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“We oppose violence against any sovereign country,” Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard told Arab News

RIYADH: Mexico opposes any form of violence against a sovereign country, whether it’s invading Ukraine or missile attacks targeting Saudi Arabia, the country’s top diplomat has said.

Marcelo Ebrard, Mexico’s foreign secretary, made the point forcefully in an exclusive interview with Arab News in Riyadh after arriving on Wednesday on the first leg of a four-country tour that will also take him to Qatar. , the United Arab Emirates and India.

The visit comes as Saudi Arabia and Mexico prepare to mark the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. Both countries are major energy producers, but their relationship is not limited to hydrocarbons. Both are diversifying their economies, investing in the knowledge economy and developing climate action programs.

At the start of the interview, Ebrard clarified Mexico’s position on the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. “We condemn the invasion because it is an invasion by one country of another,” he said.

“Mexico has suffered, as you probably know, four invasions in its history. Thus, we clearly understand what we are talking about when one country invades another. We condemn this (way) of resolving political disputes.

However, in the context of the Russian invasion, Ebrard questioned the effectiveness of economic sanctions as a panacea.

“We have a very strong stance against sanctions, because usually it doesn’t work, like in the case of Cuba,” he said, referring to the US trade embargo, considered the longest sanctions regime. of modern history.

Noor Nugali, Deputy Editor of Arab News, with Marcelo Ebrard, Foreign Secretary of Mexico. (AN Photo/Huda Bashatah)

“They have maintained a blockade for 60 years now. It does not work. Only the people suffer. As far as Mexican foreign policy is concerned, we are against sanctions. Not just in this (Cuban) case, but always.

Commenting on discussions this week between Prince Faisal bin Farhan, Saudi Foreign Minister, and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, on the situation in Ukraine, as well as diplomatic efforts to end the crisis, Ebrard said that any attempt mediation was worth trying.

After calls with Ukrainian and Russian leaders on March 3, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman said Saudi Arabia was ready to deploy all efforts to mediate between the warring parties.

“If Saudi Arabia can come to some kind of agreement, we will be very happy to hear about it,” Ebrard said. “The political solution is the only one, because the other (solution), violence, will only create enormous suffering for society.”

At a time of global energy shortages and growing geopolitical tensions, Saudi oil installations, as well as population centers, are being targeted by Yemen’s Houthi militia. How does Mexico see the situation?

“We are against any use of violence as I mentioned. It’s the same with these kinds of attacks on Saudi Arabia,” he said.

“So we must support Saudi Arabia and its case for respecting its integrity and the (security of) its people. We condemn this kind of violence against this country.

As for the Houthis’ terrorist attacks against civilian areas, he reiterated the condemnation of the Mexican government. “We’ve done it in the past and we’re doing it now. We are against this kind of attacks and this kind of violence, any form of political violence.

Elaborating on the issue, Ebrard said, “In our constitution, (we support the peaceful resolution of) disputes. We support the UN and we are against violence. We have learned from our history that violence is a bad idea.

“We have already suffered four invasions from France, the United States and Spain. So, we have learned that this is the worst thing to do.

Turning to bilateral relations between Saudi Arabia and Mexico, Ebrard said he foresees a bright future. “Bilateral relations will be at a higher level. We are not superpowers, but we are part of the G20, which are the largest economies in the world,” he said.

“So we can really work together to improve the world and improve our relationship for the benefit of our people. We are 70 years old with no differences, which is quite unique. It’s a pretty good relationship right now.”

Ebrard said that as economic relations between Saudi Arabia and Mexico, rooted in trade and investment, deepen and strengthen, there will be practical benefits.

“Increased tourism and development in Mexico and Saudi Arabia (benefits) together. Increased investment means more opportunities for people,” he said.

Ebrard said the Kingdom and Mexico have similar political priorities, particularly in the area of ​​knowledge. “We have similarities. (We both want to) increase tourism and accelerate development.

“So we have similar priorities, we work on the same issues. So why not join our efforts, for the benefit of other people, for example, so that new vaccines or drugs, solutions or pharmaceutical ideas (become reality) in the short term? Why not? We will try to do that.

Asked about his views on Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 reform strategy, Ebrard described it as “a very interesting and very advanced idea”.

“The reforms are very interesting. And you move very fast,” he said. “That’s the impression we have of Mexico. The reforms, the new vision, are a source of inspiration for all countries. I agree that this is a very important initiative.

Ebrard said he was impressed with a visit to King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology in Riyadh. “They have 60 facilities. It’s amazing. And I think over 2,000 researchers,” he said. “So they showed us several very interesting projects. We will continue this conversation for joint efforts.

He said he was pleased with a meeting with Saudi Arabia’s Tourism Development Fund. “They made a presentation to the representatives of the Mexican private sector, who form the commercial part of my delegation, on the new developments to come in Saudi Arabia in the coming years,” he said.

“Then I had a conversation with the Foreign Minister (Prince Faisal bin Farhan), who is a very smart and good friend of mine.”

During Prince Faisal’s visit to Mexico in November last year, the two noted the “excellent synergies between Mexico and Saudi Arabia within the G20 and the UN to promote initiatives that benefit more widely to developing countries.

Marcelo Ebrard, Foreign Secretary of Mexico. (AN Photo/Huda Bashatah)

Ebrard said, “We have similar ideas on reforestation, in Mexico and in Saudi Arabia. We promote ideas on how to recover Mexico’s rainforest and expand the green belt.

“It is a concrete expression of the similarities in our ideas on climate action. Then there are similarities in our positions on multilateral organizations, the search for a peaceful settlement of disputes in the world and other issues. for which we promote solutions.

“We are together not only on the issue of climate action, but also on the transition between the energy of the present and the energy of the future. It’s like flying an airplane where you will change the engine and, at the same time, continue to fly. So few countries understand this. As Saudis and Mexicans, we understand the challenge.

Ebrard identified tourism and infrastructure as two major areas where governments can work together. “We brought representatives from the private sector as part of the Mexican delegation. We are going to receive representatives of the private sector from Saudi Arabia next month,” he said.

He also listed some sectors he considers the most attractive for investment, including by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund.

“Agriculture, fishing, the automotive industry, the new economy including e-commerce. There are several areas where our priorities converge. So why not try to increase investment and trade between us? »

Ebrard acknowledged that distance posed a challenge to growing trade and investment, as did the lack of a direct air link between Saudi Arabia and Mexico. “You should be able to catch a flight from here and get to Mexico City,” he said.

“That’s going to be a goal for the next six months or something. It’s going to be very important. »

As a final note, Ebrard said, “We will continue this conversation (which we have had with our Saudi counterparts) to see results and short-term responses. A conversation that influences ideas and culture is the first step to changing the world.

Maria J. Book