The Slovenia Times

Middle-East crisis in focus as Fajon returns to region

Foreign Minister Tanja Fajon visits the Rafah border crossing. Photo: BoĊĦtjan Podlogar/STA

Hard on the heels of her visit to the Middle East and the Slovenian government's decision to start procedures to recognise Palestinian statehood, Foreign Minister Tanja Fajon returned to the region for a tour taking her to Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

The Middle-East crisis topped the agenda with concerns expressed about stalled talks on a ceasefire in Gaza and officials in the region acknowledging Slovenia's role in the efforts to build peace.

Opening her tour with a visit to the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Palestinian territories on 11 May, Fajon called for reopening of this key Gaza crossing point for humanitarian aid, a call that was also repeated as she met her Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry in Cairo.

They both also urged Israeli authorities again to stop their military operation in the city of Rafah.

Calls for increasing humanitarian aid into Gaza also headlined Fajon's meeting with her Emirati counterpart Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan in Abu Dhabi on 13 May, and in Qatar, which has been serving as a mediator in the conflict, the talks focused on efforts to resume the stalled Gaza ceasefire talks.

"Unfortunately, the talks have reached a stalemate, and the prime minister kind of implied that right now there no is willingness to negotiate," Fajon said on 14 May after meeting Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, who also serves as the country's foreign minister.

The pair noted the need to continue efforts to achieve ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. It had been suggested that the negotiations in Cairo could continue in a few weeks, Fajon said.

"All international efforts aimed at ceasefire are all the more important right now. We need to come together, even though we are perhaps on the opposite sides, and achieve peace in Gaza," Fajon said.

On the last stop on her tour, Fajon met her Saudi counterpart Faisal bin Farhan and Minister of Economy and Planning Faisal Ibrahim in Riyadh on 15 May.

"The minister acknowledged Slovenia's extremely important role and also thanked us for recently initiating the procedures for recognising Palestine," Fajon said after the meeting with Farhan.

Economic cooperation also on agenda

During her meetings in the region, Fajon also discussed boosting economic cooperation, including in artificial intelligence, renewable energy, tourism and agriculture.

Saudi Arabia is Slovenia's most important trading partner in the Gulf, followed by the UAE. In recent years, the number of Saudi tourists to Slovenia has been increasing fast and Slovenian companies are interested in the market, in particular when it comes to AI.

The minister invited the UAE to open an embassy in Slovenia. She noted that nearly 700 Slovenians live in the country, many working in business.

"The UAE is especially interesting for Slovenia because they are the fourth strongest global power in artificial intelligence," said Fajon, adding that there is potential to strengthen the exchange of expertise in information and communications technology and renewables.

In Qatar, Fajon and Al Thani signed an agreement to facilitate visa procedures regarding specific categories of Slovenian and Qatari nationals.

"It is an important step in efforts to strengthen the relations," Fajon said. Qatar's prime minister also showed interest in cooperation in boosting air connectivity.


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