RIYADH: Saudi nationals will no longer need a visa to enter Ukraine, providing a strong impetus to further intensify business and people-to-people ties, the Ukrainian envoy to the Kingdom has said.
According to a presidential decree, Saudis will now be allowed to enter Ukraine as of Aug. 1, 2020 and stay up to 90 days.
President Volodymyr Zelensky received the credentials from the newly appointed Saudi ambassador to Ukraine, Mohammed bin Sulaiman Al-Mashar, and expressed his readiness to develop political contacts with the Kingdom, as well as in trade, agriculture and military spheres, and in aircraft construction. The president also extended an invitation to King Salman to pay an official visit to Ukraine.
Speaking to Arab News, Ukrainian Ambassador Vadym Vakhrushev expressed hope that his country would be a favored tourist destination for Saudis. In 2019, nearly 5,000 Saudis visited Ukraine, with talks ongoing to launch direct flights between the two states.
“Our countries only recently began to discover each other after long being influenced by a lack of information and narrow stereotypes regarding the hot climate, sand and oil in Saudi Arabia, or cold winters, iron ore and wheat in Ukraine,” Vakhrushev told Arab News.
According to the envoy, these stereotypes are changing, with a popular Ukrainian YouTuber recently visiting the Kingdom and publishing a video on “oil, tourism and the big changes,” which received more than 6.7 million views.
Throughout its history, Ukraine has always been a crossroads of different civilizations and empires, complemented by its own identity and traditions, with picturesque nature. The most popular tourism destinations in Ukraine are connected with its capital, Kyiv, the city of Lviv near the Carpathian Mountains, and Odessa on the shore of the Black Sea.
“I am glad to note that our states have recently achieved considerable (visa) facilitation for Ukrainian and Saudi nationals,” the envoy said.
Kyiv and Riyadh have succeeded in initiating a dialogue at the highest political level, provided a platform for inter-parliamentary contacts, introduced a practice for active intergovernmental and inter-ministerial negotiations, and laid favorable grounds for further business and interpersonal ties, noted Vakhrushev.
“The relations between our states are successfully time-tested. And in this respect, I cannot but mention a significant voice of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in support of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine (as proved, in particular, by voting in favor of the relevant UN General Assembly resolution on Crimea in March 2014),” the envoy underlined.
“I am also pleased to note that the state policy of Ukraine concerning the Muslim community has been always carried out in a spirit of tolerance and understanding. In particular, it was our country's independence in 1991 that opened the possibility for return of hundreds of thousands of exiled Muslim Crimean Tatars — the people, destined to suffer systematic organized mass deportation from their historical homeland 76 years ago, in May 1944,” he added.
President Zelensky has also announced an initiative to make Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha official holidays in Ukraine after his meeting with representatives of the Crimean Tatar people, he said.
The number of Muslims in Ukraine is estimated at nearly 2 million. There are many places of worship for Muslims all over the country, including Ar-Rahma Mosque in Kyiv.
Islam has become an integral part of the broad Ukrainian identity. Today, Ukrainian Muslims are members of Parliament, hold senior positions at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, manage leading media resources and are recognized figures in spheres of business, cinema and music.
Meanwhile, Ukraine has decided to obtain observer status at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and to forge closer ties with tit.
“We believe that the existing tools of this influential international organization will enable an entirely new level of protection of the educational, religious, linguistic and other basic human rights of the inalienable Muslim part of the Ukrainian people,” the ambassador said.