Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal Bin Farhan Al Saud has said they are extremely optimistic about the future of Bangladesh and the two countries will work together to expand their cooperation.

"I think there is a lot to be done," he said after his meeting with Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen at a city hotel, noting that the two countries have a clear target to work together to that end.

Momen led an eight-member Bangladesh delegation while the six-member Saudi delegation was led by its foreign minister at the first-ever "Political Consultations" between the two countries.

Responding to a question, the Saudi foreign minister said they are committed to a "stable" oil market and all indications say there is no concern regarding the oil supply.

He said that they are "very optimistic" about the future of this relationship with Bangladesh. "We just had an excellent political consultation."

Most importantly, he said they explored how they can expand the partnership as the two countries enjoy a historic strong relationship.

"We're committed to building up on this strong foundation to a much broader partnership. We see significant interest in the Saudi companies' presence here," he said.

Among the issues that came up for review and discussion were increased bilateral trade and investment, recruitment of skilled manpower, Hajj management, education, health, environment and climate change, ICT and tourism, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Prince Faisal stressed the need for enhancing collaboration in trade and investment and stated that several Saudi companies have already invested in some sectors in Bangladesh and other companies are considering greater engagement in various areas.

He sought policy and institutional support from the Bangladesh side.

The Saudi FM also suggested launching a joint business forum and exchange of business delegation between the two countries to augment bilateral trade and business.

Momen said they are very proud to see this high level political consultation for the first time.

He said some 20 Saudi companies have shown interest to invest in Bangladesh.

Bangladesh has assured of providing required facilities in the economic zones, he said.

Momen said they also discussed food security issues noting that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has put a lot of emphasis on this.

He said the Saudi side assured of hassle-free clearance of visas for 100 percent hajj applicants.

The Saudi foreign minister arrived in Dhaka on a brief official visit on Tuesday evening.

Six Areas of Engagement

Bangladesh foreign minister identified six new areas of engagement for future collaboration.

These are collaboration and partnership with Saudi Green Initiative undertaken by the Saudi Crown Prince; Saudi investment in the Bangabandhu Industrial City [Exclusive Economic Zone] in Chattogram; investment by leading Saudi companies in development of Tourism and Hotel industry and in the IT sector, Contract Farming in third countries for agro-production to attain food security and developing Skills Training Programme in Bangladesh at Saudi initiative.

Both foreign ministers expressed satisfaction at the close alignment of positions in all major global issues regarding stability, security, primacy of state sovereignty and upholding the UN Charter and agreed to continue this collaboration in the future.

The Bangladesh FM sought cooperation from the Saudi side for sustainable repatriation and ensuring justice for the forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals.

The Saudi FM assured him of all support in the resolution of the Rohingya refugee crisis.

At the end of the consultations, both the leaders signed two instruments - agreement on cooperation and mutual assistance in customs matters and an MoU on cooperation between the Foreign Service Academies of the two countries.

Green Initiative

Bangladesh has requested oil-rich Saudi Arabia to take Bangladesh as a partner in its green initiative across the Middle East.

"Saudi Arabia has taken a great green initiative for the whole of the Middle East," Foreign Minister Momen said.

He said the Saudi government is planning to plant 50 billion saplings across the Middle East and 10 billion in Saudi Arabia.

"We've requested them for partnership with us. We want to give saplings and help grow those plants," Momen said.

Earlier, Saudi Arabia announced its goal to reach "net zero" greenhouse gas emissions by 2060, joining more than 100 countries in a global effort to try and curb man-made climate change.

Both the leaders reaffirmed the bond of enduring ties and friendship existing between the two brotherly countries and expressed satisfaction over the state of bilateral cooperation.

They noted the understanding and goodwill existing at the political level between the two countries and emphasized the need for devising means and ways to translate this into concrete outcomes.

Both sides further stressed the need to coordinate and work together at functional levels to carry forward the policy decision for mutual benefit of the peoples of the two countries.

Earlier the Saudi Foreign Minister paid a courtesy call on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at Ganobhaban where they exchanged views on bilateral relations and recent developments in the regional and global arena.

Energy Sector

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan al Saud said many Saudi companies are keen to make investment in the energy sector of Bangladesh, particularly in renewable energy.

He said this during a courtesy call on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at her official residence Ganobhaban here.

PM's Press Secretary Ihsanul Karim briefed reporters after the meeting.

The prime minister told the Saudi FM that her government is establishing 100 special economic zones across the country.

She hoped that the Saudi investors would avail the opportunities prevailing in Bangladesh.

"I welcome Saudi Arabia's investment in Bangladesh," she was quoted as saying.

Hasina expressed her satisfaction over the bilateral relations with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). "The bilateral cooperation has extended and consolidated in many areas that include economy, trade, commerce, investment, energy, education, culture and defence," she said.

The PM said Saudi Arabia has a special place in the hearts of the people of Bangladesh.

She conveyed her greetings to Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud.

Hasina also appreciated the custodian of the two holy mosques, Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, for his contribution to the Muslim Ummah.

The visiting minister described the bilateral relation between Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia as a 'strong bond of friendship' and said, "This will grow from strength to strength in the days to come."

He said their priority is to enhance further economic cooperation exploring new areas.

Prince Faisal hoped that Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia would work together on various global agenda.

He said many Bangladeshi workers are contributing to the global economy.

He commended the visionary leadership of Hasina and the commendable economic development of Bangladesh.

Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen, PM's Ambassador-at-large Mohammad Ziauddin, PM's principal secretary Dr Ahmad Kaikaus, Bangladesh Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Dr Mohammad Javed Patwary and Saudi Ambassador to Bangladesh Essa Yussef Essa Al Dulaihan were present at the meeting.

"Comprehensive partnership"

Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia have agreed to elevate their excellent relations to a "comprehensive partnership" following a roadmap to that end.

Bangladesh side proposed for a "comprehensive partnership" and proceed to that end following a roadmap which was agreed by the Saudi side.

"Yes, Riyadh has agreed on Dhaka's proposal to have a comprehensive partnership between the two countries," Secretary (East) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Mashfee Binte Shams told UNB.

The Saudi Foreign Minister left Dhaka on Wednesday afternoon wrapping up his less than 24-hour visit.

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