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Saudi FM, Palestinian PM discuss Gaza

They demanded an immediate release of all hostages and reaffirmed their support for the negotiations brokered by Egypt, Qatar and the United States dealing with ceasefire, hostages, and detainees…reports Asian Lite News

Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia Prince Faisal bin Farhan received Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Mustafa in Jeddah, the foreign ministry said on Tuesday.

The pair discussed the situation in Palestine, including developments in Gaza and the West Bank, and the efforts being made to reach an immediate and sustainable ceasefire in the besieged enclave.

Earlier, the premier was received at the airport by Deputy Foreign Minister Waleed bin Abdulkarim Al-Khuraiji .

Meanwhile, Egypt, Jordan, and France have urged an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, which has been under Israeli siege and bombardment over the past six months.

In a joint article on Monday, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, Jordanian King Abdullah II, and French President Emmanuel Macron called for an immediate and unconditional implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2728, which demands an immediate ceasefire in the conflict-stricken enclave, Xinhua news agency reported.

“We warn against the dangerous consequences of an Israeli offensive on Rafah, where more than 1.5 million Palestinian civilians have sought refuge. Such an offensive will only bring more deaths and suffering, heighten the risks and consequences of mass forcible displacement of the people of Gaza and threaten regional escalation,” said the leaders.

Noting that there is an urgent need for a massive increase in the provision and distribution of humanitarian assistance, the leaders urged Israel to ensure the flow of humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian population, a responsibility it has not fulfilled.

They demanded an immediate release of all hostages and reaffirmed their support for the negotiations brokered by Egypt, Qatar and the United States dealing with ceasefire, hostages, and detainees.

The massive conflict in Gaza has so far killed 33,207 Palestinians, in addition to many unreported under the rubble, and injured 75,933 others, according to the update released by Gaza’s health ministry earlier on Monday.

Meanwhile, the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) is bracing up for the Rafah operation after it wrapped up the Khan Yunis operations in southern Gaza and the 98th division of the IDF withdrew from the area.

Israel Defence Ministry sources told IANS that the withdrawal was done for ground invasion into the Rafah region.

Defence Minister of Israel Yoav Gallant, widely considered a hawk, met the senior officers of the 98th division of the IDF on Sunday and discussed the Rafah operations.

The allies of Israel, including the US and other Western powers had earlier told Israel not to enter into a ground invasion in the Rafah region as that would lead to major casualties among civilians.

Rafah region of Gaza is densely populated and has an estimated 1.3 million people. The Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah Al-Sissi had expressed his concern over a possible Rafah operation with the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken during the latter‘s visit to Egypt in March.

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Saudi, Jordan stress political solution to Gaza crisis

Crown Prince Mohammed and King Abdullah spoke about the necessity of finding a political solution to the Palestinian crisis based on the two-state solution, which guarantees the establishment of an independent, sovereign Palestinian state…reports Asian Lite News

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Jordan’s King Abdullah II yesterday engaged in discussions regarding regional developments, particularly focusing on the Middle East and Gaza.

The crown prince expressed Saudi Arabia’s support for the measures taken by the Jordanian government to maintain Jordan’s security and stability, the Saudi Press Agency reported, and the king expressed his appreciation for Saudi Arabia’s supportive stance.

Prince Mohammed and the king spoke about the necessity of finding a political solution to the Palestinian crisis based on the two-state solution, which guarantees the establishment of an independent, sovereign Palestinian state along 1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital, the Jordanian news agency Petra reported.

The crown prince and King Abdullah also discussed relations between the Kingdom and Jordan. The king expressed to Prince Mohammed “his pride in the level of Jordanian-Saudi relations, and his keenness to consolidate them in all fields,” Petra said.

Earlier, Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Jasem Mohamed Albudaiwi urged the international community to act to end the crisis in Gaza Strip and stop the dangerous Israeli aggression, which has violated all international charters, treaties, and agreements.

 Via an audiovisual call at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) with EU Special Representative for the Gulf Region Luigi di Maio and several other European officials and senior specialists in international relations about the situation in Gaza Strip and the future of Gulf-European ties in light of the current geopolitical challenges, Albudaiwi stressed that the dangerous situation in Gaza has led to growing instability in the region and the world, with grave repercussions, and that global cooperation is needed to stop this crisis.

 He also said that it is crucial to provide urgent humanitarian and relief support to Palestinians in Gaza Strip.

 Albudaiwi praised the progress made in all aspects of Gulf-European relations, and stressed that it is important to increase dialogue and cooperation to address common challenges and support stability in the region.

 He further highlighted the numerous promising opportunities to establish a solid strategic partnership by bolstering Gulf-European relations, saying that continued discussions and dialogue help facilitate the exchange of views and promote mutual understanding, and contribute to achieving security and stability.

IDF presses offensive in Khan Yunis

Israel continued to press its offensive against Hamas in Khan Yunis. The forces struck militant infrastructure in the city’s Al Amal and ‘Abasan al Jadida neighbourhoods, killing militants with tank fire and seizing weapons.

Khan Yunis, Gaza’s second-largest city, is widely regarded as a personal stronghold of Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar.

After numerous rocket launches were identified crossing from Gaza into Israel on Wednesday, the IDF struck the sources of the fire along with additional launchers and militant infrastructure.

Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden on Thursday told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that America’s support of Israel’s war in Gaza would be determined by the latter announcing and implementing a “series of specific, concrete, and measurable steps to address civilian harm, humanitarian suffering, and the safety of aid workers”.

The US President also called for an “immediate ceasefire” to stabilize and improve the humanitarian situation there.

The two leaders spoke on the phone amidst growing outrage around the world over the killing of six aid workers of Spanish American chef and restaurateur Jose Andres’s World Central Kitchen.

Earlier, the Israel Defence Forces apologized for the attack, saying the strike resulted from a “misidentification.”

Seven workers from the World Central Kitchen were killed on Monday night when their convoy delivering food was struck in Deir al-Balah. The incident led the US-based organization to suspend its operations in Gaza.

“I want to be very clear–the strike was not carried out with the intention of harming WCK aid workers. It was a mistake that followed a misidentification–at night during a war in very complex conditions. It shouldn’t have happened,” said IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Herzi Halevi in a video statement.

“This incident was a grave mistake. Israel is at war with Hamas, not with the people of Gaza,” Halevi asserted. “We are sorry for the unintentional harm to the members of WCK.”

Halevi said the incident would be independently investigated with the findings to be presented “in the coming days.”

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MENA Environmental Law Conference in Oman Focuses on Sustainable Economy Goals

Held under the patronage of H.E. Prof. Mahad bin Said bin Ali Ba Awain, Minister for Labour of Oman, the conference featured a keynote lecture by H.E. Dr Abdullah bin Ali Al Amri, Chairman of Environment Authority, Oman...reports Asian Lite News

Hamad Bin Khalifa University’s (HBKU) College of Law collaborated with Sohar University and the Association of Environmental Law Lecturers in Middle East and North African Universities (ASSELLMU) to jointly host the 5th MENA Environmental Law and Policy Scholars’ Conference from February 19-20, 2024, in Sohar, Oman.

Organized under the theme “Environmental Law and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: Legislation Towards a Sustainable Economy in the MENA Region,” the conference brought together leading environmental educators, administrators, and legal practitioners to exchange knowledge, experience, and learn from each other on how to advance the attainment of the SDGs in the MENA region by the global target date of 2030.

Through workshops and seminars, the participants highlighted national, regional, and international aspects of accelerating the SDGs, including the status of teaching and practice of environmental law and the green economy in MENA countries, as well as domestic and regional approaches to environmental law and practice.

Held under the patronage of H.E. Prof. Mahad bin Said bin Ali Ba Awain, Minister for Labour of Oman, the conference featured a keynote lecture by H.E. Dr Abdullah bin Ali Al Amri, Chairman of Environment Authority, Oman. Several prominent figures also gave conference keynote addresses, including Dr. Hamdan Sulaiman Al Fazari,Vice Chancellor, Sohar University, H.E. Dr. Leila Chikhaoui, Minister of the Environment of Tunisia; Patricia Mbote, Director of the Law Division, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP); Philipp Bremer,  Director of the Rule of Law Programme Middle East & North Africa, Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, and Professor Attiya Waris, United Nations Independent Expert on foreign debt, other international financial obligations and human rights.Speakers from HBKU College of Law included Dean Susan L. Karamanian,  Dr. Damilola S. Olawuyi, SAN, Professor of Law and UNESCO Chair on Environmental Law and Sustainable Development at HBKU, and Chair of ASSELLMU, and Tasniem Ahmed Elyass Hussain, third year Juris Doctor (J.D.) student and Research Fellow to the UNESCO Chair at HBKU. 

Speaking after the conference, Dean Karamanian noted: “The ASSELLMU conference at Sohar University was the 5th international conference organized by the College of Law  and ASSELLMU. Attendees came from Morocco, Iran, and many places in between. The support of Sohar University was outstanding, as faculty, students, and staff there welcomed international guests. The University venue enabled an open discussion about pressing issues related to environmental law.  We are deeply indebted to Sohar University and my colleague, Dr. Damilola Olawuyi, for their dedication to helping build and sustain a network of MENA legal academics and lawyers who are committed to improving capacity in environmental law.”  UNEP and SADER Legal Publishing sponsored the conference, while the UNESCO Chair on Environmental Law and Sustainable Development, HBKU, and the Rule of Law Programme Middle East & North Africa, Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung served as partners.“This year’s landmark conference has greatly highlighted the important roles of environmental education and research in accelerating the SDGs and  addressing the urgent ecological threats facing the world. As new and cleaner technologies emerge, a talented and environmentally-aware workforce will be required to leverage them in all key economic sectors.

We commend Sohar University for their exceptional commitment to education and innovation in this regard and we look forward to working with them and other partners in promoting environmental law education and implementation across the region.” said Dr. Olawuyi, SAN.A significant outcome of the conference was the official adoption of a work plan of environmental training and education which will include focused research in five thematic areas: Technology and the Green Economy; Business, Human Rights and the Environment; Environmental Dispute Resolution; Food, Agriculture and Water Security; and Energy and Natural Resources. A scientific committee was inaugurated to prioritize this mandate. ASSELLMU’s next conference is scheduled to be held in Saudi Arabia in 2025.HBKU’s College of Law continues to work closely with top-tier local and international partners to help build expertise and research capacity in Qatar and beyond. Carefully designed auxiliary programs reflect the College’s relevance to government and corporate leaders, locally and globally.

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Saudi German Health Joins Emirati Genome Programme

The Emirati Genome Programme is a significant initiative under the National Genome Strategy. It is one of the largest population genome projects in the world and has recently achieved a significant milestone of collecting 500,000 samples…reports Asian Lite News

The Emirati Genome Programme, a groundbreaking national initiative aimed at developing a comprehensive genetic map for UAE citizens, has announced its collaboration with Saudi German Health to expand sample collection sites in Dubai. UAE citizens are encouraged to visit the Saudi German Hospital in Dubai, Ajman and Sharjah to participate in the programme that aims to accelerate the development of advanced preventive and personalised healthcare solutions for the nation’s present and future generations.

The Emirati Genome Programme is a significant initiative under the National Genome Strategy. It is one of the largest population genome projects in the world and has recently achieved a significant milestone of collecting 500,000 samples. The programme aims to collect high-quality genetic data using advanced genetic sequencing technologies and artificial intelligence. M42, an Abu Dhabi-based tech-enabled health powerhouse, is facilitating the programme through its Omics Centre of Excellence, the largest and most technologically advanced omics facility in the region, to not only enhance the available medical database, but also enable extensive scientific research and discoveries, contributing to healthcare innovation in the UAE and beyond.

Makarem Sobhi Batterjee, President of Saudi German Health, emphasised the significance of the collaboration, stating, “The Emirati Genome Programme is a pioneering national initiative, and as a leading hospital in the UAE, we are committed to making a positive impact on people’s health. Our full cooperation with the project management will ensure driving public awareness and collection of samples across the Emirates.”

The programme’s goal is to analyse the complete genome of UAE citizens, allowing researchers and medical professionals to identify the causes of genetic diseases and types of genetic mutations, and anticipate susceptibility to certain diseases for more effective treatment and preventive plans.

Dr. Ahmad Al Awadhi, Senior Community Outreach Director, Emirati Genome Programme, M42, said, “As we progress towards realising the programme’s aim to collect 1 million samples and to expand the programme across the UAE, we are proud to collaborate with Saudi German Hospitals to improve the programme’s awareness, outreach, and participation at easily accessible locations.”

The programme focuses on precision medicine initiatives to further enhance public health in the UAE and reinforce the country’s position at the forefront of global genomic research and innovation.

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Saudi Warns of ‘Consequences’ if Israel Attacks Rafah

Prince Faisal criticised the perceived double standards of some nations towards the crisis in Gaza and reiterated the urgent need for a ceasefire….reports Asian Lite News

Saudi Arabi’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan issued a stark warning at the 55th session of the UN Human Rights Council, cautioning against the “catastrophic consequences” of any Israeli attack on Rafah, south of Gaza. He emphasised Rafah as a crucial refuge for civilians displaced by the Israeli army.

Prince Faisal criticised the perceived double standards of some nations towards the crisis in Gaza and reiterated the urgent need for a ceasefire. He urged the international community to fulfill its responsibility in halting the conflict, protecting innocent civilians, and facilitating a credible peace process.

Highlighting the staggering toll of nearly 30,000 Palestinians killed in Gaza since the conflict began, Prince Faisal underscored the absurdity of pursuing institutional dialogue while ignoring the dire situation in Palestine. He questioned the legitimacy of discussions on rights amid Gaza’s devastation and the suffering of its people.

Expressing dismay over the Security Council’s failure to produce tangible outcomes despite the ongoing crisis, Prince Faisal called for immediate action to address the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Gaza. He emphasised the urgent need for security, access to basic services, and humanitarian aid for Gaza’s population.

“He reiterated the Kingdom’s demand to implement Security Council Resolution No. (2720) and activate the humanitarian mechanism accordingly, and lift restrictions on the entry of relief trucks and humanitarian aid, to alleviate unjustified human suffering. He renewed the Kingdom’s call for an immediate ceasefire, paving the way for a serious, just, and comprehensive peace process,” Saudi Press Agency reported.

The Kingdom’s delegation included the Head of the Human Rights Commission, Dr. Hala bint Mazyad Al-Tuwaijri, the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for Political Affairs, Dr. Saud Al-Sati, and the Kingdom’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Abdulmohsen Majed bin Khothaila.

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Saudi Arabia Targets 7.5M Indian Tourists by 2030

Witnessing increasing demand for travel from India to Saudi Arabia for spiritual and leisure purposes, Riyadh aims to attract 7.5 million Indian visitors by 2030, as articulated by Alhasan Aldabbagh, President – Asia Pacific, Saudi Tourism Authority, during the prominent SATTE 2024 travel show.

Expressing enthusiasm about Saudi’s third participation in SATTE, Aldabbagh marked the occasion of Saudi’s founding day, commemorating three centuries since its establishment. Emphasising India as a pivotal market, he highlighted a substantial 50 per cent growth in Indian visitors to Saudi Arabia last year, outlining plans to achieve the 2030 vision.

In a conversation with ANI, Aldabbagh said, “We’re thrilled to be at SATTE. It’s our third participation, and it’s one of the most distinguished trade shows in South Asia. Today holds significance as we celebrate the Saudi founding day.”

When queried about the Indian market’s role in Saudi Arabia, Aldabbagh asserted, “India is a priority market for Saudi. Last year alone, we welcomed 1.5 million visitors from India, presenting a remarkable 50 per cent growth. Looking ahead, our objective is to attract 7.5 million visitors from India to Saudi Arabia as part of our vision for 2030.”

Addressing visa facilitation, Aldabbagh mentioned, “Recognising India’s importance, we have streamlined access to Saudi. With 10 VFS offices in India, we plan to expand further this year. We’ve introduced a stopover program, offering a 96-hour free visa for those travelling through Saudi Airlines or flynas (a private Saudi low-cost airline). Additionally, individuals holding a US, UK, or Schengen visa are eligible for e-Visa or visa on arrival.”

Regarding the enduring relationship between India and Saudi Arabia, Aldabbagh said, “The mutual goodwill between India and Saudi Arabia has consistently expanded. This growth spans not only in the tourism sector but also in economic, social, and cultural exchanges. We eagerly anticipate our planned activations in India this year, further solidifying our flourishing relationship.”

India and Saudi Arabia enjoy cordial and friendly relations reflecting the centuries-old economic and socio-cultural ties.

SATTE (South Asia’s Travel and Tourism Exchange) offers a comprehensive platform to domestic and international buyers and professionals from across the travel, tourism and hospitality industry along with National and State Tourism Boards (NTOs and STOs).

SATTE is well-supported by the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, National and International Tourism Boards, Indian and International travel and trade associations and organisations amongst others, according to SATTE’s official website. (ANI)

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Cisco Reveals Saudi Arabia’s AI Readiness Ahead of LEAP 2024

LEAP 2024 will be held from 4-7 March at the Riyadh Exhibition and Convention Centre, Malham in Saudi Arabia. Cisco stand will be located at booth J10, Hall 1 – Big Tech…reports Asian Lite News

Ahead of LEAP 2024 technology conference in Riyadh, Cisco announced the findings of its AI Readiness Index in Saudi Arabia. The Index, which surveyed over 8,000 companies across 30 countries, was developed in response to the accelerated adoption of AI. The survey shows that 93% of organizations in KSA have an AI strategy in place or under development, while only 8% consider themselves fully prepared to deploy and leverage AI.

Improving the efficiency of and increasing productivity was ranked among the top outcomes that companies are looking to drive through adoption of AI, with 47% of respondents in KSA placing it on top of gains they expect from AI. Opening new revenue streams was the lowest on the list of expectations, as ranked by 30% of respondents.

On talent development, 31% of KSA respondents ranked comprehension and proficiency of AI tools and technologies as the primary skill gap. The good news is that organizations are taking steps to address this gap. Among the organizations surveyed in Kingdom, 82% say they are investing in training employees in this area.

On infrastructure readiness, the survey shows that a mere 12% of local organizations in KSA have networks that are fully flexible to handle the complexity of AI workloads. Cybersecurity also needs increased focus, as 70% of respondents fall short of being “fully equipped” to detect and prevent adversarial attacks on AI models.​

Commenting on the results of the study, Salman Faqeeh, Managing Director, Cisco Saudi Arabia said: “Saudi Arabia has made significant strides in recent years to establish itself as a leading player in the field of AI. The Kingdom recognizes the transformative potential of AI and has placed it at the center of its Vision 2030”. He added: “At Cisco, we believe in the critical role of AI to revolutionize industries and drive innovation, and it has been an important element across our portfolio for over a decade. As the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority (SDAIA) is working to implement the National Strategy for Data and AI, the insights from the index can help inform the prioritization across important pillars including strategy, infrastructure, data, governance, talent, and culture.”

This year, Cisco’s participation at LEAP is revolving around the theme of “AI Unleashed: Shaping Sustainable Digital Evolution”. Visitors will be able to engage with subject matter experts at Cisco’s booth and discover demos to harness the power of AI to enable a sustainable, securely connected future. The company will showcase its latest technology innovations, spanning networking, security, collaboration, and applications, besides industry use-cases alongside its channels and ecosystem partners.

Reem Asaad, Vice President for Cisco Middle East, Türkiye, Africa, Romania, and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), commented: “Cisco has a long-standing presence in the region, working to advance national digital economies, develop infrastructure, strengthen cybersecurity, and build the region’s talent pool. This year at LEAP, we are excited to demonstrate the power of our portfolio to support our customers and partners in Saudi Arabia and beyond in leveraging our latest technologies to increase efficiencies and drive innovation.”

LEAP 2024 will be held from 4-7 March at the Riyadh Exhibition and Convention Centre, Malham in Saudi Arabia. Cisco stand will be located at booth J10, Hall 1 – Big Tech.

Cisco AI Readiness Index 

The new Cisco AI Readiness Index is based on a double-blind survey of 8,161 private sector business and IT leaders across 30 markets, conducted by an independent third-party surveying respondents from companies with 500 or more employees. The Index assessed respondents’ AI readiness across six key pillars: strategy, infrastructure, data, talent, governance, and culture.

Companies were examined on 49 different metrics across these six pillars to determine a readiness score for each, as well as an overall readiness score for the respondents’ organization. Each indicator was assigned an individual weightage based on its relative importance to achieving readiness for the applicable pillar. Based on their overall score, Cisco has identified four groups at different levels of organizational readiness – Pacesetters (fully prepared), Chasers (moderately prepared), Followers (limited preparedness), and Laggards (unprepared). 

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Israel’s Actions ‘Indefensible’: Saudi at ICJ

Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the Netherlands, Ziad Al-Atiyah, strongly condemned Israel’s actions in the occupied Palestinian territories as legally indefensible….reports Asian Lite News

Saudi Arabia has condemned Israel’s actions in Palestinian Territories as ‘legally indefensible,’ echoing a sentiment shared by South Africa, which urged the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to issue a non-binding legal opinion on the matter.

Representatives from both nations addressed the ICJ, seeking legal recourse against Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories. Alongside them, Algeria, the Netherlands, Bangladesh, and Belgium presented preliminary arguments in what is considered the largest case at the ICJ, the Arab News reported.

The focus of the hearings centred on a request by the UN General Assembly for an advisory opinion on the legality of the occupation. Palestinian representatives, who articulated their stance on Monday, emphasised the illegality of Israel’s occupation and called for its immediate cessation.

Israel, however, abstained from the hearings, expressing concerns that an advisory opinion could impede conflict resolution efforts. Despite Israel’s absence, the testimonies outlined the ongoing violations of international law, including Israel’s expansion of illegal settlements and its deprivation of Palestinian rights.

Ziad Al-Atiyah, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the Netherlands, emphasized the gravity of Israel’s actions, condemning its treatment of civilians in Gaza and its disregard for international law. Al-Atiyah accused Israel of dehumanising Palestinians and called for accountability from the international community.

Saudi Arabia criticised Israel’s violations of UN resolutions and its obstruction of Palestinian self-determination. The Kingdom urged the ICJ to assert its jurisdiction and issue a legal opinion, emphasising the urgency of addressing Israel’s ongoing aggression and disregard for international obligations.

Meanwhile, Palestine has rejected Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s remarks about Israel’s security control over the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, considering it a challenge to international legitimacy and the Arab Peace Initiative.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, the spokesperson of the Palestinian presidency, said on Tuesday in a press statement that these Israeli policies “do not bring security and stability to anyone here or in the region,” warning against the continuation of this “destructive approach that will lead matters to a complete explosion”.

“Palestine rejects this Israeli policy that challenges the world,” he added.

Abu Rudeineh called on the US government to “force” Israel to stop the conflict first “because the right to self-determination for the Palestinian people is a red line”.

Netanyahu said on Monday that Israel will maintain its security control over the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Xinhua news agency reported.

He added in a video statement, “In recent days, we have witnessed pressure on us unilaterally to impose the establishment of a Palestinian state that would endanger the existence of the State of Israel.”

“The recognising a Palestinian state at this stage would be a “reward for terrorism” and would undermine the chances of a lasting peace deal,” he said.

Meanwhile, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh arrived in Cairo to hold talks with Egyptian officials on the Gaza truce.

Hamas said on Tuesday in a brief statement sent to Xinhua news agency that Haniyeh arrived in Cairo at the head of a delegation from the movement’s leadership.

It added that the talks will focus on the political and on-the-ground situation in light of the aggressive conflict in Gaza and the efforts made to stop the aggression, provide relief to citizens, and achieve the goals of the Palestinian people, Xinhua news agency reported.

The Hamas leader on Saturday accused Israel of impeding efforts to achieve a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, saying that they “showed full flexibility in dealing with these issues, but it is clear so far that Israel continues to procrastinate in the negotiations”.

Israel has been fighting with Hamas in the Gaza Strip since October 7, 2023, after the group launched a surprise attack on southern Israel that killed about 1,200 people. Israel has so far killed more than 29,000 Palestinians, according to the Gaza-based Health Ministry.

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict has shown no sign of abating in recent years, as direct peace talks between the two sides stalled in 2014 following disputes over Israeli settlements and the recognition of a Palestinian state.

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Iran, Saudi Vow Expansion of Ties, Slam Israel

The Saudi Foreign Minister welcomed his Iranian counterpart’s proposal to hold an emergency meeting of the OIC’s Council of Foreign Ministers to stop Israel’s “genocide”

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and his Saudi counterpart Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud held a phone conversation, during which they vowed to expand bilateral cooperation and jointly slammed Israel over the situation in the Gaza Strip.

The Iranian Foreign Minister criticized the Israeli “crimes” against the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, as well as Israel’s “threats” and actions against Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost city, which shelters more than 1.3 million displaced Palestinians, Xinhua news agency reported.

“We do not consider war as a solution, but if the issue is not immediately resolved politically, the negative consequences of Israel’s continued genocide on the security and stability of the region will be inevitable,” Amir-Abdollahian said, stressing the necessity for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to hold an emergency meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers to discuss the ongoing situation in Gaza.

The Saudi Foreign Minister welcomed his Iranian counterpart’s proposal to hold an emergency meeting of the OIC’s Council of Foreign Ministers to stop Israel’s “genocide,” slamming Israel for ignoring international calls to end the crisis in Gaza.

The two ministers also underlined the necessity to expand bilateral cooperation in different economic and trade areas and, particularly, between the two countries’ private sectors within the framework of international law, as well as the importance of continuing bilateral contacts and consultations.

Israel has been fighting with Hamas in the Gaza Strip since October 7, after the group launched a surprise attack on southern Israel that killed about 1,200 people. So far 28,775 Palestinians have been killed by the ongoing Israeli attacks on Gaza, the Hamas-run health ministry said on Friday.

Since Monday, Israel has launched airstrikes against Rafah and indicated that it is set to launch a ground operation in the city.

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Saudi Embassy celebrates International Day of Arabian Leopard

There are less than 200 Arabian leopards left in the wild in the world, which puts this species at a higher risk of extinction, and baby leopards are very rare, Browne said…reports Asian Lite News

The Saudi Embassy in the UK on Saturday invited families and visitors to celebrate the first International Day of the Arabian Leopard at London Zoo and take part in the third annual Catwalk.

The full-day event was hosted by the Royal Commission for AlUla and Catmosphere, a foundation that encourages people to take action to protect the environment and habitats of big cats.

“The Royal Commission for AlUla has responsibility across the Kingdom to bring back the Arabian leopard, and part of that work is to raise awareness of the plight of the Arabian leopard,” Stephen Browne, vice president of wildlife and natural heritage at RCU said.

The day has been marked by Saudi Arabia for the last three years, but this year saw it celebrated globally after Catmosphere and the Arabian Leopard Fund collaborated with the Saudi Mission to the UN in New York to gain international recognition for the day on Feb. 10 each year.

“The result of that designation is now we have the first international day recognizing a big cat species, and the importance of that is that we can bring together people across the world to unite behind the species to then improve its conservation, but also to raise awareness about conservation globally,” Browne said.

He added that RCU wanted to make the initiative global and chose various places worldwide, including in London at the world’s oldest scientific zoo, to try to engage as much as possible with international experts and organizations.

“The Zoological Society of London is one of the world’s best and oldest conservation organizations, having been in existence for 200 years, and we hope in due course to partner with them and hopefully they’ll be able to support us in our work in AlUla,” Browne said.

“Anywhere in the world that has endangered cats, which is pretty much everywhere, we’d like them to take part in this to raise awareness (of) big cats and their conservation, also through our endeavors to get people to get out and about to improve their own well-being by doing exercise, by being out, meeting people, discussing topics, enjoying green spaces. So it’s more than just the conservation of big cats.”

There are less than 200 Arabian leopards left in the wild in the world, which puts this species at a higher risk of extinction, and baby leopards are very rare, Browne said.

“It’s very hard for members of the public to actually contribute directly through anything, so events like this allow people to engage in conservation by helping to raise awareness, by drawing sort of media attention,” he added.

“But in terms of beyond the Arabian leopard, if you look at the Catwalk, which is for seven species, it’s possible that people could actually engage on the ground by doing the various initiatives in their respective countries.”

Leopards in Saudi Arabia have a long cultural association, particularly in AlUla, which has rock carvings going back 7,000 years.

“It’s a species that people have related to for a long time, and we’re trying to use it as an emblem around which people can build national pride in that species, maybe national pride in conservation,” Browne said.

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