Saudi-Italian ties poised to enter new era, says envoy
Relations between Saudi Arabia and Italy have progressed into a new era, with strong partnerships recently forged in the domains of politics, economy and culture to realize an all-inclusive and mutually beneficial development, said Italian Ambassador Mario Boffo on Saturday.
Relations, in fact, have been cordial because of “political determination and a shared vision of a peace-loving strategy,” he said.
Economic prosperity and massive developments in the Kingdom and Italy have fueled growth to offer limitless opportunities for every one in every sector, said Boffo on the occasion of the Italian national day.
The envoy, who is hopeful of high-ranking official visits to and from the Kingdom in the near future, said that “the official visits have strengthened friendship and promoted mutual understanding for further cooperation.”
He noted two major contracts recently won by Italian companies to build part of the railway network in Saudi Arabia.
Italferr, the engineering subsidiary of Italian State Railways (FS), has been awarded a $37 million contract to design a landbridge linking Jeddah, Riyadh and Damman.
Also last year, a consortium led by Salini-Impregilo was awarded a $6 billion contract by the Riyadh Development Authority to build line 3 of the Riyadh Metro, the envoy explained.
Salini-Impregilo will act as the main contractor, while the Italian company Ansaldo STS will provide signaling in this project.
Boffo said that the Saudi Commission for Tourism & Antiquities (SCTA) has a strong interest in expanding cooperation in the field of culture. “The two parties are now working on agreements to map out the modalities of such cooperation,” he said.
The SCTA, he said, also recently signed an archaeological exploration agreement with an Italian and French team to explore Dumat Al-Jandal in Al-Jouf.
The agreement is a part of the framework of a national archaeological program the commission is carrying out at several locations in the Kingdom. The Italian team leader is Prof. Romolo Loreto, from L’Orientale University in Naples.
Boffo said that business and the tourism traffic between the two nations have been consistently growing.
The Italian Embassy issued more than 25,000 visas in 2012 and almost 40,000 visas in 2013.
“We processed more than 15,000 visas in the first months of 2014,” said the envoy.
The embassy issues multiple entry visas for up to five years now, he said.
“Italy now ranks as Saudi Arabia’s largest trading partner in Europe. Our bilateral trade exceeded 10 billion euros in 2013. Our common objective is to attain even bigger figures and greater diversification in both directions,” said the envoy, adding that the Italian government has recently launched a new ambitious plan under the slogan “Destination Italy” to attract investment.
“The Kingdom also features among our country’s largest oil suppliers. Italy’s import of oil from Saudi Arabia totaled a whopping 4.6 billion euros in 2013,” he said.
He also called on Saudi businessmen to participate in EXPO Milan 2015, a major global event. This exhibition has been designed as an important networking platform and as a showcase for industrial innovation, he said.