Secretary General sets out vision for deeper NATO–Saudi Arabia cooperation in historic first visit to Riyadh

  • 12 Dec. 2023 -
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  • Last updated: 13 Dec. 2023 09:12

Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg set out his vision for deeper cooperation between NATO and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in an historic visit to Riyadh – the first ever by a sitting Secretary General of NATO.

In a public discussion at the Saudi Armed Forces Command and Staff College on Wednesday (13 December 2023), Mr Stoltenberg underlined Saudi Arabia's leading role in the Arab and Muslim world, and identified areas where the Alliance and the Kingdom could do more together – including on maritime security, the protection of critical infrastructure, and the fight against terrorism, as well as innovation and military education. "I believe there is huge potential for NATO to do more with Saudi Arabia because we have mutual challenges," said the Secretary General, pointing to issues including Iran's destabilising influence in the region, as well as climate change.

The Secretary General recently appointed a group of external experts to review NATO's approach to the Gulf, the Middle East, and Africa, calling this an opportunity to explore new avenues of cooperation. 

Addressing Ukraine, Mr Stoltenberg stressed that Russia is conducting a war of aggression against a sovereign, independent nation, but also against the entire rules-based international order, affecting global food and energy security. The Secretary General said that NATO will continue to stand with Ukraine, providing political and practical support.

On Tuesday, Mr Stoltenberg met with Deputy Foreign Minister Waleed A. Elkhereiji, thanking him for Saudi Arabia's hospitality and underlining his desire to strengthen ties between NATO and the Kingdom. The Secretary General also held talks with the Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Jasem Mohamed AlBudaiwi. "Dialogue with our partners is deeply important to NATO, and we value our relationship with the GCC," he said. Also on Tuesday, Mr Stoltenberg visited the headquarters of Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI), where he discussed industrial production and potential future avenues for cooperation with Chief Executive Officer Walid Abukhaled. Later in the day, he exchanged views with a group of policy makers, think tank experts and media in a meeting hosted by Dr Abdulaziz Sager, Chairman of the Gulf Research Centre.