Foreign relations of Saudi Arabia
||The neutrality of this article is disputed. (February 2013)|
|This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
Saudi Arabia is a non-aligned state whose stated foreign policy objectives are to maintain its security and its paramount position on the Arabian Peninsula, and as the world's largest oil-exporter, to maintain cooperative relations with other oil-producing and major oil-consuming countries.
Saudi Arabian stated policy is focused on co-operation with the oil-exporting Gulf states, the unity of the Arab world, Islamic strength and solidarity, and support for the United Nations (UN). In practice, the main concerns in recent years have been relations with the US, the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, Iraq, the perceived threat from the Islamic Republic of Iran, the effect of oil pricing, and using its oil wealth to increase the influence of Islam and especially the conservative school of Islam supported by the country's rulers (known as Wahhabism). Saudi Arabia contributes large amounts of development aid to Muslim countries. From 1986 to 2006, the country donated £49 billion in aid.
Although a member of the Non-Aligned Movement, Saudi Arabia has been described as leading the “Pro-Western Camp” of Arab countries, aligned with the U.S. and composed of Egypt, Jordan, and the Gulf states. However, following the September 11 attacks, relations with the West have been complicated by the perception that Saudi Arabia is a source of Islamist terrorism.
As a founding member of OPEC, Saudi Arabia's long-term oil pricing policy has been to keep prices stable and moderate—high enough to earn large amounts of revenue, but not so high as to encourage alternative energy sources among oil importers, or jeopardise the economies of Western countries where many of its financial assets are located and which provide political and military support for the Saudi government. The major exception to this occurred during the 1973 oil crisis when Saudi Arabia, with the other Arab oil states, used an embargo on oil supplies to pressure the US to stop supporting Israel.
Saudi Arabia is a founding member of several multinational organizations, including OPEC, the United Nations, the Arab League. It is also a founding member of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Muslim World League, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, and the Islamic Development Bank—all of which are headquartered in Saudi. The country plays a prominent role in the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and in 2005 joined the World Trade Organisation.
- 1 History
- 2 Middle east
- 3 Asia
- 4 United States
- 5 Americas
- 6 Europe
- 7 See also
- 8 Further reading
- 9 References
- 10 External links
After the World War II and during the Cold War, Saudi Arabia maintained an anti-Communist, anti-secular Arab nationalist policy, often working with the leading anti-Communist power, the United States. Following the 1973 oil crisis, where Saudi Arabia and other Arab oil exporters embargoed the United States and its allies for their support of Israel, oil revenues increased dramatically and it worked to become the leading Islamic state, spending generously to advance Islam and particularly its conservative school (known as Wahhabism). The effect has been to purify and unify Islamic faith, according to supporters, and to erode regional Islamic cultures, according to others. (Examples of the acculturizing effect of Saudi aid can be seen among the Minangkabau and the Acehnese in Indonesia, as well as among the people of the Maldives. The Wahhabi form of Islam is also perceived in the West as being a source of Islamist extremism)
Saudi Arabia and its oil policy are thought to have contributed to the downfall of Soviet Communism in the late 1980s and early 1990. Saudi helped to finance not just the Afghan Mujahideen but non-Muslims anti-communists. It also seriously harmed the Soviet Communist cause by stabilizing oil prices "throughout the 1980s, just when the Russians were desperate to sell energy in order to keep up with huge hikes in American military spending." 
Following King Fahd's stroke in 1995, Abdullah, then Crown Prince, assumed responsibility for foreign policy. A marked change in U.S.-Saudi relations occurred, as Abdullah sought to put distance between his policies and the unpopular pro-Western policies of King Fahd. Abdullah took a more independent line from the US and concentrated on improving regional relations, particularly with Iran. Several long-standing border disputes were resolved, including significantly reshaping the border with Yemen. The new approach resulted in increasingly strained relations with the US.
In 2003, Abdullah's new policy was reflected in the Saudi government's refusal to support or to participate in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Some US critics saw this as an attempt by the royal family to placate the kingdom’s Islamist radicals. That same year Saudi and U.S. government officials agreed to withdraw all U.S. military forces from Saudi soil. Since ascending to the throne in 2005, King Abdullah has followed a more activist foreign policy and has continued to push-back on US policies which are unpopular in Saudi Arabia (for example, refusing to provide material assistance to support the new Iraqi government). However, increasingly, in common with the US, fear and mistrust of Iran] is becoming a significant factor in Saudi policy. In 2010, the whistle blowing website Wikileaks disclosed various confidential documents revealing that King Abdullah urged the U.S. to attack Iran in order to "cut off the head of the snake".
Relations with the US and other Western countries have been further strained by the perception that Saudi Arabia has been a source of Islamist terrorist activity, not just internally, but also world-wide. Osama bin Laden and 15 out of the 19 September 11 attacks hijackers were Saudi nationals, though some officials argue that this was planned deliberately by bin Laden in an attempt to strain U.S.-Saudi relations, and former Central Intelligence Agency director James Woolsey described Saudi Arabian Wahhabism as "the soil in which al-Qaeda and its sister terrorist organizations are flourishing." Some in the U.S. Government also believe that the royal family, through its long and close relations with Wahhabi clerics, had laid the groundwork for the growth of militant groups like al-Qaeda and that after the attacks had done little to help track the militants or prevent future atrocities.
Following the wave of early 2011 protests and revolutions affecting the Arab world, Saudi Arabia offered asylum to deposed President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia and King Abdullah telephoned President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt (prior to his deposition) to offer his support.
Saudi Arabia-Iran relations have been strained throughout history due to the differences between Sunni Islam and Shia Islam. Although Saudi Arabia and Iran are most Muslim majority nations, their relationship is fraught with tension, suspicion and hostility. Various attempts have been made to improve the relationship, though none have had lasting success. Both Saudi Arabia and Iran have aspiration for Islamic leadership and both the countries possess different vision of regional order. Iran, which after the Islamic Revolution strictly followed an anti-US policy, always deemed Saudi Arabia as an agent of the US in the Persian Gulf region that speaks for US interests. Saudi Arabia's concerns about Iran on the other side are mainly associated to its plans of expanding influence to other parts of the Persian Gulf region, especially in post-Saddam Iraq, and the quest to build its own nuclear arsenal.
The difference of political ideologies and governance also divided both the countries. For Iran, it is said that there is no place for monarchical regimes in Islam, like the ones seen in Saudi Arabia and also in some other Arab countries. Energy difference is a third source of tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran. While Saudi Arabia, compared to Iran's smaller oil reserves and larger population, can afford to take a long-term view of the global oil market and has an incentive to moderate prices, Iran is compelled to focus on high prices in the short term.
Postwar Saudi policy focused on ways to contain potential Iraqi threats to the kingdom and the region. One elements of Riyadh's containment policy included support for Iraqi opposition forces that advocated the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's government. In the past, backing for such groups had been discreet, but in early 1992 the Saudi's invited several Iraqi opposition leaders to Riyadh to attend a well-publicised conference. To further demonstrate Saudi dissatisfaction with the regime in Baghdad, Crown Prince Abdallah permitted the media to videotape his meeting with some of the opponents of Saddam Hussein.
A charter member of the Arab League, Saudi Arabia has supported Palestinian rights to sovereignty, and called for withdrawal from the Occupied Territories since 1967. In recent years, Saudi Arabia has changed its viewpoint concerning the validity of negotiating with Israel. It calls for Israel's withdrawal from territory occupied in June 1967 in order for peace with the Arab states; then-Crown Prince Abdullah extended a multilateral peace proposal based on withdrawal in 2002. At that time, Israel did not respond to the offer. In 2007 Saudi Arabia again officially supported a peaceful resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Saudi Arabia rejected the Camp David accords, claiming that they would be unable to achieve a comprehensive political solution that would ensure Palestinian Arabs can all move to Israel and the division of Jerusalem. In response for Egypt "betraying" the Arab States and signing peace with Israel, Saudi Arabia, along with all the Arab States, broke diplomatic relations with and suspended aid to Egypt, the two countries renewed formal ties in 1987.
Saudi Arabia does not have diplomatic relations with Israel. The country participates in an active economic boycott of Israel. However, Saudi Arabia recognizes that its ally, the United States, has a strong and supportive relationship of Israel.
Saudi Arabia played an active role in attempting to bring the Palestinians towards a self-governing condition which would permit negotiations with Israel. It has done so primarily by trying to mend the schism between Fatah and Hamas, most notably when King Abdullah invited the two factions to negotiations in Mecca resulting in the Mecca Agreement of February 7, 2007. The agreement soon failed, but Saudi Arabia has continued to support a national unity government for the Palestinians, and strongly opposed Israel's war on Gaza in early 2009.
The Times has reported that Saudi Arabia has tested the ability to stand down their air defenses to allow an Israeli strike on Iran to pass through their airspace. Both nations have denied this.
Relations with Jordan became strained in the years following the Persian Gulf war. Relations were mended in 1996 when Prince Abdullah visited the country. The countries have since met and discussed international development and the Arab situation.
Saudi Arabia is responsible for ending the Hashemite dynasty's control over Hejaz through their conquests following World War I. Jordan is currently ruled by a branch of the dynasty originally from Hejaz, and installed in Trans-Jordan by the British following the conquest of the region from the Ottomans. It is not entirely apparent how this influences their relationship.
There have been economic, social and political ties between two countries.
In 1969 an agreement with Qatar was reached about their borders after three years of dispute. A final agreement about the Qatar border was signed in 2001.
President Bashar Al Assad welcomed King Abdullah Al Saud in Damascus in October 2009. The relations between the two countries have greatly deteriorated in recent years, following the Syrian civil war. On 26 February, Syria blamed the Saudi government of arming the rebels with weapons from Croatia, a charge both government deny. Due to the ongoing Syrian Civil War, Saudi Arabia closed its embassy in Syria.
Turkey was one of the first states that recognised the country in 1926 and had a diplomatic mission in Hijaz. Saudi Arabia has an embassy in Ankara and a consulate – general in Istanbul. Turkey has an embassy in Riyadh and a consulate – general in Jeddah. Both countries are full members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). On the other hand, in 1986 Saudi Arabia proposed that Turkey should have ended commercial relations with Iran and that it could compensate Turkey's losses resulting from this.
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For Saudi Arabia, Yemen – like Bahrain – is more an issue of national security than of foreign policy. The Saudis have many access points into Yemen with both formal diplomacy and informal networks at play. Then Crown Prince Sultan managed the tribal networks for decades but the tribal system is changing and diminishing and the Saudi tribal connections are weakening as a result. The country has appeared indecisive about Yemen; in January the government was openly frustrated with President Ali Abdullah Saleh but there was a marked change in its approach in April to one of detailed analysis of the situation and private discussions over whom it should publicly support. The ministry of interior is taking a leading role in dealing with the unrest in Yemen, but other ministries are also making decisions and it is unclear whether there is cooperation between all the ministries involved. Overall, the structure of the Saudi state, and the current preoccupation with issues of succession, suggest that, even if it wanted to do so, Saudi Arabia is unlikely to have the capacity to act as a pan-regional counter revolutionary force.
When Bengali nationalists began a war of liberation against the Pakistani state, Saudi Arabia supported the Pakistani regime and opposed calls for the independence of Bangladesh. Saudi Arabia saw the Bengali nationalists as opposing a Muslim state and thus opposing Islam. Saudi Arabia provided extensive financial and political support to Pakistan during the conflict. The pro-Soviet, secular and socialist policies of the regime of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founding leader of Bangladesh, also antagonized the anti-Communist Saudis. Saudi Arabia and Bangladesh formally established diplomatic relations in 1975-76, after the killing of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman by pro-Islamic military officers. The military regimes of Ziaur Rahman and Hussain Muhammad Ershad took steps to forge strong commercial and cultural ties with Saudi Arabia. Since the late 1970s, a large number of both skilled and unskilled Bangladeshi workers have moved to Saudi Arabia; the number of Bangladeshis living in Saudi Arabia today exceeds 2.5 million. As one of the most populous Muslim countries, Bangladesh is a major source of Hajj pilgrims. Saudi Arabia has become a major source of financing and economic aid to Bangladesh.
Saudi Arabia is the one of largest suppliers of oil to India. India's booming construction industry also receives that added fillip and rising affluence has created greater demand for goods and services thereby boosting Indian industrial growth. Saudi Arabia has contributed aid to India after the Gujarat earthquake in the 1990s.
Saudi Arabia have an embassy in Jakarta, while Indonesia have an embassy in Riyadh and a consulate in Jeddah. Both countries are the member of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and G-20 major economies. Saudi Arabia and Indonesia have long been close allies. Indonesia sent the largest hajj pilgrims among Muslim countries. The balance of trade is heavily in favor of Saudi Arabia, because of its oil and gas exports to Indonesia. There is around 1 million Indonesian workers in Saudi Arabia. Migrant worker abuse and death sentences faced by Indonesian workers in Saudi Arabia are the main problems that have strained diplomatic relations between two countries.
Relations between Japan and Saudi Arabia were established in 1955. Japan is a major trading partner for Saudi Arabia. In 2006, Japan exported $5.103 million worth of goods to the Kingdom, primarily automobiles, machinery and equipment, and metals. In the same year, Saudi Arabia exported $33.624 million worth of goods to Japan, primarily crude oil and petroleum products. Japan imported 1.3 million barrels a day of Saudi crude in 2006, 31% of the nation's total supply.
Saudi Arabia has an embassy in Kuala Lumpur, and Malaysia has an embassy in Riyadh. Relations, both diplomatic and economic, are quite close between the two Muslim-majority Organisation of Islamic Cooperation members. Additionally, there is a sizable population of Malaysian migrant workers in Saudi Arabia.
Bilateral relations between the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are largely friendly. Pakistan has been called the closest non-Arab ally of Saudi Arabia, or "Saudi Arabia's closest Muslim ally" Saudi Arabia has been rocking the cradle of Pakistani politics, brokering truce among warring leaders, providing asylum to those being exiled and generously lavishing funds on a state strapped for cash.
Diplomatic relations were established at the independence of Pakistan in 1947 and have strengthened considerably owing to cooperation in regional affairs and trade. In 1969 the personnel of the Pakistani Air Force flew the Saudi fighter planes to ward off an invasion from South Yemen. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia invested Pakistan in many Industries. Since the inception of Pakistan, Pakistan has been playing a major and important role in the development of Saudi Arabia. Pakistan has provided assistance in the field of science and technology, infrastructure development and many more fields, Pakistan is providing training facilities to Saudi Armed forces. The Faisal Mosque, the National Mosque of Pakistan in Islamabad, is named in honour of King Faisal and was funded by Saudi Arabia.
Due to the Kingdom's continuing support, many places in Pakistan are named after Saudi Kings and Saudi Arabia in general. For example, the city previously named Lyallpur was renamed Faisalabad in honor of the late Faisal of Saudi Arabia. Also, in Karachi, Pakistan, there are neighbourhoods named Saud Colony, Saudabad, Faisal Colony. Also in Karachi, there is an airforce base name Faisal Airbase named after King Faisal and also, in the honor of King Faisal, the main business street of Pakistan is called Sharah-e-Faisal in Karachi.
In 2005, due to passing of King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan declared a seven-day mourning period. Saudi Arabia also hosted former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for 8 years while he was in exile. During his stay there, Kingdom held talks with Sharif and even provided him with license to operate business in the Kingdom. It is believed that it was Kingdom of Saudi Arabia which held talks with President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan to foster their relationship and to allow Sharif back in Pakistan.
The WikiLeaks files revealed in 2010 that Saudis are "long accustomed to having a significant role in Pakistan's affairs." One of the Saudi diplomat boasted about the Saudi involvement in Pakistani affairs, stating, "We in Saudi Arabia are not observers in Pakistan, we are participants." Saudi Arabia also complained over President Zardari's alleged corruption and bias against Shiite Iran, thus fearing a Shia triangle stretching from Iraq, Iran to Pakistan. Wikileaks further revealed that, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, then Saudi assistant minister of interior, described the Pakistani Chief of Army staff Ashfaq Parvez Kayani as a "decent man" and the Pakistani Army as Saudi Arabia's "winning horse" and its "best bet" for "stability". Time reported that "despite the tensions with Zardari's government, military and intelligence links between Riyadh and Islamabad remain strong and close." Time interviewee, Arif Rafiq of an international consulting firm, stated that the cables "demonstrate that the Saudis have deep vested interests in Pakistan and an influence that is so significant that even the U.S. in some way relies on Saudi knowledge of the country."
People's Republic of China
The People's Republic of China and Saudi Arabia established official diplomatic relations in July 1990. Sino-Saudi diplomatic and economic relations grew closer in the 2000s. In January 2006, King Abdullah was the first ever Saudi head of State to visit China. His visit was reciprocated by Chinese President Hu Jintao in April of the same year. In February 2009, Hu visited Saudi Arabia a second time, to "exchange views on international and regional issues of common concern" with King Abdullah.
Following the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, Saudi Arabia was the largest aid donor to China, providing close to €40,000,000 in financial assistance, and an additional €8,000,000 worth of relief materials. In 2008, Sino-Saudi bilateral trade was worth €32,500,000,000, making Saudi Arabia China's largest trading partner in Western Asia. In the first quarter of 2010, Saudi oil export to China has reached over 1,000,000 barrels (160,000 m3), exceeding export to USA.
Relations between Saudi Arabia and Thailand were established in 1957 and hundreds of thousands of Thais went to Saudi Arabia to work. The country enjoyed a very friendly and strongly strategic partnership The historically friendly and strategic relationship between Thailand Saudi Arabia has drastically deteriorated in the 1990s, following the Blue Diamond Affair. Diplomatic missions were downgraded to the chargé d'affaires level and the number of Thai workers in Saudi Arabia plummeted. Saudi Arabia does not issue working visas for Thais and discourages its citizens from visiting the country. Relations between Thailand and Saudi Arabia, already strained, have plunged to a new low in 2014 following a Criminal Court decision that acquitted five ex-police officers in relation to the murder of a Saudi businessman in 1990.
United States recognized the government of King Ibn Saud in 1931. In the 1930s, oil exploration by Standard Oil commenced. There was no US ambassador resident in Saudi Arabia until 1943, but as World War II progressed, the United States began to believe that Saudi oil was of strategic importance. King Ibn Saud met with the U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on 14 February 1945 in a meeting which lasted three days. The meeting took place on board of the USS Quincy at the Great Bitter Lake in the Suez Canal. The meeting laid down the basis of the future relations between two countries.
In 1951, under a mutual defense agreement, the U.S. established a permanent U.S. Military Training Mission in the kingdom and agreed to provide training support in the use of weapons and other security-related services to the Saudi armed forces. This agreement formed the basis of what grew into a longstanding security relationship. The United States is one of Saudi Arabia's largest trading partners and closest allies and have had full diplomatic relations since 1933 and they remain strong today. However, Saudi Arabia's relationship with the United States has been put under pressure in late 2013 following the United States backing down from its interventoin in the Syrian Civil War and the United States thawing relations with Iran. The international abduction of American children to Saudi Arabia provoked sustained criticism and resulted in a Congressional hearing in 2002 where parents of children held in Saudi Arabia gave impassioned testimony related to the abduction of their children. Washington based Insight magazine ran a series of articles on international abduction during the same period highlighting Saudi Arabia a number of times
Relations between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia were strained after the September 11 attacks in 2001, when nineteen men affiliated with al-Qaeda, including 15 Saudi nationals, hijacked four commercial passenger jet airliners, crashing two of the planes into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, killing 2,973. Saudi Arabia issued a statement on the day of the terrorist attacks on America's World Trade Center and Pentagon, calling them "regrettable and inhuman." Saudi recognition to the Taliban stopped and as of mid-November 2001, the Bush administration continued to publicly praise Saudi support for the war on terrorism. However, published media reports have indicated U.S. frustration with Saudi inaction. Although 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi nationals, publicly the Saudis were not cooperating with Americans wanting to look at background files of the hijackers or interview the hijackers' families.
In his first formal television interview as U.S. President, Barack Obama addressed the Muslim world through an Arabic-language satellite TV network Al-Arabiya. He expressed interest and a commitment to repair relations that have continued to deteriorate under the previous administration. The American envoy to the region is former Sen. George J. Mitchell.
On October 20, 2010, U.S. State Department notified Congress of its intention to make the biggest arms sale in American history - an estimated $60.5 billion purchase by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The package represents a considerable improvement in the offensive capability of the Saudi armed forces.
The U.S. was keen to point out that the arms transfer would increase "interoperability" with U.S. forces. In the 1990-1991 Gulf War, having U.S.-trained Saudi forces, along with military installations built to U.S. specifications, allowed the American armed forces to deploy in a comfortable and familiar battle environment. This new deal would increase these capabilities, as an advanced American military infrastructure is about to be built.
- Saudi Arabia has an embassy in Washington, DC and consulates-general in Houston, Los Angeles and New York.
- United States has an embassy in Riyadh and consulates-general in Dhahran and Jeddah.
|Country||Formal Relations Began||Notes|
|Canada||See Canada–Saudi Arabia relations
Saudi Arabia is Canada's largest trade partner among the seven countries of the Arabian Peninsula, totalling more than $2 billion in trade in 2005, nearly double its value in 2002. Canada chiefly imports petroleum and oil from Saudi Arabia, while exporting manufactured goods such as aircraft, cars, machinery and optical instruments.
|Mexico||12 September 1952||See Mexico–Saudi Arabia relations|
|Country||Formal Relations Began||Notes|
|Austria||10 September 1957||See Austria–Saudi Arabia relations
|Cyprus||1960||See Cyprus–Saudi Arabia relations|
|Finland||23 September 1969|
|Kosovo||See Kosovo–Saudi Arabia relations|
|Romania||See Romania – Saudi Arabia relations|
|Russia||1926||See Russia–Saudi Arabia relations|
|United Kingdom||See United Kingdom-Saudi Arabia relations|
International organization participation
Saudi Arabia is member of the ABEDA, AfDB, AFESD, AL, AMF, BIS, ESCWA, FAO, G-20, G-77, GCC, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, International Maritime Organization, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, ISO, ITU, NAM, OAPEC, OAS (observer), OIC, OPCW, OPEC, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTrO (Applicant)
- Iran-Arab Relations (Saudi Arabia)
- List of diplomatic missions in Saudi Arabia
- List of diplomatic missions of Saudi Arabia
- Territorial disputes in the Persian Gulf
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Saudi Arabia's closest Muslim ally, Pakistan
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- About us
- Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia London
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- Our enemies, the Saudis. United States relations with Saudi Arabia by Victor Davis Hanson, originally published in Commentary, June 2002.
- Saudi Arabia: 14-Year-Old Boy Faces Execution from Human Rights Watch October 27, 2005.
- Saudi Arabia to host Israel boycott event[dead link] by Michael Freund, published in the Jerusalem Post, March 7, 2006
- Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington, D.C.
- Embassy of the United States in Riyadh
- Saudi-U.S. Alignment after the Six Day War
- A Saudi-Israeli Deal (an opinion column by Thomas L. Friedman)