On weekend, Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development Natia Turnava met with the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to Georgia to discuss the development of bilateral trade and economic ties.

Ambassador Abdullah bin Hajjaj Al-Mutairi has served in his post since this spring, following a term as the Kingdom’s Ambassador to Bangladesh and a stint as deputy consul general at the Saudi Consulate in Houston.

The Saudi Arabian Embassy to Georgia was opened in May of last year.

During the weekend meeting, the two sides discussed trade and economic relations between Georgia and Saudi Arabia and opportunities to develop them further.

Turnava recognized that the opening of the embassy in Tbilisi is encouraging and supports the deepening of cooperation between the two countries, aiding businesses in the two countries to increase cooperation, and promoting relations in various important fields, including bilateral trade, investment, tourism, and transportation.

Ambassador Al-Mutairi expressed interest in cooperating with Georgia to increase exports of Georgian agricultural products to Saudi Arabia.

The opening of the embassy and efforts towards increased cooperation come amidst increasing tourism from the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia.

The Ministry of Economy reports that from January-June 2019, the volume of Saudi tourists in Georgia increased by 68%. There are currently 11 direct flights a week between the countries.

The increase comes at a critical time for Georgia, which faces a ban on direct flights from Russia, imposed by Moscow after anti-Russian and anti-government political demonstrations broke out in Tbilisi in June.

Towards the end of their meeting, Turnava invited a Saudi Arabian government delegation to attend the 2019 Tbilisi Silk Road Forum, which will be held on October 22-23.

The biennial Silk Road Forum is an “international platform for multilateral high-level dialogue among senior policymakers, businesses and community leaders to discuss important issues on trade and connectivity, examine challenges facing countries along the New Silk Road connecting East and West, and find common solutions that have a positive impact on the region and the global economy,” the Forum describes itself.

In April 2018, Georgian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Giorgi Janjgava and representatives of the Saudi Arabian Foreign Ministry announced the decision to open an embassy of Saudi Arabia in Tbilisi.

A press release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia explained that the decision was made, “Considering the desire to develop and further promote relations between Saudi Arabia and Georgia.”

At the time, the Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs wrote that “Georgia attaches great importance to the need to intensify cooperation with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. To this end, an embassy of Georgia was set up in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in January 2015 that made a considerable contribution to the development of bilateral and multilateral relations between the two countries, including in the political, military, trade-economic, investment and tourism sectors.”

Georgia and Saudi Arabia engage in the active political dialogue between their Foreign Ministries, and further, cooperate through inter-parliamentary activities.

As of April 2018, the Georgia Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported, Saudi Direct Investment in Georgia exceeds $100 million and is growing.