A friend”s birthday is always a cause for celebration and congratulation. all the more reason to mark the occasion when that friend is a country of the size and significance of Saudi Arabia.
My wife and I first arrived in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia almost exactly two years ago. We were delighted and honored to have been posted there. Riyadh is Britain”s senior Embassy in the Middle East, reflecting the importance of the relationship between the two Kingdoms for both our countries. Everything we have seen and heard of Saudi Arabia and the Saudis since then has only increased our admiration and affection for the Kingdom and its people.
in those two years, we have traveled, on business and pleasure, often to both Jeddah and the Eastern Province. But we have also been to Tabuk and Hail, to Abha and Khamis Mushait, to Hofuf and Medain Saleh. I have been to Jubail, of course, and to Yanbu. With our children and with friends, we have spent many happy nights camping in the desert in all corners of the Kingdom. We have crossed the Empty Quarter.
And in the course of those journeys, as in the course of our work in the great cities of the Peninsula, we have met Saudi of all conditions and backgrounds, from the most distinguished Princes to bedu tribesmen, from the great merchant families of the coasts to the ordinary employees of Saudi Arabia”s great enterprises. Everyone we have met, without exception, has been friendly and welcoming.
We have also been privileged to see a country enjoying great good fortune, notably the wealth which comes from oil, but also confronting great challenges, notably of terrorism and of meeting the educational and social needs of rapidly increasing numbers of young Saudis. On both fronts, the Saudi government has shown great wisdom, investing the oil income with a prudent eye on the future, while confidently mounting successful campaigns against the men of violence and to equip young Saudis for the demands of the new century. None of these tasks has been easy. None is complete. But the records of achievement so far is remarkable.
So, as we reflect on the meaning of Saudi National Day, let us look forward as well as back. Saudi can take great pride in all their country has achieved in a few short decades. But they can also face the challenges of a new century with real and deserved confidence, under the leadership of King Abdullah.
As one of Saudi Arabia”s oldest and closest friends, Britain will accompany Saudi Arabia on that journey to the future. We will be with you in the tough times as well as the good times, in the knowledge that true friendship means sticking together through thick and thin.