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Saudi Arabia, Armenia Again Signal Warming Ties


Saudi Arabia - Saudi and Armenian national flags fly at Riyad airport during the arrival of Armenian President Armen Sarkissian, October 27, 2021.

Armenia voiced support on Wednesday for Saudi Arabia’s bid to host the Expo 2030 world fair in another sign of rapprochement between the two states that have no diplomatic relations.

Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan announced the endorsement in a phone call with Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir.

The Armenian Foreign Ministry said the two men discussed “prospects for the development of relations” between their nations and stressed the importance of promoting bilateral trade and “investment projects.”

“Minister Mirzoyan informed his interlocutor that Armenia supports Saudi Arabia's application to hold World Expo 2030 in Riyadh,” the ministry added in a statement.

Mirzoyan made that clear one week after Russia, Armenia’s closest ally, withdrew its formal request to host the global event. Moscow said the selection process cannot be fair because of the West’s efforts to isolate it on the world stage over the war in Ukraine.

Saudi Arabia has for decades refused to establish diplomatic relations with Armenia due to its conflict with Muslim Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh. The oil-rich kingdom signaled a change in that policy after its relations with Armenia’s arch-foe and Azerbaijan’s ally Turkey deteriorated significantly several years ago.

Saudi Arabia - Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman talks to Armenian President Armen Sarkissian during the Future Investment Initiative forum in Riyadh, October 26, 2021.
Saudi Arabia - Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman talks to Armenian President Armen Sarkissian during the Future Investment Initiative forum in Riyadh, October 26, 2021.

The policy change was highlighted last October by then Armenian President Armen Sarkissian’s visit to Riyadh. Sarkissian sat next to Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, at the opening ceremony of an international conference held there.

Riyadh signaled more overtures to Yerevan in February this year when Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud and Mirzoyan held talks on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference in Germany.

It was the first-ever face-to-face meeting of the top diplomats of the two countries. The Saudi Foreign Ministry said they “reviewed bilateral relations in various fields” and explored “opportunities to enhance bilateral coordination.”

It remains unclear whether the kingdom is now ready for a full normalization of Saudi-Armenian relations.

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