Cook Islands and Saudi Arabia prioritise economic resilience, culture, technology and renewable energy

Cook Islands and Saudi Arabia prioritise economic resilience, culture, technology and renewable energy

The Cook Islands and Saudi Arabia have prioritized economic resilience, culture, technology and renewable energy as areas for possible future cooperation following a series of bilateral discussions in Rarotonga this week.

The two countries formalized diplomatic relations less than a year ago and this week saw the first visit to the Cook Islands by Saudi’s first accredited diplomatic envoy to the Cook Islands, Ambassador Muhanna Aba Alkhail.  

“We welcome the accreditation of Ambassador Alkhail as Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to the Cook Islands and look forward to working closely with him to expand our bilateral, regional and multilateral co-operation which has already delivered in less than a year, a number of initiatives and new funding commitments to support the Cook Islands and the Pacific’s economic resilience,” said Foreign Secretary Tepaeru Herrmann.

Saudi Arabia’s international engagements and foreign policy have seen major shifts from domestic to international engagement expansion since 2017 led by  Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salama who was appointed crown prince in 2017 who has  brought in a series of social and economic reforms in Saudi.  The Crown Prince’s Saudi Vision 2030 program aimed at reducing Saudi economy’s reliance on oil through investment in non-oil sectors including technology and tourism has opened up co-operation with various region’s including the Pacific and countries like the Cook Islands.

“In less than a year since the formalization of diplomatic relations with the Cook Islands, Saudi has delivered grant funding of US$1.3million for the Cook Islands and it was instrumental in catalysing Pacific development partners investment in the Pacific Resilience Facility (PRF) through its US$50 million commitment announced at the Forum Leaders Meeting hosted by the Cook Islands in November 2023,” said Secretary Herrmann.  “We’re very pleased that subsequent to Saudi’s commitment to the PRF, other development partners have made further financial commitments which will strengthen Pacific countries climatic and economic resilience once the PRF is able to disburse funds.”

The Cook Islands and Saudi Arabia have also committed to growing Pacific and Gulf countries engagements through existing regional mechanisms.  In the multilateral space, the Cook Islands and Saudi Arabia have committed to expand co-operation in UNESCO and the International Maritime Organisation to advocate for the interests of Small Islands Developing States and discussions for possible Cook Islands and Pacific product contributions to the 2030 World Expo which will be hosted by Saudi Arabia in 2030 have commenced.

During his visit this week, Ambassador Akhail presented his letter of credence to the Kings Representative Sir Tom Marsters and met with Secretary Herrmann, Foreign Minister Hon. Tingika Elikana, Financial Secretary Garth Henderson and officials of the Sea Bed Minerals Authority.

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