Berlin, Asharq Al-Awsat- Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz met Chancellor Angela Merkel Wednesday, at the start of a three-day visit to Germany.
The stay in Berlin was the third official stop on a European tour that has also taken the King to Britain and is the first visit by a Saudi monarch to the Vatican.
In a rare gesture, marking Saudi Arabia’s major importance as a Mideast mediator, Merkel was personally on hand at a Berlin airport to welcome King Abdullah.
The King and the German Chancellor discussed bilateral issues, Middle East conflict and the stand-off over Iran’s nuclear enrichment programme.
In the evening, King Abdullah attended a banquet held in his honor by Chancellor Merkel. In remarks at the banquet, the King warned that the Middle East region is beset by tension. Fostering stability, increasing international counterterrorism cooperation and ensuring that the region remains free of weapons of mass destruction will contribute to the region’s security, he said. King Abdullah also noted that with its economic and political status, Germany could make an effective contribution to the peace process.
At the same banquet, The President of the Federal Republic of Germany, Horst Koehler said, “Your Majesty — the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, transformations that have taken place in Saudi Arabia under your wise leadership have shown that you are dealing from a position of confronting the challenges of the future. I would like to offer you the support and encouragement as regards to your follow-up for the manifold efforts to further promote dialogue within the community and bring about openness or in the context of what you have named as a service (to citizens without distinction). You have worked in the context of the National Center for Dialogue, which you established to push forward several important reform projects through which you have taken into account the needs of youth and women. I personally follow, with particular interest, the educational campaign which you had initiated by its announcement. It is of a great appreciation for me to note that the number of universities in your country has increased over the past three years to more than double. I am convinced that there is no alternative based on the spirit of the mind in the 21st century for education and openness towards the world and towards the mutual respect between cultures.”
King Abdullah will visit Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate and City Hall today before leaving on Friday.
Merkel visited Riyadh in February, and King Abdullah was last in Germany six years ago as crown prince.
Saudi-German relations date back to 1929, when the founder of the modern Kingdom, King Abdulaziz Al-Saud, signed a friendship treaty with Germany. Today, Germany is one of Saudi Arabia’s major trading partners; in 2005, the volume of trade between the two countries exceeded $6.6 billion dollars [4.6 billion Euros]. In February 2007, Chancellor Merkel visited the Kingdom for talks with King Abdullah.
Germany is the third leg of a four-nation tour that has already taken the King to Britain and Italy. He will also visit Turkey before returning to Saudi Arabia.