kevin M. Donegan commander of the United States’ Fifth Fleet told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that Houthi insurgents, al-Qaeda and ISIS represent the greatest threat to naval freedom of waters surrounding the Arabian Peninsula, which comprises the three prominently vital passages for global economy.

Donegan added that the U.S. navy is aware of the capacity of Houthis and recognizes their wish to hamper naval movement, in addition to knowing how that would reflect over world-wide economy, which is why the IMCMEX naval drill focuses especially on addressing that threat.

Donegan’s declarations were made after concluding the IMCMEX drill, which is considered the world-wide most comprehensive naval drill staged by the U.S. navy and includes 36 countries, across the Arabian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz, Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden, Strait of Bab-el-Mandeb, the Red Sea and the Suez Canal. The military naval drill is for ensuring the protection of all the naval passages.

The drill coincided with the U.S. Fifth Fleet’s commandership emphasizing that the U.S. has not directed its attention away from the Middle East, as to confirm the vital character to the region and the U.S’s commitment to its security and acknowledgment to it being a principal factor to world security.

Adm. Donegan labeled Houthis, alongside the score of organizations as a threat to naval freedom of vital world-wide economic water pathways.

United States Fifth Fleet commandership considered that the threat of true terrorism affects ports and naval infrastructure all across the region; which is why

it would not be wise, on a security level, to negotiate or compromise any of the naval exits which are subject to the threat.

United States Fifth Fleet commandership pointed out that the force evaluation of the powers working side-by-side with the U.S. – who are a part of the naval common forces, partners with the coalition and allies- confirms that no efforts are being saved and that the navies are continuously active for the protection of trade routes and oil pumping into the region.

Despite the existence of a real threat, the U.S. has not shifted its focus into the region, clarifying that piracy is still a source for concern affecting regional waters surrounding the Arabian Peninsula; which is why counter-piracy and anti-trafficking operations are frequently arranged and carried out on a daily basis by partners of the coalition.

Achievement in the arena fighting piracy was established on international coordinated cooperation and U.S. efforts on countering piracy in the region. The success rate has been registered based on no launched pirate attacks being reported successful since 2012, the fleet leadership added.

U.S. Fifth Fleet officials confirmed that the contribution of over thirty countries from all across the six continents into the annual IMCMEX drill stands to prove the continuing desire for expanding the capacity and disposition of employment among countries, armies and industries.

Expansion guarantees naval freedom, flow of free trade and the preservation of security from threats posed by pirates, terrorist organizations, governmental organizations and non-governmental organizations.

Admiral Donegan: Al-Qaeda, ISIS, and Houthis Threaten Naval Security

Airstrikes on Aleppo Hospital Kill 20 – Observatory

A series of airstrikes hit a hospital and nearby buildings in a rebel-held area of Syria’s Aleppo, killing at least 20 people, including three children and the last pediatrician in the city, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Thursday.

The strikes come as the U.N. envoy for Syria had appealed early Thursday on the U.S. and Russia to help revive the Syrian peace talks and a ceasefire he said “hangs by a thread.”

“I really fear that the erosion of the cessation is unraveling the fragile consensus around a political solution, carefully built over the last year,” de Mistura said in his council briefing obtained by The Associated Press. “Now I see parties reverting to the language of a military solution or military option. We must ensure that they do not see that as a solution or an option.”

The raids hit shortly before midnight Wednesday, according to opposition activists and rescue workers.

The Syrian Civil Defense said the al-Quds hospital in the rebel-held district of al-Sukkari in Aleppo and adjacent buildings were struck in four consecutive airstrikes.

Two other doctors were also among those killed, the Britain-based war monitor said. In a statement on its Facebook page, the Civil Defense rescue service in rebel-held areas of Aleppo put the death toll at 20.

The chief Syrian opposition negotiator Mohammed Alloush accused the government of President Bashar Assad of the deadly airstrikes on Aleppo. He told The Associated Press that the latest violence by government forces shows “the environment is not conducive to any political action.”

The Observatory said in the past six days in Aleppo 84 civilians had been killed in government air strikes and 49 civilians were killed in rebel shelling of government-held areas.

Fighting in Aleppo began to escalate on April 22 and a Feb. 27 cessation of hostilities agreement, which initially reduced violence in many areas of Syria, was described by the United Nations as being “barely alive” on Thursday.

Peace talks went down last week after the main opposition group, called the High Negotiating Committee (HNC), suspended its formal participation in the indirect talks with Assad’s envoys to protest Assad government ceasefire violations, a drop in humanitarian aid deliveries and no progress in winning the release of detainees in Syria.

Airstrikes on Aleppo Hospital Kill 20 – Observatory

Lebanese Army Kills ISIS Leader at Syrian Border

Lebanese military forces killed a leader from the ISIS terrorist organization on Thursday during an army operation in the country’s mountainous border region with Syria, Lebanon’s National News Agency and a security source said.

The officials and Lebanon’s National News Agency named the man as Nayif al-Shaalaan, who also went by the name Abu Fawz. Security sources identified him as ISIS’s leader in the area.

The operation took place in the area of Arsal in north Lebanon.

The 5-year-old conflict in the war-torn Syria has left Lebanon with repercussions to deal with. Fighting between ISIS and al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front militants often spills over Lebanon’s mountainous northern border with Syria.

The war has also increased tensions between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims in Lebanon, especially with Hezbollah- a Lebanon-based Shi’ite militant group and political party- sending thousands of militants over to Syria to back Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.

Lebanon has since then (2014) suffered from a sharp increase in terrorist attacks in Lebanon claimed by ISIS militants.

Fighters briefly overran Arsal in 2014 before withdrawing to the hills after clashes with the army, which stages regular operations against ISIS and Nusra Front in north Lebanon and along the border.

On 2 August 2014, after Lebanese security forces arrested an al-Nusra Front commander, fighters from al-Nusra Front and ISIS (also called ISIL) surrounded Lebanese Army checkpoints in Arsal before attacking them and storming the northeastern town’s police station, where they took at least 16 policemen as hostage. After intensified battling, a fragile truce was established as ISIL forces also retreated from the town and redeployed along the border with Syria. Their hideouts there were subsequently bombed by the Syrian Air Force, resulting in dozens of wounded militants. Two days later, the Lebanese Army entered Arsal in full force and re-established control over checkpoints that the militants had previously seized.

Lebanese Army Kills ISIS Leader at Syrian Border

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Saudi Aramco Sets Financing Plans for Industrial Push

The world’s biggest energy company Saudi Arabian Aramco outlined on Wednesday financing plans that will fund its expansion into new areas under a sweeping economic reform plan released by Riyadh this week.

Furthermore, and according to sources familiar with the matter, Aramco will complete the expansion of its Shaybah oilfield by the end of May, allowing the biggest crude exporter in the world to maintain its total production capacity. Shaybah’s expansion will help the Saudi company, as the state producer is known, keep its capacity at 12 million barrels a day.

The reforms also foresee Aramco transforming itself from an oil and gas firm into a “global industrial conglomerate” involved in many sectors and services, benefitting from its vast financial resources to create jobs and help diversify the Saudi economy, ridding it of oil reliance.

The plans suggest Saudi Arabia’s state oil company, which Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman estimated this week was worth over $2 trillion, aims to move rapidly into its new role.

“We will continue to build on our accelerated transformation and serve as a pillar, role model and champion of transformation in the kingdom,” Aramco’s official magazine, Arabian Sun, quoted chief executive Amin Nasser as saying.

Aramco’s board, which convened in Tokyo last week, agreed to provide interim financing for a planned shipyard at the town of Ras al-Khair on Saudi Arabia’s east coast, the magazine said without giving details.

In January, Aramco signed a memorandum of understanding to establish the shipbuilding and repair complex with National Shipping Co of Saudi Arabia (Bahri), a subsidiary of Lamprell Plc, a United Arab Emirates-based engineering firm, and South Korea’s Hyundai Heavy Industries.

Despite the company keeping the size of the project undisclosed, an oil industry source aware of the plan said it was expected to cost several billion dollars.

Aramco’s board also decided to set up joint ventures for onshore and offshore drilling rig services, the magazine said without giving details of those ventures.

Traditionally, Aramco has relied heavily on outside contractors to provide it with such services, but it is seeking to take hold of those businesses to help create jobs for Saudis, stimulate local demand and control costs.

The board approved an additional equity contribution for its Sadara petrochemical joint venture with U.S. firm Dow Chemical, Arabian Sun said, without revealing the size of the capital injection.

The magazine further added that Aramco also approved the creation of a program to issue Islamic bonds (sukuk). It gave no details, but since the capacity of the Saudi banking sector to lend is being squeezed by low oil prices, bankers think Aramco might sell foreign currency debt in the international market.

The reform plan is expected to go together with a big increase in foreign borrowing by the Saudi government and companies as Riyadh juggles the need to pursue development projects with a large state budget deficit caused by cheap oil.


Under the reform plan, a stake of less than 5 percent of Aramco is to be offered to the public, as well as stakes in some subsidiaries. An initial public offering of Aramco, which will be a complex process given the company’s size and strategic importance, may occur in 2017 or 2018.

Aramco officials quoted in the magazine on Wednesday did not comment on the IPO beyond saying they welcomed it as a way to take part in the reform program.

Also announced on Wednesday were several appointments to senior posts in Aramco, including four people to the level of vice president.

Nabeel al-Mansour was appointed general counsel, the first Saudi to hold that post. One goal of the reform program is to move local citizens into jobs, both senior and junior, for which Saudi Arabia has usually relied on foreigners.

Comments by top Aramco officials over the past few months point toward the company seeing itself not just as a big investor, but as an agent for moving the economy beyond dependence on oil.

For example the firm, which has about 60,000 employees, plans to use its extensive educational and vocational training programs to help create the human capital needed for the transformation.

“Saudi Aramco will be a bridge for a transition away from itself,” the company’s chairman Khalid al-Falih told a business conference in January.

Saudi Aramco Sets Financing Plans for Industrial Push

Turkish PM Pledges Secularism to Be in New Constitution

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Wednesday that Turkey’s new constitution will maintain secularism as a principle, downplaying comments from the parliamentary speaker who started a public uproar by calling for a religious national charter.

This week, Speaker Ismail Kahraman stressed Turkey’s need for a religious constitution, given that it is an overwhelmingly Muslim state; a proposal that falls out of line with the modern republic’s founding principles. He later said his comments were “personal views” and that the new constitution should guarantee religious freedoms.

“In the new constitution which we are preparing, the principle of secularism will be included as one guaranteeing individuals’ freedom of religion and faith, and the state’s equal distance to all faith groups,” Davutoglu said in a speech to members of his ruling AK Party.

Kahraman’s comments stirred opposition condemnation and a brief street protest, underlining the rift in Turkish society reaching back to the 1920s when Mustafa Kemal Ataturk forged a secular republic and banished Islam from public life.

The opposition also fears the new constitution could concentrate too much power in the hands of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who wants an executive presidency to replace the current parliamentary system.

Davutoglu also said the government would seek a “liberal interpretation” of secularism, as opposed to an “authoritarian” one.

Erdogan and the ruling AK Party he founded, their roots in political Islam, have worked on restoring the role of religion in public life. They have expanded religious education and allowed the head scarf, once banned from state offices, to be worn in colleges and parliament. It also limited alcohol sales and made efforts to ban mixed-sex dorms at state universities.

The AKP is pushing to replace the existing constitution, which dates back to the period after a 1980 military coup. As speaker, Kahraman is overseeing efforts to draft a new text.

The government has pledged that European standards on human rights will form the basis of the new text.

The AKP holds 317 of the 550 seats in parliament. To submit its draft constitution to a referendum, it would need 330 votes, so it will need to win over lawmakers from other parties.

The headscarf ban, widely seen by the millions of devout Turks who back the AKP as an authoritarian stricture, was overturned by the ruling party in 2013.

Turkish PM Pledges Secularism to Be in New Constitution

World Bank: Saudi 2030 Vision to Contribute to Sustainability of Economic Development of the Kingdom and the Region

London-Economic analysts around the world have agreed unanimously on the importance of reform program that was revealed by 2030 vision in order to prepare the Saudi economy for the post-oil era and diversify it to guarantee stability, maintain high growth rates and create job opportunities for the citizens.

Nadir Abdullatif Mohammed, the Country Director of the GCC Countries in the Middle East and North Africa region of the World Bank, praised these reforms and described the vision as an ambitious transforming program that could contribute to the sustainability of the economic development process not only in Saudi Arabia, but also in the region.

In his statements for Asharq Al-Awsat on Tuesday, Mohammed added that the main target behind applying this reform program is to limit dependence on oil revenues.

He pointed out that the 2030 vision has defined clear objectives to diversify economy, create job opportunities, fight economic corruption and boost the government’s importance in several sectors, including oil and corporate governance.

Regarding the hardships the government would face while applying these reforms, Mohammed said that the Saudi government would issue economic details of the 2030 vision in six weeks.

He added that these details are expected to tackle implementation mechanisms and means of overcoming obstacles that might face these reforms.

Mohammed noted that “logically, applying such an ambitious reform program will not be an easy task, yet the wise leadership will help overcome all the obstacles.”

On the other hand, other economic analysts around the world have shared the World Bank’s optimism towards this vision by welcoming it and describing it as “courageous”.

The “Financial Times” and “Telegraph” described Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as an “ambitious young prince in his thirties”.

Analysts also commented on Saudi Arabia’s plan to create the world’s largest sovereign investment fund that will make the country one of the major players in international financial markets.

Notably, no information has been released regarding this fund or its investment strategies.

However, what is certain is that the two thousand billion dollars fund will be the largest in the world beating the €800 billion Norwegian Fund or other Gulf and Asian countries’ funds.

For his part, Saxo Bank Analyst Christopher Dembik said, “It is clear that this will change the economic situation as this fund is seeking to be like the Qatari and Norwegian sovereign funds that are working very well.”

Moreover, the drop in oil prices in the past few months has revealed the Kingdom’s dependence on oil and its need to prepare for its future.

The economist expert at Aurel BGC Jean-Louis Mourier said back then that the best solution is to create a fund to finance economic diversification resources, which will affect global markets.

He noted that Saudi Arabia will probably use funds from already-existing oil revenues, thus limiting new investments.

In addition, the fund ranked second behind Norway as the largest in the world at $773 billion and ahead of Saudi Arabia’s $757 billion fund in third position, according to the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute.

World Bank: Saudi 2030 Vision to Contribute to Sustainability of Economic Development of the Kingdom and the Region

Egypt: Search for Kidnapped Saudi Businessman Intensifies

Egyptian official sources yesterday confirmed that the Ministry of Interior is investigating a recent report that a Saudi businessman has been kidnapped by unidentified people on the Cairo-Ismailia Desert Road. Investigations are under way to arrest the kidnappers and find the victim unharmed.

The Security Director of Ismailia Major General Ali Azzazi told Asharq Al-Awsat that he received information yesterday informing him that unknown kidnappers had kidnapped Saudi businessman Hassan Ali Ahmed Al-Sanad who is 70 years of age on Monday evening. The kidnapping took place on the Cairo-Ismailia Desert Road in an area of mesmerising beauty situated in north-east Cairo. He added that criminal investigators found the Saudi businessman’s car which had been smashed and its doors were left open.

According to the preliminary investigation, the victim is a Saudi investor working in Egypt who owns farms and juice companies. He came to Cairo to participate in meetings for the board of directors of the companies that he owns and was kidnapped after the meetings ended.

Egypt: Search for Kidnapped Saudi Businessman Intensifies

Signs of a Breakthrough in Yemeni Consultations After Kuwait Intervenes

Kuwait, represented by its Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, intervened in order to save the Yemeni consultations taking place there from collapsing. This intervention came 6 days after the negotiations began under the auspices of the UN during which issues key to the negotiations were not discussed.

A session of direct consultations between the two parties was held yesterday under the auspices of the United Nations during which an agenda was discussed. The session ended after the agenda was confirmed and an agreement was made to begin discussing the agenda in a session scheduled for today.

The Yemeni Deputy Prime Minister Abdulaziz Jabbari who is a member of the government delegation participating in the consultations said that he believed that “Everyone here has the inclination to discuss the key issues” and added that he considers this a “good thing”. A member of the Houthi militias delegation Nasser Baqazkoz told Asharq Al-Awsat that an agenda with more than five points had been agreed upon. However, he did not provide further details.

On his part, the UN envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said that achieving peace in Yemen will not occur until a political solution is found and that efforts to implement a ceasefire take a considerable amount of time and effort. He confirmed that the UN Security Council has requested a time plan for the implementation of the UN resolution. Ould Sheikh told a news conference in Kuwait yesterday evening that “I am seeing signs of a breakthrough after the communication that took place”, and pointed out that he does not expect an agreement to be signed within the next few days. He also emphasised that any quick and urgent agreement will not last and that the five points specific to the agenda will be looked at simultaneously.

Ould Cheikh added that the Yemeni peace consultations in Kuwait have not been given a specific time frame “because the issues will take a suitable amount of time”. He continued by saying “We do not want to go back to Yemen, except with peace, and we will allow a suitable amount of time.”

Signs of a Breakthrough in Yemeni Consultations After Kuwait Intervenes

Oil Prices Rise on Weak Dollar, Strong Investor Appetite

Crude oil futures on Wednesday jumped around half a dollar and remained near 2016 highs on the back of strong investor sentiment and a weak dollar, although analysts cautioned of this month’s bull-run soon losing impetus.

Since their last settlement, international Brent crude futures were trading at $46.31 per barrel at 0653 GMT, up 57 cents, or 1.25 percent.

Brent received further backing from reports that Saudi Arabia and Kuwait appear no closer to resuming their jointly operated Khafji oilfield, which produced 280,000 to 300,000 barrels per day (bpd) before environmental problems forced a planned 18-month closure in October 2014.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude was up 51 cents, or 1.16 percent, at $44.55 a barrel.

According to a Reuters poll, WTI was more reinforced after the American Petroleum Institute (API) reported a draw of nearly 1.1 million barrels in U.S. crude inventories last week versus analysts’ expectations for a 2.4 million-barrel build.

Brent and WTI were near respective 2016 highs of $46.49 and $44.83 hit in the previous session.

Beyond strong investment appetite from financial traders, analysts said crude was being elevated by a falling dollar, which has shed 5 percent in value against a basket of other leading currencies since the beginning of the year.

A weak dollar makes fuel imports cheaper for countries using other currencies, potentially spurring demand.

BMI Research said that it expected “China’s crude oil imports will remain strong over the short-term,” driven by strong demand from independent refineries and continued filling of its strategic petroleum reserves.

“A weaker U.S. dollar and expectations of stronger fundamentals drove crude oil prices higher. Sentiment continues to improve, with major producer BP suggesting the markets may rebalance by the end of the year,” ANZ bank said on Wednesday.

The bank still warned that the steep gains seen this month might “test investors’ bullish resolve this week.”

With prices rising by around a quarter from April’s lows and by more than two-thirds from their lowest levels for 2016 so far, traders with long positions at some point will be drawn to sell and lock in the profit.

Oil Prices Rise on Weak Dollar, Strong Investor Appetite

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Syrian Food Crisis Aggravates as War Chokes Farming

In Syria, the war-torn country, citizens are suffering from all kinds of hardships. They fear random air strikes, ground attacks, terrorist groups, besiegement and even seeking refuge. All that is not enough, as the war has also worried the Syrians over farming. The unrelenting violence has destroyed agricultural infrastructure and fractured the state system that provides farmers with seeds and buys their crops, deepening a humanitarian crisis in a country struggling to produce enough grain to feed its people.

The country’s shortage of its main indispensable wheat is deteriorating. The area of land sown with the cereal – used to make bread – and with barley has fallen again this year, Reuters cited the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The worsening wheat shortage is another knockback to a country where the population numbered around 22 million before the civil war but more than 250,000 have been killed in the fighting and millions have fled seeking refuge.

Before the conflict, Syria could produce 4 million tons of wheat in a good year, with around 2.5 million tons going to the state and the surplus exported.

The northeast province of Hasaka, which accounts for almost half the country’s wheat production has witnessed heavy fighting between the Kurdish YPG militia, backed by the U.S.-led air strikes, and ISIS militants.

According to the FAO, farming infrastructure, together with irrigation canals and grain depots, has been destroyed. It said the storage facilities of the state seeds body across the country had also been damaged, so it had distributed just a tenth of the 450,000 tons of seeds that farmers needed to cultivate their land this season.

Farmers are also struggling to get their produce to market so it can be sold and distributed to the population.

The conflict has led to the number of state collection centers falling to 22 in 2015, from 31 the year before and about 140 before civil war broke out between government forces and rebels five years ago, according to the General Organization for Cereal Processing and Trade (Hoboob), the state agency that runs them. Many of those lost have been damaged or destroyed.

The FAO expressed concerns that the breakdown of the agricultural system could leave Syria struggling to feed itself for many years after any end to the fighting, and requiring a significant level of international aid.

Furthermore, the war has had a major impact on plantings; the area of land sown with wheat and barley for the 2015-2016 season stood at 2.16 million hectares, down from 2.38 million hectares the previous season and 3.125 million in 2010 before the war, and only around two-thirds of the area targeted by the government, said the FAO.

The U.N. organization said its planting information came from the Syrian government. The government itself has not made public the figures for 2015/16 plantings.

The agriculture ministry could not be reached for comment. A government source told Reuters that information on the 2015/16 crop area was still not ready for publication.

“What concerns us is not the fluctuations from one year to the other, it is the worrying overall downward trend,” said Eriko Hibi, the FAO’s main representative for Syria.


FAO estimated last year that Syria’s wheat deficit for 2015 stood at around 800,000 tons. That deficit could widen every year should farmers continue to lack access to agricultural inputs and markets, it said.

“Many farmers don’t want to be displaced or give up their land, they want to stay as long as they can and in order to do that they have to be able to produce their food and make ends meet,” Hibi said.

Hibi said that transferring wheat and other food from one province to another is difficult because of lack of security.

“I’ve seen a lot of fresh fruit wasted in some areas where just nearby people haven’t seen fresh fruit for years.”

She said it was still too early to tell what this year’s wheat crop would be, as it depended on the weather. “So far it has been a bit drier but that may change,” she said.

Syrian farmers benefited from the best rainfall in a decade last year and harvested around 2.4 million tons of wheat, significantly better than the drought-stricken year before but still around 40 percent lower than the pre-war average.

Syrian Food Crisis Aggravates as War Chokes Farming

Iran Summons Envoy over $2 Billion U.S. Court Ruling

Iran summoned on Tuesday the Swiss ambassador, who manages U.S. interests in Tehran, to condemn a Supreme Court ruling that found the Islamic Republic guilty of several attacks and ordered that almost $2 billion in frozen Iranian assets be turned over to U.S. families of those killed in attacks blamed on Tehran.

The ruling would impact, among others, the families of 241 U.S. soldiers killed in truck bomb attacks on a U.S. Marine Corps barracks in Beirut in October 1983.

Iran denounced the ruling, which it considered as theft, while on Monday that it would seek to take the United States to the International Court of Justice at The Hague to prevent the distribution of the money.

“Iran’s strong objection over the ruling was conveyed during the meeting between Iranian official and the Swiss envoy. Iranian official underlined that the ruling was against international laws and bilateral agreements,” the semi-official ILNA news agency quoted Foreign Ministry as saying.

The Swiss embassy embodies U.S. interests in Iran, because Washington has not had a mission there since hardline Iranian students seized American embassy shortly after Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution and took 52 Americans hostage for 444 days.

The U.S. Supreme Court found that Congress had not usurped the authority of the courts by passing a law in 2012 stating that the frozen funds should go toward satisfying a $2.65 billion judgment against Iran won by the families in a U.S. federal court in 2007.

President Hassan Rouhani’s hardline critics say the ruling proves the United Sates’ unrelenting hostility towards Iran, despite a momentous nuclear deal reached between Tehran and six major powers last year.

Moderate allies of Rouhani look forward to developing ties between Tehran and Washington, following the nuclear deal and lifting of sanctions in January in exchange for the curbing of Iran’s nuclear program. Iran’s top authority, however, has ruled out possibility of stabilization of Iran-U.S. relations.

Iran Summons Envoy over $2 Billion U.S. Court Ruling

IMF: Actions Listed in “Vision 2030” Respond to Challenges Facing Saudi Economy

Washington- A great number of economic analysts and officials in international companies and U.S. research centers praised the ambitious plan that was revealed by Saudi Arabia for 2030. They pointed out that it is not only based on ambitions, but also on a group of executive procedures; proving that it can be implemented, achieving economic diversity and attracting international investments.

The Washington-based International Monetary Fund said the Saudi agenda was “ambitious” and “far-reaching,” although the agency warned it would be difficult to implement the plan.

Masood Ahmed, International Monetary Fund director for the Middle East and Central Asia, said the plan’s objective of diversifying the economy away from oil is “exactly the kind of transformation that an economy as that of Saudi Arabia needs.”

“I think the real issue is going to be how to make sure that these very sensible and ambitious objectives can be translated into real changes,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat.

“I think it is the right approach in the sense of the level of ambition and also in terms of the comprehensive scope because, really, Saudi Arabia’s economy is facing major challenges.”

“They’ve got budget deficits that are going to be unsustainable at current and projected oil prices and they have a growth model primarily driven by oil, so diversifying the economy and trying to balance the budget are the right objectives.”

For his part, the Executive Director for Middle East Affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Steve Lutes confirmed that this new plan to diversify Saudi economy provides many opportunities for U.S. companies.

He said in exclusive statements for Asharq Al-Awsat that the United States and Saudi Arabia have been committed to long-term relations and that investment and trade are major foundations of these relations.

Lutes added, “The Kingdom’s efforts to diversify its economy and adopt a plan to put its future in the right track is motivating; thus the U.S. Chamber of Commerce will work on raising awareness among U.S. companies seeking new investment opportunities, and pushing them forward to start new projects in Saudi Arabia by defining plans and new trade and investment trends.”

The Executive Director for Middle East Affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce also said that the chamber is still committed to reinforce and expand economic relations between the USA and major countries in the Middle East, such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, in order to create job opportunities, push growth rates upward and achieve stability and nourishment.

In this matter, Professor at Texas A&M University, Gregory Gause, said: “Shifting from an oil-based economy to something different is very difficult.”

“The Saudis have been talking about it for decades, but have made little progress. So Prince Mohammed bin Salman has his work cut out for him.”

He added that what makes this plan effective is that it contains executive procedures based on the geopolitical, economic and political changes the world is facing nowadays.

It is clear that whoever put this plan has studied carefully the Hydrocarbon Energy sector.

Gause noted that even if Saudi Arabia succeeded in implementing part of this ambitious plan, it will protect the economy from being affected by external threats because the future always carries positive and negative surprises.

This plan, according to Gause, acts as a shell to protect the country and provide it with new sources for its budget.

He also considered it a chance to embrace millions of Saudi youth, who studied abroad and gained diverse experiences and skills, which their country need to implement this plan. Moreover, Gause hoped that oil-producing countries would follow the lead of Saudi Arabia and diversify their economy. He also called on other countries to

provide skills required in the labor force in order to accommodate changes expected within the coming 15 years.

IMF: Actions Listed in “Vision 2030” Respond to Challenges Facing Saudi Economy

Air Strikes Kill 5 Rescue Workers near Syria's Aleppo

Two air strikes and at least one rocket attack staged overnight against an opposition-held area west of Aleppo killed five rescue workers, who appeared to have been knowingly targeted, a monitoring group and colleagues nearby reported.

The raids hit a center for the Syrian Civil Defence, known as the “White Helmets”, in the town of Atareb, some 25 km (15 miles) west of Aleppo.

The recent weeks have witnessed grave escalation in fighting in Aleppo province, as a partial truce brokered the United States and Russia in February has all but collapsed.

The Civil Defence corps work as first responders in opposition-held territory where medical infrastructure has broken down.

“The targeting was very precise,” Radi Saad, a Civil Defence worker based in northwestern Syria, told Reuters via internet.

“They were in the center and ready to respond. When they heard warplanes in the area they did not think they would be the target.”

It was unclear whether Syrian or Russian warplanes had launched the raids, he said. There was no immediate comment from the Syrian government.

Another Civil Defence member, Ahmad Sheikho, said five rescue workers had died and two were seriously wounded. Ambulances and cars belonging to doctors were also damaged.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based monitoring group, said at least five had been killed, confirming that the center appeared to have been deliberately targeted.

The observatory also reported government air strikes and rebel bombardments in Aleppo city killing dozens of people in the last few days.

In the past 24 hours, fighting in Aleppo has killed at least 30 people including at least eight children, the Observatory added.

Air Strikes Kill 5 Rescue Workers near Syria's Aleppo

The New Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia entered a new era yesterday with the approval of an ambitious plan that includes almost all sectors. It aims, in particular, to diversify the economy and utilise new sources of income other than oil by 2030.

The economic reform plan known as “Saudi Vision 2030” was approved by the Saudi Arabian Council of Ministers in a session during which the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz called on male and female citizens to work together to realise the plan which he described as “ambitious”. King Salman also stressed that since coming to power he has pursued “comprehensive development emanating from our religious fundamentals, investing our country’s capabilities and potentialities, benefiting from our country’s location, and its characteristics of resources and advantages to achieve a better future for the country and its people along with adherence to our pure religion and maintaining the originality of our society and its basic fundamentals.” He also expressed his hope that Saudi Arabia would become a “model for the world”.

On his part, the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz said that everyone in Saudi Arabia must get involved in implementing the ““Saudi Vision 2030” that will come to fruition with the help of Allah the Almighty in the coming years.”

The Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman outlined the new plan and stressed that it represents a road map for achieving Saudi Arabia’s goals for development. Prince Mohammed bin Salman added that “Vision 2030”

is a starting point for a stronger and better Saudi that will achieve everybody’s ambitions. He continued by saying that the aim of “Vision 2030” is not to lower the price of oil; rather, it aims to take advantage of the abilities that are not being made use of.

Prince Mohammed bin Salman also explained that a number of programmes will be announced in the coming months. The first of these programmes will concern national transformation which will seek to achieve the goals of the plan in the services sector.

The Deputy Crown Prince also talked about the company Aramco which he said would be part of the “Saudi Vision 2030” and added that the plan includes the sale of less than 5 percent of Aramco shares through an initial public offering (IPO) in order to achieve a number of objectives, the most notable being transparency. He also mentioned that “People used to be unhappy that files and data of Aramco are undeclared, unclear and not transparent. Today they will be transparent. If Aramco gets IPO-ed that means it has to announce its statements of accounts”.

The New Saudi Arabia

Canada Confirms Its First Sexually Transmitted Zika Case

Health officials in Canada confirmed the first case of a Zika virus infection that was contracted locally through sex.

A resident in Ontario, who was not further identified, is believed to have contracted the virus from a sexual partner who came down with Zika after traveling to an affected country, according to a statement from Public Health Agency of Canada and Ontario’s Ministry of Health.

The outbreak of Zika in Brazil, first detected last year, has been linked to 4,863 confirmed and suspected cases of microcephaly, a condition defined by unusually small heads that can lead to serious developmental problems in babies.

The Zika virus, transmitted mainly through the bite of certain infected female mosquitoes, is spreading rapidly across many countries in the Americas, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), which declared the outbreak a global health emergency.

The WHO has identified Zika cases in Argentina, Chile, France, Italy and New Zealand as likely caused by sexual transmission, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is also examining cases of possible sexual transmission.

Along with the new case transmitted locally through sex, Canada has confirmed 55 Zika infections, all related to travel to other countries. The mosquitoes known to transmit the virus have not established themselves in Canada.

The World Health Organization has said there is strong scientific consensus that Zika can also cause Guillain-Barre, a rare neurological syndrome that causes temporary paralysis in adults.

The connection between Zika and microcephaly first came to light last fall in Brazil, which has now confirmed more than 1,100 cases of microcephaly that it considers to be related to Zika infections in the mothers.

There is no treatment or vaccine for Zika infection.

International efforts are being spent to contain the Zika virus and unveil its hidden truths. For instance, Google announced back in January that its engineers were working with U.N. child agency UNICEF to build a platform that aims to map and predict potential outbreaks of the Zika virus, linked to birth defects among children in Brazil.

Alphabet Inc’s Google said in a statement it was providing a $1 million grant to the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund to help their volunteers on the ground, mostly in Latin America, adding that it was also prominently surfacing information about the virus in its search engine.

Canada Confirms Its First Sexually Transmitted Zika Case

Monday, 25 April 2016

Opinion: Awaiting Repair

“Moderate Arabs” or the vast majority of Arab countries were natural allies of the United States; both with regards to bilateral relations or positions on international conflicts. Arab countries provided it with energy, regulated oil prices through OPEC and gave it land and naval bases in Qatar and Bahrain.

Egypt, the largest of these countries, sided with Washington entirely and did away with the most important strategic Soviet stronghold outside the Soviet Union. It was in both Arab and American interests to liberate Kuwait and to prevent the international oil system from being negatively affected.

Arab governments have ignored attacks and campaigns wielded against them in Morocco, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan in order to maintain harmonious world order in almost complete accordance with mutual understanding with America. Soviet threats did not scare them and neither did the Iranian policies and threats that came after.

The primary factor in the continuation of the general Arab position was the principle and the irreversibility of promises, along with a list of interests, of course, and the Arab fear of communism. This pyramid of relationships and partnerships did not suffer from any strategic imbalance except when Barack Obama came onto the scene. This can be seen from the renunciation of the Palestinian cause and the unprecedented intervention in the affairs of Egypt whilst it is suffering from an existential ordeal. It can also be seen in its treatment of the Gulf Cooperation Council as a strange organisation that does not have the right to intervene and is not important as a result of the US shift towards Iran that is accompanied by the president’s praise of Iranian pragmatism.

The structural collapse of the US-Arab relationship brought about by Obama was not repaired by his casual approach to the situation. He even abandoned usual diplomatic language to present his famous principle and his conclusion that the Arabs have no one to blame but themselves.

Obama did not let down America’s adversaries in the Arab world, but rather its allies. He wondered around pleasing Russia, Iran and Iraq. A country like America has the right to search for new friends anywhere, but it is not fitting that that is done at the cost of the security and integrity of previous friendships.

Opinion: Awaiting Repair

Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Says Kingdom Can Give up Oil in 2020

Al Arabiya News Channel interviewed on Monday Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who discussed the Kingdom’s newly-adopted Vision 2030 roadmap, promising an end to Riyadh’s dependence on oil revenue by 2020.

While talking to Prince Mohammad, Al Arabiya News Channel’s General Manager Turki Al-Dakhi raised a number of subjects including plans to put oil giant Aramco’s shares in an initial public offering, the Saudi public investment fund, tourism, a Green Card scheme, expats, defense and further details on the Saudi Vision.

His highness explained that Saudi Arabia will be selling less than 5 percent of oil giant Aramco’s shares via a partial IPO as part of the new strategy, highlighting that it is set to be the “biggest IPO in history.”

He said he expected Aramco to be valued at more than $2 trillion, and expressed his desire to transform it into a holding company with an elected board, adding that subsidiaries of the company would also be sold by IPO.

“The 5 percent is from the parent company,” he said. Aramco is the world’s leading oil producing company, with about 10 million barrels per day of output, or about 10 percent of global production.

With the partial IPO, Saudi Arabia’s economy will be investment-driven, turning the kingdom into a “global player,” said the prince.

He added: “The kingdom can live in 2020 without any dependence on oil … The Saudi addiction to oil has disturbed development of many sectors in past years.”

“We plan to set up a $2 trillion sovereign wealth fund… part of its assets will come from the sale of a small part of Aramco,” the prince said.

He said the fund would comprise current Saudi fiscal assets of around $600 billion, in addition to revenues from the sales of Aramco shares and state-owned real estate and industrial areas estimated to be worth $1 trillion.

“We restructured the fund. We included new assets in the fund, Aramco and other assets, and we fixed the problems of the current assets that the public investment fund owns, both in terms of companies and other projects,” he added.

“Initial data say the fund will have control over more than 10 percent of global investment capacity.”


When asked about the awaited topic of the Green Card for expatriates in the kingdom, the deputy crown prince said the scheme “will be ready within five years.”

“The Green Card will allow Muslims and Arabs to live in Saudi Arabia for a long time and will be a source for revenue for the government,” he added.

Prince Mohammed also unveiled Saudi goals to open up for all tourists, “within our beliefs and values,” accentuating the importance of fortifying culture and entertainment in the kingdom.

As for the kingdom’s plans to establish the world’s biggest Islamic museum, Prince Mohammed said: “How can the kingdom be the holiest site for Muslims and have no Islamic museum?”


The prince said the Aramco IPO would be a key player in advancing transparency in the kingdom.

“In this day and age, no country can afford to not be transparent.

“There are a lot of benefits to the Aramco proposal, and the most important one and the major one is transparency.

“People in the past used to be upset that Aramco’s files and data are not announced, unclear and not transparent. If Aramco is listed in the market, this means it must announce its lists, it must declare every quarter.

“It will become under the supervision of all Saudi banks and all Saudi analysts and thinkers. Or rather, all world banks and all research and planning centers in the world will intensively observe Aramco.”

The prince had previously said that Saudi Arabia is set to limit the impact of subsidy cuts on citizens.

The proposed system being developed by the Saudi government would provide cash to low and middle income Saudis who rely on subsidies.

He said the planned lifting of subsidies, as part of the Saudi Vision for 2030, will be implemented on everyone, “including princes and government ministers. This is a promise.”

The deputy crown prince also confirmed in the interview a government aim to reduce Saudi unemployment from 11.6% to 7%


On the topic of Saudi Arabia’s military spending, the prince asked: “How could we be the world 3rd largest spender on arms, but we don’t have a military industry?”

He then announced plans to set up a holding company for military industries that would be fully owned by the government at first and listed later on the Saudi bourse.

“We are now about to establish a holding company for the military industries 100 percent owned by the government that will be listed later in the Saudi market …We expect it to be launched by end of 2017 with more details,” the prince added.


The prince said the Saudi Vision 2030 has no links to oil prices.

“The Saudi Vision 2030 was going to be implemented regardless of oil price,” he said, in references to prices plunging to a 12-year low of $32 a barrel in January.

“The Vision doesn’t require high-spending but restructuring.”

Explaining the roadmap, he said it mainly focuses on the kingdom’s strengths, being its religion and Arab heritage, Saudi investment ability and location.

Asked on the development of the King Salman bridge over the Red Sea, announced last week in an agreement with Egypt, Prince Mohammad said the crossing “will link Europe and Asia and will provide vast building and investment opportunities.”

He said the bridge will help move billions’ worth of cargo across the Red Sea.

He added: “All infrastructure projects within Saudi Arabia still stand and will be implemented.”

Prince Mohammed, who is spearheading the roadmap, had previously said that National Transformation Plan – part of the Saudi Vision 2030 – will include asset sales, tax increases, spending cuts, changes to the way the state manages its financial reserves, an efficiency drive, and a much bigger role for the private sector.

Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Says Kingdom Can Give up Oil in 2020

Saudi Arabia Approves ‘Vision 2030’ Today

Saudi Arabia’s cabinet approved on Monday an economic reform plan — named “Vision 2030” — that aims to minimize the gulf nation’s reliance on oil as a source of revenue and diversify the economy.

Under the chairmanship of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the Saudi Cabinet devoted its session on Monday to look into the draft of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia s Vision 2030 on which the Council of Economic Affairs and Development issued the decision No. (3-31/37) dated on 12/7/1437 AH.

The cabinet also decided that The Council of Economic Affairs and Development shall set the necessary mechanisms and arrangements to implement this vision and follow it up.

The decision holds Saudi ministries and other governmental bodies – each in its respective authority – responsible for taking the required measures to implement this vision according to the mechanisms and arrangements referred to in item (second) of this decision.

Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is heading the Vision 2030 roadmap, has previously said that National Transformation Plan (NTP) will include asset sales, tax increases, spending cuts, modifications to managing financial reserves, an efficiency drive, and a much bigger role for the private sector.

The deputy crown prince had previously revealed the kingdom’s plans to allocate a $2 trillion Public Investment Fund for a post-oil economy.

As part of the new strategy, the prince had said the kingdom will put 5 percent of oil firm Aramco’s shares in an initial public offering that could happen as early as next year. Aramco, Saudi’s state-owned oil giant, is the world’s largest company in terms of market capitalization.


During the meeting, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques delivered the following speech:

“In the name of Allah, the Most Merciful, the Most Gracious, Praise be to Allah and His prayer and peace be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family and companions.

Brothers and sisters, male and female citizens: May Allah’s peace, mercy and blessings be upon you.

Your State was established on the basis of adhering to the Holy Quran and the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). It is the cradle of the message and the Revelation, and was honored by Allah Almighty in the service of the Two Holy Mosques and their visitors.

Brothers and sisters:

I have set in front of me since I was honored to ascend to the throne the seeking for the comprehensive development emanating from our religious fundamentals, investing our country’s capabilities and potentialities, benefiting from our country’s location, and its characteristics of resources and advantages to achieve a better future for the country and its people along with adherence to our pure religion and maintaining of the originality of our society and its basic fundamentals. Emanating from this view point, we directed the Council of Economic Affairs and Development to set the Kingdom’s economic and development vision to achieve what we hope that our country – with the help of Allah Almighty – be a model for the world at all levels.

We were briefed on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s vision submitted by the Council of Economic Affairs and Development and approved by the Cabinet, expressing our thanks to the Council for its efforts exerted in this regard, hoping that our sons and daughters, male and female citizens work together to achieve this ambitious vision, praying to Allah Almighty for success and that the vision be of goodness and blessing to achieve progress and prosperity for our dear homeland.

May Allah’s peace, mercy and blessings be upon you.”

Saudi Arabia Approves ‘Vision 2030’ Today

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Patronizes “Saud of Nations” Conference with International Figures Attending

Riyadh-Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud patronized on Sunday the International conference, organized by King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, to remember and honor late Prince Saud Al-Faisal.

The event was held at King Abdulaziz International Center for Conferences in Riyadh.

Accompanied by Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, President of the General Authority for Tourism and National Heritage, Prince Sultan bin Fahd bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Prince Ahmed bin Fahd bin Salman bin Abdulaziz and Prince Faisal bin Ahmed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, King Salman was received upon arrival at the venue by Prince Mohammed Al Faisal; Prince Khalid Al-Faisal, Advisor to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and Governor of Makkah Region; Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz Al Saud; Prince Turki Al-Faisal, Chairman of King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies; Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz, Governor of Riyadh; Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz, Crown Prince, Deputy Premier and Interior Minister; Prince Mohammed bin Saud al-Faisal and Prince Khaled bin Saud al-Faisal.

After the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques had a seat at the main platform, the ceremony commenced by reading verses from the Holy Quran, then the royal anthem was played.

Addressing the gathering, Prince Mohammed Al-Faisal thanked King Salman for coming to honor a man who spent all his life in the service of the nation, citing his service as foreign minister and contemporaneous with five kings.

He also paid tribute to the rest of the attendees, including King Juan Carlos of Spain.

Afterwards, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques watched a video on the late Prince Saud Al-Faisal displaying his service for Islam and for five kings of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The video also tackled his personality, diplomacy and his brothers.

Moreover, Prince Khalid Al-Faisal, Advisor to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and Governor of Makkah Region delivered a speech.

He welcomed the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and the elite audience, and he paid tribute to late Prince Saud Al-Faisal, citing his good deeds, history and achievements.

He also talked about the intimate relation between him and his late brother.

Later on, the King received a gift from the sons and daughters of late King Faisal bin Abdulaziz.

Then the royal anthem was played to announce the departure of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.

The ceremony was attended by former Spanish King Juan Carlos, former Lebanese President Amine Gemayel, Sheikh Mohammed bin Mubarak Al Khalifa, Prime Minister of Bahrain, Lebanese Former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and the Palestinian former Prime Minister Salam Fayyad .

The event was also attended by Prince Bandar bin Mohammed bin Abdulrahman; Prince Abdel Elah bin Abdulaziz, advisor to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques; Prince Khaled bin Fahd bin Khaled; Prince Turki bin Abdullah bin Abdulrahman; Prince Saud al-Abdullah al-Faisal; Prince Saud bin Saad bin Abdulaziz; Prince Fahd bin Abdullah bin Mohammed; Prince Saud bin Abdul Mohsen bin Abdulaziz, Governor of Ha’il; Prince Badr bin Abdul Mohsen bin Abdulaziz; Prince Turki bin Mohammed bin Saud al-Kabeer, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for Multiple Relationships; Prince Khaled bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz, Advisor to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques; Prince Dr Mansour bin Mutaib bin Abdulaziz, Minister of State member of the Cabinet and Advisor to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques; Prince Mutaib bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, Minister of the National Guard; Prince Saud bin Abdullah bin Thunayan, Chairman of the Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu; Prince

Sultan bin Nasser bin Abdulaziz; Prince Dr Abdulaziz bin Nasser bin Abdulaziz; Prince Sattam bin Saud bin Abdulaziz and a number of other princes, senior officials, politicians and intellectuals.

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Patronizes “Saud of Nations” Conference with International Figures Attending