By Ghazanfar Ali Khan
Arab News, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Saudi Arabia and Germany have agreed to a proposal to set up a $200 million fund focused on empowering women. The fund is to be created within the framework of the G20 with the help of both governments and the private sector.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel invited King Salman to attend the G20 summit in Germany after holding wide-ranging consultations on the agenda of the summit in Jeddah on Sunday.
Chancellor Merkel also renewed invitation to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Naif, deputy premier and minister of interior, to visit Germany.
“King Salman was formally invited by the chancellor to attend the G20 summit,” said German Ambassador Dieter W. Haller.
In a separate development, Merkel attended a meeting of Saudi businesswomen in Jeddah on Sunday.
Merkel acknowledged there have been “significant changes in the role of women” since her last visit in 2010.
She cited the historic first-time participation of women in Saudi Arabia’s elections for local municipal council seats in 2015.
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“I have the impression that the country is in a phase of change and that a lot more is possible now than some years ago,” Merkel added.
Ambassador Haller said the German chancellor and top Saudi officials discussed the agenda of the G20 summit during their talks. This 12th G20 summit will be held in the German city of Hamburg, a major trade hub and port city of Europe.
Referring to the preparations for the G20 summit, the envoy said that Germany is fully geared up to host the event, to be attended by more than 20 heads of state and many representatives of international organizations.
Haller said: “The Kingdom and Germany have agreed to a proposal to set up a $200 million fund for empowerment of women within the framework of the G20.”
The fund, he said, is proposed to be created with the help of the governments’ contributions as well as contributions from the private sector entities.
When asked about the energy issues that will top the agenda of the G20 summit, he said: “Merkel also discussed the Paris climate accord and G20 decisions on energy with top Saudi officials.”
The envoy, however, did not elaborate. “Also, the focus of the talks with Saudi officials was on the need to stabilize African countries, and to align efforts to restore peace and security in Africa,” said Haller.
Germany, he said, will be closely working with the Kingdom and the state-owned Saudi Fund for Development (SFD) in Africa, both on bilateral and G20 levels.
Haller said the business meeting at Jeddah Chamber of Commerce organized during the visit of Merkel shed light on the plans and policies of the Saudi government within the framework of
the Saudi Vision 2030.
“There was substantial discussion over how Germany could support Saudi efforts to diversify its economy and reduce its dependence on oil,” said the diplomat, while referring to the participation of top-notch businessmen and executives in the meeting.
Referring to the progressively growing relations between Riyadh and Berlin in different sectors, Haller said the two sides are now working to sign a major Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on scientific and technological cooperation.
This agreement will be endorsed by the German Federal Ministry of Research and Education, and Riyadh-based King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) possibly later this year.
Haller said the German chancellor’s visit has given a new boost to the existing links. The volume of commercial exchange stood at $8.72 billion in 2016, which need to be further increased, he said.
German investments in Saudi Arabia are around $1.3 billion, while many Saudi and German companies have revealed keen interest to set up joint ventures.