Cooperation council eyed to bolster Thai-Saudi ties

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Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai meeting with his Saudi Arabian counterpart, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, in Riyadh on Tuesday. THE NATIONAL (THAILAND)

Thailand and Saudi Arabia agreed on Tuesday to set up a cooperation council to further strengthen bilateral ties.

The two countries also agreed to waive visa requirements for diplomacy and government affairs, while Saudi Arabia will consider helping the 800 Thai nationals whose visa has expired.

Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai revealed these developments after meeting with his Saudi Arabian counterpart, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, in Riyadh on Tuesday.

“Prince Faisal said he will visit Thailand in June to prepare for Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s visit,” Don said.

Meanwhile, he said, Thailand will appoint its ambassador to Saudi Arabia in the third quarter of this year.

“Saudi Arabia has already started direct flights to Thailand and we believe many Saudis will be travelling to the country,” he said. “Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is also keen for Thais to visit.”

Don added the aim of this visit was to link up businesses from both countries, so they can make the most of the opportunities available.

“Many businesses were interested in participating in the investment conference hosted by Saudi Arabia’s Investment Ministry,” he said, citing Investment Minister Khalid A Al-Falih’s remark.

Don said he expects this trip to benefit the private sector of both countries, adding that Saudi Arabia needs a lot of Thai workers as it has many investment projects in the pipeline.

“We know that at least 500,000 positions in construction and other related services are available, of which about 200,000 will be allocated to Thais,” he said.

“However, it depends on whether we have enough workers to meet the demand.”

Apart from this, he said, the two countries aim to strengthen their ties in all aspects.

Don led hundreds of representatives from Thailand’s energy, tourism and export sectors on a five-day trip to Saudi Arabia. The May 15-19 trip aims to restore cooperation and investment after nearly a three-decades-long freeze in Thai-Saudi relations.

Riyadh cut trade and diplomatic ties with Bangkok after the so-called Blue Diamond affair, in which the theft of jewels by a Thai worker from a Saudi palace in 1989 was followed by a series of killings of Saudi representatives in Thailand.

THE NATION (THAILAND)/ASIA NEWS NETWORK