Saudi King meets New Zealand PM in Riyadh

John Key’s visit to Saudi Arabia is said to be the first by any New Zealand head of state.

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Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud on Wednesday received the Prime Minister of New Zealand John Key in Riyadh to review bilateral relations between the two countries.

They discussed ways of enhancing ties in various fields, as well as the latest regional and international developments, the state-run Saudi Press Agency reported.

The meeting was attended by a number of Saudi officials and the prime minister’s accompanying delegation.

Key’s visit to Saudi Arabia is said to be the first by any New Zealand head of state.

The prime minister earlier this week described Saudi Arabia as a “very important country”, speaking during an exclusive interview with Al Arabiya News.

Answering a question regarding the reasons why New Zealand officials had not visited Saudi Arabia in the recent past, Key said this was a result of diplomatic legacy, though noted his previously scheduled trip in 2010 had to be cancelled due to a military plane crash.

“In a lot of ways maybe it’s been that New Zealand had historically focused on more traditional markets and for a very long time, up until pre-1970s, virtually all New Zealand products were sold to the United Kingdom.”

New Zealand has recently developed strong trade relations with neighboring Asia, but the GCC now represents the country’s fifth biggest trade market.

“I think the need for a visit probably wasn’t as big a priority for previous prime ministers as it is for me. We historically wanted to come some time earlier but it has just taken some time to re-arrange this visit after we had to cancel… so look it’s well and truly overdue but it’s going to be a wonderful opportunity.”

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