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Ukraine, Saudi Arabia closer than ever after 30 years of ties

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Prince Faisal bin Farhan, the minister of foreign affairs of Saudi Arabia.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Prince Faisal bin Farhan, the minister of foreign affairs of Saudi Arabia.
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14 Apr 2023 08:04:06 GMT9
14 Apr 2023 08:04:06 GMT9

April 14 is a special date for Ukrainian-Saudi relations. On this date 30 years ago, then-Prime Minister Leonid Kuchma, acting as the head of a Ukrainian governmental delegation, arrived in Saudi Arabia to officially establish diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Time flies. Today we are already celebrating three decades of friendship and partnership. During this time, the countries have laid down rock-solid foundations for their bilateral relations and achieved positive results in numerous spheres. Ukraine and Saudi Arabia have gained a high level of experience, mutual respect and understanding. We are mature enough to see the horizons of emerging opportunities.

We can observe how the pace of political dialogue between our countries has confidently grown since 1993. In 2003, Kuchma, by then the second president of Ukraine, paid an official visit to the Kingdom. It was the first visit by a Ukrainian leader to the Arabian Peninsula and was aimed primarily at emphasizing Ukraine’s strong will to become closer to its Gulf friends, while setting up mutually beneficial partnerships.

We had a chance to witness the initial point of interparliamentary dialogue in 2011, when Kyiv hosted Shoura Council Speaker Dr. Abdullah bin Mohammed Al-Asheikh. He met with the leadership of the Verkhovna Rada and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine.

In 2017, the fifth president of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, was warmly received by King Salman. This official visit to Saudi Arabia not only confirmed the consistency of Ukraine’s policy on the expansion of its bilateral relations with Riyadh, but it also acknowledged the existence of favorable prerequisites for improving bilateral cooperation in promising directions in the energy, agrarian, military-technical, scientific-educational and humanitarian spheres.

The series of phone calls held between President Volodymyr Zelensky and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2022 testify to the further significant enhancement of political communications, thus multifacetedly enriching Ukrainian-Saudi dialogue amid the current circumstances. This period of political intensification will continue and, hopefully, the moment is coming when we will welcome the crown prince in Kyiv and arrange a visit to Riyadh by Zelensky.

The visit of the Saudi minister of foreign affairs to Ukraine this year reiterated our expectations. It was an obvious sign of solidarity with Ukraine, which on Friday will be on the 415th day of its fight, effectively neutralizing every tactical move of the Russian war machine and methodically paving the way to victory.

Indeed, the February visit of Prince Faisal bin Farhan stands out and signifies the event as being of high importance, since it was the first visit by a Saudi foreign minister to Ukraine since the establishment of diplomatic relations 30 years ago. It was particularly important that the partners concluded two agreements aimed at providing Ukraine with the necessary humanitarian and energy support. The Ukrainian people are grateful to the Kingdom for its precious help and the sympathy of Saudi Arabia’s leadership.

The potential for growth in Ukraine-Saudi relations is, without exaggeration, tremendous. Trade and economic cooperation, culture, education, science, tourism and youth exchanges constitute an incomplete list of the spheres that can lift the partnership to a qualitatively new level.

The potential for growth in Ukraine-Saudi relations is, without exaggeration, tremendous

Anatolii Petrenko

Ukraine and the Kingdom have so far signed 16 bilateral agreements, providing a legal basis for cooperation in various fields (trade and economy, investments, agriculture, science, technology, sport, etc.), and more are to come.

High-level bilateral engagements, such as the Intergovernmental Commission on Trade and Economic Cooperation, are important tools for developing bilateral relations. Ukraine and Saudi Arabia have already convened six sessions of the Joint Intergovernmental Commission on trade, economic, scientific and technical cooperation and we are currently working on arranging the seventh round.

The dynamics of our trade relations meet our expectations but still have the potential to grow. According to official data, bilateral trade turnover in 2022 reached about $750 million, with Ukraine’s exports estimated at $440 million and Saudi Arabia’s at $310 million.

Tirelessly and dedicatedly, we are working on shortening the distance between the Ukrainian and Saudi people, both mentally and culturally. One could not help but notice the huge influx of tourists from Gulf countries to Ukrainian cities during 2021, against the backdrop of the previously established visa-free regime for Gulf friends and the launch of direct flights between our countries.

Following the concrete results of cooperation in the agriculture and defense industries, Ukraine, even under the circumstances of the ongoing war, is set to explore prospective new spheres to sow the seeds of future joint success stories. Maximizing our efforts today and offering lucrative proposals for the years to come, we are moving forward with the Postwar Economic Recovery Plan of Ukraine and its associated investment portfolio menu, forging promising bonds of economic partnership that will definitely be beneficial for both nations.

Our country is one of the recognized world leaders in the IT field. We have highly qualified IT specialists and can offer our experience in the areas of the digital transformation, cybersecurity, blockchain technologies and cloud solutions.

Food security remains our priority track. The main focus now is on the production of agricultural goods with maximum added value. And this is the prosperous way to move in the future. We hope that Saudi Arabia will become both a credible foreign market for Ukrainian goods and a gateway for their distribution across the region.

Energy diversification, which is crucial for our people’s lives and Ukrainian independence, is one more way that we would like to move along hand in hand with Saudi Arabia and, even more broadly, with all GCC members.

Both countries successfully cooperate within the framework of international and regional organizations. We are grateful for Saudi Arabia’s consistent support of UN General Assembly resolutions aimed at restoring the territorial integrity of Ukraine and preserving its national sovereignty. Thus, the Ukrainian Peace Formula, endorsed by a majority of the international community through the adoption of a relevant UNGA resolution on Feb. 23, has the potential to bring about long-term peace in Ukraine, Europe and the globe. We welcome the Kingdom joining us in making it a reality.

  • Anatolii Petrenko is the ambassador of Ukraine to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Twitter: @AmbUkraineKSA
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