Proudest moment

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AS Saudi Arabia marks its 87th National Day, the Kingdom is looking into the rearview mirror to see what transpired in the year gone by, and the windshield to see what’s ahead.

Much has taken place since last year’s anniversary. In June 2017 Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman appointed Prince Muhammad Bin Salman as the new crown prince. Prince Muhammad also became deputy prime minister and retained his post as defense minister, at 31 the youngest in the world.

In a move symbolizing a generational change, Crown Prince Muhammad is widely seen as the face of modern Saudi Arabia and one of the driving forces behind Vision 2030, the Kingdom’s long-term economic plan to move drastically away from its reliance on oil revenues and build up the private sector.

One of the highlights of the year was Donald Trump’s visit. When the US president touched down in Saudi Arabia in May, the Kingdom was the first country he visited since he entered the White House in January. That this eight-day, five-country journey began in Saudi Arabia was highly significant.

US presidents have traditionally made their first overseas visit to either a North American or European ally. But making the Kingdom his first stop showed that Trump was seeking to underline the importance of Saudi Arabia’s position as he started to advance his foreign policy agenda. The trip reinforced America’s partnership with Saudi Arabia and that of all other Muslim nations who espouse the same goals.

A diplomatic crisis erupted in June when Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt severed diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar on the basis that Doha has been financing terrorist organizations and giving refuge to their members. The crisis was all of Qatar’s making and Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said the solution to the dispute was, therefore, “in Doha’s hands”.

Al-Jubeir said the measures were warranted due to Qatar’s support for terrorist and extremist organizations, as well as its interference in the internal affairs of other countries. He said such interference was rejected not only by countries boycotting Qatar but by the world.

Al-Jubeir said the measures taken against Qatar were painful considering its status as a brotherly and neighboring country and expressed hope that wisdom would prevail in Doha to put an end to such interventionism.

Also in June Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi ratified a treaty that returned two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia. Al-Sisi ratified the maritime border treaty days after Egypt’s parliament approved the deal. Cairo said the islands, Tiran and Sanafir, were Saudi to begin with but were leased to Egypt in the 1950s. Al-Sisi said Egypt was returning the islands to their rightful owners.

There was more news on Red Sea islands. The country embarked on a bold plan to turn 50 of these islands into luxury tourism resorts. The project will cover 34,000 square kilometers, an area bigger than Belgium. Construction will begin in autumn 2019 and be completed by the end of 2022. By 2035 this new holiday zone is expected to draw up to one million tourists a year.

Saudi Arabia scored a major achievement on the sports field when the national football team qualified for next year’s World Cup, its fifth appearance in the world’s showpiece football event and its first since 2006. Saudi Arabia’s 1-0 victory over Japan capped the Kingdom’s huge desire and ambitious national goal to return to the World Cup where it made its mark on the international stage, starting with the remarkable performance at its debut in 1994.

As Saudi Arabia’s National Day this year coincides with the Islamic New Year, the two occasions entail working together as a nation to succeed, to achieve greater heights and attain grander success together as a country that has a rich past and a bright future.


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