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Ushering Australia-Saudi relations into new heights


By Dr. Abdulaziz BinTaleb
Cultural Attaché, Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia

 

The coronation of King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud on 23 January 2015 is promising to usher the Australia-Saudi relations into new highs. At the invitation of the Australian government, the king was credited for being the first high profile official from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to visit Australia back in 2000, in his capacity as the governor of Riyadh. During his visit he officiated with the then Australian foreign minister, Alexander Downer, a new building to host the Saudi embassy in Canberra.

 

Since the 2000 visit, Australia-Saudi relations witnessed rapid development. In 2004, Saudi Arabia Cultural Mission (SACM) was established in Canberra to facilitate cultural and educational engagements between the two nations. SACM managed to spur the enrolment of Saudi students in Australia from less than a hundred students before 2004 to more than 10,000 students by 2015. Furthermore, Saudi became Australia’s second largest trading partner in the Middle East.

 

The stability of the political system of the Kingdom since its establishment in 1902 made it a reliable partner to its international friends. The Kingdom’s political system ensured for more than a century a smooth transfer of power to experienced administrators and continuation of the agenda of reforms. With the sad passing of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz in January 2015, King Salman ascended to the throne, with more than 50 years of uninterrupted proven track record as governor of the capital (Riyadh), minister of defence, deputy premier, and crown prince. The new king is also renowned as a keen book collector, with special devotion to the study of history; a subject which he conducted public lectures and newspapers commentary on.

 

It is interesting to note that in the history of their statehood -which is more than 110 years-, Saudi and Australia strategic foreign interest didn’t diverge. They always fought on the same side, established strategic alliances with the same superpowers, promoted efforts for peaceful resolutions in the Middle East, and advocated informed dialogue among the faiths of the world. Furthermore, the two nations enacted similar welfare policies, and ensured that education is available for all citizens, regardless of their income.


During the last G20 summit in Brisbane, November 2014, King Salman once again managed to demonstrate that the Australia-Saudi relation will scale another high, as he headed the Saudi delegation, this time in his capacity as Crown Prince. After 15 years of his first visit, and continuous development of bilateral relation, one can only predict that the reign of the King will witness new highs in corporation between the Kingdom and Australia.

 

The Canberra Times  23/2/2015

 

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