Saudi Arabia urges inclusion of religion tarnishing issue into human rights commission report

Saudi-Syrian ministerial committee in Damascus signs three agreements

International forum and exhibition on environment and sustainable development starts in Jeddah

Arab-African cooperation boosting focal point of 14th session in Cairo

Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Assistant Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources for Petroleum Affair, said that Saudi Arabia thinks that demand for energy during the coming 30-40 years will increase as a result of the growth of the world economy and increased consumption.

In a press conference, he said that Saudi Arabia seeks to develop renewed energy including solar energy.

On a question on nuclear energy peaceful uses in Saudi Arabia and the GCC countries, he said that this issue is discussed among the GCC countries adding that here is a GCC work plan concerning environment protection.

Replying to other questions, he said that Saudi Arabia's oil reserves are very huge and that the Saudi government always seeks stability and balance for the oil market and prices.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s Human Rights Commission (HRC) has criticized Israel’s annexation of sanctuaries in Hebron which it says is aimed at erasing 14 centuries of Islamic heritage and goes against international law.

This was the comment made by Dr. Bandar Muhammad Al-Aiban, chairman of the HRC at the 13th session of the Human Rights Council of the United Nations in Geneva Monday.

Al-Aiban was referring to an Israeli plan to renovate two holy sites in the occupied West Bank. The Israeli plan is to renovate Al-Ibrahimi Mosque. The plan, which also includes the Mosque of Bilal Bin Rabah, has angered Palestinians. The United States has criticized the action as a “provocative” act that could undermine peace initiatives that was suspended during Israel’s war on Gaza over a year ago. It has also been widely condemned by the international community and the Muslim world.

Al-Aiban said the Israelis have consistently violated the rights of Palestinians because of the continued occupation and illegal settlements.

In his speech, Al-Aiban also emphasized the importance the Kingdom placed on the promotion of human rights in the context of Islamic teachings.

He said the Kingdom was determined to work harder to consolidate and further develop a culture of human rights.

He said the Kingdom was committed to continue a process of dialogue with all cultures and religions. In this regard, Al-Aiban said the country has now adopted a four-year plan to promote a culture of tolerance and understanding. This includes building on the institutional capabilities of the governmental and non-governmental organizations.

He said the Kingdom has recently approved an anti-human trafficking law to protect the most vulnerable groups in society from exploitation. Moreover, a permanent committee will be set up in the Human Right Commission to follow-up on victims of human trafficking.

The Kingdom has contributed generously to initiatives aimed at reducing the negative impact of the global financial crisis by writing off $6 billion of debt owed by less developed countries.

Donations have also been made to the World Food Program to assist poor countries withstand the hike in food prices. It has also allocated $500 million to education projects in developing nations; and a further $30 million for various children’s health programs.

Al-Aiban pointed out that the total amount of aid and loans made by the Kingdom over the past three decades has now reached about $90 billion. More than 87 developing countries have benefited. This represents four percent of the Kingdom’s Gross National Product (GNP) which surpasses the percentage aid and loans of the United States.

In the Syrian capital Damascus, Director General of the Saudi Customs Saleh M. S. Al-Khaliwi met with his Syrian counterpart Mustafa Al Beqae on the sideline of the Saudi-Syrian Joint Committee Meeting hosted in Damascus.

During the meeting, the Customs Officials discussed aspects of cooperation between the two sides and agreed to have periodical meetings for the facilitation and augmentation of the volume of trade exchange between the two countries.

They also approved a draft of customs cooperation agreement for persons, goods and means of transport movement facilitation between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Syrian Arab Republic.

Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad received Saudi Minister of Finance Dr. Ibrahim bin Abdulaziz Al-Assaf currently visiting Syria to head the Kingdom's delegation to the 11th session of the Saudi-Syrian Joint Ministerial Committee.

During the meeting, they exchanged cordial talks and reviewed cooperation relations between the two countries. Dr. Al-Assaf briefed President Al-Assad on the most important issues on the agenda of the 11th session of the Saudi-Syrian Joint Ministerial Committee.

The meeting was attended by Syrian Minister of Finance Dr. Mohammad Al-Hussein; Vice-Chairman and Managing Director of the Saudi Fund for Development Eng. Youssef bin Ibrahim Al-Bassam; Saudi Ambassador to Syria Abdullah Al-Aifan; and Syrian Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Mahdi Dakhlallah.

Saudi Minister Assaf and his Syrian counterpart Mohammed Al-Hussein held a press conference on the conclusion of the 11th session of the Saudi-Syrian Joint Ministerial Committee and the Saudi-Syrian Businessmen Forum.

Dr. Al-Assaf expressed gratitude and appreciation for Syrian leadership and people for their gracious patronage of the session and forum.

He also lauded the efforts exerted by the Syrian Ministry of Finance and other related bodies to make the forum success.

Syrian Premier Mohammad Utri opened the first gathering of Saudi-Syrian businessmen. The opening was attended by Minister Assaf and Syrian Finance Minister Dr. Mohammad Alhosain.

A speech ceremony was held on the occasion. The speeches highlighted the importance of the meeting in strengthening economic cooperation between the two countries.

Meanwhile, the gathering held two working sessions.

During the two sessions, investment opportunities and bilateral trade were discussed.

New techniques on agricultural investment, irrigation and water resources projects, supporting tourist, industrial and agricultural investment and investment opportunities in food and agricultural industries were also discussed.

In Jeddah, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz has affirmed that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been keen in its environmental policies on adopting the concept of sustainable development and deepening it at all levels to ensure effective participation of all strata of society in the efforts to protect the environment and conserve its resources.

In his speech, which was read by Prince Turki bin Nasser bin Abdulaziz, General President of Presidency of Meteorology and Environment (PME) at Gulf International Forum and Exhibition of Environment and Sustainable Development on Sunday, King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz said the Kingdom has set national legislations, strategies and plans to achieve these policies and mobilized all human and material resources backed by technical equipment to confront harming the components of environment and its sensitive balances.

The Forum and the Exhibition, held under the patronage of the King, was inaugurated by Prince Turki bin Nasser and are supervised by the PME and organized by Ozone International for Exhibitions and Conferences.

The King stressed that the Government of Saudi Arabia has shared the international community with its concerns and efforts in preserving the environment; has ratified most international agreements in the field of environmental protection, and has been one of the first countries in implementing these agreements.

The King added that the Kingdom has been keen on the compatibility of its regulations, national strategies and development plans for water, agriculture, industry, trade and energy sectors within the framework of sustainable development.

As many as 500 participants from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Gulf states and other countries are taking part in Conference to discuss environmental situations around the world.

Meanwhile, the 14th session of the permanent Arab-African cooperation commission co-chaired by Libya and Tanzania with the participation of Arab League's Secretary-General Amr Moussa kicked off Thursday.

The preparatory commission will touch on the second Arab-African summit scheduled to take place in October in Libya, alongside the joint action between the Arab League and the African Union from 2009-2010.

It will also tackle the report of the joint ministerial meeting on agricultural development and food security held in February in Sharm El Sheikh.

Participants will discuss reports on the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA), and Arab League's technical fund for Africa.

The Arab side headed by Libya groups Kuwait, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, UAE, Mauritania, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Lebanon, and Morocco. The African side headed by Tanzania groups Egypt, Tunisia, Angola, Congo, Ghana, Guinea, Mauritius, Sierra Leone, Swaziland, Mozambique, and Burkina Faso.