384 Stranded Nigerians Return From Saudi Arabia

Some of the Nigerians stranded in Saudi Arabia arrived at Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja on Thursday. PHOTO: Sodiq Adelakun/Channels Television

 

A total of 384 Nigerians stranded in Saudi Arabia on Thursday arrived at Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.

The returnees arrived via Air flight B773 at about 1:10 pm local time and were received by officials including those of Nigerians In Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM).

They include 300 males, 83 females, and one infant.

A representative of the minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Bolaji received the returnees at the Hajj Terminal where he charged them not to despair.

READ ALSO: VIRAL VIDEO: About 600 Stranded Nigerians In Saudi Arabia Call For Help

He however said the Nigerian government does not support illegal migration.

The evacuation of the stranded Nigerians follows a call for help my them in a video that went viral recently on social media.

The videos showed bodies – wrapped in black polythene bags – lying on the floor in a packed room with a voice narrating that they have been stranded for more than seven months.

The Chairman of NIDCOM, Abike Dabiri-Erewa while responding to the viral video depicting Nigerians pleading to be returned from Saudi Arabia assured that they will be evacuated from the Muslim country by January 28th and 29th.

She attributed the delay to the coronavirus pandemic as both countries bickered over the responsibility of paying for COVID-19 tests.

“I can’t confirm the video. But I know that we have 600 Nigerians that are illegal migrants, that would be leaving Saudi Arabia.

“Yesterday we were with the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Zubairu Dada, and other officials and plans have already been made to get them home before the end of the month pending any unforeseen circumstances,” the NIDCOM boss said.

 

See below more photos of the returnees…

 

Why 600 Nigerians Haven’t Been Evacuated From Saudi Arabia – Dabiri-Erewa

 

The Chairman of the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Abike Dabiri-Erewa has responded to a viral video depicting Nigerians pleading to be returned from Saudi Arabia.

While Ms Dabiri-Erewa said she could not verify the video, she confirmed that 600 Nigerians are currently awaiting deportation from the Muslim country.

READ ALSO: About 600 Stranded Nigerians In Saudi Arabia Call For Help

The NIDCOM chief, who appeared on Channels Televisions flagship News At 10 late Friday, attributed the delay to the coronavirus pandemic as both countries bickered over the responsibility of paying for COVID-19 tests.

While noting that the 600 are now set to be returned home by the end of January, Ms Dabiri-Erewa urged Nigerians to shun illegal migration.

Below is an edited transcript of Ms Erewa-Dabiri’s interview:

CTV: Are you in touch with these Nigerians?

Dabiri-Erewa: I can’t confirm the video. But I know that we have 600 Nigerians that are illegal migrants, that would be leaving Saudi Arabia. Yesterday we were with the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Zubairu Dada, and other officials and plans have already been made to get them home before the end of the month pending any unforeseen circumstances.

It’s been on for a while. Saudi Arabia said they want to rid their country of illegal migrants and they gave them deadlines; and different countries have been taking away their citizens, and Nigeria will do the same thing. But there’s been delays, dates have been changed because of COVID-19, and there have been arguments about who’s responsible for the tests; but everything has been resolved and like the Ministry of Foreign Affairs says, they should be home before the end of the month.

What condition are they – the 600 – in at the moment?

They are in a deportation camp awaiting to be returned to Nigeria at the moment. And like I said, they are from different nationalities, different countries, not only Nigerians because Saudi Arabia actually packed the illegal immigrants and said they should all return to their countries once they don’t have proper documentation.

Of course, a deportation camp is never the best place to be and that is why the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been working hard to get them back home. And I’ll keep saying, we need to really discourage irregular migration. It’s getting tougher, more dangerous, more difficult to survive as an irregular migrant anywhere in the world.

So one of the things we will be doing is massive awareness of the dangers of irregular migration. Now, this 600 will come back, and don’t be surprised you will still hear tears and cries of ‘oh we are irregular migrants, we are stranded, bring us back home’. So we really have to ensure that we put a stop to this issue of irregular migration. It’s dangerous, it’s deadly, and where you are running to ends up being worse than where you are running away from. So that’s actually the issue we have to deal with as a nation.

What sort of measures is being put in place to stop this?

It’s actually something that every Nigerian should be involved in, not just the government. But on the part of the government, we should work at having a managed migration. Okay, these people are going to work . . . they just want to work. And the people need their services. So why can’t we work at having a properly documented managed migration? Some other countries are doing that. The Philippines does it. They come to you properly and you know what they are being paid. It’s even said they make as much as $6 billion from that. So, really, irregular migration can become regular. It can be made possible to be legal because they need these services. It doesn’t have to be done in an irregular manner. That’s one of the things Nigeria must do, working with other countries. The Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Labour should come together and see the next steps to be taken in this regard.

A file photo of NIDCOM boss, Abike Dabiri-Erewa.

 

But for all of us, we need to discourage our citizens from traveling irregularly. President Buhari instructed a delegation to go to Libya. Under his leadership, Nigeria brought back about 7,000 irregular migrants. The International Organisation for Migration played a big role in bringing back Nigerians regularly from Libya. But guess what, we still have stories of people going there. There should be massive awareness, each one talking to the next person; don’t encourage this kind of irregular migration. I was surprised that even on social media, some will say we should still go because the country is so bad. Out there, it is worse. And the government has some things in place that the youths can key into. There are programs. It’s not going to fetch you big money, but you can survive with it.

So we need to talk to young Nigerians. There are opportunities you can key into. It’s tough, we know – Government needs to provide jobs. But we need to also encourage one another that this is a dangerous, torturous journey, and it’s not worth it. If you survived it three years ago, not anymore in today’s age and time.

VIRAL VIDEO: About 600 Stranded Nigerians In Saudi Arabia Call For Help

This screenshot from a viral video seen by Channels Television on January 22, 2021, shows stranded Nigerians in Saudi Arabia.
This screenshot from a viral video seen by Channels Television on January 22, 2021, shows stranded Nigerians in Saudi Arabia.

 

Some Nigerians have been stranded in Saudi Arabia for more than seven months, according to a video circulating on social media.

Channels Television can not independently verify the video or the individual who made it but Chairman of the Nigerians In Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), Abike Dabiri-Erewa, on Friday said “Nigerian irregular migrants in Saudi Arabia are due to be evacuated on the 28th and 29th of January, pending any unforeseen issues.”

The evacuation is expected to be carried out in two batches of 400 and 200 by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the NIDCOM chief said.

READ ALSO: Saudi Halts International Flights Over COVID-19 Variant

Ms Dabiri-Erewa’s tweet appeared to confirm the scenes in the viral video, which showed bodies – wrapped in black polythene bags – lying on the floor in a packed room.

“We are here more than three months, six months, seven months ago, without any action, no better information on transport to Nigeria,” the male narrator in the video said.

 

“According to the rules and regulations of this location, we are not supposed to be here for more than two weeks.

“Most nationals of other countries have been flown back to their countries. Only we Nigerians don’t have any source or way of getting back.

“I’m here on behalf of others to seek your assistance to get us back to our country.”

A Twitter user with the handle @KsaApc said some of the affected persons were not able to renew their residencies in the Muslim country.

“I spoke with one of the brothers and he told me that his brother was among the detainees,” the tweet said. “Part of them have ended their stays and do not have the ability to renew and the other does not have regular residencies.”

In her Friday tweet, Ms Abike Dabiri said “their evacuation was delayed due to issues relating to Covid-19.

“We appeal to Nigerians to resist traveling abroad without proper documents. It’s become very dangerous and more difficult”

NIDCOM has serially intervened in cases of stranded Nigerians abroad, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.

In August, the agency helped to facilitate the evacuation of 261 Nigerians stranded in China.

Saudi Halts International Flights Over COVID-19 Variant

 (Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP)

 

Saudi Arabia on Sunday halted international flights and suspended entry through its land and sea ports for at least a week, after a new fast-spreading strain of coronavirus appeared in Britain.

The kingdom is “temporarily suspending all international flights — except in exceptional cases — for a period of one week, which can be extended by another week,” the official Saudi Press Agency said.

“Entry to the kingdom through land and sea ports will also be suspended for a week, which can be extended by another week,” SPA added, citing the interior ministry.

The suspension does not apply to international aircraft currently in the kingdom, which will be allowed to leave, SPA said.

The Gulf sultanate of Oman adopted similar measures.

It “decided (on Monday) to ban entry and exit from the country through the various land, air and sea borders starting 1:00 am local time on Tuesday December 22 for a week”, the official Oman News Agency reported.

The decision was based on what “authorities in a number of countries announced regarding the emergence of a new Covid-19 strain”, it said, adding the suspension will not apply to cargo flights and vessels.

The development comes after several European countries banned travel from Britain on Sunday as the UK government warned that a highly infectious new strain of the virus was “out of control”.

SPA said passengers who arrived in Saudi Arabia from Europe — or any country where the new strain was detected — starting December 8 will be required to self isolate for two weeks, and undergo testing.

Neighbouring Kuwait also announced a ban on Sunday on passenger flights from Britain over the new strain of the virus.

Alarm bells are ringing across Europe — which last week became the first region in the world to pass 500,000 deaths from Covid-19 — after it appeared that a more infectious strain of the virus was raging in parts of Britain.

Last week, Saudi Arabia kicked off a three-phase Covid-19 vaccination programme, after the first shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine arrived in the kingdom.

Saudi Arabia has so far recorded more than 361,000 novel coronavirus cases, including more than 6,000 deaths –- the highest among the Gulf Arab states. But the kingdom has also reported a high recovery rate.

AFP

Saudi Announces Three-Phase COVID-19 Vaccine Programme

Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud (L), mask-clad due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, exits Sudan’s foreign ministry building after his meeting with Foreign Minister Omar Gamaledinne (R) in the capital Khartoum on December 8, 2020.
ASHRAF SHAZLY / AFP

 

Saudi Arabia on Tuesday announced a three-phase Covid-19 vaccination programme, as it began registering citizens and foreign residents after approving the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

People aged over 65 as well as those with chronic ailments or at a high risk of infection will receive the vaccine in the first stage, and those aged over 50 in the second, the official Saudi Press Agency said.

Everyone else will be vaccinated in the third stage, SPA said citing the health ministry, without specifying the dates for each phase or how long the mass campaign would take.

The Gulf kingdom has a population of more than 34 million, according to official figures.

The ministry opened registration for the vaccination campaign through an online application called “Sehaty”, and said the vaccine would be “free for all citizens and residents”.

 

READ ALSO: Jordan Approves Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine

 

Last week, the kingdom approved the use of the vaccine developed by US pharmaceuticals giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTec, becoming the second Gulf country after Bahrain to green-light the drug.

Britain, Canada and the United States have also approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and have already launched mass inoculation campaigns. Neighbouring Jordan green-lighted the drug late Monday.

Saudi Arabia has so far recorded more than 360,000 novel coronavirus cases, including more than 6,000 deaths –- the highest in the Gulf. But the kingdom has also reported a high recovery rate.

The start of the first vaccination programmes comes with several European countries announcing new lockdowns amid spiralling infections, highlighting the long road to ending the pandemic which has killed more than 1.6 million people worldwide.

-AFP

Saudi Arabia Approves Pfizer-BioNTech Virus Vaccine

PHOTO USED TO ILLUSTRATE THE STORY: A nurse prepares to administer the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Guy’s Hospital in London, on December 8, 2020. PHOTO: Frank Augstein / POOL / AFP

 

Saudi Arabia on Thursday approved the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech novel coronavirus vaccine, state media reported, becoming the second Gulf country after Bahrain to green-light the drug.

“The Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA)… has approved the registration of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” it said in a statement released by the official Saudi Press Agency.

READ ALSO: Israel Gets First Delivery Of Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine

“Health authorities in the kingdom can import and use the vaccine,” it added.

The SFDA did not specify when it would begin the rollout of the vaccine by US pharmaceuticals giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech.

Last week, Bahrain announced it had approved the emergency use of the same vaccine.

Britain and Canada have also approved it.

American regulators are due to meet on Thursday to assess the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for emergency approval in the United States, the worst-hit nation with more than 15 million known infections and close to 290,000 deaths.

The US Food and Drug Administration is likely to issue an allergy warning if it approves the vaccine, following Britain’s lead, after two health care workers there suffered reactions and needed treatment.

The SFDA said it will analyse samples from “each incoming vaccine shipment before using it” to ensure quality standards.

Saudi Arabia has so far recorded nearly 360,000 novel coronavirus cases, including more than 6,000 deaths –- the highest in the Gulf. But the kingdom has also reported a high recovery rate.

Companies have been racing to find a vaccine for the virus, which has killed over 1.5 million people and infected more than 68 million since it emerged in China in December of last year.

AFP

OPEC, Allies To Meet To Thrash Out Cuts Deal

In this file photo taken on November 29, 2016, the logo of OPEC is pictured at the OPEC headquarters on the eve of the 171th meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries in Vienna, Austria. JOE KLAMAR / AFP
In this file photo taken on November 29, 2016, the logo of OPEC is pictured at the OPEC headquarters on the eve of the 171th meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries in Vienna, Austria. JOE KLAMAR / AFP

 

The members of the OPEC group of oil producers will meet with their allies Thursday to see if they can reach an accord on extending production cuts over the coming months.

The video-conference meeting was pushed back from Tuesday and comes after three days of inconclusive discussions among the 13 members of OPEC proper.

Observers say the postponement points to an agreement being harder to reach than initially thought.

The meeting was originally scheduled for 1300 GMT but the start was delayed by an hour.

The first wave of the coronavirus pandemic sent oil demand — and prices — plummeting in the spring, with the benchmark American contract even going into negative territory for the first time in history.

After tough negotiations in April, OPEC+ — which includes Russia — agreed on drastic production cuts in order to try to put a floor under oil prices.

Despite hitting producers’ revenues hard, those cuts did help drag prices back up again.

However, the second wave of the pandemic has dashed hopes of a rapid “V-shaped” recovery for the economy and for oil demand.

READ ALSO: Former US Presidents Ready To Publicly Receive COVID-19 Vaccine

Most producers, including OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia, therefore favour an extension of the current agreement, which entails a cut of 7.7 million barrels per day (bpd) and was scheduled to be eased to 5.8 million bpd on January 1.

“OPEC and allies are said to be leaning towards a rollover of current cuts with a gradual increase in output,” according to analyst Neil Wilson from Markets.com.

“Whether the easing would begin in January or after the three-month delay discussed before the meeting is unclear,” wrote Stephen Innes of Axi.

After rising on Wednesday on hopes of a deal and after the UK’s approval of a coronavirus vaccine, prices for both the US crude oil benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) and Europe’s Brent North Sea were down slightly on Thursday at $45.13 and $48.15 respectively.

– Thorny subjects –

Markets were expecting producers to be able to agree on an extension of three to six months, with many viewing Monday’s meeting as a formality to sign it off.

But a recent surge in crude prices — up by 25 percent over the course of November — together with positive news from several companies on coronavirus vaccines means some countries may need more convincing of the need for further sacrifices.

Meanwhile, the perennially thorny subject of whether all members are respecting production quotas laid down in previous agreements seems to once again be on the table.

Some insist that those who are currently overproducing be made to comply before further restrictions are imposed.

“It is unlikely that the strict implementation of the agreed cuts… will be achieved, which will undermine their effectiveness and confidence in the group,” according to Eugen Weinberg of Commerzbank.

The cartel will also have to pay attention to developments in the three members which have been granted exemptions from quotas — Libya, Iran and Venezuela.

Libya’s production had been almost wiped out by civil conflict but has spiked since October and now stands at over one million bpd, according to the country’s National Oil Corporation (NOC).

In the longer term, Iran’s offer on the oil market may also increase if the incoming US administration pursues a policy of detente with Tehran and relaxes sanctions.

That would lead hundreds of thousands of barrels coming on to the market, exerting a fresh downward pressure on prices.

AFP

Saudi Arabia Confident Of Friendly Ties With Biden – Official

A handout picture provided by the Saudi Royal Palace on November 21, 2020, shows Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud chairing the G20 summit, held virtually due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, in the capital Riyadh. (Photo by Bandar AL-JALOUD / Saudi Royal Palace / AFP)

 

Saudi Arabia expects no major change in its relationship with the US under Joe Biden, a senior official told CNN, despite the president-elect pledging to turn the kingdom into a “pariah”.

OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia, a close ally of President Donald Trump, has appeared wary of Biden after he promised a stern stance against the kingdom for its human rights failings.

But Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs, dismissed the notion.

“We deal with the president of the United States as a friend, whether he’s Republican or Democrat,” Jubeir told CNN, in an interview released over the weekend.

“President-elect Biden has been in the (US) Senate for 35 years, he has tremendous experience… I don’t expect that there’s going to be major change in terms of America’s foreign policy.”

The comment comes as Saudi Arabia hosts the G20 leaders’ summit this weekend, a first for an Arab nation, while global campaigners seek to draw attention to the kingdom’s human rights record.

Saudi Arabia has largely escaped US censure under Trump, who along with his son-in-law Jared Kushner, has enjoyed a personal rapport with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s de facto ruler.

Trump’s defeat leaves Prince Mohammed vulnerable to renewed scrutiny from the kingdom’s closest Western ally.

That could leave the crown prince isolated amid economic challenges that imperil his reform agenda, a grinding war in neighbouring Yemen and pockets of domestic opposition to his rule.

During his election campaign, Biden threatened to make Saudi Arabia “the pariah that they are”.

Saudi observers dismiss the Democrat leader’s campaign speeches about the kingdom as bluster, pointing out that Trump also struck a hostile note in his 2016 campaign before quickly warming up to its rulers.

“We deal with the presidents once they’re in office, and we have huge interests with the United States,” Jubeir said.

“We are working together on global economic security, on energy security, on financial issues, and we are key in terms of the Muslim world. These interests are huge for us and for the United States.”

AFP

Several Shots Fired At Saudi Embassy In The Netherlands

This picture shows the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in The Hague, on November 12, 2020, after it was shot. Several shots were fired at the Saudi embassy in the Dutch city of The Hague but no one was hurt, police said on Thursday. Sem van der Wal / ANP / AFP
This picture shows the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in The Hague, on November 12, 2020, after it was shot. Several shots were fired at the Saudi embassy in the Dutch city of The Hague but no one was hurt, police said on Thursday. Sem van der Wal / ANP / AFP

 

Several shots were fired at the Saudi embassy in the Dutch city of The Hague but no one was hurt, police said on Thursday.

“Just before 6am (0500 GMT) we received a message that a shot had been fired at a building in The Hague. There were no injuries,” police said on Twitter.

A number of bullet casings were found at the scene after the incident, the Dutch news agency ANP quoted police as saying.

Local media said there were 20 bullet holes in the building and showed pictures of some holes in windows. There was no confirmation of the number of shots by police.

Officers have sealed off the scene and forensic teams are conducting an investigation, police said.

The motive for the shooting was not known.

The incident comes a day after a bomb blast struck a World War I commemoration attended by French and other diplomats in the Saudi city of Jeddah Wednesday, wounding at least two people.

 

 

AFP

Georgia Oboh Gets Invite To Participate In Saudi Arabia Golf Tournament

File picture of Georgia Oboh preparing to compete at the Scottish Open

 

Nigeria’s teenage golf sensation, Georgia Oboh has continued to make progress into the elite class in international golf with the latest invite to compete at the 2020 Saudi Arabia Ladies Golf Tournament scheduled to tee-off on November 12th.

The Nigerian has been invited by the sponsors to showcase her talent with other female golfers from around the world.

This year, Oboh has featured in a total of eight events after the lockdown, setting off with the Scottish Ladies Open, then played in the Czech Ladies Open near Prague, Czech Republic, and the VP Bank Ladies Open on the Ladies European tour.

She also featured in tournaments in Switzerland and Spain and recorded some noticeable improvement in her scores from the same time last year in her scoring averages on tour and her finish positions.

Oboh who is hoping to give a good performance in Saudi Arabia is pleased with the invitation to compete with some of the world’s experienced golfers.

“I give God all the Glory and feel very honoured to have been invited to such a prestigious event which is set to host the very top of the Ladies on the Ladies European Tour and members of the LPGA too,” she said.

“I am happy with the way that my game is developing and looking forward to a great learning experience once again. The abbreviated season due to Covid-19 gave me a chance to work on my game and it has been great just to pause and see some return now, so I give God all the Glory indeed.”

She further explained that having the opportunity to play in the Inaugural Saudi Arabia Ladies International is just the best feeling this year and really looking forward to the challenge.

“I would like to take this opportunity to give God all the glory and acknowledging my family and friends who are doing all they can to make this trip possible as you already know that I have no Corporate sponsor yet but God has been so faithful through all of the challenges this year and I am sure He is the best corporate partner that I can have moving forward,” she stated.

The youth Olympian averaged scores of -1 through the tournaments and finished with two top 20s and two top 10 places and now set to make history with the other ladies from the Ladies European Tour (LET) when they tee it up in Saudi Arabia for the first time starting November 12 for two major tournaments.

The tournament in Saudi Arabia is the Aramco Saudi Ladies International presented by Public Investment Fund and has a major objective to grow the game of golf amongst ladies in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi Arabia Ladies Golf tournament is the biggest prize purse outside of the major events and the Scottish Ladies Open.

The Saudi Arabia tournament will be played at the Royal Greens and Country Club which was awarded the best golf club in Saudi Arabia 2020 by the World Golf Awards.

The first event is individual Ladies Stroke play over 72 holes with a cut after 36 holes and then the second event is the team event so it promises to be a fantastic time in Saudi Arabia for the ladies.

It Makes No Sense For Oil To Be Cheaper In Nigeria Than Saudi Arabia – Buhari

 

President Muhammadu Buhari has defended the current price of fuel in the country, stating that a responsible government must face realities.

In his Independence Day Speech, President Buhari stated that while petroleum prices are to be adjusted, the government must take tough decisions.

The president compared the oil price in Nigeria to those of neighbouring countries, arguing that it makes no sense for oil to be cheaper in Nigeria than it is in other oil-producing nations.

Buhari said, “Petroleum prices in Nigeria are to be adjusted. We sell now at N161 per litre. A comparison with our neighbours will illustrate the point;

Chad which is an oil-producing country charges N362 per litre

Niger, also an oil-producing country sells 1 litre at N346.

In Ghana, another oil-producing country, the petroleum pump price is N326 per litre.

Further afield, Egypt charges N211 per litre. Saudi Arabia charges N168 per litre.

“It makes no sense for oil to be cheaper in Nigeria than in Saudi Arabia”.

READ ALSO: Buhari’s Speech: Implementation More Important Than What Was Said, Says Jega

President Muhammadu Buhari addressed the nation on the occasion of the country's 60th independence anniversary on October 1, 2020.
President Muhammadu Buhari addressed the nation on the occasion of the country’s 60th independence anniversary on October 1, 2020.

The president called for a sincere process of national healing as the nation marks the 60th anniversary of its independence from Great Britain.

The healing, the President said, is necessary as the nation has consistently focused on “contrived fault-lines” that have been “allowed unnecessarily to fester.”

“We need to begin a sincere process of national healing and this anniversary presents a genuine opportunity to eliminate old and outworn perceptions that are always put to test in the lie they always are,” the President said.

He argued that to achieve a desired great country, the nation needs to solidify its strength, adding that the citizens must increase their commitment and encourage each other to do that which is right and proper even when no one is watching.

G20 Summit To Be Held Virtually – Saudi Hosts

A handout picture provided by the G20 Media on April 19, 2020 shows the G20 Health Ministers holding a virtual meeting on COVID-19. AFP PHOTO/ HANDOUT/G20 MEDIA.

 

Saudi Arabia said Monday it will hold the G20 summit virtually in November, instead of having leaders of the world’s richest nations converge on Riyadh as planned before the coronavirus crisis.

The pandemic has forced all of the group’s meetings to be held by videoconference since March.

In that month, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman chaired an emergency virtual summit of leaders to discuss a global response to the crisis which has ravaged global economies.

“The 2020 G20 Leaders’ Summit will be held virtually on November 21-22 and will be chaired by His Majesty King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud,” the kingdom said in a statement.

“The upcoming G20 Leaders’ Summit will focus on protecting lives and restoring growth, by addressing vulnerabilities uncovered during the pandemic and by laying down the foundations for a better future.”

Saudi Arabia had been attempting to repair its frayed global image ahead of its hosting of the summit.

The conservative kingdom, under fire over human rights abuses, has accelerated investment in glitzy sports and entertainment events in a bid to soften its profile and boost jobs and investment.

However, human rights groups have urged G20 member states to exert pressure on the kingdom over its intensifying crackdown on dissent, which has seen women activists, journalists and political dissidents jailed.

New York city’s mayor Bill de Blasio recently pulled out of a Saudi-hosted Urban 20 mayors’ conference, amid calls for a boycott of the event that coincides with the anniversary of journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder.

Khashoggi’s 2018 killing, in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, battered the reputation of the kingdom and of 33-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who controls all major levers of power.

AFP