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Economy

Despite Human Rights Record, Greece Pushes Trade with Saudi Arabia

ΑΤΗΕΝS – Just as Saudi Arabia drew blistering international criticism for executing 81 people in one day, Greece moved to increase its trade and tighten ties, with the visit of Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister for Economic Diplomacy and Openness Kostas Fragogiannis.

He was in Riyadh to speak at the  Greek-Saudi Investment Forum in Riyadh, where he was accompanied by delegations of ministers and businesspeople and push for business, said Kathimerini.

“It is self-evident that both countries are always committed to international law, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and that both continuously condemn every terrorist act,” the Greek minister said.

The executions were for “allegiance to foreign terrorist organisations” and holding “deviant beliefs,” the state news agency Saudi Press Agency said, the biggest mass execution there in modern history.

Fragogiannis, who was following up a visit to the country by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in October 2021, said that bilateral relations have improved in the last couple of years.

That includes a memorandum of cooperation between the state exports agency Enterprise Greece and the Saudi National Companies Promotion Program, signed in Athens, and the founding of the investment council between the two countries.

“What we are preparing now is the completion of the bilateral agreement promoting investments,” he said, trumping any concern about Saudi Arabia’s human rights record that’s been condemned internationally.

He said that Greece wants to continue friendship and collaboration and noted that he was warmly received by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, who US intelligence said odered the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, cut up while alive at the Saudi Embassy in Istanbul, but President Joe Biden is planning to visit the Kingdom.

The prince thanked Greece for sending Patriot missiles to his country.

Fragogiannis, talking to Saudi Investment Minister Khalid bin Abdulaziz Al-Falih, said that both countries have figured out areas “which require our attention and where more work needs to be carried out,” without elaboration.

In 2020, Greece exports to Saudi Arabia were worth $339.04 million even as the COVID-19 pandemic broke out and limited trade and travel. The goods included mineral fuels, oil, distillation products, vegetables, fruits, nuts, drugs, and a long list of other commodities.

Greece spends some $713 million for importing oil from Saudi Arabia, the commodity that critics said is used to make democracies look the other way over the country’s miserable human rights record.

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