The construction of a high speed railway between Mecca and Medina is being led by a Spanish consortium. Above, the Saudi Arabian Minister for Transport, Jubarah bin Eid al-Surayasiri, along with the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation and Minister of Development, at the signing of the agreement in 2012.
Spain and the Middle East
Spain's relationship with the Middle East is a neighbourly one, characterised by cooperation and that, over recent years, has been strengthened by commercial agreements that have allowed for the export of Spanish goods and technology for the construction of new infrastructure in these countries, in particular in the Gulf

Spain maintains friendly and cooperative relations with all countries in the Middle East, and, in 1991, brought the Arab nations and Israel together for the first time at the Madrid Peace Conference. In the case of Israel, diplomatic relations were established in 1986, putting an end to the "historic anomaly" of both countries, in the words of then Spanish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Francisco Fernández Ordóñez, and ushering in an extraordinary development of diplomatic relations between both countries over the period of more than thirty years since.

At present, conflicts such as that in Syria or the fight against the so-called Islamic State, along with other issues that have remained unresolved for decades such as the Arab-Israeli conflict, are of great concern to Spain. This is why Spain is attempting to contribute constructively both at the heart of the European Union and bilaterally, with lasting and global solutions that promote prosperity and respect for human rights in the region. Since the Madrid Peace Conference of 1991, Spain has actively supported a definitive resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict through the Middle East Peace Process and a two-state solution, in accordance with the parameters accepted by the International Community, as was emphasised in November 2017 on the occasion of the visits to Spain of the President of Israel and the President of Palestine.

Palestine has traditionally been a priority for Spanish official cooperation and will remain so as a partner country in the new Spanish Master Plan for Cooperation 2018-2021. The primary objective of Spanish cooperation in Gaza and the West Bank is the long-term viability of the Palestinian State, by combating poverty and supporting civil society in the ambit of democratic values and peace-building. Spain has made, and continues to make, a significant contribution to humanitarian aid in the region, through international bodies on the ground. Finally, our country contributes economically to the current process of the reconstruction of Gaza.

From an economic perspective, Spain has particularly close relations with countries in the Gulf. In April, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohamed Bin Salman, made an official visit to Spain, following His Majesty King Felipe VI's visit to Saudi Arabia in January 2017. In 2014, His Majesty King Juan Carlos made a series of trips to the Member States of the Gulf Cooperation Council, accompanied by several members of the Government and business delegations, highlighting the special relationship between Spain and the Arab monarchies of the Gulf. This contributed to the strengthening of economic ties with each of these countries and expanding the presence of Spanish companies that already operate in each of the large-scale projects so representative of Brand Spain, such as the high speed railway that will link the cities of Medina, Jeddah and Mecca in 2018.

This desire to bring Spain and the countries of the Middle East closer together is not without its cultural aspect. The deepening of relations in any field is more effective where there is mutual understanding. In this sense, the active cultural policy of our embassies in the region, along with the presence of the Instituto Cervantes in Amman, Tel Aviv, Beirut and Cairo and activities organised by the Casa Árabe (from its centres in Madrid and Córdoba), the Sefarad-Israel Centre in Madrid and the Casa Mediterráneo in Alicante facilitate mutual understanding and trust between societies through intense public diplomatic activity.

Since joining the EU, Spain has contributed decisively to incorporating questions relating to the Middle East and the Mediterranean into the European Union agenda, an effort which has been repeated many times since the Madrid Peace Conference in 1991 up to the so-called Barcelona Process and the opening of the Union for the Mediterranean headquarters in that city.

 

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