Saudi oil minister talks of need to strengthen links on Iraq visit

Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih speaks to reporters during the 7th Iraq Oil and Gas Show in Basra this week. Saudi Arabia and Iraq are boosting ties. (AP)
Updated 05 December 2017
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Saudi oil minister talks of need to strengthen links on Iraq visit

BASRA: In the latest sign of improving relations between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom’s oil minister attended an energy conference in the southern Iraqi port city of Basra on Tuesday.
Khalid Al-Falih said Saudi Arabia wants to expand investment projects in Iraq to include energy, manufacturing and natural resources.
“These are all considered important steps in bringing Iraq back to the Arab fold as well as to open Iraqi markets for international goods,” Al-Falih said. “We see our cooperation and coordination as very strategic and crucial for both of our countries. It doubles our success, growth and prosperity, again and again.”
Iraq is looking for regional support as the country struggles to rebuild after ousting the Daesh group from major cities and as it deals with an independence movement in its northern Kurdish region.
The US has encouraged Baghdad to improve relations with Saudi Arabia to counter Tehran’s influence in the region. US President Donald Trump’s administration views Iran as a regional menace.
Saudi Arabia’s oil minister visited Baghdad in October, making a high-profile speech in the Iraqi capital calling for greater economic cooperation. That same month a commercial Saudi Arabian airliner landed at Baghdad airport for the first time in 27 years, and in August the two countries announced plans to open the land crossing along their shared border.
Iraq and Saudi Arabia have had strained relations since the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Iran gained wide influence over the Shiite-majority country after the 2003 US-led invasion. Tensions between Riyadh and Baghdad only began to thaw in 2015, when Saudi Arabia reopened its embassy.
Saudi Arabia is the biggest oil producer in OPEC, followed by Iraq.


Multibillion-dollar deals expected as investment forum looks east

Participants watch a movie highlighting the Red Sea project at last year’s Future Investment Initiatives conference in Riyadh. (AFP)
Updated 9 min 38 sec ago
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Multibillion-dollar deals expected as investment forum looks east

  • The Future Investment Initiative is tipped to see big investment partnerships from Russia and China
  • The FII is a key event in showcasing Saudi Arabia’s investment opportunities and economy, and linking foreign and local businessmen

RIYADH: A major investment show in Saudi Arabia is expected to attract thousands of delegates and see deals worth hundreds of billions of dollars — despite several largely “symbolic” last-minute cancelations by speakers.

The Future Investment Initiative, which starts on Tuesday, is tipped to see big investment partnerships from Russia and China, despite several executives, mostly Western, pulling out after the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Many of those Western firms have however sent lower-level representatives or regional heads — with big business likely to be done, Saudi officials said.

Speakers from the Russian Direct Investment Fund, Russia-China Investment Fund and electronics giant Samsung are all billed to speak at the event. They join Saudi speakers including Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, head of the Public Investment Fund (PIF), and sports official Princess Reema bint Bandar. 

“Investing in transformation,” “technology as opportunity” and “advancing human potential” are among the FII’s themes. Held at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh, the three-day event is billed as a “blueprint for the 22nd century.”

Ellen Wald, president of the Transversal Consulting think-tank and author of the recent book “Saudi Inc,” said many executives — notably those from Russia and further east — were still looking to do business at the event despite some having pulled out.

“I think the big pull-out of CEOs is not really reflective of the corporate interest in the Kingdom because we see them sending their next level of executives along. So to some degree it is symbolic,” she told Arab News. “In terms of attracting foreign investment, Saudi Arabia could have strategic leverage with Russia and China, and a unique opportunity to work on cutting-edge technologies.”

John Sfakianakis, director of economic research at the Gulf Research Center in Saudi Arabia, said he expected the event to be a success. 

“The FII is a key event in showcasing Saudi Arabia’s investment opportunities and economy, and linking foreign and local businessmen,” he told Arab News.