Saudi Arabia Boosts Ties with China, Eurasian Countries

Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz chairs a Cabinet meeting (File/SPA)
Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz chairs a Cabinet meeting (File/SPA)
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Saudi Arabia Boosts Ties with China, Eurasian Countries

Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz chairs a Cabinet meeting (File/SPA)
Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz chairs a Cabinet meeting (File/SPA)

Saudi Arabia has approved a memorandum on granting the kingdom the status of a dialogue partner in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), state news agency SPA said.

The SCO is a political and security union of countries spanning much of Eurasia, including China, India and Russia.

Formed in 2001 by Russia, China and former Soviet states in Central Asia, the body has been expanded to include India and Pakistan, with a view to playing a bigger role as counterweight to Western influence in the region.

The approval came during a Saudi Cabinet session headed by the King at the al-Salam Palace in Jeddah.

King Salman bin Abdulaziz also authorized the launch of technical and vocational training between the Kingdom and China.

During the session, the Saudi Cabinet condemned the burning of the holy Quran outside the Turkish embassy in Denmark that took place last Friday, stressing the need to consolidate the values of dialogue, tolerance, and respect.

Joining the SCO was discussed during a visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to Saudi Arabia last December, sources have told Reuters.

Dialogue partner status will be a first step within the organization before granting the kingdom full membership in the mid-term, they said.

The decision followed an announcement by Saudi Aramco (2222.SE) which raised its multi-billion dollar investment in China on Tuesday, by finalizing a planned joint venture in northeast China and acquiring a stake in a privately controlled petrochemical group.



2 Million Pilgrims Begin Hajj on Friday with Comprehensive Services at Their Disposal

The pilgrims will spend the day at Mina ahead of heading to Arafat on Saturday. (SPA)
The pilgrims will spend the day at Mina ahead of heading to Arafat on Saturday. (SPA)
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2 Million Pilgrims Begin Hajj on Friday with Comprehensive Services at Their Disposal

The pilgrims will spend the day at Mina ahead of heading to Arafat on Saturday. (SPA)
The pilgrims will spend the day at Mina ahead of heading to Arafat on Saturday. (SPA)

Over 2 million pilgrims will begin on Friday the annual Hajj pilgrimage, starting at Mina, and amid a comprehensive package of services at their disposal aimed at ensuring that they have a safe and smooth journey.

The pilgrims will spend the day at Mina where they will perform the Duhr, Asr, Maghreb and Isha prayers ahead of heading to Arafat on Saturday in what is the most important day of the Hajj.

Mina is considered the greatest tent city of the world and one Saudi Arabia’s mega projects. It stretches 2.5 million square meters to accommodate 2.6 million pilgrims.

Muslim worshippers pray around the Kaaba, Islam's holiest shrine, at the Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia's holy city of Makkah on June 13, 2024, ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage. (AFP)

The General Directorate of Passports revealed that it has registered 1,547,295 pilgrims this year.

Director of Public Security and head of the Hajj Security Committee Mohammad Al-Bassami inspected the readiness of the Hajj security forces and supporting military forces. He underscored their readiness in implementing security and organizational plans aimed at ensuring the safety of the pilgrims.

He stressed that the security forces will firmly confront anything that may undermine the safety of the pilgrims during their holy journey.

Pilgrims leave after offering prayers outside at the Grand Mosque during the annual Hajj pilgrimage in the holy city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia, early Friday, June 14, 2024. (AP)

The Saudi Royal Air Force will also be monitoring the Hajj to provide security and prevent any development that may impact the pilgrimage and worshippers.

Concerned parties at the Interior Ministry will follow up on the security plans and crowd control. They will monitor entrances to the holy city of Makkah to prevent anyone violating Hajj regulations from entering.

Meanwhile, the first of the Al Mashaaer Al Mugaddassah Metro trips kicked off on Thursday. It will transport pilgrims between nine stations spread between Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah. Seventeen trains will be operated by 7,500 employees.

The first of the Al Mashaaer Al Mugaddassah Metro trips kicked off on Thursday. (SPA)

The Saudi Authority for Data and Artificial Intelligence has provided the pilgrims with several digital services through the Tawakkalna app that is available in seven languages: Arabic, English, Filipino, Indonesian, Bengali, Urdu and Hindi. The app provides message, weather and Qibla services, a Quran, and prayer times. It also boasts features from the Nusuk Hajj digital card and other services.

The Public Health Authority will provide a number of services to the pilgrims. It has placed plans to combat infectious diseases, updated protocols and guidelines related to public health risks, and is constantly assessing risks.

The Ministry of Health is continuing its awareness campaign towards pilgrims throughout the holy sites. It is informing them of preventive measures that will help them protect their health and safety during the Hajj. This includes information on how to protect themselves from heat exhaustion due to the soaring heat. Pilgrims are advised to carry umbrellas and drink water.

The health ministry is also providing instant digital medical consultations around the clock. Pilgrims can contact consultants through a dedicated hotline with services provided in six languages: Arabic, English, French, Turkish, Persian and Urdu. They can also be contacted through the X platform or the Sehhaty app.