ROME: Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Italy believes that the “solid” relationship between the two countries “has been relaunched” with the recent visit to Riyadh of Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio.

In an interview with Italian financial daily Milano Finanza, Ambassador Faisal bin Sattam bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud said the pair are “exploring new areas of cooperation and partnership” after the 12th session of the Saudi-Italian Joint Commission, co-chaired last month in Riyadh by Di Maio and Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan.

The Saudi envoy to Italy said 2022 marks the 90th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two nations. Italy was one of the first countries to recognize the Kingdom’s status.

“Italy is one of the Kingdom’s main trading partners. I am pleased that this year, which also marks the 90th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Friendship between our two countries, relations have been relaunched in the context of the 12th Italian-Saudi Joint Commission, exploring new areas of cooperation and partnership,” he said.

In 2021 the trade exchange between Saudi Arabia and Italy exceeded $8 billion, with even better results than those before the pandemic. Italy is currently the seventh biggest exporter to Saudi Arabia, and the second within the EU, while the Kingdom is Italy’s 21st highest exporter, supplying about 9 percent of the country’s oil imports.

In the 2019-2021 period, Saudi Arabia was the third biggest market for Italy in the Middle East and North Africa, and the first among the Gulf Cooperation Council states. In 2020, foreign direct investments from Italy to Saudi Arabia exceeded $4.5 billion.

About 160 Italian companies operate in Saudi Arabia in various sectors, including in management and consulting services, engineering and construction projects, telecommunications, healthcare, artificial intelligence, new technologies, art and culture, renewable energy and many others.

The ambassador explained: “The success of Saudi investments in Italy is also significant. Furthermore, Italy is the first partner of the Kingdom for the SME segment. In fact, in addition to the participation of Italian companies in major projects in Saudi Arabia, in both countries there is a considerable volume of small and micro transactions concluded directly by small entrepreneurs.”

In this framework, the Saudi envoy believes that the recently-signed memorandum of understanding between Confindustria — the Italian association of industrial companies — and the Saudi Federation of Chambers of Commerce, for the establishment of the Italian-Saudi Business Council “will certainly foster further collaborations and a more structured approach for partnerships between companies of our respective countries.”

The already solid bilateral exchange on energy, innovation, machinery and space will extend to culture and tourism.

The Saudi envoy stressed that “Saudi Arabia and Italy are committed to take a step forward in the development of a strategic dialogue aimed at fostering bilateral relations in all sectors of common interest.”

He believes that “thanks to its precious cultural heritage, Italy is an ideal partner for the development of the Saudi culture sector.

“Many successful partnerships and initiatives with Italian companies have already been launched to develop the cultural sector in Saudi Arabia, in sectors such as art, cinema, archeology and architecture.”