Deputy Prime Minister and Commander of the National Guard Crown Prince Abdullah left Stockholm today after a three-day state visit to the Kingdom of Sweden. The Crown Prince was accompanied by an official delegation including Prince Nawaf bin Abdulaziz, Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal, Governor of Jouf Province Prince Abdulilah bin Abdulaziz, Minister of State and cabinet member Prince Abdulaziz bin Fahd bin Abdulaziz, Commerce Minister Osama Faqih, Oil Minister Ali Al-Naimi, and Minister of Finance and National Economy Dr. Ibrahim Al-Assaf, among other princes and senior officials.
On his arrival on Friday June 8, Crown Prince Abdullah was received by King Carl Gustaf XVI, with whom he held talks. He also met with Sweden's Prime Minister Goran Persson, and discussed the Middle East and the occupied Arab lands as well as bilateral relations. At a reception in his honor, the Crown Prince noted that Saudi-Swedish relations are based on a solid foundation and on the principles of joint interests and mutual respect. He urged Swedish companies to invest in the Kingdom, pointing out the numerous incentives offered by the new Saudi investment system. He went on to remark that over fifty years ago, Sweden played a pioneering role in settling the Palestinian problem, saying these efforts, "based on noble, moral and humanitarian considerations as well as the principles of justice and right", were later nullified on account of the intransigence and arrogance of Israel. The situation in the Middle East is now very dangerous due to Israel's aggressive attitude in killing people, confiscating land, building settlements, and laying economic siege to the Palestinians. "This flagrant aggression", he declared, "constitutes a collective punishment in a manner that runs counter to international laws and norms as well as to the agreements signed by Israel with the Palestinians. Continuation of this dangerous situation will, far from realizing Israeli objectives regarding the subjugation of the Palestinian people, drag the region into an abyss."
The Crown Prince reiterated the urgent need for a noble initiative to bring about peace in the Middle East region, saying: "We should never treat equally an executioner and a victim, or flagrant aggression and legitimate resistance." He urged Sweden to resume its historical role and intensify its good offices to persuade Europe to take up a firm and effective stance in order to end the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories and to realize a just and comprehensive solution that paves the way for peace and security for all parties, and enables the Palestinians to regain their legitimate rights, notably those of self-determination and establishment of their independent state with Al-Quds [Jerusalem] as its capital.
Yesterday, Crown Prince Abdullah met with the Swedish Minister of Commerce and a number of Saudi and Swedish businessmen, with whom he reviewed the great potential of the Saudi economy and the best ways to activate economic cooperation and investment between the two countries. The Kingdom, he said, is determined to be integrated into the international trade order, and has applied to join the World Trade Organization (WTO), with whom it has gone a long way in negotiations, having signed various bilateral agreements with a number of its trade partners. "We realize", he said, "that joining the WTO requires living up to a number of obligations and we want others to recognize our right to join.'' He went on to explain the Kingdom's comprehensive policy for economic reform, having chosen a policy of privatization as a strategic option to give incentives to the economy, enhance private sector activities, and increase its capacity and productivity. To strengthen that direction, the Kingdom has taken major initiatives such as the establishment of the Higher Economic Council (HEC), the Supreme Council for Petroleum and Minerals (SCPM), and the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA). These initiatives include the development of laws for foreign investment, authorization for non-Saudis to own real estate, delineation of worker-employer relations, and reduction of customs fees on imported goods from 12 to 5 percent.
These measures, Crown Prince Abdullah explained, are aimed at activating economic activity, attracting local and foreign investment and creating an investment climate characterized by flexibility and stability. The process of economic reform, he said, is full of obstacles but "We are determined to overcome them in order to achieve our goals to develop our economy, diversify its revenues, enhance its capabilities and prepare it for interaction with the requirements and changes of the age." He gave assurances that investment in the Kingdom bears no risk, but is guaranteed, based on sound and profitable economic bases in a country that has firm political stability, a strong economy, and the largest oil reserves in the world.
Meanwhile, Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Ali Al-Naimi met yesterday with the head of Sweden's industrial sector to discuss cooperation between the two countries in the field of energy; and Commerce Minister Osama Faqih met with his Swedish counterpart to discuss trade relations and how to encourage Swedish investment in the Kingdom.