Saudi King’s visit to take UK ties to new heights


“This is an important and historic visit,” said British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who added that the royal visit, the first by a Saudi monarch in two decades, would bring about a new era in bilateral relations. “We in Britain are looking forward to King Abdullah’s visit and we hope that it will strengthen existing economic, trade, cultural and political relations,” Miliband told the Saudi Press Agency.


Royal Court

announced yesterday that King Abdullah’s three-day visit to the UK would begin today. The king’s current European tour, his second since ascending the throne in 2005, will also take him to Italy, Germany and Turkey.


Royal Court

said the visits were in response to invitations received by the king from the leaders of the four countries and within the framework of promoting relations between Saudi Arabia and friendly countries and discussing regional and international issues of mutual concern. According to a statement issued by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Saudi Arabia and the UK will sign three agreements during the king’s visit: A double taxation agreement; a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for vocational education and training; and another MOU for cooperation in the field of sports.

Shahid Malik, British undersecretary of state for international development, emphasized Saudi Arabia’s importance in the Arab world. He praised King Abdullah for his initiative to settle the Arab-Israeli conflict and establish lasting peace and security in the Middle East.

“The UK attaches great importance to the visit of King Abdullah,” said Baroness Symons, former minister of state for foreign affairs and chairperson of the Saudi-British Trade Council. She spoke of increasing investment opportunities in Saudi Arabia and urged British businessmen to increase their investments in the Kingdom. “Saudi Arabia is an important country, not only for the Middle East but also for the world as it ensures safe energy supplies to many countries in the world,” SPA quoted the baroness as saying.

Lord Nazir Ahmed also highlighted increasing business and investment opportunities in Saudi Arabia for British companies and investors. He praised King Abdullah’s efforts to settle disputes between Muslim countries and groups.

Saudi Arabia and the UK established diplomatic relations in 1927. The historic meeting of King Abdul Aziz, the Kingdom’s founder, with Prime Minister Winston Churchill in February 1945 gave a shot in the arm to these relations.

King Abdullah previously visited the UK in 1998 when he was crown prince and met Queen Elizabeth II at Balmoral Castle in Scotland. The queen then conferred on the king the UK’s highest medal, given only to kings and heads of states, SPA said.

Queen Elizabeth visited Saudi Arabia in 1979, reflecting the strong relations between the two countries. Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, and former prime ministers Margaret Thatcher, John Major and Tony Blair and other top officials have visited the Kingdom several times.

Saudi Arabia is considered Britain’s largest trading partner in the Middle East. The UK is the fifth largest exporter to the Kingdom as Saudi Arabia’s imports from the European country amounted to SR10.44 billion in 2005 while the Kingdom’s exports to Britain reached SR6.85 billion. The two countries have invested nearly $ 15 billion in 150 joint ventures, SPA said.


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