MAKKAH: As part of King Salman’s umrah program for the current year, 220 guests arrived in Makkah from Madinah Monday night and performed the umrah rituals.
The guests included prominent Islamic figures from Asian and African countries. They are the first group to be hosted as part of the program this year.
They were received by officials from the General Secretariat of the program of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques for Haj, Umrah and Visit at the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Endowments, Call and Guidance.
The guests praised King Salman’s commitment to serve Islam and Muslims from around the world and thanked him for his continuous care and concern for Muslim affairs.
The program, they said, is testimony to his support, alongside other programs aimed at assisting Muslims around the world.
The visitors also expressed happiness at arriving in Makkah to visit the Grand Mosque and perform Umrah.
After completing the Umrah rituals, the visitors’ program includes a meeting with an imam of the Grand Mosque, visiting the Kiswa factory and the Two Holy Mosques Exhibition, as well as an open day including a number of cultural and entertainment activities.
The first group hosted by the program this year under a royal decree has visitors from 15 African and Asian states: Nigeria, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Chad, Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan, Senegal, Mali, Ivory Coast, Malaysia, Pakistan, India, Turkmenistan, Sri Lanka and Uzbekistan.
MAKKAH: As part of King Salman’s umrah program for the current year, 220 guests arrived in Makkah from Madinah Monday night and performed the umrah rituals.
RIYADH: The European Union (EU), where cross-border railway system is the key component of the transport network, has announced plans to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to lend full support in terms of experience and regulatory provisions to build and operate the Gulf railway. The cost of linking the six GCC member states by railway is estimated at $250 billion.
“The 28-member EU has really good experience in managing cross-border railway connectivity, which we will share with GCC besides our technical knowhow,” said Violeta Bulc, European transport commissioner, in an exclusive interview with Arab News here, on Tuesday. Bulc gave an overview of the EU-Saudi relations as well as EU-GCC ties with special reference to the growing cooperation including projects and plans in transport sector.
The proposed MoU between the EU and the GCC, once endorsed by the two sides, will be an important step to cater to the transportation needs of the GCC, which has one of the highest rates of population growth today. The construction of the 2,117 km-long GCC railway network is expected to be completed by 2021. According to Middle East Eye (MME), an online news portal, the total cost of the GCC railway project including linking the six countries by rail will be $250 billion.
Referring to her meeting with GCC Secretary-General Abdullatif Al-Zayani, Bulc said that she had discussions about possibilities of cooperation in different areas with special reference to the potentials in the railway sector. She said that “the EU would like to support GCC with its experiences, especially in terms of standards and regulatory framework in the railway sector.”
“We can also share technical solutions to the problems,” said the EU official.
She said that that the GCC chief made it categorically clear the “EU should also move to ensure progress on GCC-EU free trade agreement.”
Asked about the proposed free trade agreement (FTA), which has been on the back burner for the last several years, Bulc said that “to be honest with you, GCC-EU FTA is the only long-term tool with investment to ensure growth, job creation and development.”
In fact, the GCC and the EU launched negotiations for free trade agreement back in 1990. But the negotiations met a dead end in 2008 when they were suspended indefinitely. The two blocs, which do realize the importance of FTA, are willing to initiate the negotiations again. The FTA is foreseen to provide for a progressive and reciprocal liberalization of trade in goods and services.
Referring to her wide-ranging talks with Sulaiman Al-Hamdan, minister of transport, she said that a similar MoU to boost cooperation in railway sector will be separately inked with Saudi Arabia. She, however, did not point out the dates of endorsing the two MoUs. She said that the proposed MoU will help Saudi side to acquire “standards, regulatory framework and also create better environment for businesses to engage in the deployment of addition railway tracks in the Kingdom.”
She said that Saudi Arabia is one of the key countries with deployment of European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS), which is the modern management system to operate railways. Moreover, the EU transport commissioner said that EU companies have already been partners in the deployment of railway systems in the Kingdom.
Asked about the outcome of her meeting with Mohammed Al-Tuwaijri, deputy minister of economy and planning, the official said that “we primarily discussed different financial models used and deployed by the EU.” “The two sides agreed to hold regular consultations as far as investment environment is concerned,” said Bulc.
She pointed out that the EU and Saudi Arabia have also agreed to work together in the areas of road safety, urban mobility and emerging technologies as well as emissions control. On the investment front and in the context of the EU, she said that “the investment plan for Europe aims to encourage investment in order to create jobs, boost growth and competitiveness, meet long-term economic needs and strengthen EU’s productive capacity and infrastructure.”
The key element is the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), which encourages investments in infrastructure projects and SMEs, she added. By providing a total guarantee of 21 billion euros for business and infrastructure projects, of which 16 billion euros is from the EU budget and 5 billion euros from the European Investment Bank, the EFSI aims to unlock additional investment of at least 315 billion euros over three years, according to a booklet entitled ‘Investment Plan for Europe’, which was released by the EU transport commission during the EU-GCC business forum here.
Referring to her meetings in the Saudi capital, Bulc said that she had met a group of Saudi women leaders and held very “constructive dialogue.” She said the two sides have agreed to identify some projects of “cultural nature”, which will eventually provide an effective platform to talk and share experiences. She also counted several new projects and plans being implemented in Europe for peace and progress.
To this end, she noted that the European Commission (EC) has adopted regulations from the new European Rail Traffic Management System European Deployment Plan (ERTMS EDP). With the new ERTMS in place, trains across Europe are set to run seamlessly by replacing differing national technical systems. The EU is also working to unify the rules and legislations for operating cross-border railway easily and effectively.
RIYADH : King Felipe VI will arrive here on a three-day state visit starting Saturday to build a strong relationship between Saudi Arabia and Spain.
Confirming the high-profile visit, Spanish Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Joaquin Perez-Villanueva told Arab News on Wednesday: “The King will be on an official visit to Saudi Arabia from Jan. 14-16 and will be accompanied by an important delegation that includes Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Alfonso Dastis, Minister of Public Works Inigo de la Serna, Deputy Minister of Defense Agustin Conde Bajen, Deputy Minister of Commerce Maria Luisa Poncela Garcia, Deputy Minister of Infrastructures, Transport and Housing Julio Gomez Pomar and top Spanish officials.”
“The king during his stay in the capital will be chairing meetings with the delegation coming with him and hold meetings on political level with the highest authorities in the Kingdom,” the envoy said.
In reply to a question whether the sale of military ships to the Kingdom will be on the agenda during the visit, he said: “We have no idea about it. Negotiations have been going on for quite a while. It could be discussed during the visit.”
The current visit, the first state visit to Saudi Arabia by King Felipe VI, was originally scheduled for Nov. 12, but was postponed following the death of Prince Turki bin Abdulaziz and re-scheduled now with half a dozen Spanish ministers and senior officials to build a strong and robust relationship with the Kingdom.
King Felipe is expected to hold talks with King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Naif and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on a wide range of bilateral, regional and international issues.
The visit is also expected to coincide with the signing of a contract under which the Kingdom would buy five warships from the Spanish company Navantia.
Spain has longstanding political and economic relations with the Kingdom and is involved in building a high-speed rail line between the two holy cities of Makkah and Madinah.
RIYADH: A Shoura Council panel has called for the introduction of amendments to some regulations which will allow the Ministry of Labor and Social Development to undertake guardianships of those unable to care for themselves, or protect their rights, notably the minors of unknown parents, or the handicapped who have been abandoned by their guardians.
This recommendation was contained in a report presented by the Committee of Social Affairs, Family and Youth during the 9th ordinary session of the Shoura Council here on Wednesday.
According to the committee, the amendments will empower the ministry to protect minors or the handicapped exposed to physical or psychological assaults and seek social, health or educational rights for them.
Following discussion on the report, many members favored the amendments for protection of those who cannot take care of themselves.
One member, wanted a specific department within the Ministry of Labor and Social Development that will undertake the guardianship of these minors and handicapped.
Meanwhile, Shoura members expressed appreciation for the efforts exerted by the Ministry of the National Guard in cooperation with other security organs in protecting the security of the Kingdom. The members were commenting on the efforts and missions of the Ministry of the National Guard in a report which was presented by the Committee on Security Affairs.
Later, the council listened to a report presented by the Committee of Haj, Housing and Services, in which it recommended the Ministry of Haj and Umrah to coordinate with other concerned parties to lay down a job structure for field services. The committee also asked the ministry to coordinate with the Development Authority of Makkah and the Holy Sites to develop infrastructure in the holy sites (Mina, Muzdalaifah, and Arafat) in accordance with the comprehensive plan for the development of the holy sites.
Commenting on the report, one member proposed the introduction of smart applications to explain Haj and Umrah rituals, while another called for opening Haj and Umrah missions in Saudi embassies abroad in light of the increasing number of Hajis and Umrah performers. A third member called for construction of vertical buildings in Mina to accommodate more Hajis and minimize unauthorized camping at that holy site. Another member noted the absence of the Ministry of Haj’s works and media throughout the year except for the season.
Shoura Council members later listened to a report presented by the Committee of Water, Agriculture and Environment on the annual report of the Ministry of Water and Agriculture. The committee, among other recommendations, stressed the application of the total management program to combat the red palm weevil, the activation of the royal decree on the King Abdullah Initiative on agricultural investments abroad, as well as the safe use of pesticides in agricultural production.
Commenting on the report, one member asked for the establishment of a national plan for combating red palm weevil, while another called for focusing on water research and minimizing costs of water desalination using clean energy.
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has signed an agreement with Niger to enhance economic cooperation between the two countries.
The accord, comprising seven articles, was signed in Niger between the Council of Saudi Chambers (CSC) and the Niger Chamber of Commerce to promote trade and investments between the countries.
On behalf of the Kingdom, CSC Vice Chairman Shuwaimi Al-Kattab signed the deal, while Niger’s Chamber of Commerce President Moussa Sidi Mohammed signed for his country.
Al-Kattab said the Kingdom wants to enhance its economic relations with the African continent, particularly with Niger, the largest country in West Africa, due to its vast opportunities, especially in the oil, petrochemical, mining, agriculture and livestock sectors.
The agreement aims at boosting trade and investments between the Saudi and Nigerian business sectors through exchanging economic information pertaining to their markets, production, trade opportunities and partnership.
Both parties will offer suggestions on ways to improve economic cooperation.
The cooperation agreement entails that CSC and Niger’s Chamber of Commerce exchange information on regular basis concerning trade and investment opportunities to open new horizons.
Aside from exchanging business delegations, the parties will stage exhibitions and forums to introduce their respective products, provide business publications and catalogs on the latest developments and regulations in both countries and assist businesspeople in trade disputes in accordance with approved international standards and agreements.
The CSC and the Niger Chamber of Commerce will dedicate their efforts to promote investment opportunities and joint ventures in both countries.
During the visit of Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou to the Kingdom, three bilateral agreements and a memorandum of understanding were signed Sunday between the Kingdom and Niger in Riyadh. A security agreement was signed by Deputy Minister of Interior Abdul Rahman Al-Rubaian on the Saudi side and Niger’s Minister of National Defense Kalla Moutari.
Also signed were an agreement for the building and equipping of primary schools in all regions of Niger, a draft agreement on the Kandadji Dam project and a memorandum of understanding for the fifth phase of a Saudi program for digging wells and rural development. The agreements were signed by the deputy chairman of the Saudi Fund for Development, Yousef bin Ibrahim Al-Bassam, and Niger’s Minister of Planning Kane Aichatou Boulama.
King Salman decorated President Issoufou with the King Abdulaziz Medal during the visit.
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ABHA: Asir police have arrested 14 people involved in ATM scams whose victims were mostly the elderly.
The gang stole more than SR3 million.
Spokesman for Asir police Maj. Zaid Mohammed Al-Dabbash said in a statement on Tuesday that the police received in the past few years reports from citizens, most of them elderly, that they were swindled at ATMs by people who pretended to help while, in reality, stole data and used them to defraud them.
Al-Dabbash said that based on those reports, a team was assigned to collect information about the cases, analyze them and keep several suspects under observation.
“Authorities monitored a septuagenarian resident who was accompanied by three unknown people in front of an ATM. The suspect was arrested along with his companions who are now under investigation,” Al-Dabbash said.
Thorough investigations resulted in the arrest of all individuals involved in the scam.
Fourteen people aged between 22 and 65 were arrested. The detained included a woman in her 30s. They all confessed to committing 25 such crimes in Asir and other regions of the Kingdom.
RIYADH: King Salman was pronounced winner of the King Faisal International Prize (KFIP) for his service to Islam at an event held in Riyadh on Tuesday.
Makkah Governor Prince Khalid Al-Faisal, adviser to the king, CEO of the King Faisal Foundation and chairman of the KFIP Commission, made the opening speech to announce the winners at a press briefing at Al-Khozama Center.
The award ceremony was attended by members of the selection committees, leading scholars, scientists, intellectuals and media representatives.
Prince Khalid said King Salman’s award was in recognition of his commitment to serving the two Holy Mosques and their visitors and pilgrims.
“He was my model and mentor,” the prince said, wishing him longevity and good health.
The prize for Islamic studies was awarded to Ridwan Al-Sayyid, a professor at the University of Lebanon, for his research and studies of Arabic Islamic jurisprudential and political heritage.
The prize for Arabic language and literature was awarded to the Arabic Language Academy of Jordan, for its efforts to transfer science
and technology via translation, Arabize technical terms, publish specialized glossaries and make Arabic a language of instruction.
Tadamitsu Kishimoto, professor of immunology at Osaka University, Japan, was named winner of the prize for medicine.
Kishimoto, through his work of more than 30 years, is responsible for discovering interleukin-6 (IL-6), its receptor and signaling pathways.
He established the physiological function of the interleukin-6 (IL-6) pathway and its role in inflammatory/autoimmune diseases.
Subsequently, he developed an interleukin-6 (IL-6) receptor-blocking antibody into a biological therapy, leading clinical development of this therapy toward first approval for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.
The prize for science was shared by Daniel Loss, professor of physics at Basel University, Switzerland, and by Dutch Professor Laurens Molenkamp of Wurzburg University, Germany.
Loss is a pioneer in the theory of spin dynamics and spin coherence in quantum dots showing promise for practical applications in spin quantum computers.
The idea is to use the spin rather than the charge of electrons trapped in quantum dots as quantum bits.
His work has inspired many important experimental programs. Loss’ contributions open the door to powerful spintronic quantum computers with exceptional speed and storage capacity.
Molenkamp has significantly contributed to the experimental field of spintronics.
His work includes ground-breaking methods for creating and manipulating spin-polarized charge-carrier states in semiconductors, with the potential to develop magnetic storage devices.
Molenkamp has experimentally confirmed the quantum spin-Hall effect, which firms up the field of topological insulators, a novel form of quantum matter.
Author: ARAB NEWSWed, 2017-01-11ID: 1484090540580923300JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia has adopted a new mechanism to grant business visas for foreign investors within 24 hours. Foreign Ministry official Usama Nugali confirmed the move to Arab News on S…
RIYADH: Riyadh Metro is an impressive project, which will change the lifestyle of the people in the city, said EU Commissioner Violetta Bulc.
Bulc’s comments followed her tour of the ongoing SR85 billion ($22.5 billion) project in Riyadh.
She earlier inaugurated the second EU-GCC Business Forum, PPP and Infrastructure Investment Opportunities in the GCC in Riyadh.
“The deadlines are very demanding, but so far they’re following the deadlines well,” she told the media on the sidelines of the forum.
“As far as I could tell … it’s moving well,” she said.
Describing the metro as the largest investment project in the field of transport in Saudi Arabia, Bulc said that she was happy to note that those involved in the project are using state-of-the art equipment and services for the convenience of commuters.
Bulc said she understood the completion date to be 2019, and described the metro as “the biggest global project in urban mobility.”
The metro, the biggest infrastructure project in the history of Riyadh, is an urban rail and bus system, and the project is on track, Pietro Bagnati, project director for the Italian construction group Salini Impregilo, separately told AFP.
“The project is going on satisfactorily. It is a priority project for the government,” Bagnati said on the sidelines of the forum.
His firm leads the ArRiyadh New Mobility consortium, one of three foreign groups building the six-line Metro project planned to cover 179km of the sprawling city.
The underground and elevated rail network is to be supported by a bus system.
New Mobility’s portion of the project — the Line 3 railway — covers 42 kilometers.
During her opening address at the press briefing, the EU commissioner said that the purpose of her mission is to focus on a new investment plan with Saudi Arabia and other GCC countries, which took 18 months of preparation by the EU.
The commissioner addressed the media following a meeting with EU ambassadors in Riyadh.
Commending Saudi Vision 2030, she said it is an integrated action plan, which covers the implementation of a vast range of projects with the participation of local businessmen.
Bulc also said that she was touched by the hospitality of the people, who were cooperating with free and frank discussions.
Her talks with government officials focused on transport — railways and aviation — and digitization of these projects.
She added that other areas, including research and innovation in transport projects and urban mobility, crowd congestion and pollution, were also taken up during the talks.
In the field of aviation, she said it was agreed to sign trade agreements between the two parties.
Bulc said she had the opportunity of meeting a group of local women and praised the tremendous improvements in their lifestyle.
Bulc said that the literacy rate among women has greatly improved and she was happy to see a large number of women graduates completing their respective degrees at local and foreign universities.