SA, Saudi Arabia deepen relations

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Pretoria- South Africa and Saudi Arabia have maintained good political, economic and trade relations, established by the bonds of friendship and a commitment to partnership, says International Relations and Co-operation Deputy Minister Ebrahim Ebrahim.

Ebrahim was speaking during a meeting with Prince Abdul-Aziz bin Abdullah, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia. The deputy minister is on a two nation tour to the Middle East and Asia.

The objective of the visits will be to exchange views on enhancing bilateral cooperation between South Africa and the regions on areas of economic cooperation; trade; tourism and investment; stability and development.

"South Africa has significant investment interests in Saudi Arabia, through the established presence of various South African Multinational Companies in the engineering, hospitality and retail industries as well as health care profession," he said.

As oil accounts for more than 90 percent of exports in Saudi Arabia, the country is presently the largest supplier of crude oil to South Africa.

According to Ebrahim, bilateral trade between South Africa and Saudi Arabia for 2011 amounted to more than R37 billion, notwithstanding trade relations.

"If we are honest in our assessment, we have to acknowledge that relations between our two countries are not at the level that they should or could be.

"We appreciate the importance of Saudi Arabia in an international and regional context and have taken some steps to address the unsatisfactory state of affairs," he said.

The deputy minister said President Jacob Zuma has extended invitations to the King and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia to visit South Africa, respectively.

"We hope that these visits can take place as soon as the Memorandum of Understanding for the establishment of regular Bilateral Political Consultations is ready for signature.

"Furthermore, allow me to take this opportunity to extend an invitation to you to undertake a visit to South Africa to further strengthen our bilateral standing," he said.

South Africa and Saudi Arabia have signed eight bilateral agreements, which provide the framework for co-operation.

In 2009, the South Africa and Saudi Arabia Business Council was launched with the specific purpose of increasing the volume of trade and the flow of investments between the two countries.

South Africa's Department of Trade and Industry and Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to facilitate the processes of entry of products into each other's markets.

The two countries have maintained good political and economic relations and pursue joint cooperation in diverse fields, most notably, in the fields of Higher Education, Economics, trade and investment, and technical cooperation, Defence and Science and Technology. A Joint Defence Committee and a Joint Committee on Science and Technology has been established.

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