ممثلية المملكة العربية السعودية في هولندا Kingdom of the Netherlands Netherlands Saudi Relations with Netherlands Saudi Relations with Netherlands Page Image Image Caption Page ContentThe Dutch presence in the Arab Peninsula dated back to the 17th century. In 1614 Dutch traders got permission to go across the Arab Peninsula at the beginning of Dutch opening up the Far East. At that time Dutch merchants were able to flourish trade and create good relations with the merchants of Jeddah city especially after the Dutch colonization of Indonesia, which was at that time the biggest Islamic country. After that, pilgrimage became one of the most important assets in the relations with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. These relations had resulted in the opening of the Dutch Consulate in Jeddah in 1869. The Netherlands was among the first countries which recognized the Kingdom. King Abdulaziz had given, May Allah rest his soul, his approval to open a new Dutch Consulate and a hospital in Mekkah. In 1926, Prince Faisal Bin Abdulaziz (His Majesty King Faisal, May Allah’s mercy be upon him) had visited Her Majesty Queen Wilhelmina, Queen of the Netherlands at that time. During his visit, Prince Faisal emphasized the special Saudi-Dutch relations and he called for opening a Dutch trade company in Jeddah. Prince Saud Bin Abdulaziz (His Majesty King Saud, May Allah’s mercy be upon him) paid also a similar visit to the Netherlands in 1935. These visits had led to starting diplomatic relations between both countries in 1968. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia had, then, established its diplomatic mission in The Hague. For reasons related to the interests of both countries, the economic factor had dominated these relations and interactions, and it has been the most active and dominant factor on the bilateral relations between both countries especially for the Dutch side. The Netherlands has been always keen on economic cooperation between both countries and increase trade exchange volume. Despite the fact that the Netherlands leaned in its political relations with the countries of the region according to the frame and strategy of the European Union, the Netherlands is keen on intensifying its relations with the countries of the region on a bilateral basis. The bilateral relations has witnessed a remarkable development in the first decade of this century, for example, the pace of diplomatic relations has been increased in different areas, and this cooperation has been translated into signing bilateral agreements in economic, cultural and financial fields. These contacts resulted in the support of the Netherlands of the membership of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the World Trade Organization when the Dutch premier received a letter from the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques in this regard. Both countries exchanged their mutual support during the first elections of the Human Rights Council of the United Nations. The Netherlands was one of the countries which openly declared its support of the candidature of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to this Council. The increase of visits of Dutch officials is among the features of the development of the relations between both countries. The Dutch former Minister of Foreign Affairs Ben Bot visited the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 2002. He met with the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and the Secretary-General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. The visit of Mr. Maxime Verhagen, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, was also among the important visits to the Kingdom. Mr. Verhagen met with His Royal Highness Prince Saud Al Faisal and held discussion with His Royal Highness during which they both emphasized the importance of the relations between both countries politically and economically. They also discussed issues of common interest such as the Palestinian issue and the peace process in the Middle East. During this visit, the Dutch Minister had signed in Riyadh a Memorandum of Understanding concerning scientific cooperation between both countries. These visits are not limited to political relations, but it go beyond that to economic relations. The last years, have witnessed many visits of Dutch Ministers of Economy in 2006, 2009 and 2011. These visits have focused on trade exchange between countries, investment and energy. As far as human rights are concerned, the Dutch Helsinki Association, which is an association specialized in human rights, visited the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 2006. The members of this association described their visit as positive. Dutch newspapers said that this visit surprised the delegation of the Helsinki Association because they sensed the Saudi openness to discuss all subjects such as woman position in the Kingdom. The Association of Bridging the Gulf made also a similar visit to the Kingdom in 2011. The Minister of Foreign Affairs recently praised the progress made in human rights in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia during one of the meetings of Dutch House of Representatives (Parliament), though both countries have different views regarding approaching this issue of human rights. The Netherlands focuses on the universality of human rights, whereas the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia emphasizes the importance and centrality of Islamic Sharia in these rights.