Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Twinning Riyadh and Berlin | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The German Chancellor has just returned from Riyadh after she expressed her gratitude to King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz for the success of the Saudi forces in securing the release of two German girls held in Yemen in what was a successful and distinctive operation. Today, Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz arrived in Berlin, after receiving an official invitation, where he was warmly welcomed by the figures he met. What was also noticeable were the crowds that received the prince in front of the hotel with applause in the second of such scenes after what we saw in Oslo, Norway.

The visit broadly comes under the banner of politics and economics. Through discussions with a number of German and Saudi figures, it became clear that both sides were concerned with consolidating investment opportunities and strengthening ties between the two countries. What’s strange is that both sides, Saudi Arabia and Germany, attributed the decrease in investment opportunities and cooperation between the two sides to their weakness in marketing themselves; this is what the Germans say about themselves and this is what Saudis also often say about themselves.

During a meeting between Prince Salman and some company directors and scientists, a number of German company officials said that they are keen on investing in Saudi Arabia and in Riyadh in particular. In fact they praised [the level] reached by the Saudi city under the tutelage of Prince Salman [the Governor of Riyadh]. We also heard other company directors saying that the amount of Saudi products imported into Germany is not enough. Therefore, Germany is an important state economically, politically and scientifically, and by merely strengthening ties with it and working with it towards twinning the German and Saudi capitals is considered important and necessary work, especially in light of the volatile economic and political situations.

There is no concern in Europe today with the exception of the economy, and there are fears of the repercussions of terrorist activity; Saudi Arabia has economic weight and more importantly, it has Islamic religious weight. Economically, Saudi Arabia works seriously towards sustainable development in all fields and it needs scientific and economic companies on the German level, just as Saudi Arabia, as we mentioned before, has an important Islamic role in bringing religions closer together and there is the interfaith dialogue that was presented by King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz. As a result Saudi Arabia is able to strengthen the language of moderation, and work towards removing this unjustified fear through dialogue, and to strengthen the understanding of the nature of Islam which calls for tolerance and not violence and extremism.

Truthfully, Prince Salman and the clear stance on numerous issues that was felt by the observers will help strengthen cooperation, especially as Riyadh has political and economic weight that cannot be ignored. In most discussions, Prince Salman’s position was clear, whether he was talking about the importance of education, investment, or women’s issues. There is a story that must be told here; during his visit to Norway, an official asked the Prince, “Your Highness, you have spoken at length about the position of women in Saudi Arabia and the opportunities that are available to them today. Allow me to ask you a certain question: will we be able to see a female Saudi minister?” The Prince’s answer was quick and direct, with no hesitation, “What’s preventing that!” The Norwegian official said, “Ok. Let’s change the subject.”

Therefore, the mere thought of some kind of twinning project between Riyadh and Berlin is considered an excellent and desirable matter; all that’s required is more visits between the two countries and more openness towards one another, as the success of the Saudi security operation that rescued two German girls prompted the Germans and it’s as if they only just discovered Saudi Arabia. At the same time there is a lot that the two countries can benefit from.