Fri, 2018-04-13 00:34

RIYADH: Saudi-Spanish bilateral relations were enhanced by the meeting of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and King Felipe VI of Spain on Thursday in Madrid.

King Felipe VI received the crown prince at the Zarzuela Palace on the outskirts of Madrid during a visit designed to further develop cooperation between the two countries.

The crown princes trip to Spain follows a two-day official visit to France and a tour of the US, Britain and Egypt.

Speaking to Arab News about the visit of the crown prince to Spain, Saudi Shoura Council member Lina Almaeena said: “Saudi-Spanish relations, which go back more than 60 years, are cordial and this visit demonstrates the importance of enriching this relationship especially in line with Saudi Vision 2030 and the ongoing economic reforms. Saudi Arabia is encouraging foreign investment as well as international tourism, especially to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Saudi Arabia and ancient and historic sites throughout the country.”

Hesham Alghannam, a Saudi political analyst, researcher at the University of Exeter and an associate fellow at the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, Riyadh, told Arab News: “I believe that the focus from the Saudi side during this key visit to Spain is to build long-term partnership in specific sectors.

“This is a move away from the mere signing of individual contracts into more strategic relations.”

The crown prince, who is also defense minister, is visiting Spain on the directive of King Salman in response to an official invitation from the Spanish government. He met senior Spanish officials, including defense minister Maria Dolores Cospedal, as well as businessmen in Madrid.

During the meeting, bilateral relations were reviewed, as well as ways of enhancing cooperation between the countries in the defense and military fields, opportunities to transfer and localize technology in line with Saudi Vision 2030, the latest developments in the Middle East and the world, and the efforts being exerted to fight terrorism.

Alvaro Iranzo, the Spanish ambassador in Riyadh, told Arab News that the historic visit of the crown prince will lend “a new dimension” to growing Saudi-Spanish relations.

“In this globalized world, our governments and institutions have much to do together to successfully face the challenges that we share,” he said.

“Spain is a firm supporter of Vision 2030. Our government and companies are keen to contribute to its realization in a number of fields, providing investment and know-how in the fields that have been prioritized,” he said.

Saudi Arabia and Spain enjoy a close and confident relationship based on friendship, mutual respect and cordial bilateral ties that progressed to deeper relations through personal contacts at the highest levels as a result of visits by top officials from both sides.

The late King Abdullah patronized the international conference on dialogue between followers of different faiths in Madrid in July 2008, which was attended by more than 200 delegates representing Muslims, Christians and Jews.

In recognition of his historic visit to Spain, King Juan Carlos awarded the late King Abdullah the Order of the Golden Fleece, the highest Spanish chivalry honor, held by fewer than 20 other figures worldwide.

King Carlos was a frequent guest of the Saudi royal house in his final years as the ruling monarch, visiting the Kingdom five times between 2006 and 2014.

The former Spanish king, who visited Riyadh in March this year, is credited with playing a decisive role in 2011 in helping a Spanish consortium win a contract worth $8.2 billion to build a high-speed railway linking the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah.

King Felipe VI visited Riyadh in January 2017.

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