A delegation of the European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee, led by its vice-chair Mr. Andrej Plenković, visited the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to discuss the state of relations between the Kingdom and the EU, as well as the overall security situation and recent developments in the Middle East and the Gulf.
The seven-Member delegation, led by Andrej Plenković, the Vice-Chair of the Committee (EPP, HR), was composed of Arnaud Danjean (EPP, FR), Tokia Saïfi (EPP, FR), Afzal Khan (S&D, UK), Pier Antonio Panzeri (S&D, IT), Mark Demesmaeker (ECR, BE) and Jozo Radoš (ALDE, HR). The Delegation was accompanied by EU Ambassador Kulach.
Members met with King Salman bin Abdulaziz, Vice-speaker of the Shura Council Mohammed al-Jefri and 20 members of Shura. MEPs also met the Minister of Justice, Dr. Waleed al-Salmaan, Under-Secretary for Multilateral relations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Prince Turki al-Kabee, and the Chairman of the Human Rights Commission Dr.Bandar al-Aiban. A meeting was also organised with the King Salman Humanitarian and Relief Centre.
During the visit, Members discussed the political situation in the Kingdom as well as security and economic challenges. They held a fruitful exchange of views with King Salman who stressed the importance of dialogue in areas of common interest, with particular reference to the various regional crises in which Saudi Arabia aims to help improve stability. The importance of EU-Saudi relations was also reaffirmed, with the EU being the Kingdom’s main trading partner, as was the need to strengthen this relationship. The King also reiterated his commitment to achieving peace in the Middle-East through the Arab Peace Initiative.
In all meetings, open discussions were held on the situation in Syria and Yemen. MEPs emphasised the need for de-escalation of Saudi-Iranian tensions and a renewed dialogue between Riyadh and Tehran. The need for further cooperation on counter-terrorism was highlighted. The conflict in Yemen was also discussed with Brigadier General Ahmed al-Assiri, spokesperson of the coalition in Yemen. Members emphasized the need for a full respect of international humanitarian law and the need for a political solution to the conflict.
In the dialogue with the President of the Human Rights Commission, MEPs recalled the need to respect human rights in accordance with the law and international standards. MEPs raised the case of the Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, laureate of the 2015 Sakharov Prize.
Mr Plenković concluded the visit by stating: “I was very pleased with the open dialogue and substantive exchange of views with the highest Saudi interlocutors. We agreed to enhance parliamentary dialogue and cooperation, in a constructive way, in order to improve mutual understanding. The European Parliament will maintain this level of commitment with the Shura in the coming months. Our common objective is to address the root causes of the conflicts and wars in the Middle East and the Gulf, through the application of the comprehensive foreign policy instruments in cooperation with our partners, in particular Saudi Arabia.”