Sultan of Oman Chair established at Leiden University
Rawiyah bint Saud bin Ahmed Al Busaidiyah, minister of higher education; and Professor Paul van der Heijden, Rector Magnificus and president of Leiden University, signed an agreement, establishing the Sultan of Oman Chair of Oriental Studies at the university.
International conference on water resources in Oman
Oman hosts int'l meeting on climate change
Oman, Saudi Arabia agree to regulate air transport
Rawiyah addressed a distinguished gathering at the inaugural ceremony held at Leiden University. Those in attendance included Khadijah Hassan Al Lawati, the Sultanate’s ambassador to the Netherlands; Habib Mohammad Al Riyami, secretary-general of the Sultan Qaboos Centre for Islamic Culture; Ali Saud Al Bemani, vice-chancellor of Sultan Qaboos University; the mayors of Rotterdam, The Hague, Leiden and Wassenaar, along with other dignitaries, officials and diplomats.
In her address, Rawiyah noted that the Chair in Oriental Studies at Leiden University brings the number of academic chairs established by the Sultanate in countries around the globe to a total of 12. In addition to the Arabian Gulf, the Sultan of Oman Chairs are established in diverse countries on four continents; Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America.
Six of these Chairs are for studies related to Arab and Islamic Culture (Leiden, Beijing, Georgetown, Melbourne, Oxford and Cambridge); two are assigned to Information Technology (Islamabad and Karachi); two are dedicated to Environmental concerns (Utrecht and Bahrain); and another is for International Relations (Harvard).
Rawiya explained the common goal and high intent of the academic endowments: "What unites these different areas of endeavour is that they are part of Oman’s highest mission to play a constructive role in the dialogue among civilizations, to promote cultural exchange and develop enduring ties of friendship and collaboration among nations for world harmony and peace."
"The emphasis on Arab and Islamic studies is a subset of this mission in which the Sultanate hopes to enhance world understanding of the Arab and Islamic contributions to culture, civilization and knowledge in many fields, including science, mathematics, literature, the visual arts, law, sociology, history, political science, economics, languages, archaeology and philosophy. The Sultan of Oman endowments support the development of new knowledge in each of these fields in which the Islamic nations of antiquity have made major contributions that continue to this day".
These important and worthy academic Chairs underscore the historic legacy of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos.
"With the establishment of these academic endowments, the Sultanate desires especially to honor the leadership of the Sultan of Oman, His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said, who has been active in preserving the heritage of Oman and contributing to the enrichment of knowledge in these fields in numerous ways," she said.
Rawiyah recognized Leiden University as "an institution committed to the promotion of good scholarship, teaching, research and publication, and the sustained cultivation of dialogue and cooperation within the wider international world of learning".
She remarked that "Leiden University was the first university in the Netherlands where freedom of belief and religion were practiced, as reflected in the university’s motto, Praesidium Libertatis, Bastion of Freedom - and this is in harmony with His Majesty’s steadfast commitment to policies of peace and reconciliation, founded on dialogue and mutual respect".
Founded in 1575 by Prince William of Orange, Leiden University is the oldest university in the Netherlands. The close connection of the University with the royal house of the Netherlands continued through the centuries; and, in recent times, queens Juliana and Beatrix, as well as Crown Prince Willem-Alexander studied there.
Rawiyah concluded her address by remarking, "The implementation of the Chair represents a significant step forward in building a partnership between our two countries that will continue to benefit the international world of scholarship and diplomacy".
Following her address, Rawiyah attended the inaugural lecture given by Dr. Maurits S. Berger, the professor nominated to hold the prestigious Sultan of Oman Chair of Oriental Studies. According to the age-old tradition of Leiden University, Professor Berger accepted his nomination by delivering the inaugural lecture. His interesting and enlightening lecture on "Islam and the Uncertainty Principle" was very well received.
Dr Rawiyah bint Saud bin Ahmed Al Busaidiyah, minister of higher education, has praised the role played by British institutions in Oman, commending in particular the British Council and provision of expertise for important projects such as the creation of the Higher Education Admissions Centre (HEAC) and the current initiative of HEAC to create a database for all of higher education.
Rawiyah was speaking before the Anglo-Omani Society during its annual luncheon.
Rawiyah provided the gathering with an insightful overview of the system of higher education in Oman, focusing on the potential for further cooperation in higher education between Oman and the UK.
Rawiyah said several reputed British universities like Exeter, Leeds and Reading had formed academic partnerships with private colleges in Oman. The British Open University, which is allied with the Arab Open University, opened a branch in Muscat recently.
Quoting statistics on the number of graduates now leaving the school system, Rawiyah said there was still considerable scope for the involvement of outside institutions in higher education in Oman.
With reference to the aims of Oman’s new National Research Council, the minister spoke about the opportunities in the area of joint ventures in advanced research in relevance to Oman’s current economic aims as expressed in the Seventh Five-Year Plan.
Rawiyah also spoke of the importance of the Sultan of Oman Academic Chairs and the desire of the government of Oman to make greater use of these significant and valuable endowments, now numbering 12 around the world. Two of these are in the United Kingdom - at Oxford and at Cambridge. The Oxford and Cambridge academic endowments give Oman and the Islamic world a strong presence in higher learning in Britain.
Rawiyah also struck a historical note with mention of two formal treaties signed between British and Omani interests in the 18th Century.
"The friendship of the two states may remain unshaken till the end of time; till the sun and the moon have finished their revolving career," she quoted from one of these treaties regarding the friendship between Oman and Britain. "Well, the sun and the moon are still relatively young; and the friendship has certainly not been shaken," she commented.
The distinguished gathering included the president of the society, Hussain Abdul Latif, Oman’s ambassador to the United Kingdom; Dr Noel Guckian, the British ambassador to Oman, the chairman of the society, Richard Muir, former British ambassador to the Sultanate; vice-chancellors and senior officials from a number of British universities, including Oxford, Cambridge, King’s College London, Nottingham and Sheffield; Steve McNulty, director of the British Council in Oman, along with government officials, diplomats and scholars. A total of about 150 people attended the event, which also included a seminar led by Rawiyah.
The address by Rawiyah as the chief Omani guest was in the tradition of important luncheon talks given in the past by high-profile, distinguished speakers including other senior members of the government of Oman.
Ahmed bin Abdulnabi Macki, minister of national economy and deputy chairman of the Financial Affairs and Energy Resources Council, was the guest speaker at last year’s luncheon.
During her visit, Rawiyah will travel to the University of Oxford where she will meet Dr Farhan Nizami, Prince of Wales Fellow in the Study of the Islamic World, Magdalen College and founding director of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies. Last summer Rawiyah visited the University of Cambridge in her capacity as chair of the Sultan Qaboos University Council, along with a delegation that included the vice-chancellor of Sultan Qaboos University (SQU). The objective of the delegation was to foster strong relations of cooperation between the two universities.
The Anglo-Omani Society was formed in January 1976, and subsequently registered as a charity. His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said is the society’s patron and the ambassador of the Sultanate in London is president of the society. Membership in the society is open to Omanis and to British subjects who have resided in Oman, or who have commercial, cultural or other interests.
The society arranges a regular program of events, mostly talks and lectures given by well-known and experienced speakers. The most important of these is delivered at the society’s most prominent event - the annual luncheon.
Her Highness Sayyidah Mona Bint Fahd Al Said received Prof Rud S., Supervisor of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said Chair for Water Management and Economic Diversity at Roosevelt College, Utrecht University, the Netherlands.
The meeting covered cooperation between the SQU and Utrecht University. Rud underlined the contribution provided by the His Majesty’s Chair. He thanked His Majesty the Sultan for supporting researches in water sciences and spoke about modern techniques used for water treatment and purification in the Netherlands using ultra-sonic rays.
His Majesty’s Chair was established in 2005 and Rud was appointed as supervisor of the Chair in April 2007.
The idea of the Chair came after the visit of Dutch prime minister to the Sultanate and his meeting with His Majesty the Sultan in 2005.
Meanwhile, Her Excellency Dr Rawiyah Bint Saud Al Busaidiyah, Minister of Higher Education, will sign an agreement with Leiden University in Holland to establish a chair for Oriental Studies.
She will also attend a ceremony organized by the university to mark this event.
Dr. Murites S, Burger, professor and researcher in oriental studies, appointed as a professor for the chair, will deliver a lecture.
The ceremony will be attended by HE Khadijah Bint Hassan Al Lawatiyah, Sultanate’s Ambassador to Holland; Principal of Leiden University; HE Habib Bin Mohammed Al Riyami, Secretary-General of Sultan Qaboos Center for Islamic Culture; HE Dr Saud Al Bimani, Vice-Chancellor of SQU.
His Highness Sayyid Fahd bin Mahmoud Al Said, deputy prime minister for the Council of Ministers, received heads of delegations taking part in the first international conference on water resources and climate change (IWRCC) in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region being hosted by the Sultanate.
The conference is being organized by the Ministry of Regional Municipalities and Water Resources in collaboration with the Regional Centre for Urban Water Management with participation of more than 200 experts representing more than 22 countries besides a number of international organizations and institutions, concerned with water, including the UNESCO and the United Nations (UN) Environment Program (UNEP).
Sayyid Fahd highlighted the importance of water resources for various aspects of life worldwide, which require collective efforts to limit negative impacts on water wealth, being the main pillar for life and sustainable development.
He underlined the importance of joint action to develop this sector, conserve it and protect the environment as it has impacts on climate changes and the serious damages it causes for a number of countries around the world. They discussed ways of developing water resources by utilizing the new technologies and promoting cooperation to tackle the global climate changes and its economic and social impacts. The heads of delegations thanked the Omani government for hosting the conference.
They sent their greetings and gratitude to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said, praising the achievements made and comprehensive development in all spheres in the Sultanate under his leadership. They also praised the Sultanate’s efforts and its effective role in conserving water to serve the future generations.
The meeting was attended by Sheikh Abdullah bin Salim Al Rowas, minister of regional municipalities and water resources and the assistant secretary-general at the office of deputy prime minister for the cabinet affairs.
HH Sayyid Asa’ad Bin Tariq Al Said, representative of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said, opened the first international conference on Water Resources and Climate Change in the Middle East and North African (MENA) region, at the Crowne Plaza hotel.
The event is being organized by the Ministry of Regional Municipalities and Water Resources in collaboration with the Regional Centre for Urban Water Management in the Sultanate. The opening ceremony was attended by State Council chairman, Majlis A’ Shura chairman, ministers, undersecretaries and council members.
Sayyid Asa’ad said that most of the countries have been affected by climate change phenomenon and the Sultanate has learned how to combat the crisis up to an extent.
"The conference will connect the Sultanate with the rest of the world and enable it to utilize new technologies and previous studies on climate change. The Sultanate has already initiated several plans to ensure water supply to all citizens and it at present the Sultanate is conducting studies for combating desertification," he said.
HE Sheikh Abdullah Bin Salim Bin Amir Al Rowas, Minister of Regional Municipalities and Water Resources, said that the conference will address important topics related to impacts of climate change, environmental issues and its effects on economy and society.
"Earth is experiencing rapid climate changes, caused mainly by green house effect, high temperature. Impacts of this phenomenon have become so evident in most countries in terms of climate changes witnessed by a number of regions in the world. In the wake of these developments, the international community realized the importance of integration, co-ordination and quick action to limit green houses effects, and tackle climate change impacts," he said.
Al Rowas thanked His Majesty the Sultan’s directives for the success, which the Sultanate has achieved in managing water resources.
The minister also highlighted importance of the conference as a good opportunity for participants to consolidate their concepts and views on climate change and their effects.
During the ceremony, a short film on water resources and climate changes in the Mena region was screened.
More than 200 experts representing 22 countries are taking part in the conference.
Almost, 14 working papers were presented in the conference.
Osman Abdullah and Rashid Bin Yahya Al Abri from Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) presented a working paper on groundwater recharge in arid areas induced by tropical cyclones, case of adverse weather effects, which hit the Sultanate last year.
Murad Bino of the Islamic network on water resources development and management in Jordan also presented a working paper on how can Mena countries respond to long-term climate change impacts on water resources and strategies that could help the affected regions.
Chafai Elalaoui Ali, Ibrahimy Abdeloufai and Berkane Abdelilah from National School of Agriculture, Morocco also presented a working paper on climate change mitigation in Morocco; setting an indicator for an early drought warning.
SHR Sadeghi, B Yasrebi, and M Vafakhah from Iran, also presented a working paper on long term watershed discharge changeability due to rainfall change in Haraz Watershed, Iran.
Ing. Theodor Strobl, from Munich University, also presented a working paper on new approaches for hydrological information in arid areas for superficial discharges and groundwater movement.
The fourth ministerial meeting of the Ministers of Education of the G8 group members and the Broader Middle East and North Africa (MENA) countries held in the Sultanate on November 1 and 2, concluded.
The meeting, held at Muscat Inter-Continental Hotel, tackled mainly issues about teachers and participants discussed ‘Teacher education and professionalism,’ and ‘Management, leadership and teaching environment and partnership,’ based on the concept of ‘Quality education for relevant learning.’
The meeting highlighted the importance of the development of constructive cooperation between the G8 countries and the MENA countries in the field of education.
Japan, the chair of the current session of G8 group, and the Sultanate of Oman, the chair of forthcoming GCC session, co-chaired the meeting.
Oman and Japan need to explore all avenues to further strengthen their profound economic alliance. This was the message that emanated from the first-ever Oman-Japan business forum held at the Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry auditorium in Ruwi.
Making a strong pitch for attracting Japanese investment in Oman and elaborating on the role of the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC), Mohsin Khamis Al Balushi, adviser at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, averred that the IOR-ARC, a constellation of 18 states linked by strategic cooperation and sharing common interests, is becoming critical to instituting economic stability at a time when major shifts in economic powers are accentuating Asia’s challenges.
Enumerating the objectives and listing out the achievements of the IOR-ARC, Mohsin said the conglomerate, encompassing a land area of a proximately 21m sq. km, and having differing purchasing power, diverse economies and natural resources and a GDP of $6.9tn, could greatly benefit Japanese companies wanting to do business with member states.
Talking on how the Japanese companies can benefit from the IOR, he said: “Oman, one of the founding and very active member states of the IOR, enjoys exceptional geographical location within the Rim, exceptional bilateral relation with all member states, free market economy, exceptional bilateral, multilateral and plural lateral trade and investment relation with member states, attractive investment incentives and climate, investment and trade-friendly laws and regulations and excellent infrastructure (ports, airports and roads network). So Japanese companies have good opportunity to establish cooperation with Omani companies or consider Oman as a base for their business and investment to penetrate and target member states of the IOR-ARC as well as the AGCC states by re-exporting Japanese products and services to the IOR and the AGCC member states and exporting products, services between Omani and Japanese companies to the AGCC and the IOR member states.
Giving a key-note speech, Seiji Morimoto, ambassador of Japan to the Sultanate, said: In the last few years, trade in both directions (Oman and Japan) has increased substantially. Exchange of trade amounted to approximately $6b last year. Oman is indeed a valuable market for Japanese corporations, worth approximately $2.5b as the amount of export from Japan."
He added: "Our economic links are growing steadily in key sectors, including oil and gas, automobiles, metal, and shipping. To give you some examples, the import of automobiles from Japan increased sharply registering a 260 per cent rise in the recent five years, which could be one of the highest figures in the world. Further, Japan has made a significant contribution in the development of the Omani LNG sector by providing investment and participating in the construction of the LNG plant. Now, the export of LNG to Japan amounts to 3.62m tonnes a year. Also, with the cooperation of Japanese companies, a fertilizer factory, as well as an iron reduction plant are under construction in Sohar. Moreover, the long heritage of shipping in Oman is reviving once again with the assistance of a Japanese shipping company."
The ambassador further added: "Japanese imports from Oman had been concentrated in the oil and gas sectors. However, we have witnessed a marked diversification of imported products in recent years. Interestingly, kidney beans are the fifth largest imported product from Oman to Japan.
Now Omani beans amount to approximately 90 per cent of the market share in Japan in the winter, taking advantage of the difference in seasons. There is also an attempt in Oman to capture young yellow-fin tunas off shore and then fatten them in farms to produce what is called in Japanese "toro," or fatty meat. Toro is a highly valued ingredient for sushi in Japan. There are efforts on the Japanese side to diversify the range of export products to Oman as well. Oman is now the world’s largest importer of Japanese muskmelon (a type of cantaloupe), which is known for its exquisite aroma and taste. There is great potential in the environmental and alternative energy sectors as well."
He summed up thus: "We all agree that Japan and Oman enjoy a strong economic relationship, but there is still room for further development. By exploring new products, in particular agricultural, fishery, and metal products, as well as renewable and alternative energy technology as I just mentioned, the economic exchange between our two countries can be further enhanced."
Identifying key areas in the tourism sector Wael Ahmed Al Lawatia, CEO, Omran said that they are established as a fully owned government company to develop the infrastructure and facilities required to expand the existing tourism industry, particularly the development of new resort villas, conference facilities, leisure resorts, golf courses and hotels, as well as the refurbishment of some of the major existing international hotels.
Listing out some of the key projects he said: "A five-star resort hotel at Jabal Al Akhdar is being built on an area of 12 hectares."
Another traditional Omani theme hotel will come up in Duqm in southwest of Oman close to the planned Duqm port and dry dock.
He further said that Oman Convention & Exhibition Centre is yet another ambitious project with a global profile and this development will be the first significant venture for Oman in the meetings, incentives, conferences and Exhibition (MICE) market. In addition to the 6,000-seat Convention Centre, the property will have a five-star hotel, two four-star hotels and a three-star hotel, 20 meeting rooms, shopping mall etc. He also said that Oman’s first-ever world standard sports village is coming up at Wudam Al Sahil, near Muscat and would be completed in mid 2010 in time for the prestigious 2nd Asian Beach Games Muscat 2010.
Giving an overview of the electricity position in Oman, Mohammed Abdulla Al Mahroqi, chairman of Electricity and Water Authority, said a vast potential in electricity and water sector is waiting to be tapped by participation of private sector since the government’s privatization of the Main Interconnected Transmission System is currently on.
Nasreen Ahmed Jaffar, director-general of Investment Promotion, Ociped touched upon the economic development policies and opportunities in Oman. She said among the priority sectors that attract tremendous potential for investment are chemicals and fertilizers, plastics, metals, renewable energy and tourism.
Anil Kumar Vishnoi, general manager (finance), Takamul gave a pen sketch of Takamul. He said Takamul is a start-up company with the main objective of developing, promoting and investing in green field projects as well as in existing companies to support their operations and develop value-added chain, and added that the company would invest in metal, petrochemical and mineral.
Others who spoke on the occasion include Kotari Kodama, executive director of JETRO Dubai; Toshiro Machil, head of Europe, ME, Africa Finance Department and JIBC among others.
The forum was organized by the Embassy of Japan in Oman, Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), and the OCCI.
The first-ever Oman-Japan Business Forum and the business-to-business meeting was a huge success, said Kuni Funaki, CEO, (Japan External Trade Organization), Dubai and MENA region.
Speaking to Times of Oman at the residence of Seiji Morimoto, ambassador of Japan to the Sultanate, Kuni Funaki said: "A lot of Omani businessmen attended the business-to-business meeting and they had a fruitful meeting with the Japanese delegation comprising 54 people who came from Tokyo, Dubai and Bahrain. Both sides expressed a keen interest in enhancing trade opportunities and doing business in each other’s countries."
Ambassador of Japan Seiji Morimoto said: "Our initial aim was to familiarize the partners with each other. With these meetings many participants got first hand information on subjects of their interest and now they will take back this information, examine it and take a productive decision."
Saying that the economic exchange between the two countries will now be further enhanced, Seiji Morimoto said: "I am sure both Japanese and Omani business people will exercise their thoughts and creativity to explore all potential new opportunities."
He also added that more such meetings would be organized in the future too.
"This is the first forum of its kind, organized to promote increased trade and investment. I am happy the forum provided the opportunity for the Omani and Japanese participants to exchange views on various strategies aimed at improving the business environment and better establishing business contacts. While obvious results might not be immediate, it is my over-riding hope that this forum will have a few more rounds in the future, and act as a catalyst to strengthen the economic ties between our countries," the ambassador said.
Kuni Funaki also explained that Japanese companies had made a considerable contribution to the development of the Gulf over the past years by joining hands with companies and governments in the individual countries.
"This Oman-Japan Business Forum and the business-to-business meeting has been a great opportunity for discussing our strategic relationship for the economic development of both the countries," he said.
The forum and meetings discussed issues such as Oman's business environment, infrastructure development, oil and gas projects and business experiences of Japanese companies specializing in infrastructure development, construction, environment issues and trade.
At present, only 13 Japanese companies are operating in the Sultanate, while around 220 Japanese companies are operating in the UAE.
"The meetings have explored the possibility of bringing more Japanese companies to Oman," Kuni Funaki said.
The governments of the Sultanate and Saudi Arabia signed an agreement to regulate air transportation and a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the civil aviation authorities in both the countries at the Ministry of Transport and Communications premises.
The signing of the agreement and the MoU followed an official session of talks.
The agreement was signed by Khamis bin Mubarak Al Alawi, minister of transport and communications, on behalf of the Sultanate’s government, and Abdullah bin Mohammed Noor Rahimi, chairman of the Saudi Public Authority for Aviation, on behalf of the Saudi government.
The foundations for the agreement started in 1995. The two sides completed the articles of the agreement at the bilateral talks held earlier in the day at Muscat International Airport, Rahimi said.
"The agreement provides thrust to the transportation activity between the two countries. It will also allow appointed national carriers to operate more flights and have more flexibility in terms of transportation and coding. It will also help air carriers provide better services for passengers," he added.
The two sides discussed cooperation in the field of air aviation to find more efficient air space for crossing planes as the Sultanate is a major partner with the kingdom in this field, he added.
On his part, Mohammed bin Sakhr Al Amri, undersecretary for civil aviation affairs in the Ministry of Transport and Communications, told journalists after signing the agreement and the MoU that the MoU between the civil aviation departments in both the countries included operating 21 flights weekly by each side provided they do not exceed 10 flights for each city and seven cargo flights.
Oman Air has been named the national carrier of the Sultanate and Saudi Airlines as the national carrier of Saudi Arabia to utilize the available operational rights.
The agreement allows the utilization of the air transport rights through joint codes of the carrier either by agreement with one of the carriers for each side or their other party carriers.
It also included inclusion of Al Madina Al Munawarah as a point in the routes of Haj and Umra journeys after completing the expansion plan at Al Madina Al Munawarah Airport, he added.
"The agreement allows Oman Air to increase the number of its flights to Riyadh and Jeddah from four to 21 covering Riyadh, Jeddah and King Fahd Airport in Dammam. It also allows for operating additional flights during Haj and Umra season."
The talks held at Muscat International Airport, discussed a number of operational issues related to regulating air transportation services including appointing the national carries and increasing the number of flights and charters, operation with joint codes and other issues of interest.
The signing ceremony was attended by the Saudi ambassador to the Sultanate, a number of officials in the Ministry of Transport and Communications, the delegation accompanying the chief guest and representatives of Oman Air and Saudi Airlines companies.
Meanwhile, His Highness Sayyid Fahd bin Mahmoud Al Said, deputy prime minister for the Council of Ministers, received Abdulaziz bin Suleiman Al Turki, ambassador of Saudi Arabia, on the commencement of his mission.
Sayyid Fahd welcomed the ambassador and wished him success and relations between the two countries further progress.
They discussed ways to promote bilateral cooperation and reviewed regional and international issues of common concern.
The ambassador expressed his country’s appreciation and pride of the Sultanate’s policy aimed at activating the march of joint action in various spheres, praising the comprehensive development witnessed by the Sultanate under the enlightened leadership of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said.
Sayyid Fahd also received Shamlan Abdulaziz Mohammed Al Romi, ambassador of Kuwait to the Sultanate.
Sayyid Fahd wished the ambassador success in his mission and relations between the two countries continued progress.
They discussed issues of common interest.
The ambassador expressed the Kuwaiti leadership’s appreciation over the Sultanate’s achievements and its role in serving the issues of the region thanks to the farsighted vision of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said.