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Saudi Arabia

Kingdom-Spain ties: Both countries share common stances on many issues

King Salman receives King Felipe VI of Spain at Al-Yamamah Palace in Riyadh on Sunday. (SPA)
RIYADH: Saudi-Spanish relations are based not only on traditional friendship and mutual respect, and ties between the two countries, but have progressed into deeper relations when culminated by the exchange of visits at the highest levels.
At different times the two countries witnessed the exchange of royal visits, strategic partnerships, and signed bilateral deals, which covered many areas.
The two countries have shared common stances toward many global and regional issues, notably the peace process in the Middle East to which the two countries played an outstanding role: Spain through the Madrid Peace Conference (1991) and Saudi Arabia through the Arab Peace Initiative proposed by King Salman (crown prince at the time) which later developed into an Arab initiative and adopted by the Arab Summit in Beirut, Lebanon, in March 2002.
In acknowledgment of the position of Spain, the late King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz patronized the international conference on dialogue between followers of the faiths in Madrid in July 2008. More than 200 figures representing Muslims, Christians, and Jews attended the event.
In recognition of his historic visit to Spain, the former king, Juan Carlos, awarded the late King Abdullah the Order of the Golden Fleece, the highest Spanish chivalric honor that is held by fewer than twenty other worldwide figures.
The former King Juan Carlos was a frequent guest of the Saudi royal house in his final years as the ruling monarch, visiting the country five times between 2006 and 2014. His close relations reportedly helped a Spanish company win a contract in 2011 to develop the $7 billion (SR26b) high-speed railway between the two holy cities of Makkah and Madinah. Spain’s military ties to Saudi Arabia have since increased to become the fourth-biggest exporter of arms to Riyadh.
To enhance relations between the two countries, a series of deals were signed including, among others, the following:
l A general agreement on economic, investment and technical cooperation
l A cultural agreement covering higher education, research, languages and cooperation between universities (1984)
l A joint aviation agreement (1988)
l A memo of understanding (MOU) for political consultations between the foreign ministries of the two countries (2006)
l An agreement to encourage and protect investments in both countries through the provision of regulatory and legal bases
l The establishment of a Saudi-Spanish infrastructure fund with a capital of $1 billion (SR3.75 billion) to finance infrastructure projects in the Kingdom
l An agreement to avoid double taxation in both countries
l A MOU in the health fields between the two countries
l A cooperation program in the area of tourism
On the economic side, an investment fund worth $5 billion (SR18.75 billion) was established by businessmen of the two countries for joint investments. The volume of trade between the two countries annually amounted to more than $3.5 billion (SR13.12 billion), and focused on many commodities including chemicals, metal products, medical supplies, and wooden products, among others.
To show close historical and cultural ties between the two countries, an exhibition titled “From Qurtuba to Cordoba” was organized in Riyadh in 2013.
In his statement at the time, Spanish Ambassador Joaquín Pérez-Villanueva, told the media that the exhibition revived the heritage of Muslims and their rich civilization, which is still preserved and present in the city of Cordoba.
Opening the event, Prince Sultan bin Salman, the head of Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA), emphasized the role of the exhibition in strengthening cultural relations between the governments of the two countries.
The prince highlighted how this event reflected the common ties shared between the people of Spain and the Kingdom.

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