BRUSSELS, Jan 12 (KUNA) -- Saudi Arabia's first ambassador "only" to the European Union (EU) , Saad Al-Arify, presented his credentials to the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, Friday afternoon.
"The importance of the EU and the role they play globally is visible and this is one of the reasons that Saudi Arabia has decided to open this mission exclusively for the EU," Al-Arify told KUNA in an interview, after the presentation of his credenitals.
He pointed out that the EU and Saudi Arabia have enjoyed good relations for more than fifty years, since it was known then as the European Economic Community.
This new Saudi mission will enhance and deepen bilateral relations and cooperation in all sectors; political, economic, culture, education, humanitarian aid, he said.
The two sides are cooperating to push forward the Middle East Peace Process and to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, as well as on climate change to prevent global warming, he added.
Al-Arify referred to the growing cooperation between the EU and Saudi Arabia in fighting terrorism, saying that Saudi Arabia recently established the center "Etidal" to combat extremist ideology.
Al-Arify said EU-Saudi trade exchange has been growing fast with 53 billion euro (USD 64 billion) of trade exchanges in 2016 making Riyadh the 15th largest trading partner of the EU.
He said around 30,000 Saudi students are studying in EU countries hence Saudi Arabia is keen to develop its cooperation in the education sector with Europe.
Moreover, Saudi Arabia and the EU are important global players in humanitarian and development aid, he said pointing to the activities of the Saudi Fund for Development and King Salman Centre for humanitarian aid .
Saudi Arabia is the first Arabian Gulf country, and the second Arab country after Morocco, to have two embassies in Brussels, one for Belgium and the other for the EU only.
"The opening of the new Saudi mission reflects the desire of both Brussels and Riyadh to strengthen their already good relations," he said.
The EU has already had a mission in Riyadh for a long time.
The EU mission was officially opened in Riyadh in 2004 representing the bloc to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Secretariat.
He told KUNA that the EU and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) hold an annual ministerial meeting since 1988 and he is looking forward to develop the ties between the two regional blocs. (end)