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SAUDI ARABIA - Diplomacy

Josep Borrell Fontelles

High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Vice-President of the European Commission

Bio

Josep Borrell Fontelles is High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy & Vice-President of the European Commission for a Stronger Europe in the World since 2019. He was minister of foreign affairs, the European and Cooperation, Spain, from 2018-2019 and president of the European Parliament from 2004-2007. He was previously Jean Monnet Chair of European Economic Integration at Complutense University of Madrid as well as president of the EUI. Fontelles holds bachelor’s degrees in aeronautical engineering from Polytechnic University of Madrid, a bachelor’s and doctorate in economic science from Complutense University of Madrid, and master’s degrees in oil industry economics and technology from French Institute of Petroleum and in applied mathematics from Stanford University, California.

"This Cooperation Arrangement that we signed is another testimony of our joint commitment to reinforce our relationship. The agreement establishes a platform."

This is my first official visit to Saudi Arabia, but it is my fifth meeting with the Minister [of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud]. This visit illustrates the positive dynamics in our relations, which are getting stronger and more comprehensive, but still a lot has to be done.

This Cooperation Arrangement that we signed is another testimony of our joint commitment to reinforce our relationship. The agreement establishes a platform for regular consultations between the European External Action Service and the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs on political, security, and other issues of mutual interest.

Allow me to say that the EU is the second-biggest trading partner of Saudi Arabia and the biggest foreign direct investor. But building from this strong economic relationship, we want to go beyond economics and to widen the scope of our interaction—to make it more strategic, also on regional issues and global challenges such as the green transition, climate change or digital revolution.

There are unprecedented reforms underway in Saudi Arabia and we support this modernization drive that we welcome very much.

We are also engaging on human rights, with the first ever Human Rights Dialogue that we held in Brussels last Monday. And we sincerely hope it will produce concrete results and will contribute to our mutual understanding.

With my partners here in Riyadh today, we discussed also regional cooperation. I welcomed and recalled European support for the normalization of relations within the family of Gulf countries.

We appreciated a lot that the Al Ula Summit put an end to the Gulf internal crisis, and we welcome the recent bilateral talks between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

This morning I met United Nations Special Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg and I stressed our call on all actors in this conflict to fully support a peaceful settlement to the conflict. Later today I will also meet Yemeni President Mansour Hadi.

We talked certainly and unavoidably about global issues, among them the climate. I am happy that we managed to launch dialogue between the European Union and Saudi Arabia on energy, where we look at common points between our Green Deal and the Saudi Vision 2030 when it comes to renewable energy, emission reduction, and carbon capture. I strongly believe that Saudi Arabia can and should lead by example in the Gulf and the wider region on these issues. Together we can make a difference for the world’s climate, especially in light of the upcoming climate summit COP26. I trust that robust commitments by Saudi Arabia in Glasgow will inspire also other energy producers.

Let me conclude, Minister, with mentioning a meeting I had this morning with the Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council [Nayef Falah Al Hajraf]. We are currently discussing possibilities to step up dialogue and cooperation between the two regional blocks. We already had a ministerial meeting last week in New York and I informed my partners about the intention to convene a Joint Cooperation council early next year, because this Joint Cooperation Council has not been meeting since the last six years and this is something that has to be amended. We are ready to resume negotiations of a modern, comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with the Gulf Cooperation Council.

I think that such regional cooperation, in addition to robust and dynamic bilateral relations between us, can only bring benefits to our regions and to our people. And that’s why I am so happy and honored, Minister, for your invitation, for this meeting, for the signing of this Arrangement that represents the starting point of a new and more profound era in our relationship. 6

* Remarks given by Vice-President Josep Borrell at the press conference with Minister of Foreign Affairs Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud on Oct. 10, 2021.

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