RIYADH — A range of regional and international issues were on the table for discussion during the recent two-day visit of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to Saudi Arabia.
At the royal palace in Jeddah, King Abdullah Bin Abdelaziz conferred upon Berlusconi the King Abdelaziz Sash, an expression of his esteem for the Italian leader. Berlusconi thanked the Saudi monarch and expressed his pride in being so honoured.
Berlusconi described Saudi Arabia during the visit as “an important force for stability in the region." He added that Riyadh’s political and economic role in the region was recognised throughout Europe.
An Italian embassy spokesman called Berlusconi’s visit “a mark of the excellent and growing relations between Italy and Saudi Arabia. The purpose of the latest talks was to explore ways of extending cooperation between the two countries, building upon the solid base of friendship that has grown from our existing exchanges.”
Second Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Prince Nayef Bin Abdelaziz and Finance Minister Ibrahim al-Assaf also met with Berlusconi to discuss the volatility of oil prices and regional issues, including troubles in Somalia, Iraq, Yemen and Afghanistan.
Berlusconi then met with members of the Italian community in Jeddah, accompanied by a delegation of Italian media and special interest organisations.
The Italian embassy in Riyadh confirmed that Italy views Saudi Arabia as an important strategic ally in the settlement of critical issues in the Middle East and in facing challenges to the international community in the current fragile political and economic climate.
Berlusconi’s visit followed that of French President Nicolas Sarkozy just days earlier. This month also witnessed the arrival of Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini in the kingdom for the tenth round of the Joint Saudi-Italian Committee.