Saudi Arabia, Germany long-standing partners in changing times

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King Salman, right, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel during her visit to the Kingdom earlier this year. (Reuters)
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Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman with Germany’s Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen. (SPA)
Updated 18 October 2017

Saudi Arabia, Germany long-standing partners in changing times

Relations between Germany and Saudi Arabia were formalized as early as 1929 by the signing of the Treaty of Friendship between Germany and the Kingdom of the Hijaz and the Nejd. And Germany has maintained diplomatic relations with the Kingdom since 1954.
In an interview to Arab News, German Ambassador to the Kingdom Dieter W. Haller spoke at length about the growing-relations between the two countries, and how the two countries are working closely on a range of regional and international issues.
The German envoy said: “Saudi Arabia is a crucial partner of Germany, the most important one in the region. The ties between our two countries are very solid, vibrant and ever expanding. Without any doubt, Chancellor Merkel’s visit to the Kingdom shortly before Ramadan this year has paved the way for an enhanced cooperation in the fields of economy and security. And most importantly: We have added strategic content to our relations. Both our countries live up to their international responsibilities and share a common view on key strategic challenges of today’s world.”
Responding to a question about German position on key regional issues, he said the international community desperately needs to find a solution to all the regional conflicts, especially to the Arab-Israeli one, which is with us for far too much time.
“Germany supports the two-state solution and still supports the Arab Peace Initiative of late King Abdullah. Regarding Yemen we believe that there can only be a political solution. Such a solution will have to be achieved in the framework of UN and will need to be preceded by a lasting cease-fire and unlimited humanitarian access to all parts of Yemen. We fully support the respective efforts of the UN Special Envoy. Similarly, there can be no military solution in Syria. Key to a definite end of the humanitarian catastrophe in a country with such an impressive cultural heritage are the Geneva peace talks.”
On Iran’s nuclear issue, the German diplomat said: “We believe the nuclear deal is intact. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iran has so far fulfilled its obligations. Nevertheless, we expect from Iran — as other partners do — to join the fight against terrorism and extremism and not to feed them,” he added.
When asked about Germany’s growing ties with the Kingdom, he said: “During the last 12 months we have witnessed a substantial expansion of security cooperation. Global terrorism with its ugly inhumane face requires a coordinated response from the international community.” He added: “Our cooperation includes information and experience sharing in areas such as de-radicalization and foreign fighters.”
“We cooperate with the Islamic Counter-Terrorism Centre in Riyadh. We engage in extensive training of Saudi border police and have agreed to expand the training cooperation to other areas like metro police and air security. And we join hands, both bilaterally and multilaterally for instance in the G-20 format to dry out the financial networks that feed international terrorism and extremism,” Haller said.
Saudi Arabia is also working on an ambitious project that calls for localization of defense industry. When asked about Germany’s possible role in cooperating with the Kingdom in this regard, the German envoy said: “Due to our rather restrictive armament export policy and a restructuring of the German defense industry, our contribution to the establishment of a localized Saudi defense industry might be limited.”
“One of our key competencies still remains the maritime sector with products like the new frigate class 125 and high technology submarines,” he said.
The German envoy added: “We have learned that the modernization of the Saudi naval forces will focus in the near future on surface vessels. Perhaps in this field, cooperation opportunities might arise. We are on the other hand proud that the maritime borders of the Kingdom will in the future be even more secure with the use of German patrol vessels.”
Germany and its private sector, Haller said, are also cooperating with Saudi partners in the energy sector as well as in many other areas.
“Siemens works on a concept for the Kingdom’s energy transition, which encompasses elements such as energy efficiency and high-skill job creation. Linde is a reliable partner for downstream activities like new refinery and integrated petrochemical projects. Various German companies participate in the tendering process for the first 750 MW renewable energy package,” he said.
Germany is unique among European countries insofar as it has granted Muslims the status of a recognized religious community. Responding to a question about the condition of Muslims in Germany, the top diplomat said everybody in Germany, irrespective of his nationality can live his belief freely. “We have about 5 million Muslims living in Germany, about 1.2 million came in the last two years as migrants or refugees. Since a long time, Muslims in Germany participate actively in the political, economic and cultural life in Germany. Ten years ago, the German government established a Round Table where representatives of various Muslim organizations meet regularly with the interior minister and German authorities,” he said.
Commenting on the growing economic ties between the Kingdom and Germany, the envoy said Saudi Vision 2030 and the National Transformation Program (NTP) 2020 have opened up a lot of new opportunities. “We want to develop our economic partnership further. Our bilateral trade, which decreased a bit in 2016 is picking up once again in the first months of 2017,” he said.
“Trade will remain a strong pillar with hopefully more Saudi products making it to the German market but more important are the joint ventures like the one between Saudi Aramco and Lanxess by which in the global Lanxess production network synthetic rubber is produced,” he told Arab News.
“We need to push for more investments — naturally in both directions. That will be one of the key tasks in the years to come: We will have to develop the trade-focused partnership into a relationship based on investment with a focus on joint ventures,” Haller said.
Replying to a question regarding the recent German elections, he said: “Chancellor Merkel’s Conservative Party has gained 32.9 percent, which means that the CDU/CSU is by far the largest party in our country. I am sure that our Chancellor will be able to form a strong coalition government with the Liberal Party and the Green Party. One of the great assets of our foreign policy is consistency and continuity — even after a change in the government. There is a wide consensus in Berlin that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s importance both in regional and global policies will increase in the future. That is why, I believe in a very prosperous future of our relations.”

Formula E’s Felipe Massa races ‘fastest animal on planet’ in Saudi Arabia

Updated 10 December 2018

Formula E’s Felipe Massa races ‘fastest animal on planet’ in Saudi Arabia

  • ABB FIA Formula E Championship listens to fans by pitting Gen2 car and Felipe Massa in race against a peregrine falcon in Saudi Arabia
  • Spreading his wings for the first time in Formula E machinery, 90-kilometers south-west of the Ad Diriyah, Massa’s mirrors loomed large with the claws of the peregrine falcon

RIYADH: Formula E driver Felipe Massa behind the wheel of a Gen2 racing car has gone up against a peregrine falcon in a straight fight in Saudi Arabia to outrun the fastest animal on the planet.

It’s not the first time the fully-electric Formula E car has been pitted against a member of the animal kingdom, with reigning champion Jean-Eric Vergne racing a cheetah on the Western Cape of South Africa last year.

Narrowly edging out the fastest land mammal in 2017, Formula E fans asked for a re-match — but this time together with more stern competition. Listening to the feedback of fans on social media, it was the turn of the peregrine falcon, capable of reaching speeds in excess of 350 km/h (217 mph) when diving through the skies above Saudi Arabia.

Massa was in the Kingdom ahead of the 2018 ‘Saudia’ Ad Diriyah E-Prix, which will see the racing legend line-up on the Formula E starting grid for the first time on December 15 at the stunning UNESCO World Heritage site on the outskirts of Riyadh.

For the battle of man and machine vs the natural world, the winged predator was trained to set its sights on a different kind of prey roaming through the desert — with a lure attached to the roll hoop of the advanced new-look Gen2 car.

Spreading his wings for the first time in Formula E machinery, 90-kilometers south-west of the Ad Diriyah, Massa’s mirrors loomed large with the claws of the peregrine falcon. But did he manage to shake off his opponent?

To watch Felipe and the falcon in flying formation, visit —

Felipe Massa, VENTURI Formula E Team driver, said: “It was an incredible experience for me to race against the fastest member of the animal kingdom — it’s not something I will forget in a hurry. I like the fact that this idea came from the fans, and Formula E listened and accepted the challenge.

“The footage from the drive is very special and it was a privilege to take part. I’m looking forward to returning to Ad Diriyah and to start racing. It’ll be my first race in Formula E and I’m eager to get behind the wheel again. I’ve missed racing and this series has shown to be one of the most competitive out there.”

The 2018 ‘Saudia’ Ad Diriyah E-Prix is the opening round of the 2018/19 ABB FIA Formula E Championship and the competitive debut of the Gen2 car and VENTURI Formula E Team driver Felipe Massa.

As well as Formula E action, exciting fan zones, entertainment and cultural attractions, plus unique dining and retail experiences will be awaiting ticketholders at Ad Diriyah, across three days, starting December 13.

That evening, December 13, will see Enrique Iglesias and Jason Derulo kick off the first of three incredible nights of music concerts for fans. The following day, December 14, Arab music legend Amr Diab and globally-renowned pop band Black Eyed Peas will delight the audience. And, on December 15, race day, following the exhilarating 2018 ‘Saudia’ Ad Diriyah E Prix, US smash hit OneRepublic and superstar DJ/producer David Guetta will bring the event to an electrifying finale.

Only fans holding tickets will be able to access the entire Ad Diriyah site, including all the action, fun, and thrilling complimentary concerts.

Tickets are on sale at and are also available at Point of Sale units at Riyadh Park Mall, Oud Square and Doos Carting (only Grandstand tickets from Doos) and Seven Car Lounge.