Close coordination with a key player
Westerwelle and the Saudi Foreign Minister
© photothek / Grabowsky
“Saudi Arabia is a very important partner for Germany,” Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle emphasized during his visit to the Saudi capital, Riyadh. The visit is intended to develop, strengthen and intensify relations between the two countries. Saudi Arabia is a leading player in a key region.
“Saudi Arabia is a member of the G20, a driving force in the Arab League and a leading power in the region, as its contribution to the shift of power in Yemen shows,” stressed Westerwelle following his meeting with the Saudi Foreign Minister, Prince Saud Al-Faisal. Close coordination between the two Governments was therefore in our mutual interest and becoming ever more important, Westerwelle went on.
Relations between Germany and Saudi Arabia are traditionally good. Diplomatic relations were established in 1954. Saudi Arabia is one of Germany’s main economic partners in the Arab world. In 2011 bilateral trade amounted to around 7,77 Billion euro.
Economic and cultural exchange
Despite the high level of relations already established, Foreign Minister Westerwelle still saw “great potential, which together we want to exploit” in the economic sphere. This was especially true in the fields of infrastructure, renewable energy and the medical and healthcare sector.
Westerwelle announced that he wanted to back up this positive development with a simplified visa issue procedure. To this end, the Minister continued, a visa section would be established at the German Consulate-General in Jeddah before the end of this year, to make things easier for business travellers.
Westerwelle also had good news when it came to culture and education: “We will be opening a language learning centre at the German Embassy in Riyadh, and we will continue and expand the German-Saudi youth and student exchange programme launched in 2011.” While in Riyadh, the Minister met two young students who visited Germany last November as part of a German-Saudi youth forum.
Young people in particular played an absolutely vital role in deepening relations, Westerwelle said. The Minister added he was pleased that the exchange would continue with a visit to Saudi Arabia by German students sometime this year. Germany was the third country (after China and Brazil) with which Saudi Arabia organized a bilateral youth forum. In November 2011, a delegation of 20 young people from Saudi Arabia visited Hamburg.
Alongside bilateral relations, the focus of the visit was on pressing global issues, especially regional conflicts. Westerwelle praised the positive part played by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council in resolving the crisis in Yemen.
It was not only neighbouring Saudi Arabia that had an interest in ensuring stability in Yemen, he said. Europe, too, was pursuing its interests in helping to give Yemen a stable future. Westerwelle confirmed that the Federal Government would take part in the Friends of Yemen meeting in Saudi Arabia in April.
The two Foreign Ministers emphasized that their countries shared concerns about the Iranian nuclear programme. “If Iran had nuclear weapons, it would have severe repercussions far beyond the region,” Westerwelle said. Iran had the right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, but it also had an obligation to engage in cooperation and deliver transparency.
The international community, said the Minister, had “agreed on an exemplary sanctions regime” while at the same time making Iran a “substantial offer of talks”. The Federal Foreign Minister was therefore convinced that Iran itself held the key to the ending of sanctions.
Visit to the Gulf Cooperation Council
At the Gulf Cooperation Council
© photothek / Grabowsky
During his time in Riyadh, Foreign Minister Westerwelle also met the Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Abdul Latif Al Zayani. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which includes Saudi Arabia and also Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Oman, has its headquarters in the Saudi capital.
Westerwelle took a very positive view of the work of the GCC: “We support and emphatically encourage the GCC in opinion-leading, particularly in efforts to resolve regional conflicts.” Al Zayani stressed that Syria was right at the top of the GCC’s agenda just now. The violence must cease immediately so that peace can be given a chance.
“We share Kofi Annan’s concerns following his talks in Damascus,” Westerwelle said. The Assad regime’s failure to see reason and its continuing atrocities against its own people were unacceptable, he went on. The UN Security Council is meeting in New York on 12 March to discuss further steps to end the Assad regime’s violence.
Westerwelle also wants to promote increased cooperation between the European Union and the GCC. He called for the conclusion of a free trade agreement between the EU and the GCC as a priority.
Roughly half of the EU’s total trade with Arab countries is accounted for by members of the GCC. Conversely, the EU is the GCC states’ number one trading partner. The framework for a wide-ranging expansion of economic relations is provided by a cooperation agreement dating from 1988 and the 2010-2013 Joint Action Programme agreed in 2010. Negotiations are now under way on a free trade agreement.
Last updated 12.03.2012