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Saudi Arabia plans to open embassy in Finland

Saturday, October 20, 2007

It has been announced that Saudi Arabia is planning to open an official embassy in Finland, to signify continuing improvement in relations between the two countries.

Teemu Tanner, director general of Africa and the Middle East at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, said to reporters concerning Finnish President Tarja Halonen’s first visit to Saudi Arabia on Sunday, “One indication of this visit is that you (Saudi Arabia) are planning to open an embassy here in Helsinki,” adding that “We regard this as extremely important for relations,” and that it is only a matter of time before the facility is made available.

Another act set to strengthen diplomatic relations is the planned visit of a trade delegation headed by Saudi Minister of Trade and Commerce Hashim Yamani, which will arrive in Finland next month.

“Our relationship is no longer in relation to trade,” said Tanner. “More broadly, we will discuss regional and global issues. It is extremely important for us to know Saudi Arabia’s views on Iraq, Iran, but also issues such as Somalia… One objective of the visit is to convey notes on international questions, as we enter a very interesting phase in the Middle East peace process,” adding that the presidential visit is a relational “landmark” that will “crystallize” Finland’s image to Saudi Arabia.

Despite the comment that the international cooperation is no longer entirely a trade issue, he did point out Saudi Arabia’s important role in the Finnish economy as one of the five largest importers of Finnish products. Finland’s main exports to Saudi Arabia are mobile phones, paper, wood and machinery, while Saudi Arabia exports large quantities of raw materials for use in manufacturing plastics. The total volume if this trade is estimated to be worth over €840 million.

Other topics on the table for the two nations to discuss during Halonen’s visit include energy, the role of science, environmental issues and combating terrorism, as well as other global issues. Tanner has also suggested tourism may be a future area of attention, with a possibility of package holidays for Finnish tourists being organized to Saudi Arabia.

Finland and Saudi Arabia have been officially involved in diplomatic relations since 1969. Finland has maintained an embassy in Saudi Arabia since 1974.

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