Foreign Minister Steinmeier on his visit to Saudi Arabia

13.10.2014 - Press release

Foreign Minister Steinmeier issued the following statement in Jeddah today (13 October) during his visit to Saudi Arabia:

This is the first visit I have made to Saudi Arabia during my second term in office. The crises in the region were of course a priority of our discussions and naturally we spoke about Iraq and Syria and the threat posed by ISIS.

Indeed, I am sure that there is no way around Saudi Arabia if we want to deal with the conflicts in the Middle East. That is why discussions are needed. I would also like to expressly acknowledge that Saudi Arabia took on responsibility when here in Jeddah a few weeks ago, Arab countries came together to organise themselves in the fight against ISIS and the fundamentalism which threatens the entire region.

That is the foreign policy perspective of Saudi Arabia and its role in the Middle East. However, six years after my last visit I am also here to gain a renewed insight into the country and society. Much of the judgements and prejudices which we hold in Germany are probably justified: the legal system in this country is still based on Sharia law. Broad political participation is still lacking. Women are still not allowed to drive cars.

Yet focusing on this alone seems to me to be too narrow a view of things. I can see that this society is changing. Hundreds of thousands of young people are studying abroad. More than half of the students are women. In talks we have had with civil society here, we have established that women are also playing an increasingly important role in the media. That changes society, very slowly, but it does change it. Therefore it is worth looking at Saudi Arabia in a manner which strives to understand the changes taking place and all I can say is that it is well worth maintaining a dialogue with the Government as well as representatives of civil society in order to do so.

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