RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has maintained deep ties with Central Asian countries and hopes to strengthen them in the future, said a top government official.
According to the Saudi Press Agency, Investment Minister Khalid Al-Falih said the reason the Kingdom hosted the first-ever summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council and the five Central Asian countries, or GCC-C5 Summit, in Jeddah was to confirm the position it enjoys in the region.
The five Central Asian countries participating in the event include Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.
The minister stressed that the Kingdom’s position is well-received at the regional, continental and global levels under the leadership of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
He expressed his optimism about the expected results of this summit, especially concerning the development and expansion of economic and investment relations between the participating countries.
The minister highlighted that such a collaboration would enhance opportunities among these countries to develop trade relations.
He underlined that the Kingdom’s relations with the Central Asian countries have been deep because of the religious bond that has tied the Muslims in the region for the past 14 centuries.
Al-Falih also welcomed the strategic development plans laid out by the Central Asian countries, such as Kyrgyzstan’s National Development Strategy 2018-2040 and Kazakhstan’s Strategy 2050.
They connected well with the vision statements of the GCC, led foremost by the Kingdom’s 2030 blueprint and followed by Oman’s Vision 2040 and Bahrain’s Economic Vision 2030.
The investment minister stressed that visions and strategies, even if they are not similar in their details, their main goals are the same, especially in the economic and investment fields, adding that bilateral trade between the Kingdom and Central Asian countries has already begun.
The minister cited various investments by the Kingdom in some Central Asian countries, such as those made by Saudi utility major ACWA Power, a prominent player in the region.
He added that the Kingdom also invested in major infrastructure projects in Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan. For instance, Dr. Sulaiman Al-Habib Medical Group had signed memorandums of understanding to invest in Uzbekistan’s health sector.
Al-Falih also mentioned the Fawaz Al-Hokair Group had signed similar agreements to invest in the tourism sector of Kazakhstan.
Air connectivity among the regions has also increased, with Saudi airlines such as flynas linking the Kingdom with some Central Asian countries. Al Rajhi International Group also has investment plans in the agricultural sector of Uzbekistan.
Preparing for a multipolar world
Meanwhile, Zaid Bin Ali Al-Fudhail, head of the cultural program at the Gulf Research Center, told Al-Ekhbariya TV the GCC countries’ strategic move towards Central Asia follows the openness era and globally collective partnerships the world is experiencing.
He added that the unipolar conception to impose the West’s agenda that has dominated the world should be stopped.
Al-Fudhail further said that “the idea related to climate” is a Western concept used to pressure others for their interests.
“They claim that oil will no longer exist in the coming two decades. We are the only losers in this case. They have many oil reserves and even coal. Despite that, they desire to destabilize the region,” he said.
Al-Fudhail added that GCC and Central Asian countries should know the plans of the West and withstand these attempts.
“The collaborations and partnerships that were made between Saudi Arabia and Japan, Turkiye, Iran, China and Russia have paved the way for us to access Central Asia assertively,” he said, adding that the GCC-C5 group should not cease efforts toward having more collaborations with these neighbors.
Planning minister meets with UN, EU officials
Saudi Minister of Economy and Planning Faisal Al-Ibrahim met with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on the sidelines of the High-Level Political Forum 2023 in New York, during which the two discussed common issues in the fields of sustainable development and more ways of cooperation between the Kingdom and the organization.
The Saudi minister also met with Austrian Minister of EU Affairs Karoline Edtstadler at the event.
Al-Ibrahim and Edstadler discussed bilateral relations between the countries and reviewed the latest developments in sustainable development.
Deputy Minister of Economy and Planning Ammar Nagadi also attended the meetings.