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The predictable policy of oil supplies or the expansion of Russia and China in the world. These are the main reasons why the Czech Republic and other European states are now strengthening relations with Saudi Arabia after a colder period.
In addition to political and security interests, the Czechs are also interested in investments in the areas of healthcare, medical spas, IT technologies and green energy.
In addition, the Saudis are planning massive financial support for the development of alternative energy sources.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is currently preparing a tour of Czech technology manufacturers for science and research to Saudi universities. There is also another intergovernmental meeting in the negotiations with Saudi Arabia, in which, in addition to foreign ministries, representatives of other key departments for the development of cooperation in the above-mentioned areas could participate,” Deputy Foreign Minister Jiří Kozák (ODS) told Seznam Zpravám.
Russia’s war in Ukraine has caused instability in the prices and supply of strategic raw materials such as natural gas and oil.
According to Deputy Kozák, Saudi Arabian oil resources are important not only for the entire EU, but increasingly also for the region of Central Europe. Let us remind you that the Saudis belong to the world’s largest oil producers (with more than 10 million barrels per day), along with the USA and Russia.
“The importance of the world oil market for our energy security and the role of Saudi Arabia in it are understandably still so central that they cannot but be one of the key topics of our bilateral dialogue. The Czechia participates in solving global issues of oil price regulation through the volume of production, mainly through its participation in joint EU diplomacy, but we note that Saudi Arabia is also strengthening its position on the map of the energy infrastructure of Central Europe – see this year’s trade agreement between the Saudi state oil company Aramco and the Polish company PKN Orlen,” described the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Negotiations with Qatar
The Czechs want to postpone the negotiations on the supply of natural gas from the Middle Eastern country.
Václav Bartuška, the special representative for energy security issues from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, also considers cooperation with the Saudis to be important. “Saudi Arabia is the largest producer of oil in the world. The EU has set itself the goal of getting rid of Russian oil by 2027. The solution will undoubtedly include higher supplies of Saudi oil to Europe,” he told Seznam Zprávám.
The Economic Diplomacy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs supported the development of practical sectoral cooperation at the turn of May and June this year by organizing an investment forum for representatives of sovereign investment funds from the Persian Gulf countries. The Saudis sent the largest delegation to the forum.
Lessons from Istanbul
Czech politicians turned their attention to the countries in the Persian Gulf, especially after the outbreak of the Russian war in Ukraine. Closer cooperation is already underway with Qatar, negotiations also took place in the United Arab Emirates, and the Czechs have also shown interest in natural gas deposits in Oman.
Western relations with Saudi Arabia have been on the decline since 2018, when Jamal Khashoggi, a journalist critical of Saudi politics, was brutally murdered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
US intelligence and the United Nations blamed senior regime officials in Riyadh, including Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, for the murder. The influential politician has denied such accusations from the beginning.
In recent months, however, the West’s relations with Saudi Arabia have warmed again. In July, US President Joe Biden visited bin Salman, and the Saudi ruler subsequently visited Paris to see French President Emmanuel Macron.
The interest in closer cooperation with the Gulf states and Saudi Arabia in particular is now visible within the entire European Union, which presented the vision of the EU-GCC “strategic partnership” this May.
“The US is also intensively returning to strengthening cooperation with the Gulf countries. The reasons are political-security and economic. First of all, it is, of course, an interest in a predictable policy of oil extraction and at the same time the need to face the aggressive geopolitical expansion of Russia and China, and on a regional scale, Iran as well, which is an important shared interest with SA,” said Deputy Kozák.
According to him, the previous obstacles in relation to Riyadh have weakened. “In recent years, Saudi Arabia has strengthened international cooperation in the fight against religious extremism, is actively involved in the diplomatic resolution of conflicts in the region, and is inclined towards peaceful coexistence with Israel. The tacit consent of the Saudis was undoubtedly key to the conclusion of normalization agreements with Israel by the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain,” he added.
The July visit of Saudi Deputy Foreign Minister Walid Khereiji, who met his counterpart Martin Dvořák (STAN) in Prague, is also proof of the strengthening of Czech-Saudi political relations.
According to his colleague Kozak, the debate about the observance of human rights in Saudi Arabia is a longer-term issue.
“We are not only concerned with human rights in SA for reasons of principle – it is clear that our efforts to strengthen overall political, cultural and commercial ties between Europe and the Gulf would also be greatly assisted by a growing understanding in this area. However, we see this task as a matter of long-term, patient dialogue – as well as the natural internal evolution of Gulf societies and the needs generated by their modernization ambitions. It is in Saudi Arabia that there have been significant partial improvements in the legal status of women in recent years in this context,” said deputy Kozák.
The murder of a Saudi journalist in Istanbul caused a wave of indignation, from which the Saudi regime should take a lesson for the future. “Based on our conversations, we believe that the Saudi side understands the impact this shocking incident had on international public opinion and will ensure that it never happens again,” Kozák added.