Saudi Arabia and Cyprus have made headway in deepening their bilateral relations with a focus to intensify cooperation between the two countries in various fields such as economy, energy, sustainability and tourism, says Ambassador Khaled Mohammed Alsharif.
Saudi Arabia and Cyprus have recently made great efforts to expand their relationship, how would you describe the current bilateral relations between the two nations?
Bilateral ties between the two countries were progressed in 2015 when the Cyprus Embassy in Riyadh was first established followed by the establishment of Saudi Embassy in Nicosia three years later. Furthermore, we also had the formation of the Cyprus-Saudi Arabia Friendship Group in the House of Representatives of Cyprus and the Saudi Arabia-Cyprus Friendship Group in the Majlis Al Shura. Since then, several memorandums of cooperation and agreements are under revision to further boost ties between the two countries in various fields. Last year Cyprus and Saudi Arabia had their first meeting for political dialogue that was held in our capital, Riyadh. The friendly and mutually rewarding bilateral relationship between Saudi Arabia and Cyprus has grown considerably over the last years, and both countries are maintaining an excellent state of friendship with enhanced cooperation.
Are there significant projects or initiatives between Saudi Arabia and Cyprus at the moment, and what kind of cooperation would you like to see developed in the future?
During the recent visit of the President of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia official talks were held with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence, in order to review all aspects of bilateral relations as well as to enhance and intensify cooperation between the two countries in various fields such as economy, energy, sustainability and tourism.
Cyprus is a strong international business centre and EU base for cross-border operations. It is also the closest EU member to Saudi Arabia. What opportunities does this provide to specifically Saudi business and what advantages does Cyprus offer Saudi Arabia to facilitate more trade and business?
It is true that due to its geographical location Cyprus is a strong international business centre and EU base for cross-border operations. It is also the closest EU country to Saudi Arabia and an attractive destination for foreign direct investment as well as for businesses to establish their European and International headquarters. Additionally, the Cyprus-Saudi Business Association that has been initiated in October 2020 under the auspices of the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce aims to create new opportunities for partnership between businesspeople in both countries as well as further strengthening the business relations by operating as a bridge between Saudi and Cyprus. It’s an official platform that mutually benefits economic and trade relations. Similarly, The Federation of Saudi Chambers of Commerce and the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce recently signed a cooperation agreement to establish a Saudi-Cypriot Business Council to further enhance our business bond.
Saudi Arabia’s Green Initiative is part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, what kind of strategic trade and investment opportunities are emerging from this new vision?
The Saudi government has an ambitious plan to steer the Kingdom away from its dependence on oil. Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has announced the Saudi Green Initiative and the Middle East Green Initiative, which are programs that aim to reduce carbon emissions by 60% and plant 50 billion trees in the region.
The Kingdom fully recognises its share of responsibility in advancing the efforts against the climate crisis by leading the world’s largest afforestation project. Being a leader in the energy markets during the oil and gas era, the Kingdom aims to become a global leader in forging a greener world, which is a strategic target in Saudi’s Vision 2030. The Crown Prince’s Vision 2030 is a social and economic strategic reform project laid by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to diversify the nation’s economy and to stimulate numerous changes in its social and economic sectors, including healthcare. Moreover, it is built on three pillars – a vibrant society, a thriving economy and an ambitious nation.
A vibrant society is vital to achieving the Vision and establishing a strong foundation for economic prosperity. The Kingdom’s goal is to create a society in which every citizen enjoys a happy, fulfilling lifestyle complemented by a standard of living which provides a safe and secure environment for families, and access to world class health care and education. Secondly, a thriving economy provides opportunities for all by building an education system aligned with market needs to offer the young people the skills for the jobs of the future, and creating economic opportunities for entrepreneurs, small enterprises as well as large corporations. Lastly, an ambitious nation applies efficiency and responsibility at all levels in order to deliver the Vision efficiently.
What sectors or what type of projects in Cyprus could be attractive for direct investment from Saudi Arabia?
Several sectors and a variety of projects in a number of fields in Cyprus could be attractive for direct investment from Saudi Arabia, and we are happy to see that Invest Cyprus, the National Investment Promotion Authority of Cyprus, was part of the Business Forum organised by the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Jeddah and Riyadh earlier in June. A number of meetings were conducted with the Ministry of Investment of Saudi Arabia to explore various options to strengthen bilateral relations and mutually beneficial cooperation between both countries.
How do you see Saudi Arabia-Cyprus relations developing in the future?
The progress in the expanding of relations between our countries in recent years allows us to be particularly optimistic about the further strengthening of our friendship and cooperation in the future. I am confident that together we can achieve much for our people and the region, contributing together to stability, security and prosperity.