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Saudi-Russian ties stronger than ever, say experts

A panel of scholars and officials discuss Saudi-Russian ties on the sidelines of King Salman’s state visit, in Moscow on Friday.
MOSCOW: Saudi-Russian relations are stronger than ever, scholars and officials from both countries said Friday during a panel discussion in Moscow on the sidelines of King Salman’s state visit.
Houda Al-Helaisi, a member of the Saudi Shoura Council, said both countries are trying their best to improve ties, and the king’s visit has helped in this regard.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visited Russia last year.
“What we’re witnessing represents solid ground for better relations in various sectors,” Al-Helaisi said.
“We should concentrate more on cultural affairs, because culture is the field of cooperation and communication, while politics is always related to rivalry and competition,” said Maria Dubovikova, president of the International Middle Eastern Studies Club.
Saleh Al-Khathlan, vice president of the Riyadh-based National Society for Human Rights, said despite some differences between Russia and Saudi Arabia, “we’re on the right track.”
He added: “Our two countries are key players in regional stability and in energy. They reached an agreement that stabilized oil prices. We’re the two biggest oil producers, and our cooperation is a must to stabilize the market.”
Shoura member Noura Al-Yousuf said Saudi Arabia is thoroughly implementing its Vision 2030 reform plan.
“We’re working hard to boost small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) to offer job opportunities,” she added.
“SMEs at present contribute only 20 percent of Saudi Arabia’s GDP (gross domestic product). We want to improve it to 35 percent.”
The Kingdom seeks to localize more than 50 percent of its military industries and 75 percent of its oil and gas sector, Al-Yousuf said.
“We seek to rise from our current position of 25 to the top 10 countries on the Global Competitiveness Index,” she added.
“We’re also working on increasing FDI (foreign direct investment) from 3.8 to 5.7 percent of GDP, and raising the private sector’s contribution from 40 to 65 percent of GDP,” she said. “The share of non-oil exports in non-oil GDP will increase from 16 to 50 percent by 2030.”
Saudi businesswoman Basma Omair said women have a major role to play in achieving Vision 2030.
“Women are playing a big role in our economy… There are no hindrances that prevent us from achieving our goals.”

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