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The Chairman of the National Defence Committee Marko Mihkelson is currently in Saudi Arabia, taking part in a field meeting of the NATO PA Committee on the Civil Dimension of Security. He reports that the country, which finds itself in the hub of globally significant events, hopes that the security situation of the region will improve and the focus will shift on economy.

“Saudi Arabia is a force to be reckoned with in global economy – where it influences the price of oil – as well as in its region – where its activities affect the security situation in Syria, Yemen, and also Iran, with whom the relationship has become more strained,” Mihkelson said.

The Saudi representatives had highlighted the responsible actions of the kingdom and had repeatedly referred to the attempts of Iran to inflame terrorism. Mihkelson added that Saudi Arabia is interested in stabilising Middle East and aims to focus primarily on economy.

According to Mihkelson, the recent removal of sanctions against Iran increases tensions because it allows Iran to start making investments more freely, among other things into military development. “Tensions are palpable and Iran is seen as an enemy,” he said, adding that Saudi Arabia is not looking for a more direct conflict, although it is fighting with Iran by indirect means in Syria and Yemen.

The Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council had emphasised how despite Europe’s concerns regarding Syrian refugees, the latter actually just want to return home. “Only one refugee should actually leave Syria: President Assad, who is at the root of many of the problems,” Mihkelson summed up the discussion at the meeting.

Mihkelson explained that Saudi Arabia understands perfectly that there are no instant solutions and that Russia’s actions in Syria might spread the conflict. “Everyone agrees that Russian intervention last September changed everything, just when Assad’s grip had weakened and there was a glimmer of hope of seeing him at the negotiation table. Russia is working in favour of the Assad regime, primarily destroying the country’s moderate opposition to force a choice on Syria: either Assad or the Islamic State.”

The crucial question is the future capability of the anti-Assad opposition to take any kind of leadership in the country. For this purpose, Saudi Arabia has united Syrian opposition forces and has created a coalition of 34 Islamic countries to fight terrorism. The actual activities of the coalition are as yet undetermined.

The issue of lower oil prices is related to the increasingly strained economic situation of Saudi Arabia. “We must remember that lower oil prices are largely caused by Saudi policy itself,” Mihkelson said. While the price of oil has dropped to USD 28 per barrel at the global market, the production cost for Saudi Arabia is only USD 5–6. “As we can see, there is room for a further drop,” said Mihkelson, adding that the price is not expected to rise this year and that it might in fact fall even further.

The archive of the Riigikogu press releases and sitting reviews is located at – https://www.riigikogu.ee/en/news-and-publications/news-press-releases/press-releases/

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Epp-Mare Kukemelk
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