Tonio Borg said that he discussed the Maltese initiative with Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal at great length at a lunch meeting in Riyadh on Tuesday.
“The liaison office can play a more effective role following the recent developments in the Middle East and this office can eventually become the focal point for dialogue and regional summits,” said Borg, addressing a press conference after his talks with Prince Saud.
He pointed out that he discussed a range of bilateral, regional and international issues with Prince Saud including Libya and Tunisia.
Borg spoke at length about the role played by Malta in evacuating Americans and other nationals from Libya and in facilitating the release of frozen Libyan assets. He pointed out that the two MIG fighters belonging to Libya would be released by Malta soon.
Borg said Europe and the Arab world had yet to establish an effective, permanent forum for political and economic dialogue, despite multiple attempts to do so.
He said Malta, which borders Libya and Tunisia, sought to further cement its role as a key player in continued efforts to seek the way forward to peace in the Middle East with the opening of the European Union-Arab League liaison office.
“We have also been supporting a free trade agreement between the EU and GCC for long,” said the deputy premier, adding that he will sign two agreements during his stay in the Kingdom.
He said a cooperation agreement on the fight against drug trafficking and organized crime will be signed later Tuesday night. The two sides will also sign an avoidance of double taxation agreement, he added.
This agreement is important keeping in view the growing business potential of the Kingdom. He noted that about 15 companies currently registered with the Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) have Saudi shareholdings.
“Malta has evinced keen interest to boost commercial ties,” said Maltese Ambassador Frank Galea. As a small country and a historic meeting place for reconciliation and dialogue, Malta seeks to project the European Union’s friendly face toward its neighbors to the south of the Mediterranean, he added.
“A country with a closeness and understanding of its southern neighbors and the Arab World, Malta seeks to be a voice sensitive to their realities within the European Union,” he added.
Malta, which is a member of the European Union and the euro zone, was seeking closer cooperation with the Kingdom — the largest and most powerful member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in various sectors.
Trade between the two countries was witnessing an uptrend in recent years. Borg was earlier received by Alauddin Al-Askary, deputy foreign minister for protocol affairs.

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