A prominent Saudi prince met President Robert Kocharian and Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian in Yerevan at the weekend during a first-ever visit to Armenia by a member of Saudi Arabia’s ruling dynasty.
It was not immediately clear if the visit by Prince Al-Walid bin Talal bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud and his wife, Princess Amira, heralded the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two nations.
Saudi Arabia is among a handful of Islamic nations, including Turkey and Pakistan, that have lent their full support to Muslim Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and refused to establish diplomatic ties with Christian Armenia. As recently last Friday, the oil-rich kingdom voted for a UN General Assembly resolution that referred to Karabakh as an integral part of Azerbaijan and demanded an “immediate, complete and unconditional withdrawal of Armenian forces” from occupied Azerbaijani lands.
Official sources in Yerevan said Prince Al-Walid, who controls Saudi Arabia’s largest company, Kingdom Holding, discussed with Kocharian and Sarkisian the possibility of making investments in the Armenian economy and, in particular, its tourism and leisure sectors.
“The Saudi Arabian prince emphasized his warm feelings towards the Armenian people and noted that he has many Armenian friends,” Kocharian’s office said. According to a separate statement by the Armenian government’s press service, the billionaire prince told Sarkisian that Armenia has achieved “spectacular progress” in recent years and is “on the right development track.”
Kocharian was quoted as stressing that Armenia has “extremely warm, extensive and multi-layered relationships” with many Arab states not least because of their affluent Armenian communities.
Sarkisian, for his part, said he would only welcome Saudi investments in his country’s economy. “Both sides stressed at the end of the meeting that economic cooperation and closer ties could also foster the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries,” his press service said.