Browsing articles in "English"

Ambassador congratulates Victoria University on Centenary

May 23, 2016   //   by admin   //   English, SA News  //  No Comments

Ambassador Al Saleh with Victorian University Chancellor George Pappas

The Ambassador of Saudi Arabia in Australia Nabil Al Saleh met with the Chancellor of the University of Victoria, Professor George Pappas, at a Ceremony to commemorate the Centenary of the founding of Victoria University in Australia. The celebration took place in the attendance of senior political, academic and diplomatic figures including a representative of the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, the Australian Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham and Minister of Education in Victoria, James Mirlino and the Saudi cultural attaché to Australia, Dr. Abdul Aziz Ibn Taleb.

Ambassador Al Saleh congratulated Mr Pappas on the occasion of the Centenary, and noted the University’s embrace of many Saudi students on scholarships. He also praised the depth of academic and cognitive relations between Saudi Arabia and Australia and pointed to the prospects of seeing Saudi Arabia’s “2030″ vision to include education as a key player in the Saudi economy and in its future.

On his part, the University Chancellor George Pappas, praised the academic relations between the University of Victoria and Saudi Arabia, directing his thanks and appreciation to Ambassador Al Saleh for his participation in the Ceremony. He also noted the great cooperation and interest shown between both nations to strengthen these relations.

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Governor-General hosts luncheon honouring Mr Iyad Madani of the OIC

Feb 4, 2016   //   by admin   //   English, SA News  //  No Comments

The Governor-General hosted a luncheon in honor of the Secretary General of the OIC Mr Iyad Madani

SA NEWS – 3 February 2016

The Governor-General General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove and Lady Cosgrove hosted a lunch on the occasion of the visit to Australia by His Excellency Mr Iyad Ameen Madani, Secretary General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. Guests included:

Ambassador of Saudi Arabia in Australia His Excellency Mr Nabil Mohammed A. Al Saleh; His Excellency Dr Abdusalam Abadi , Ms Maha Aqeel; Dr Dodik Ariyanto; Mr Ahmed Fahour; Senator the Honourable Concetta Fierravanti-Wells; Mr Ammanul Haq; Mr Ridwaan Jadwat; Mr Ahmad Madani; Mr Chris Moraitis; Mr Greg Ralph; His Excellency Mr Nadjib Riphat Kesoema; Professor Amin Saikal AM; Mr Bilal Sasso; Ms Maria Vamvakinou MP; and Mr Peter Varghese AO.

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Secretary General of (OIC) Iyad Madani Arrives in Canberra

Feb 4, 2016   //   by admin   //   English, SA News  //  No Comments

.Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Iyad Ameen Madani has arrived today in the Australian capital of Canberra as part of his official visit to Australia

.He was welcomed by Saudi Ambassador to Australia Nabil Al Saleh and various Australian officials

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Iran’s Record in Supporting Terrorism

Jan 20, 2016   //   by admin   //   English, SA News  //  No Comments

 Iran’s Record in Supporting Terrorism and Extremism

Jan 20, 2016

A senior official of Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry stated today that since the Iranian revolution in 1979, Iran has established a record of spreading sedition, unrest and chaos in the region in an effort to undermine the region’s security and stability, and in complete disregard for international law, agreements, treaties, and moral principles. During the same period, the Kingdom has maintained a policy of restraint in spite of having suffered – as have neighboring countries – the consequences of Iran’s continued aggressive policies.

The official said that Iranian policy is based primarily on the preamble of Iranian constitution and the directive of Ayatollah Khomeini, which is based on the idea of exporting revolution. In a flagrant violation of the sovereignty of other states and interference in their internal affairs, Iran recruits militias in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen under what is called ‘supporting the vulnerable and subjugated peoples. It continues to support terrorism by providing safe havens for terrorist organizations on its territory, planting terrorist cells in a number of Arab countries, and assisting in terrorist bombings that have caused the loss of many innocent lives. It has assassinated opposition figures abroad, has continually violated the sanctity of diplomatic missions, and has even assassinated or attempted to assassinate diplomats around the world.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs has prepared by the attached fact sheet to illustrate Iran’s aggressive policies over nearly four decades, and categorically refutes the persistent lies promoted by the Tehran regime, including the foreign ministers article in The New York Times and his message to the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

FACT SHEET: Iran’s Record in Supporting Terrorism and Extremism

  1. The Iranian regime is the worlds number one sponsor of terrorism. The Quds Force and other state and state-sponsored organizations actively engage in and support terrorist organizations abroad, such as Hezbollah, Hezbollah Al-Hejaz (Saudi Hezbollah), Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq in Iraq, and a number of sectarian militias, including Houthis in Yemen. Iran has supported and conspired with other terrorist organizations, such as Al-Qaeda. Iran has harbored Al-Qaeda leaders, some of whom still enjoy sanctuary in Iran. Iran has been condemned by the United Nations and many countries. International sanctions have been imposed on it.
  2. In 1982, 96 foreigners were kidnapped in Lebanon, including 25 Americans, in what is known as the hostage crisis which lasted for10 years. Most of kidnappings were carried out by Hezbollah and other Iranian-backed groups.
  1. Hezbollah bombing of the U.S. embassy in Beirut in 1983, which killed 63 people, was orchestrated by the Iranian regime.
  1. Also, in 1983, Ismail Ascari, an Iranian national, carried out a suicide bombing at the U.S. Marine Corps barracks in Beirut. The attack was planned by Iran and resulted in the deaths of 241 American servicemen and injuries to 100. It was described by the American press as the largest single group of casualties outside the battlefield.
  1. On the same day, Hezbollah also sent a suicide truck bomber to the French army barracks in Beirut, which resulted in the deaths of 64 French civilian and military personnel.
  1. In 1983, members of Hezbollah and the Shiite Hezbo-AlDawa, which were backed by Iran, carried out a number of attacks, including attacks on the U.S, and French embassies in Kuwait, an oil refinery, and a residential neighborhood, resulting in the deaths of five people and the wounding of eight.
  1. In 1983, Iran attacked Kuwaiti oil tankers in the Gulf. Subsequently, Kuwait tankers were reflagged as American and provided escort by U.S. warships.
  1. In 1984, Hezbollah attacked a US Embassy annex in east Beirut, resulting in the deaths 24 people.
  1. In 1985, several Gulf soldiers and citizens were killed when an attempt was made to bomb the motorcade of His Highness, late Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, Amir of Kuwait.
  1. In 1985, the Iranian regime masterminded the hijacking of TWA flight; 39 American passengers were held captive for weeks.
  1. In 1986, Iran urged its pilgrims to carry out riots during Hajj season, which resulted in a stampede and the deaths of 300 people.
  1. Hezbollah Al-Hejaz set fire to an oil facility in Ras Tanura on the east coast of Saudi Arabia in 1987. In that same year, The pro-Iranian organization attacked the Saudi Petrochemical Company (SADAF) facility in Jubail, in eastern Saudi Arabia.
  1. In 1987, Iran was involved in the murder of Saudi diplomat Mosaed Alghamdi in Tehran, the same year Saudi Arabia foiled attempts by Iranian pilgrims to smuggle explosives in to the country.
  1. In 1987, the Saudi embassy in Tehran was attacked and Saudi diplomat Reza Abdulmohsen Al-Nozha was assaulted and taken by Iranian Revolutionary Guard forces. He was released following negotiations between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
  1. Iranian surrogates were responsible for the abductions and killings of a number of American diplomats in Lebanon in the 1980s.
  1. Iran was involved in a series of assassinations of Iranian opposition members, including:
  1. a.The murder of Iranian Kurdistan Democratic Party leader Rahman Ghassemlou and his deputy Abdullah Azar, in Vienna in 1989.
  2. The assassination in France by the Iranian revolutionary guard of Shapour Bakhtiar, the last Prime Minister of Iran under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, which also took the lives of a French officer and woman.
  3. The assassinations of Secretary-General of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, Sadegh Sharafkandi, his assistants Fattah Abdoulie, Homayoun Ardalan, and Nuri Dechrda, in the bombing of the Mykonos restaurant in Berlin in 1992.
  1. The Iranian regime kidnapped and killed a number of American diplomats in Lebanon in 1989 Iran was responsible for the abduction and killing of a number of U.S. diplomats in Lebanon in the 1989.
  1. The Iranian regime was involved in the assassination in Thailand of Saudi diplomats Abdullah Al-Malki, Abdullah Al-Bassri, Fahad Al-Bahli, and Ahmed Al-saif in 1989 and 1990.
  1. In 1992, the Iranian regime was involved in the bombing of Mykonos restaurant in Berlin. The German Federal Prosecutor issued an arrest warrant of Iran’s Minister of Intelligence, Ali Fallahian, for planning and supervising the restaurant bombing and killing (4) Kurdish opposition who were in the restaurant at the time of the bombing.
  1. Iran was involved in Buenos Aires bombings in 1994, which resulted in the deaths of 85 people and the wounding 300 others. In 2003, British police arrested Hade Pour Soleimanpour, Iran†s former ambassador to Argentina, for conspiring to carry out attack.
  1. In 1994, the Venezuelan Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a press release stating that four Iranian diplomats were involved in a covert operation at Simon Bolivar International Airport in Caracas that was aimed at forcing Iranian refugees to return to their country.
  1. Iran was involved in the Khobar bombings in 1996, which was carried out by the pro-Iranian organization Hezbolla-Al Hijaz and resulted in the deaths of 120 people, including 19 Americans. Iran provided protection to the offenders, including Ahmed AlMoghassil, a Saudi citizen who was arrested in Lebanon in 2015 carrying an Iranian passport. The terrorist attacks were directed by the Iranian military attachأ in Bahrain. The perpetrators were trained in both Lebanon and Iran. The explosives were smuggled from Lebanon to Saudi Arabia by Hezbollah. Evidence is available with Saudi Arabia and the governments of a number of friendly countries.
  1. Iran has provided a safe haven for a number of Al-Qaeda leaders since 2001, including Saad bin Laden, Saif Al-Adel and others after September 11, 2001. It refuses to hand Al- Qaeda leaders over to Saudi Arabia despite the Kingdom†s continuous requests.
  1. Iran was involved in the bombings of three residential compounds in Riyadh in 2003, which killed many Saudi citizens and foreign residents, including Americans, at the instruction of one of the Al-Qaeda leaders in Iran.
  1. In 2003, the Kingdom of Bahrain arrested members of a new terrorist cell that was receiving support from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and Hezbollah in Lebanon, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.
  1. In 2003, the Iranian regime supported Shiite elements in Iraq by forming political parties and militias loyal to Iran. These activities resulted in the deaths of some 4,400 U.S. service members and tens of thousands of civilians, particularly of Sunni Arabs. Former U.S. ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey said that the Americans who died were killed in operations carried out by groups backed directly by Iran.
  1. In 2006, Washington said that Iran supported the Taliban against US forces in Afghanistan and that it had armed groups different ethnic and sectarian groups to strike the US near Iran†s borders. It said further that the Iranian regime had offered a reward of $1000 for every American soldier killed in Afghanistan.
  1. In 2007, the US Senate passed a resolution calling the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization. this has been the characterization of this group by President George W. Bush and Congress are indicative according to rules issued after the Sept. 11, 2001.
  1. In 2011, Iran was involved in the assassination of Saudi diplomat Hassan Al-Qahtani in Karachi.
  1. In 2011, the U.S. foiled an attempt to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. and proved the involvement of the Iranian regime. The criminal complaint unveiled in federal court in New York identified two people involved in the plot: Mansour Arbabsear, who was arrested and imprisoned for 25 years, and Gholam Shakuri, an officer in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, who is currently in Iran and wanted by the U.S. judiciary.
  1. In October 2012, hackers from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard carried out cyber-attacks against oil and gas companies in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta described the cyber-attacks as among the most destructive in the private sector. President Obama’s administration said that it is aware that this is the work of the Iranian government.
  1. In 2012, a plot to assassinate US officials and diplomats in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, was discovered. A Shiite group in Azerbaijan, backed by Iran and working under the instructions of the Revolutionary Guard, was behind the plot.
  1. In 2016, the Kuwaiti criminal court sentenced two members of the “Abdali cell†to death. One has Iranian citizenship. They were charged with carrying out acts that jeopardize the unity and security of Kuwait, and with actively collaborating with Iran and Hezbollah to carry out acts of hostility.
  1. In January 2016, Iran admitted officially through the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Mohammad Ali Jafari, that it had 200 thousand Iranian fighters outside the country – in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen.
  1. Iranian diplomatic missions form spy networks in different countries to plan and execute terrorist operations. The countries that discovered that Iranian spy networks exist on their territory were: the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 2013, Kuwait in 2010 and 2015, Bahrain in 2010 and 2011, Kenya in 2015, Egypt in 2005, 2008, 2011, Jordan in 2015, Yemen in 2012, the UAE in 2013, Turkey in 2012, and Nigeria in 2015.
  1. In addition to Hezbollah in Lebanon, which was described by U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage as the number one terrorist organization in the world, the Iranian regime founded many terrorist cells and militias in Iraq, Yemen and other countries, and used them to destabilize.
  1. Iran sent members of the Revolutionary Guard to Iraq to train and organize Shiite militias and use them to kill Sunnis and international forces.
  1. Iran is the largest distributor of IED explosives in the world. IEDs are used to blow up cars and armored vehicles and have caused the deaths of hundreds of members of international forces in Iraq.
  1. Iran has violated the sanctity of diplomatic missions, including the attack on the U.S. embassy in 1979 and the detention of its employees for 444 days, the attack on the Saudi Embassy in 1987, the attack on the Embassy of Kuwait in 1987, the attack on the Russian Embassy in 1988, the attack on the Danish embassy in 2006, the assault on a Kuwaiti diplomat in 2007, the attack on the Pakistani embassy in 2009, the attack on the British Embassy in 2011, and the attack on the Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in Tehran and its consulate in Mashhad in 2016.
  1. The Iranian regime did not protect Saudi diplomatic facilities during the 2016 attacks, despite repeated requests. Security men even entered the embassy building after the attacks and stole its property.
  1. Saudi Arabia is not the first country to cut off ties with the Iranian regime as a result of its acts of aggression and violation of the sanctity of embassies. The United States, Britain, Canada and other European countries preceded Saudi Arabia. Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco and Yemen also severed ties. Recently, Bahrain, Sudan, Somalia and Djibouti have cut off relations with Iranian regime because of Iran†s interference in their affairs and for the connection between the Iranian regime and sponsoring terrorism.
  1. .While the Kingdom has been a target of many terrorist attacks, the Iranian regime has not been exposed to any acts of terrorism, whether from Al-Qaeda or Daesh, giving weight to suspicions that Iran is working with terrorist organizations.
  1. The Arab region did not know sectarianism until after the Iranian revolution in 1979. Iran has interfered in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen. One of its agents, Heidar Moslehi, the former Iranian Minister of Intelligence, ranted that Iran occupies four Arab capitals.
  1. The Iranian regime seduced many Gulf citizens by taking advantage of their religious feelings and smuggling them illegally to Iran. They traveled covertly through third countries with no visas, and their Iranian handlers instructed them to leave by boat and venture into international waters, where Iran picked them up and claimed to rescue them. The Iranian regime enrolled them in training for armed operations and other terrorist acts and took them back to their countries to carry out these acts.
  1. Perhaps the greatest example of Iran†s interference is its flagrant interference in Syria through its Revolutionary Guard forces, the Al-Quds Force and the recruitment of Hezbollah militia and sectarian militias from a number of countries to fight alongside the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
  1. The Iranian interference in the affairs of the Arab region was strongly rejected by the Arab League in all its decisions, including its last meeting on Jan. 10, 2016.
  1. Iran claim that its embassy in Yemen was bombed was disproved by facts backed up with photos.
  1. Iran fabricated the claim that one of Makkah†s imams spoke negatively about Shiites. Audio and videos of all the speeches of the imams of the Holy Mosque disprove this charge.
  1. Nimr Al-Nimr, a person whom Iran calls a peaceful political activist, was convicted of terrorism charges along with 46 others. He was convicted of establishing a terrorist cell that plans and executes terrorist acts and recruits and arms people to carry them out. Those acts that have resulted in the deaths of a number of security officers.
  1. The Iranian regime was condemned by the international community and the United Nations for human rights violations and its support of terrorism, which was confirmed by UN General Assembly Report A70/411 issued October 6, 2015.
  1. According to international reports, Iran executed more than 1,000 people during 2015, an average of three executions a day. The pace of these executions increased during the first seven months of 2015. The Iranian Supreme Court approved the executions of 27 Sunni preachers without any justification.
  1. Iran continuous to repress its minorities, including Arab Ahwaz, Kurds, and Baluchs.
  1. Iran is in violation of Security Council Resolution 2216 with regard to Yemen because it continues to supply weapons to the Houthi militias. Iranian ships carrying weapons, including rockets, were intercepted on their way to the Houthis in Yemen.
  1. The Iranian regime claims to protect its agents, but does not hesitate to get rid of them as soon as their terrorist acts are discovered. This happened to one of those who participated in Khobar bombing.
  1. Iran foreign minister’s allegation that Saudi Arabia opposed the nuclear agreement is not true. Saudi Arabia publicly supported any agreement that would prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and includes a rigid and consistent inspection mechanism, with the option of imposing sanctions should Iran violate the agreement, which was affirmed by the United States.
  1. Iran should determine whether it is a revolution in a state of chaos and disobeys international laws or a country that respects international agreements and treaties and the principles of good neighborliness and non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries.
  1. Since the beginning of the Iranian revolution, Saudi Arabia has tried to reach out to Iran in peace, harmony, peaceful co-existence and good neighborly relations, but Iran responded by spreading sectarianism, provocation, killing and destruction.
  1. If Iran wants to show reason and logic, it must start with itself before asking others to do so.
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Saudis will not allow war with Iran

Jan 8, 2016   //   by admin   //   English, SA News  //  No Comments

Transcript: Interview with Saudi Arabia’s deputy crown prince Muhammad bin Salman -  The Economist – Jan 6th 2016

Muhammad bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s deputy crown prince and the country’s defence minister, spoke to The Economist on January 4th. As part of a five-hour conversation, he gave his first on-the-record interview, which we have transcribed below.

The Economist: Let’s focus first on the recent executions. Why did they take place now, so many years after the terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia? And why did you include a prominent shia cleric?
Muhammad bin Salman:
 First of all, these were sentenced in a court of law with charges related to terrorism and they went through three layers of judicial proceedings. They had the right to hire an attorney and they had attorneys present throughout each layer of the proceedings. The court doors were also open for any media people and journalists, and all the proceedings and the judicial texts were made public. And the court did not, at all, make any distinction between whether or not a person is Shi’ite or Sunni. They are reviewing a crime, and a procedure, and a trial, and a sentence, and carrying out the sentence.

But these executions have provoked violent reactions in Iran. Your embassy was attacked, you’ve broken off diplomatic relations, as have Bahrain and Sudan. What will be the consequence of this escalation of regional tensions?
We view them as a strange thing, that there are demonstrations against Saudi Arabia in Iran. What is the relationship between a Saudi citizen who committed a crime in Saudi Arabia, and a decision made by a Saudi court. What has this to do with Iran? If this proves anything it proves that Iran is keen on extending its influence over the countries of the region.

Did you not unfairly escalate tensions by breaking off diplomatic relations?
On the contrary, we fear that they will be further escalated. Imagine if any Saudi diplomat, or one of their families or children are attacked in Iran. Iran’s position then will be much more difficult. So we prevented Iran from having to undergo such an embarrassment. The Saudi mission was set ablaze and the Iranian government is watching. If a child, or a diplomat, or their families are attacked, what could happen? Then we will have the real conflict and the real escalation.

Are you suggesting conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia, outright conflict, is a possibility?
Because of this procedure?

And the consequences thereof.
If it’s because of this procedure I don’t believe that this could be a cause to further any tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Because Iranian escalation has already reached very high levels and we try as hard as we can to not escalate anything further, we only deal with the procedures and steps taken against us.

Is war between your two countries, direct war, possible?
It is something that we do not foresee at all, and whoever is pushing towards that is somebody who is not in their right mind. Because a war between Saudi Arabia and Iran is the beginning of a major catastrophe in the region, and it will reflect very strongly on the rest of the world. For sure we will not allow any such thing.

Do you consider Iran to be your biggest enemy?
We hope not.

One area where there might be considered to be what you might call proxy conflict between you is Yemen. You are the architect of the war in Yemen; when will it end?
First of all I’m not the architect of the Yemen operation. We are a country of institutions. The decision to proceed with the operation in Yemen, this is a decision to do with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Defence, with the intelligence, the council of ministers, and the council of security and political affairs, and then all recommendations are submitted to His Majesty, and the decision to go forward is with His Majesty. My job as the minister of defence is to implement whatever decision his majesty has ordered. And I will submit any threats that I see. And to make preparations for any threats.

The decision was taken soon after you became defence minister. When do you expect the operation to finish?
Regarding the fact that the decision was made after I became minister of defence, why did we forget the fact that Houthis usurped power in the capital, Sana’a, after His Majesty became king? This has nothing to do with the fact that I became minister. It has everything to do with what the Houthis did. I have surface-to-surface missiles right now on my borders, only 30-50 km away from my borders, the range of these missiles could reach 550km, owned by militia, and militia carrying out exercises on my borders, and militia in control of warplanes, for the first time in history, right on my borders, and these war planes that are controlled by the militia carry out activities against their own people in Aden. Is there any country in the world who would accept the fact that a militia with this kind of armament should be on their borders? Especially that they dealt with total disregard of UN Security Council resolutions, and posed a direct threat to our national interests. And we had a previous experience, a bad experience with them back in 2009. The operations carried out were supported and upheld by the UN Security Council, without any opposition.

When the operations began, many expected it to be quick. Now, ten months on, are you in a military quagmire?
No, there were different objectives. The first objective of the Decisive Storm was to disable the main capabilities of this militia. The air capabilities, their air defence capabilities, to destroy 90% of their missile arsenal. And then we started the process of a political solution in Yemen, which is a whole different stage. All of our efforts are to push for the political solution. But this does not mean we will allow for the militia to expand on the ground, they must realise that every day they do not get closer to the political solution, they lose on the ground.

How long will it take?
Nobody can predict that in a war, not from the greatest of generals to the smallest of generals. We could see Daesh today and nobody could predict when they’re going to be defeated. But what I could say was ten months ago half of Aden was not in control of government, and now over 80% of Yemeni lands are under the control of the legitimate government. And I want to emphasise that the world today has uncovered the games played by the Houthis, especially the games that they’ve been using regarding humanitarian aid.

You’re also in charge of the economy. Let’s now turn to the budget. The price of oil is $35 a barrel, your deficit last year, 2015, was 15% of GDP. Does Saudi Arabia face an economic crisis?
We’re too far from it. We are further than the ’80s and the ’90s. We have the third-largest reserve in the world. We were able to increase our non-oil revenues this year alone by 29%. We were able to come out with more positive things than what most people thought about the economy of Saudi Arabia, regarding deficit and regarding spending. And we have clear programmes over the next five years. We announced some of them, and the rest we will announce in the near future. In addition to this, my debt-to-GDP is only 5%. So I have all points of strength, and I have the opportunities to increase our non-oil revenues in many sectors, and I have a global economic network.

How will you increase non-oil revenues? Will you introduce VAT? Will you introduce income taxes?
There are going to be no income taxes, and no wealth taxes. We’re talking about taxes or fees that are supported by the citizen, including the VAT and the sin tax. They will create good revenues, but not the only revenues. We have many opportunities in mining, we have more than 6% of world reserves of uranium, we have many unutilised assets. We have four million square metres in Mecca alone of unutilised state-owned lands. The value in the market is very high; we have many assets that could be transformed into investment assets. We believe we could reach a point of non-oil revenues reaching $100 billion over the next five years.

When will you introduce the VAT?
We’ll try to do that by the end of 2016 or 2017, and we’ll try to expedite it.

And what will you privatise to raise revenues?
Healthcare, educational sector, some military sectors such as military industries and some state-owned companies. It will decrease some of the pressure that the government has, and some of them may create good profit.

Can you imagine selling shares in Saudi Aramco?
This is something that is being reviewed, and we believe a decision will be made over the next few months. Personally I’m enthusiastic about this step. I believe it is in the interest of the Saudi market, and it is in the interest of Aramco, and it is for the interest of more transparency, and to counter corruption, if any, that may be circling around Aramco.

You have said that one of the challenges is to diversify the Saudi Arabian economy away from oil. What sectors will be priority sectors in that diversification?
Mining, subsidy reforms. We have only 20% of those middle classes and lower who benefit from subsidies. We target the 80% and we try to keep the interests of the middle classes and lower; they will generate good revenues. And as I told you there are unutilised assets: expanding religious tourism, like increasing the numbers of tourists and pilgrims to Mecca and Medina will give more value to state-owned lands in both cities.

You have done some price increases in this budget—electricity, gasoline—but you still have many subsidies. Do you aim to get rid of subsidies completely?
We want to reach free energy markets, but with subsidy programmes for those with low income, and not to have the subsidy in the form of lowering the energy prices, but through other programmes. And also some of the most important assets that we’re working on: We have a very magnificent area north of Jeddah, between the cities of Umluj and Wuj, there are almost 100 islands there, in one atoll. The temperature is ideal, five to seven degrees cooler than Jeddah. It’s virgin land, I spent the last eight holidays there. I was shocked to discover something like this in Saudi Arabia, and there were steps taken to preserve this land, 300km by 200km. This is one of the assets that we target, and we believe it has an added value other than generating income for state funds. So we have many unutilised assets. In Mecca, Medina, in rural areas and in urban areas. Jeddah for example: there is a land, total area about five million square metres, right on the beach front, in the heart of Jeddah, it’s owned by the air defence. The value of the land itself is about $10bn. The cost of transferring all the structures and buildings is about $300m. So this is a big waste. So to utilise the unutilised assets will create profit and generate development, this is massive work that we’re addressing. We are targeting to introduce new assets into the state-owned funds that are equivalent to $400bn, over the next few years.

Assets that you will privatise?
These will go to the funds, and then will turn into projects, and into companies, and then will be offered on IPOs to the public.

This is a Thatcher revolution for Saudi Arabia?
Most certainly. We have many great, unutilised assets. And we have also special sectors that can grow very quickly. I’ll give you one example. We are one of the poorest countries when it comes to water. There’s one Saudi company that’s an example among many companies, like Amarai dairy company, their share in the Omani market is 80%. Their share in the Kuwaiti market is more than 20%. Their share in the Emirati market than 40%. In Egypt, where there is the Nile, their share is 10%. One Saudi company. We have other dairy, agricultural companies, and you can also do the same with the banking sector. The mining sector. The oil and petrochemical sector. There are many enormous opportunities to expand and develop.

This will require tremendous investment. One estimate I read said $4 trillion between now and 2030. Where will this money come from?
This is a report from McKinsey, not from the Saudi government. We try to be optimistic in some parts even more, and in some parts we try to be conservative. Anyway, McKinsey participates with us in many studies, but these investments we’ll try to attract from many sources: the Saudi investor, the state-owned funds, the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] funds, and the international funds.

Why would a foreign investor want to invest in Saudi Arabia now?
Profitability is the question, and this is what we’re trying to offer in order to attract investment. And this happens at the same time while having good regulations, and that could guarantee the safety of their investments. And we’re not a country new to foreign investment. The largest of international companies are present in the Saudi market: Boeing, Airbus, GE, GM, Sony, Siemens; all the large players are in the Saudi market. And all the major and key banks are opening branches in Saudi Arabia. So I’m not just opening up to the world; I’m already open to the world. I’m only giving out opportunities.

One challenge we haven’t discussed yet is the youth of the Saudi population: 70% of your country’s population is aged 30 and under. How will you create jobs for these people?
We have great opportunities to create jobs in the private sector. The mining sector will help us a great deal in creating jobs, the programme addressing the pilgrims and the visitors will also generate many jobs, the investments will also create jobs. We do not expect that our unemployment will grow, we believe it will decline over the next few years, to a good extent. At the same time I have reserves now, ten million jobs that are being occupied by non-Saudi employees that I can resort to at any time of my choosing. But I don’t want to pressure the private sector, unless this is the last resort.

You would prevent the hiring of foreigners?
We’re trying to resort to creating jobs, if we cannot cover all, then we’re forced to exert pressure on the private sector, like what was done, the Saudisation programme.

The shift you’re describing: introduction of non-oil tax revenue, reduction of subsidies, move towards private sector employment; it suggests the remaking, in many ways, of the Saudi economy and the Saudi social contract. Won’t that force broader change in what is still a very conservative society?
This one thing is not at all related to the other. We have our values: it is important to us, the participation in decision making; it is important to us to have our freedom of expression; it is important to us to have human rights. We have our own factors and values and principles as the Saudi society and we try to make progress according to our own needs. Our situation today is not the same as it was 50 years ago. Fifty years ago we did not even have a legislative body. Today we have women with good representation at the parliament, and women do vote and nominate themselves for elections, and today we are making progress. According to our own needs, according to our own pace, and not as a response to any other model.

But you believe you can have more taxation without more representation?
There are no taxes.

But you are introducing taxes.
We’re talking about different forms of taxes. We’re talking about VAT, it will not be applied to any of the basic products; it will be on accessories.

The VAT will not be on basic products.
Such as water, dairy, milk…

They will be excluded?
No doubt. If they will influence the price.

I see. But you can have that kind of taxation without an increase in representation?
Again, one thing is not related to the other. This is not a decision from the government against the people. This is the decision of Saudi Arabia. With the government that represents the people. Before any decision to reform, we work on many workshops that represent many people.

What about broader social reform? How can you create a high-productivity modern economy with a vibrant tourist industry, a vibrant healthcare sector, a vibrant education industry, if women can’t drive, if women can’t travel without permission.
Women today can travel. They work in the business sector…

But with the permission of their family members.
This is different. When you’re talking about permission, you’re talking about women who do not reach a certain age. Not a woman who’s responsible for herself. This has its own social criteria and religious criteria. Some of them are things we can change, and some things even if we want to change we cannot do that. But I guarantee to you that there are no obstacles in the way of women furthering their participation and working in the…

So why is Saudi Arabia’s rate of women in the workforce, 18%, one of the lowest in the world?
Culture of women in Saudi Arabia; the woman herself. She’s not used to working. She needs more time to accustom herself to the idea of work. A large percentage of Saudi women are used to the fact of staying at home. They’re not used to being working women. It just takes time.

Do you think having a greater proportion of women in the workforce would be good for Saudi Arabia?
No doubt. A large portion of my productive factors are unutilised. And I have population growth reaching very scary figures. Women’s work will help in both of these issues.

You are one of the 70% of Saudi Arabians who are aged thirty and under. You are in charge of the country’s defence and its economy, you epitomise in many ways the new generation of Saudi Arabia. What kind of Saudi Arabia do you want to create?
The Saudi Arabia that I hope for, as well as the other 70%: a Saudi Arabia that is not dependent on oil; a Saudi Arabia with a growing economy; a Saudi Arabia with transparent laws; a Saudi Arabia with a very strong position in the world; a Saudi Arabia that can fulfil the dream of any Saudi, or his ambition, through creating enticing incentives, the right environment; a Saudi Arabia with sustainability; a Saudi Arabia that guarantees the participation of everyone in decision-making; a Saudi Arabia that is an important addition to the world and participates in the production of the world, and participates in facing the obstacles or the challenges that face the world. My dream as a young man in Saudi Arabia, and the dreams of men in Saudi Arabia are so many, and I try to compete with them and their dreams, and they compete with mine, to create a better Saudi Arabia.

You lay out a very positive vision for Saudi Arabia, yet we are living in a time, one of the most dangerous times in the region for many, many years. How do you juxtapose those two visions?
You’re from Britain, and I am a fan of Churchill. And Churchill said that opportunities come during crises. And I recall Churchill’s statement whenever I see the obstacles or the crises in the region. So this is how I view the challenges or the crises in the region.

And has the crisis in the region become more difficult with the United States’ disengagement from the region?
We understand the work carried out by the United States. America is carrying out many efforts. We try to assist with all the efforts carried out by the United States. We try to express our point of view and I can tell you that work between us and the United States is very strong and very magnificent. But the United States must realise that they are the number one in the world and they have to act like it.

Have they not been acting like it?
We are concerned that something like this may happen.

Do you feel let down by them?
We understand. We realise that we are part of the problem of not putting our own perspective through to them. We did not put enough efforts in order to get our point across. We believe that this will change in the future.

Is Saudi Arabia stepping up to a new kind of leadership role in the region?
In the region we are dealing with all of our allies on an equal footing. And we’re all dealing with facing the challenges of the region. We and the GCC countries, Egypt, Turkey, Sudan, the countries in the Horn of Africa, the countries of north Africa, west African countries, east Asian countries, Malaysia, Indonesia, etc., Pakistan. We try to collectively face these challenges. Because these challenges pose threats to us all, and we must face them as one team. And we try to do positive work.

Five years ago, the Arab Spring began. It’s been a pretty grim five years in many ways in the region. Will the next five years be better or worse?
First of all I can say that the Arab Spring was the real test that put to the test the authoritative form of government and non-authoritative form of government, and the regime that represents its people versus the regime that does not represent its people. Any regime that did not represent its people collapsed in the Arab Spring, and the other regimes we saw what happened to them.

The House of Saud represents its people?
We are part of a national process; we are part of the local tribes of the country; we are part of the regions in the country; we have been working together for the past three hundred years.

Your Royal Highness, thank you very much.
Thank you. I’m very glad to have you here today, I’m happy to receive these questions. We always take criticism from our friends. If we are wrong, we need to hear that we are wrong. But if we are not wrong, we need to hear support from our friends. What I request is that the thing you actually believe, to say it.

We always do. Thank you.

 

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Saudi Ambassador Speech: ALCC Awards Night

Dec 31, 2015   //   by admin   //   English, SA News  //  No Comments

Ambassador Nabil M. Al Saleh – Remarks at The  Australian Lebanese Chamber of Commerce,  Diamond Anniversary

Saturday 28 NOVEMBER 2015 - Doltone House, Darling Island Wharf  , Sydney

I’ll begin by thanking The  Charmain of the Australian Lebanese Chamber of Commerce Joe Khattar, for inviting me here today.  And congratulate him and his Chamber for the significant contributions they have made over the past 30 years.

Can I also acknowledge the Honourable Minister of Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, the Honourable Minister John Ajaka, all parliamentarians and government officials. And of course my diplomatic colleagues.

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a privilege to speak to such a distinguished audience.

Keeping my talk brief, I want to focus here tonight on the economic opportunities the MENA region has to offer, a matter which is often overlooked.

Because when looking at the MENA region, it is often the case that our region is viewed by Australian businesses as distant and too complex to conduct business in.

As a result, businesses focus overwhelmingly on the familiar.

It is indeed true that this is the “Asian Century”, but this century shouldn’t come at the expense of the opportunities available to Australian businesses in the MENA region.

Opportunities that are being seized by other countries.

Overall trade and investment between the Arab world and Australia pales in comparison with other countries.

For a country like Saudi Arabia for instance, the bilateral trade with Australia is quite minimal;  reaching last year around the 2.7 billion dollar mark.

And that figure has remained constant over the past decade.   The same applies to investments.

12 or so years ago, our trade with Australia was relatively equal to that with China.  In the range of 2 billion dollars.

At present, although Saudi-Australia trade remains within that range, our trade with China has exceeded 69 billion dollars.

For a country that is almost the size of New South Wales and Queensland combined:

•             We have a young population, 35% under the age of 15, and 61% within the working age.

•             Our population is set to double by 2050.

•             We are the sole Arab country in the G20.

•             The Kingdom is the 7th largest economy within the G20 states.

•             It is the 19th largest economy in the world.

•             It is also the largest economy in the MENA region, representing about 25 % of its economic output.

•             And it is also recognised as the third fastest growing economy in the world with an annual average growth of 5 % over the past decade.

•             The World Bank has recently ranked the Kingdom as having the third most rewarding tax system in the world.

•             As well as 49th in the world for ease of doing business.

•             Last but not least, foreign investors can have 100 % ownership of their companies.

Having said this, it is essential to note that we have opportunities across various sectors.

From mining, to education, construction, health, defence, agriculture and services sector just to name a few…

And as an example, in the agricultural sector, our domestic agricultural production has gradually been phased out since 2008 and this process will be completed by next year.

Australia can be an important partner for Saudi Arabia in the area of food security.

But to get first-hand knowledge of the ways to grasp these opportunities, and to ensure success in your investment;

It would be imperative to participate in exhibitions held every year in the Kingdom on each sector.

I am aware that a few companies from within this Chamber have participated in some of these exhibitions.

In this context, I would like to bring to your attention that we are in the process of signing a Civil Aviation Agreement with Australia which will provide direct passenger and cargo flights to the Kingdom.

After all, having a presence in Saudi Arabia ensures access to more than 300 million consumers within three hours flying.

And to facilitate this movement of people and goods, the Kingdom is also in the process of opening a Consulate General in Sydney.

Ladies and gentlemen,

These opportunities need to be complemented by the signing of a double taxation and investment protection agreement.

Because it is through such agreements that we can ensure a level of investment between Saudi Arabia and Australia,

And between our region and Australia, that reflects the true nature of the economic opportunities that are available to all.

I’ll leave it at that.  I look forward to hearing your views and hope to see all of you having a presence in Saudi Arabia and the MENA region as a whole.

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Saudi Announces Islamic Coalition to Fight Terror

Dec 24, 2015   //   by admin   //   English, SA News  //  No Comments

Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Deputy Crown Prince, Second Deputy Premier and Minister of Defense confirmed that the announcement of the formation of an Islamic military alliance to fight terrorism emanates from the Islamic world’s keenness to fight this disease and be a partner of the world, as a group of countries, in the fight against this disease.

He said in a press conference at King Salman Air Base in Riyadh yesterday evening following the announcement of the joint statement on the formation of an Islamic military alliance to fight terrorism based in Riyadh, ‘The alliance includes a group of Islamic states that make up the majority of the Islamic world, and this emanates from the keenness of the Muslim world to fight this disease which affected the Islamic world first, before the international community as a whole. ‘

The Deputy Crown Prince pointed out that an operations room of the alliance will be established in Riyadh to coordinate and support efforts to fight terrorism in all countries and parts of the Islamic world, noting that each country will contribute according to its capabilities.

He added, ‘Today, every Islamic country is fighting terrorism individually. The coordination of efforts is very important; and through this room, means and efforts will be developed for fighting terrorism all over the Islamic world.

On the support of more than ten Islamic countries to this alliance, he said: ‘These countries are not outside of the alliance, these countries have measures to be taken before joining the alliance. In light of the keenness to accomplish this alliance as soon as possible, the announcement of the 34 countries was made and, God willing, the rest of the countries will join this Islamic alliance.’

The Deputy Crown Prince added: ‘We have a number of countries suffering from terrorism, including Syria, Iraq, Sinai, Yemen, Libya, Mali, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, and this requires very strong efforts to fight it. Undoubtedly through this alliance, there will be a coordination to fight it through these efforts.’

He went on saying, ‘We will confine terrorist organizations whatever might be their classification. Of course, in connection with operations in Syria and Iraq, we cannot carry out these operations but only through coordination with the legitimacy in both of them and the international community.’

He also asserted that the Islamic military alliance will coordinate with globally important countries and international organizations in this action, pointing out that the alliance will fight terrorism at military, intellectual and media levels, in addition to the remarkable security effort currently existing.

Asked whether the new alliance will confront ISIS terrorist organization only, the Deputy Crown Prince said: ‘No, but against any terrorist organization emerges before us. We will work and take

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, speaking at a news conference in Paris, said that “in terms of the operation of this coalition . . . nothing is off the table. It depends on the requests that come, depends on the need, and it depends on the willingness of countries to provide the support that is necessary.”

In addition to a military component, he said it would include “stopping the flow of funds” to terrorists and “confronting the ideology of extremism that promotes killing of the innocent, which is contrary to every religion, particularly the Islamic faith.”

 

 

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Saudi Ambassador Speech on National Day 2015

Oct 18, 2015   //   by admin   //   English, SA News  //  No Comments

Speech by Ambassador of Saudi Arabia to Australia and New Zealand, H.E Nabil Al Saleh delivered in Hyatt House, Canberra, Australia 29 Sept 2015.

Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, my fellow Saudis.

I would like to take this opportunity to extend my sincere condolences to all the families of those who lost their lives in Makkah, and express my sympathies to those injured, wishing them a quick recovery. Our thoughts and prayers are with them.
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you as we mark this year the 85th National Day of Saudi Arabia. It is days such as these that provide us the opportunity to celebrate our heritage, cohesion and accomplishments.
But it also provides an opportunity to reflect on the challenges we face in building more peaceful and prosperous lives for our citizens, and, that of the global community as a whole.

Today, in 2015, a few things have become clear. Despite the challenges facing the global community, the Kingdom’s domestic, regional and international policies have remained consistent.

First. Although oil prices have dropped, the Kingdom’s financial position remains very strong. The government continues to commit to record spending that is focused on economic development.

Second. We remain committed to regional stability. That is our aim and objective. Maintaining this is not just in our own interest, but that of the international community.
It is through this spectrum that we have, along with a coalition of countries, been compelled to intervene in military operations in Yemen at the request of its legitimate government.
Our soldiers have put their lives on the line. Some of our service-men have paid the ultimate sacrifice to defend and reinstate the legitimate government, protect the people of Yemen from radical organisations, and open up the way for political talks.

Our efforts have not stopped there. We have contributed over 4 billion Australian dollars in recent times towards the assistance for the Yemeni people, and we will continue to do so.

These contributions make Saudi Arabia the world’s largest provider of humanitarian aid and economic assistance to Yemen. We have also rectified the legal status of around half a million Yemeni nationals who have entered the Kingdom in recent months. Taking the total number of Yemenis in Saudi Arabia to around 1.5 million.

Regarding Syria, the Kingdom has long supported the plight of the Syrian people. We continue to support the moderate Syrian opposition, and stress the importance of reaching a peaceful solution.
Recent media reporting and accusations surrounding the Kingdom’s humanitarian efforts regarding refugees from Syria are plainly wrong. Arising from Bashar Al-Assad’s brutal treatment of his own people, the Kingdom has received over 2.5 million Syrians since the beginning of the Syrian conflict.

We do not treat them as refugees. We have granted our Syrian brothers and sisters legal residency status and are treated as our own citizens. Furthermore, we have also provided them with free medical care and access to schools and universities.

Moreover, the Kingdom has provided almost a billion Australian dollars in aid to Syrians in refugee camps. And testament to our humanitarian efforts on the global stage, the United Nations placed Saudi Arabia as the sixth largest donor of foreign aid last year. In the past 4 decades, we have provided over $160 billion Australian dollars in aid to more than 90 countries.

Thirdly. The Saudi Government supports global efforts to combat terrorism as well as the United Nations global counter-terrorism strategy. Because there is no greater responsibility than to keep our citizens safe.
Whilst the Kingdom has this year been the victim of terrorist attacks, our government and people are determined to prevent further threats of terrorism, that seek to embed fear and instability. There is no place for such perverted views and actions.

In fact, the Kingdom was one of the first countries that introduced laws to deal with the existing threat. We legislated laws punishing all those that had participated or are participating in hostilities outside the kingdom. We are of the firm belief of the importance of regional and international cooperation to combat this escalating threat. That is why we have also been working diligently with our regional and international partners. Furthermore, we have provided a large part of the financial resources required to establish the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Centre. And our efforts in anti-money laundering has not gone unnoticed. We are ranked first in the MENA region and we are amongst the top 10 globally in anti-money laundering and in combating the financing of terrorism.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Turning now to more local issues, I am pleased that our bilateral relationship with Australia continues to develop. I am happy to inform you that we have just opened a new Defence Attaché Office in Canberra.
And I am happy to have with us here tonight, our Defence Attaché, Captain Sami Almutairi. Furthermore, I am also pleased to announce that we will soon be opening a General Consulate in Sydney.

In concluding my remarks, I should emphasise to you the importance the Kingdom places on Education. Because we firmly believe that, our national economic prosperity is ultimately linked to an educated society. A society that is innovative and research driven. We have about a quarter of a million of our nationals with their families studying abroad. 13 thousand of these are in Australia. Here with us tonight are some of our students who have made significant breakthroughs in their fields. I hope you will take the opportunity to meet our eight nationals.

Thank you.

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Saudi National Day Celebration 2015 Canberra Australia

Oct 3, 2015   //   by admin   //   English, SA News  //  No Comments

 

1/10/2015

Saudi Ambassador to Australia and New Zealand H.E Nabil Al Saleh held a reception for the Kingdom’s 85 National Day in Canberra. It was attended by senior political, parliamentary and Australian Foreign Affairs figures and other ambassadors accredited to Australia as well as Saudis living in Australia, heads and representatives of associations and Arab and Islamic centers.

The guests were received by Ambassador Al Saleh, Deputy Ambassador Meshaal Alrougui, cultural attaché Dr. Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah bin Taleb and Military attaché Colonel Sami al-Mutairi.

Ambassador Al Saleh outlined in his speech the comprehensive development in the Kingdom, its economic situation and strong leadership internationally, its contribution to global stability and the fight against terrorism. He explained the Kingdom’s humanitarian role and its contribution to international relief work; the kingdom is the sixth largest aid donor in the world with more than $160 billion in humanitarian aid to more than 90 countries.

Ambassador Al Saleh explained that the Kingdom donated more than $ 4 billion to the people of Yemen with more than half a million Yemenis moving to the Kingdom due to recent events. On Syria, Ambassador Al Saleh stressed the Kingdom’s strong support for the Syrian people and noted that they had received Syrians fleeing the civil war and who are now living in the Kingdom, receiving education and medical care, in addition to more than a billion dollars in aid to Syrian refugees camps.

In his speech, Ambassador Al Saleh addressed the comprehensive development renaissance experienced by the Kingdom in different areas, indicating the importance of education as a main pillar of development; he pointed to the more than 250,000 Saudi students in overseas universities, including 13,000 in Australia.

He also announced the opening of the Saudi military attaché in Australia and the appointment of Colonel Sami al-Mutairi as military attaché.

Ambassador Al Saleh honoured outstanding Saudi students who have achieved distinctive scientific work in their studies and research as well as the heads of student clubs in all states by presenting commemorative shields to them.

The winner of the literary competition “together against extremism”, Bader Salem Mohammadi-Harbi, was also honoured also and made an expressive poem.

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NZ Prime Minister Historical Visit to the Kingdom

Jul 3, 2015   //   by admin   //   English, SA News  //  No Comments

 

 

On the eve of a historic state visit to Saudi Arabia, New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key has described his trip, the first by any New Zealand head of state, as “well and truly overdue.”

Speaking exclusively to Al Arabiya News, Key – who is currently in Dubai and has inaugurated his country’s new Consulate General – described Saudi Arabia as a “very important country.”

Answering a question regarding the reasons behind New Zealand’s absence from Saudi Arabia in the past, Key said that this was a result of a diplomatic legacy, though noted his previously scheduled trip in 2010 had to be cancelled due to a military plane crash.

“In a lot of ways maybe it’s been that New Zealand had historically focused on more traditional markets and for a very long time, up until pre-1970s, virtually all New Zealand products were sold to the United Kingdom.”

Recently, New Zealand has developed strong trade relations with neighbouring Asia, but the GCC now represents the country’s fifth biggest trade market.

“I think the need for a visit probably wasn’t as big a priority for previous prime ministers as it is for me. We historically wanted to come sometime earlier but it has just taken some time to re-arrange this visit after we had to cancel…so look it’s well and truly overdue but it’s going to be a wonderful opportunity.”

One important item on Key’s agenda was attempting to push through a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the Saudis.

“We are trying to complete the Gulf States-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement. We’ve really got to the point in 2009 where the deal was largely complete but required ratifications that have taken some time.”

Key said other countries had been in a similar situation, such as Singapore which implemented an agreement last year.

“Our understanding is we’re the next potential country to come out of the blocks and to have a deal completed, so we are hopeful we’ll be able to make some progress on that front.”

New Zealand-Saudi Arabia trade is worth about U.S. $1.2 billion annually, with two-thirds of that being New Zealand imports of chiefly hydrocarbons. Eighty per cent of Saudi Arabia’s imports from New Zealand comprise the country’s well-renowned meat and dairy products.

New Zealand exports to the GCC have grown about 10 per cent year-on-year over the past decade, underscoring the region’s significance to the small Antipodean country of four million.

Among all GCC nations, the Saudi market is of particular significance to New Zealand.

“Saudi is a significant player here in the Gulf, clearly one of the richest of all the nations in the world but also the home of a lot of potentially significant consumers for New Zealand products. We already sell to the wider Gulf region more goods and services than to the United Kingdom, so that gives you a sense of how big the market already is and I think there is a lot more potential.”

Key, who was re-elected in a landslide victory for a third term last year, also promised to spend an increasing amount of time in the region.

“It’s my intention to try and built deeper markets around the Gulf States once the FTA is concluded and that means spending more time in the region… It is quite clear that we haven’t spent enough time in the region and I expect to come back and spend more time here.”

While the talks will seemingly largely be focused on trade, Key has earlier said he would also discuss “the complex security issues facing the Middle East.”

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