Deputy Prime Minister and Commander of the National Guard Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdulaziz left Berlin yesterday after a three-day state visit to the Federal Republic of Germany. After his meeting on Thursday with German President Johannes Rau, Crown Prince Abdullah wrote in the visitors' book that his visit reflects the strong friendly relations that exist between the Kingdom and Germany. Addressing a reception in his honor given by the mayor of Berlin, he reiterated the Kingdom's desire to enhance its friendly relations with Germany, referring to Berlin as a center for commerce as well as science, technology, philosophy and the arts. Speaking of the Middle East situation, he pointed out that children throwing stones are facing a military force armed with tanks and missiles, and described the Palestinians as brave people who are determined to go ahead on the path of their heroic struggle. Truth, he said, will triumph.
On Wednesday, Crown Prince Abdullah was received by German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, with whom he held a closed-door session. The general meetings, in addition to discussions on bilateral relations and cooperation between the two countries, reviewed developments in the Middle East. At a reception in his honor given by Chancellor Schroeder, he described Saudi-German relations as deep-rooted, and declared that opportunities for cooperation between the two countries are limitless. Reiterating Saudi Arabia's desire to enhance relations with Germany in all areas of trade, investment, energy, education, training and technology transfer, he gave assurances of the Kingdom's awareness of its role in stabilizing the global oil market, and its concern for a world that enjoys peace and constructive cooperation, and stressed the need to respect the rights of others, religious, social, economic and cultural. Referring to Israel as "an arrogant power that has been humiliating and taking repressive measures against unarmed and innocent people", he urged Germany and the European Union to take effective and firm action to end aggression in the Middle East and to realize a just and comprehensive peace that paves the way for stability, understanding and love.
The Crown Prince also spoke on Wednesday with a number of Saudi and German businessmen, and, addressing a board meeting of the Saudi-German Businessmen's Dialogue, an affiliate of the Saudi-German Joint Commission, called on them to increase their investments in Saudi Arabia. He assured them that the Kingdom "seeks to realize an equilibrium in the oil market and stabilization of prices at levels acceptable to both producers and consumers." To assist in this, he said, oil consumers should "reconsider the high taxes they are imposing on oil and its by-products". He declared that Saudi planners have not been content with the impressive accomplishments the Kingdom has achieved, but work to improve opportunities for economic growth. For this reason, he said, "We presented initiatives for adopting a comprehensive program of economic reforms, including reforms of government performance to increase its productivity and legalize the State's role in the economy, with the result that the government is transformed from a direct partner in production into a supervisor, which gives opportunities to the private sector." This program of reform also includes the modernization and development of regulations, including the foreign investment laws and the setting up of the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA), plus the Higher Economic Council (HEC), the Supreme Council for Petroleum and Minerals (SCPM) and the Supreme Commission for Tourism (SCT). As a result, he said, Saudi Arabia's economic growth last year exceeded 21 percent at current rates and 4.5 percent at fixed rates, both considered internationally as high. He told the meeting that the Kingdom received a good response to its invitation two years ago to international oil companies to invest in both production and post-production stages of the natural gas sector, and has now reached preliminary agreements with some of them. He expressed the belief that the participation of these companies in developing the Kingdom's gas will have considerable positive impact on the growth of the Saudi economy, the profitability of these companies, the creation of job opportunities for Saudi nationals and the provision of vital services such as water and electricity at reasonable prices.
Yesterday, Crown Prince Abdullah paid a visit to the Berlin showrooms of the Mercedes-Benz automotive company, which has been in existence since 1901. He was shown, among samples of new luxury models, the prototype for a Mercedes sports vehicle scheduled to be manufactured in 2003.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal held talks yesterday with his German counterpart Joschka Fischer to discuss the role of the European Union in putting pressure on Israel to stop the construction of settlements that is escalating the situation in the Middle East region. In a press statement, Prince Saud reiterated Saudi Arabia's support of the EU's efforts, notably those of Germany, to stop violence in the region, and reaffirmed the Kingdom's firm stance in support of the just Arab rights, rejecting the threats of the Zionist entity. He added that Saudi-German relations are excellent, and that exchange visits by officials of the two countries are ongoing.