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Foreign relations of Saudi Arabia

Saudi is a non-aligned state whose foreign policy objectives are to maintain its security and its paramount position on the Arabian Peninsula, defend general Arab and Islamic interests, promote solidarity among Islamic governments, and maintain cooperative relations with other oil-producing and major oil-consuming countries. Although accused of being tolerant to extremism, the foreign policy is generally pacific and does not advocate belligerence, violent reform or revolution.

Saudi Arabia is a founding member of the United Nations, having signed the United Nations Charter in 1945. The country plays a prominent role in the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and Arab and Islamic financial and development assistance institutions. One of the largest aid donors in the world, it still gives some aid to a number of Arab, African, and Asian countries. Jeddah is the headquarters of the Secretariat of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference and its subsidiary organization, the Islamic Development Bank, founded in 1969.

Emergence of role in modern diplomacy

The first country to establish full diplomatic relations with Hijaz (the name of the Saudi state until 1932) was the Soviet Union.

Membership in OPEC

Membership in the 11-member OPEC and in the technically and economically oriented Arab producer group--the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries--facilitates coordination of Saudi oil policies with other oil-exporting governments. As the world's leading exporter of petroleum, Saudi Arabia has a special interest in preserving a stable and long-term market for its vast oil resources by allying itself with healthy Western economies which can protect the value of Saudi financial assets. It generally has acted to stabilize the world oil market and tried to moderate sharp price movements.

Israeli-Palestinian conflict

A charter member of the Arab League, Saudi Arabia supports the position that Israel must withdraw from territory occupied in June 1967. Saudi Arabia officially supports a peaceful resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict but rejected the Camp David accords, claiming that they would be unable to achieve a comprehensive political solution that would ensure Palestinian rights and adequately address the status of Jerusalem. Although Saudi Arabia broke diplomatic relations with and suspended aid to Egypt in the wake of Camp David, the two countries renewed formal ties in 1987.

Saudi Arabia does not have diplomatic relations with Israel. The country participates in an active economic boycott of Israel.

First Persian Gulf War

In 1990-91, Saudi Arabia played an important role in the Persian Gulf War, developing new allies and improving existing relationships with some other countries. However, there also were diplomatic and financial costs. Relations between Saudi Arabia and Tunisia, Algeria, and Libya deteriorated. Each country had remained silent following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait but called for an end to violence once the deployment of coalition troops began. Relations between these countries and Saudi Arabia have returned to their pre-war status. Saudi Arabia's relations with those countries which expressed support for Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait--Yemen, Jordan, and Sudan--were severely strained during and immediately after the war. The Palestine Liberation Organization's support for Iraq cost it financial aid as well as good relations with Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf states. Recently, though, Saudi Arabia's relations with Jordan and the Palestinian Authority have improved, with the Saudi Government providing assistance for Palestinian Authority.

During and after the Persian Gulf War, the Government of Saudi Arabia provided water, food, shelter, and fuel for coalition forces in the region. There also were monetary payments to some coalition partners. Saudi Arabia's combined costs in payments, foregone revenues, and donated supplies worth $55 billion. More than $15 billion went toward reimbursing the United States alone.

Saudi Arabia became one of three countries to offer the Taliban diplomatic recognition in 1997. An estimated $2 million came each year from Saudi Arabia's major charity, funding two universities and six health clinics and supporting 4,000 orphans; King Fahd sent an annual shipment of dates as a gift.

Relations with the United States

United States recognized the government of King Ibn Saud in 1931. In the 1930s, oil exploration by Standard Oil commenced. There was no US ambassador resident in Saudi Arabia until 1943, but as World War II progressed, the United States began to believe that Saudi oil was of strategic importance. In 1951, under a mutual defense agreement, the U.S. established a permanent U.S. Military Training Mission in the kingdom and agreed to provide training support in the use of weapons and other security-related services to the Saudi armed forces. This agreement formed the basis of what grew into a longstanding security relationship.

Relations between the US and Saudi Arabia were strained after the September 11 attacks, when nineteen men affiliated with al-Qaeda, including 15 Saudi nationals, hijacked four commercial passenger jet airliners, crashing two of the planes into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, killing 3,000. Saudi Arabia issued a statement on the day of the terrorist attacks on America's World Trade Center and Pentagon, calling them "regrettable and inhuman." Saudi recognition to the Taliban stopped and as of mid-November 2001, the Bush administration continued to publicly praise Saudi support for the war on terrorism. However, published media reports have indicated U.S. frustration with Saudi inaction. Although 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi nationals, publicly the Saudis were not cooperating with Americans wanting to look at background files of the hijackers or interview the hijackers' families.

Relations with Pakistan

Relations between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are considered very close, some analysts even refer to the two nations as brotherly nations who have helped each other in times of need. The people(s) of both Saudi Arabia and Pakistan show considerable concern for events in each others nations. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has helped Pakistan in many fields since Pakistan gained independence in 1947. Since the inception of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia has provided Pakistan with assistance in the form of fuel credit, fuel donation, loans, aid, donations, and gifts. Most famous example of Saudi Arabia's relationship with Pakistan is the Faisal Mosque, the National Mosque of the country in Islamabad, Pakistan. More recently, Saudi Arabia has given Pakistan hundreds of millions of dollars as a donation for the 2005 Earthquake in Pakistan. In fact, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was the number 1 donor, having contributed $600 million.

Other forms of assistance given by Saudi Arabia include providing employment to millions of Pakistanis over the past 60 years, this is inturn reciprocated by the extensive flight of skilled and unskilled workers to Saudi Arabia from Pakistan, Pakistani's have been an integrative component of Saudi Arabia's modernization since their arrival in the 1960's and 1970's. This has been a blessing for Pakistan as well as the workers who worked in Saudi Arabia not only accumulated wealth, when they came back to Pakistan, they led Pakistan's construction boom and introduction of modern goods and items. Saudi Arabia has also actively promoted Pakistan's social life by funding many social projects like building of Islamic community centres, relief foundations, and mosques throughout Pakistan.

Due to the Kingdom's continuing generosity, many places in Pakistan are named after Saudi Kings and Saudi Arabia in general. For example, the city previously named Lyallpur was renamed Faisalabad in honor of the late Faisal of Saudi Arabia. Also, in Karachi, Pakistan, there are neighbourhoods named Saud Colony, Saudabad, Faisal Colony. Also in Karachi, there is an airforce base name Faisal Airbase named after King Faisal and also, in the honor of King Faisal, the main business street of Pakistan is called Sharah-e-Faisal in Karachi.

In 2005, due to passing of King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan declared a three-day mourning period.

Saudi Arabia also hosted former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for 8 years while he was in exile. During his stay there, Kingdom held talks with Sharif and even provided him with license to operate business in the Kingdom. It is believed that it was Kingdom of Saudi Arabia which held talks with President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan to foster their relationship and to allow Sharif back in Pakistan.

In March 2008, Saudi Arabia donated Pakistan $300 million to help with the economic problems there.

Relations with China

Relations with India

The 2006 visit of the Saudi King to India and the subsequent signing of the energy-focused Delhi Declaration, paving the way for doubling of oil exports to India by 2010.

International disputes

Large sections of the boundary with Yemen are not defined; the location and status of the boundary with the United Arab Emirates is not final, with the de facto boundary reflecting the 1974 agreement; Kuwaiti ownership of the islands of Qaruh and Umm al Maradim is disputed by Saudi Arabia; but the June 1999 agreement has furthered the goal of definitively establishing the border with Qatar.

Human rights

Some nations have expressed concern about human rights in the country, including prisoners and incommunicado detention; prohibitions or severe restrictions on the freedoms of speech, press, peaceful assembly and association, and religion; the right of citizens to change their government; systematic discrimination against women and ethnic and religious minorities; and suppression of civil rights. Foreigners can be imprisoned without trial for forcing others to their religion in public or private.

Saudi aid and other ethnicities

Much of Saudi Arabia's aid has gone to poorer islamic countries or Islamic communities in non-Islamic countries. This "aid" has contributed to the spreading of a uniform and puritanical form of Islam, disregarding the needs and traditions of the different ethnic groups. Therefore, Saudi Arabia has spearheaded the erosion of formerly mellow and colorful Islamic cultures through rigid standardization.

Examples of the acculturizing effect of Saudi aid can be seen among the Minangkabau and the Acehnese in Indonesia, as well as among the people of the Maldives and in Pakistan.

Following the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq, Yemen's sole dissension among United Nations Security Council members to protect Kuwaitis by military force lead to the expulsion of thousands of Yemeni guest workers in Saudi Arabia.

See also


  • Klare, Michael (2004). Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America's Growing Petroleum Dependency. New York: Metropolitan. ISBN 0-8050-7313-2.
  • Jones, John Paul If Olaya Street Could Talk: Saudi Arabia- The Heartland of Oil and Islam. The Taza Press (2007). ISBN 0-97904-360-3.


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