Time in Yerevan: 11:07,   27 May 2024

A New Era of Opportunity for Armenia and Saudi Arabia

A New Era of Opportunity for Armenia and Saudi Arabia

YEREVAN, 17 APRIL, ARMENPRESS. With the historic step of diplomatic relations now firmly established between Armenia and Saudi Arabia, this week marks the start of a new era of opportunity for expanded economic, social, and strategic cooperation between the two countries. The importance and positive impact for Armenia could be tremendous. Saudi Arabia is a growing regional power that has significant sway in the Arab and Islamic arenas. More directly, the Republic of Armenia and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia can be prolific collaborators in building a future that honors human potential and accelerates national development.

For Armenia, the development of this relationship is both a signal of and a support for its foreign policy diversification, moving from an era of overreliance on a single partner to a broader set of active country relationships. In Saudi Arabia, Armenia will encounter an institutionalized modern country, one that is highly professional in its partnership strategies, with significant financial clout to invest abroad while forging collaborations that help it build on innovation at home. This is an opportune moment for identifying shared values and common interests, which then help with setting achievable, mutually beneficial goals. It will be important for Armenia to establish a track record of balance and reciprocity, mapping what it has to offer Saudi Arabia, while making strategic requests for Saudi support on its development path.

The establishment of diplomatic relations between Armenia and Saudi Arabia is also a substantial positive event for the South Caucasus as a whole. Given Saudi Arabia’s depth of resources and its ambition as a rising power, the Kingdom can play a strong contributing role in the stabilization and sustainable development of the region. Saudi Arabia could play a mediating role, helping to prevent the outbreak of future conflicts. Even in a more indirect approach, however, Saudi Arabia can help bring stability through its diplomatic leverage and engagement with all sides, as well as by making long-term investments in key sectors of economic development in Armenia.    

Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy is nuanced: It is positioning itself as an arbitrator for economic prosperity and sustainable peace. It is also establishing itself as a neutral ground, a country that can have a relationship with the United States while also maintaining a strong relationship with Russia. It has even established working diplomatic relations with former regional competitors such as Turkey and Iran; through the mediation of China, Saudi Arabia and Iran agreed to reestablish diplomatic relations just before the Israel–Hamas war. This gives Saudi Arabia the agility to engage with all the countries of the South Caucasus on equal footing, without being subject to the polarization of opposing blocs.

Multilateralism is the main theme of Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy today. Forging collaborations with Saudi Arabia and additional country partners such as France, Egypt, Greece, and Cyprus as part of its diversification agenda can strengthen Armenia’s scope and the success of shared projects. Furthermore, given its leadership role in the Arab and Islamic arenas, as well as its membership in the BRICS, SCO, OIC, and other multilateral formats, Armenia’s growing relationship with Saudi Arabia would send a positive signal to other countries to encourage constructive cooperation with Armenia.

For Saudi Arabia, the South Caucasus is an important backyard for the broader Middle East. As it builds itself as a regional and constructive power, it will be important for Saudi Arabia to have a presence and build a legacy of diplomacy with the countries of the South Caucasus.

Moreover, in building itself internally to activate the full potential of its society, Saudi Arabia can find a friend in Armenia. There is a century-long legacy of deep cultural affection between the two peoples. Armenian immigrants, particularly from Syria and Lebanon, have a very good reputation in Saudi Arabia as people who have been present in building the modern Kingdom. Cultural exchange, intermarriage, and many prominent moments of shared history have created a positive bond that can serve as the basis for a range of initiatives.

At home and abroad, Saudi Arabia is investing heavily in fundamental innovation that can drive fundamental growth. To accomplish this at home, Saudi Arabia wants to bring in talent and intellectual capital that can help it rapidly grow. Armenia, despite its challenges, has found and developed solutions that can catalyze Saudi Arabia’s growth in key sectors, from technology to culture.

A key vector of Saudi Arabia’s engagement with partner countries is through long-term investments in strategically important economic sectors. Armenia should explore this diligently, in order to carefully select targeted opportunities for co-investment; this is particularly true in the fields of agriculture, AI, clean energy, and deep technology, which are of major interest to Saudi Arabia. Given Saudi Arabia’s ability to provide large-scale, long-term, and patient capital investments, bilateral projects could include investments in infrastructure and economic development that would have a transformative impact on Armenia.

In addition to government-led conversations, civil-society initiatives can achieve a great deal in advancing public diplomacy and generating concrete, strategic collaborations between leading entities in Armenia and Saudi Arabia. Armenia has an important opportunity to bring its top minds from the private sector, social entrepreneurship, technology development and investment, agriculture, and other sectors to explore fruitful and mutually beneficial initiatives between Armenia and Saudi Arabia. This sphere of collaboration can also include academic institutions, scientific platforms, and technical researchers in Armenia, who can participate in various scientific initiatives now underway in Saudi Arabia, centered on newly created hubs and campuses around the Kingdom. Tourism and trade relations also stand to grow, with Saudi Arabia serving as a potential export market for agricultural goods.

This is also an opportunity for Armenia to activate its diaspora. Though small in number, Armenia’s diaspora, specifically in the technology sector, punches far above its weight with its global connections and portfolio. Key networks in the Armenian diaspora can bring in the entrepreneurial and innovation potential that Saudi Arabia is seeking for the crafting of its own growth story.

In the realm of culture, Saudi Arabia is a major investor, developing music and building spaces for concerts and musical dialogue. Given the Armenian community’s long history of cultural production and education in the Middle East, it is a natural extension of this legacy for Saudi Arabia to engage Armenian artists, educational institutes, and creatives to enhance its own cultural production. This would achieve an important cultural diplomacy objective for both countries and serve to enhance people-to-people ties.

The opening of diplomatic relations between Armenia and Saudi Arabia has the potential to transform the trajectory of the South Caucasus for the better. This opportunity is a time for Armenia and Saudi Arabia to learn from and learn about one another. There is a great deal to learn, to show, and to share. The two countries should capitalize on this momentum and authentically and generously share with each other to build a collaborative and reciprocative partnership.

 

Lara Setrakian, President, APRI Armenia

Davit Antonyan, Associate Fellow, APRI Armenia








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