RIYADH: European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said during a visit to Saudi Arabia on Sunday that he had briefed his partners about the prospects of restarting nuclear talks with Iran and hoped that would happen “soon.”
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, which we [just] 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 European Union is the second biggest trading partner of Saudi Arabia and the biggest foreign direct inve-stor. 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 modernisation 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. In this context, I shared my observations, as Coordinator of the JCPOA – the nuclear deal with Iran – I briefed my partners, especially the Minister, on the prospects of restarting Vienna talks about the nuclear deal with Iran – I hope soon.
We have also exchanged views about Afghanistan and discussed the situation in the neighbouring Yemen. What is happening in Yemen is a terrible tragedy for the people there and it has also impact on the whole region. We appreciate Saudi Arabia’s efforts aimed at ending the fighting and I condemned the cross border attacks against the Kingdom’s territory. And I also have to mention the reluctance of the Houthis in order to build a ceasefire that we have been asking for.
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.
For his part, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said he had reviewed several issues with his EU counterpart, adding that their meeting in Riyadh also saw them reviewing “the opportunities achieved by the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.”
Prince Faisal also confirmed to Borrell “the seriousness of the Houthi militia’s practices in Yemen,” adding that Saudi Arabia is conducting a “dialogue wi-th the United States regarding the war in Yemen.”
He stressed “the danger of the Houthi militia continuing to bet on military options in Yemen,” explaining that “the Houthis continue to violate despite the ceasefire initiatives in Yemen.”
With regard to the Iranian nuclear issue, the Saudi foreign minister said that Riyadh is deeply concerned about Iranian transgressions.
“They contradict Iran’s declarations of the peaceful nature of its nuclear program,” he said.
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, be-cause this Joint Coopera-tion 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 honoured, 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.