Saudi Arabia hopes G20 Summit will ‘contribute to developing strong solutions’ to global problems

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DENPASAR, Bali: Saudi Arabia is expecting the upcoming G20 Summit to help resolve global challenges, the Kingdom’s ambassador to Indonesia told Arab News ahead of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s arrival in Bali, where the meetings will take place this week.

Indonesia, the largest Muslim-majority nation, is holding this year’s presidency of the Group of 20 biggest economies and will host its leaders’ meeting in Bali on Nov. 15-16.

The delegation of Saudi Arabia, which is one of the main members of the G20, will attend all sessions of the summit.

The crown prince, who also serves as the Kingdom’s prime minister, will also hold meetings with world leaders on the sidelines of the event.

Secretary General of Muslim World League Muhammad bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa (C) stands with participants during a group photo session at the G20 Religion Forum (R20) Summit of Religious Leaders in Nusa Dua on the Indonesian resort island of Bali. (AFP)

The Kingdom expects the summit to contribute in “developing strong solutions to the world’s problems,” Saudi Ambassador Esam Abid Al-Thagafi told Arab News.

The summit will take place as the global economy is struggling to recover from the coronavirus pandemic, and in the wake of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict.

“The Kingdom hopes that the results of this summit will limit the existing political escalation as a result of the war and the bad economic effects that this reflects,” Al-Thagafi said, adding that it is important to remember that the G20 was established “to discuss the world’s economic future and solve its problems.”

Since Indonesia took over the G20 presidency from Italy at the end of last year, Saudi Arabia, which chaired the group in 2020, “has been keen to provide all support for the success of this hosting,” Al-Thagafi said.

“Most of Saudi ministers participated in the meetings held in Bali and other Indonesian cities throughout the year, and met their Indonesian counterparts bilaterally.”

On Nov. 2, ahead of the summit, Indonesia hosted the G20’s first-ever Religion Forum.

Saudi ambassador Esam Abid Al-Thagafi speaking at the Bandung Institute of Technology in 2019. (Courtesy of Bandung Institute of Technology)

The event, R20, was organized by the country’s largest Muslim organization Nahdlatul Ulama and the Muslim World League.

“It came out with great positive results for more interfaith dialogue and peaceful coexistence among the peoples of the world,” Al-Thagafi said.

Saudi Arabia’s support for Indonesia is also in reciprocation of Jakarta’s support for Riyadh two years ago.

“The Saudi leadership is striving with all its support to make the (Bali) summit works a success, a role that Indonesia also played when the Kingdom hosted the work of the Group of 20 in 2020,” the ambassador added.

Since establishing diplomatic ties in 1950, both countries have enjoyed decades of strong religious and people-to-people relations — Saudi Arabia being the birthplace of Islam, Indonesia home to the world’s largest Muslim population.

Indonesia sends the highest number of pilgrims to Makkah and Madinah each year. Before the pandemic, over 200,000 Indonesian pilgrims would visit the Kingdom for Hajj every year, and over a million Indonesians would arrive during the Umrah season.

Ambassador to Indonesia, Esam Abid Al-Thagafi, says Riyadh has offered all support to Jakarta to make the G20 meeting a success. (Supplied)

The historic visit of King Salman to Jakarta and Bali in 2017 was the first by a Saudi monarch in nearly five decades.

His trip, which saw the signing of 11 pacts and other agreements, has since brought about a series of high-level exchanges to further boost relations.

Al-Thagafi, who presented his credentials to the Indonesian president in 2019, told Arab News that the ties are currently at their peak.

“Saudi-Indonesian relations are now going through their best stages and growing steadily in all fields,” he said, adding that they are especially strong in terms of the economy, trade and investment.

More than 40 Saudi businessmen and investors arrived in Jakarta accompanying Commerce Minister Dr. Majid bin Abdullah Al-Qasabi during an official trip to Indonesia earlier this year.

Several agreements and memoranda of understanding were signed then, and they were followed by multiple visits of Indonesian businessmen to Saudi Arabia.

“This is a great indication that economic relations are in rapid growth between the two countries,” the ambassador said.

Al-Thagafi, who is also Saudi ambassador to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, said Indonesia can contribute to the implementation of Vision 2030, which aims to pivot the Kingdom away from oil dependency and establish it as a global investment powerhouse with a sophisticated digital infrastructure.

Luhut Pandjaitan and Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. (Supplied)

“There are distinguished Indonesian experiences that can contribute to achieving this, and consultations are continuing between the two countries to achieve the best opportunities for participation,” he added.

With megaprojects in both countries, such as the development of NEOM in Saudi Arabia and a new capital city in Indonesia, the two nations have room to boost relations in the investment sector, Al-Thagafi said. “It is important at this stage to develop the investment sector between the two countries,” he added.

Indonesia has indeed been seeking investment from Saudi Arabia to develop its $32 billion capital city project.

An initial commitment was announced earlier this year following a meeting between Luhut Pandjaitan, Indonesia’s coordinating minister of investment and maritime affairs, and the Saudi crown prince in Riyadh.

Both countries also need to develop their trade relations, Al-Thagafi said, “since there are great commercial opportunities that have not been discovered so far.”

For bilateral relations to grow further, Jakarta would need to work on several things, according to Teuku Rezasyah, an international relations expert from Padjajaran University in the Indonesian city of Bandung.

“The homework required is on the Indonesian side,” Rezasyah told Arab News. “Indonesia needs to upgrade quality when it comes to good governance and good corporate governance. It also needs to have a clear economic vision for diplomatic engagement with Saudi Arabia.”