Coffee cup creations: Saudi artist paints portraits on paper cups

RIYADH: When Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrives in Greece on Tuesday for talks with his counterparts in the Greek leadership, he will build on already strong ties of friendship and cooperation between the two countries.

The relationship is not limited to the political arena, but encompasses the economic, commercial, investment, defense, security, cultural and tourist areas, among others.

Despite this, both sides continuously seek to identify new opportunities for cooperation with the aim of opening up various areas of economic engagement, facilitating continued interactions between the Saudi and Greek business sectors, and enabling business partnerships and investment under the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plan. .

Over the past decades, investors from both countries have collaborated on a number of joint ventures, and bilateral trade has played a prominent role in the flourishing of their trade relationship.

In 2020, Greek exports to Saudi Arabia were valued at $339.04 million, while its imports from the Kingdom were worth $620.57 million, according to the UN Comtrade database. on international trade.

Seen through the prism of history, the ties that unite the two countries today are part of the continuity of Greek-Arab relations that date back centuries.

For proof, just look at the artifacts housed in Riyadh’s History and Archeology Museum, including Greek coins dating back over 2,000 years.

More broadly, the scholarly and architectural influences of ancient Greece can be seen to this day throughout the region, from Europe, the eastern Mediterranean and the Levant to Mesopotamia, Iran and even India.

Through trade links and conquests in antiquity, Hellenistic ideas intermixed with those of later Arab and Muslim thinkers, in everything from mathematics and medicine to astronomy and philosophy.

Both Saudi Arabia and Greece are blessed with rich cultural diversity, and both countries strive to preserve and share it with the world.

Vision 2030 is based on a new philosophy aimed at reviving the Arab and Islamic heritage of the Arabian Peninsula and enhancing Saudi Arabia’s contribution to culture, arts and world civilization.

The crippling debt crisis of 2009 brought Greece to the brink of exiting the eurozone. (AFP)

Today, the Kingdom’s most important export to Greece is crude oil, while the latter has long been a supplier of cottonseed, metals, pharmaceuticals and food products such as margarine, processed products, nuts and fruits.

Another area that has united the two economies is construction. In the 1970s, when the booming city of Riyadh needed the skills of an urban planner, authorities brought in Constantinos Doxiadis, an architect and urban planner who had worked on several projects in his native Greece.

With Riyadh in the midst of oil-fueled economic and population growth, Doxiadis experimented with the idea of ​​an American-style grid system, still in evidence in the city’s Al-Olaya district.

However, the Saudi-Greek relationship extends far beyond brick and mortar. In April 2021, Greece signed an agreement to loan the Kingdom a Patriot air defense battery, which was delivered in September of the same year, which represents a major step forward in defense cooperation.

In the same month, assistance provided to Greek authorities by the Saudi Drug Enforcement Agency led to the discovery of a huge shipment of processed cannabis in the main Greek port of Piraeus.

According to some estimates, the narcotics seized had a potential street value of 33 million euros ($33.7 million). This intelligence sharing marked a new chapter in the expansion of bilateral cooperation.

The following month, Saudi Culture Minister Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan landed in Athens for a two-day official visit to discuss aspects of cultural cooperation.

In September 2021, the Council of Saudi Chambers signed a memorandum of understanding to establish a Saudi-Greek business council to enhance bilateral trade and investment.

In October of the same year, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the Greek Prime Minister, in Riyadh to discuss ways to strengthen bilateral relations.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis (right) in the capital Riyadh in February 2020. (Bandar Al-Jaloud/Saudi Royal Palace/AFP)

Following the meeting, the two sides issued a joint statement pledging to discuss the establishment of a joint investment fund and strengthen cooperation in a number of key sectors.

In defense and security cooperation, the two sides agreed to hold joint military exercises and maneuvers, coordinate and exchange expertise. They also agreed to cooperate on the location of military technology and industries.

It was followed in December by the signing of a cooperation agreement in the field of maritime transport, with a view to developing commercial maritime navigation, increasing commercial vessel traffic and encouraging trade.

In January this year, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, Saudi Foreign Minister, met his Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias in Athens to discuss safeguarding the law of the sea and freedom of navigation.

They also reaffirmed their commitment to efforts to prevent Iran from having access to nuclear weapons.

In March, Saudi Arabia and Greece signed a memorandum of understanding paving the way for innovations in renewable energy, including green and blue hydrogen, and the development of a fiber optic cable network that will connect data from Southeast Asia to Central Europe.

Between March 12 and 14, a Greek ministerial and business delegation traveled to Saudi Arabia, stopping in AlUla, the Kingdom’s most famous UNESCO World Heritage Site and the site of a new tourism development. major.

The Saudi-Greek Investment Forum, held on March 13, showcased investment opportunities in both countries and resulted in hundreds of bilateral business meetings.

In the same month, Saudi Investment Minister Khalid Al-Falih led a business delegation to Greece to expand the strategic partnership and boost investment and trade between the two countries.

“Our visit to Greece comes within the framework of the Crown Prince’s directives aimed at strengthening and deepening the Saudi-Greek partnership and exploiting the potentials and opportunities available on both sides in the economic, investment, commercial, cultural, tourism and others,” Al-Falih said at the time.

Further investments and strategic partnerships are expected to be announced during the Crown Prince’s visit to Athens.


A brief history of modern Greece

The Greek War of Independence, which began in 1821, led to the creation of the modern Greek state, which was recognized by the Ottomans in 1829 and by the international community in 1830.

The territory of Greece expanded between 1864 and 1947, and in 1981 it became a full member of the European Community, strengthening the stability of the country’s democracy and establishing it as a critical state in the Balkans and the eastern Mediterranean.

Barely two centuries after the War of Independence, Greece is considered a pillar of stability and prosperity for the wider region of southern Europe and the eastern Mediterranean, and a member state of the EU. During the last years,

Greece has implemented key infrastructural improvements, including the digital state and a new framework, transforming itself into a very competitive investment destination. Nevertheless, Greece has faced its share of internal and external crises.

For most of its modern history, it has been deeply polarized, financially dependent and indebted to foreign creditors, and faced with external threats. The 2009 debt crisis brought the country to the brink of exiting the euro zone.

Greece was slowly resuming growth after years of austerity when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020. This coincided with another turbulent period in Greek-Turkish relations.

Both states have a long and checkered history. Indeed, modern Turkey was established on the back of a victory over Greek forces in the aftermath of World War I. The two states’ participation in NATO since 1952 has not calmed relations as they each have outstanding issues regarding the Aegean Sea and Cyprus. The two disagree on the limits of their territorial waters and, in turn, disagree on the extent of their exclusive economic zones.

Marjorie N. McClure