Crown Prince’s tour — frequently asked questions

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IT seems whatever our Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman says or wherever he goes, a media storm follows. I was asked by almost every major TV network about the Crown Prince’s visits to Egypt and Britain. Questions cover politics, economics, military, culture and religious issues. Reporters are curious about the recent laws that affected social life, empowering women and youth, while liberating culture, social life and entrainment.

Here’s some of my answers to frequently asked questions:

How much success has the UK visit achieved?

I believe the visit has achieved more than we expected. The economic agreements signed exceeded $100 billion, not including the purchase of 48 Typhoon fighter jets or the signed $30 billion in business deals. Britain has showed great interest in Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030. It has also confirmed its firm stance against Iran’s blatant interference in the region and security threats to Saudi Arabia and neighboring countries. Other agreements include cooperation in education, health, privatization, fighting terrorism and world poverty.

Why does NEOM stand out among the Vision’s projects?

The project’s location is of a special interest to both countries as it sets on one of the world most important sea lanes. The Red Sea accounts for 10 percent of the world’s total maritime shipping and 40 percent of oil shipments.

The area’s mountains, valleys, beaches and virgin islands provide an unparalleled wealth of environmental and tourist treasures. The borders of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan converge on the site, implying the integration of these nations’ human and material resources.

The planned King Salman Bridge over the Red Sea is a gateway between the largest continents in the world — Asia and Africa. It will connect the Silk Road and Sea Belt as it crosses from China via the Arabian Peninsula onto North Africa and Europe.

In addition, NEOM is going to be the largest Free Zone in the world, where foreigners may visit, reside, work, invest and trade without a visa. They may get 100 percent ownership of properties, projects and businesses. A sign of things to come: Laws and rules are being written by the stakeholders themselves.

The area will focus on advanced sciences and new technologies. The three countries will provide hundreds of billion dollars in public and private investments, and build advanced, state-of-the-art infrastructure in ultra green environment.

Britain seems to have changed its position on the war in Yemen after the royal visit. How will this affect the course of the war?

The British position was and is still supportive of the Arab Alliance to restore the legitimate government. The visit has helped consolidate that position. With the new American Administration enthusiastic support of our stand and its strong resolve against Iran’s irresponsible destructive policies in the region, I believe we are in for a political and/or military final resolution of the situation.

The Kingdom is experiencing a boom of internal changes. Will this be reflected on its external policies?

The Saudi Vision is comprehensive, domestically and internationally. It focuses on the Arab and Islamic constants, builds on previous achievements and operates within the framework of regional and international alliances that it leads or participates in. There is no doubt that the strength and cohesion of the interior is reflected on the state image abroad; its status among nations; and its ability to achieve objectives and defend national interests and that of allies and friends.

During a meeting with Egyptian editors, the Crown Prince minimizes the importance of Qatar issue. What does that mean to the possibility of a resolution?

It means that Saudi Arabia no longer cares about a solution, and has decided that life goes on without Qatar. No more mediation is accepted.

How does Saudi society deal with the new changes introduced by the Crown Prince?

They love it! Especially the youth and women. Let’s consider that 70 percent of our population is under 30, and women are over 50 percent. Both have been given more power and support by the new laws and initiatives for higher contribution to national development; the management of their own affairs and a greater participation in state administration. The Vision has provided them with glimpses of brighter future that would answer their demands and fulfill their aspirations and dreams.

There are some of us who have not yet absorbed the Vision and its objectives, or are not in accord with some of its aspects. This is but an expected normality. However, the anti-change parts of society represent a minority that does not affect the general social trend. History is a powerful one-way train... those who cannot get on board, would be left on their own. Life goes on!

— Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi is a Saudi writer based in Jeddah. He can be reached at kbatarfi@gmail.com. Follow him at Twitter:@kbatarfi


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