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Published in Arab News — Saturday 28 September 2013


The Kingdom and Malaysia share historic ties that go back to the day Malaysia became independent, according to that country’s outgoing ambassador.


Datuk Syed Omar Al-Saggaf, ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of Malaysia to Saudi Arabia and permanent representative to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), leaves Saturday after serving five years in the Kingdom. His tenure ended on Sept. 19.


"The history of bilateral relations started from our independence ceremony attended by a special Saudi representative and delegation,” Al-Saggaf told Arab News on the sidelines of a function in Jeddah to mark the 56th National Day of Malaysia and 50th anniversary of Malaysia Day.


Al-Saggaf said: “We upgraded the relationship between Saudi Arabia and Malaysia in many fields including trade, tourism, education and security.” He thanked Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah, Crown Prince Salman and other Saudi leaders and officials for their support.


“I managed to do the best job I could with the help of the different Malaysian officials — the consul general, his staff, and Haj, tourism and trade consuls. I’m leaving a lot of friends behind,” he said.


He said that Malaysia sees Saudi Arabia as one of the leading countries in the Islamic world and considers King Abdullah the "Imam of the Muslims."


Asked about his successor, Al-Saggaf, who was a political appointee, said there might be a diplomat appointed from the Ministry of External Affairs this time. “My successor will carry on the work and will get the support I received.”


The diplomat has specialized in Arabic and Middle Eastern studies. He is pursuing Arabic and Near Eastern and North African studies in the United States. He was a professor in Middle East studies specializing in Arabic at MARA University of Technology before coming to the Kingdom.


“There are so many happy memories that I will take back, so many things I can remember. The happenings here are seasonal — every year we wait for Ramadan and Haj.


“When you’re here you always think about what season is coming. This makes you prepare for Ramadan, Haj and the two Eids, which makes it a very interesting and good experience.”


Consul General Muhammad Khalid Abbasi Abdul Razak praised Al-Saggaf for fostering and strengthening relations between Malaysia and the Kingdom, and playing a significant role as the permanent representative of Malaysia to the OIC.


He said the ambassador achieved “impressive success, which is a true reflection of his career accomplishments and high standard of professionalism.”


Abdul Razak congratulated King Abdullah and his team on the recent 83rd anniversary of the Kingdom’s National Day. He said Malaysia was developing on many fronts including tourism, trade, investment and education. “There is win-win cooperation in the political, economic and strategic spheres,” he said.


Mohamad Haris Abdul Latif, assistant trade commissioner at the consulate, said that bilateral trade reached $3.69 billion in 2012, compared to $260 million in 1990. Exports from Malaysia to the Kingdom in 2012 reached about $1.26 billion, an increase of 4.7 percent. The trade balance is in favor of Saudi Arabia. “We hope to sustain the current trade. We do not have too high expectations because of the overall world situation,” he said.


Ahmad Yahya Al-Jahsyi, overseas director and tourism consul for the Kingdom, Levant, Yemen and North Africa, said a record 102,365 Saudi citizens visited Malaysia in 2012, compared to 87,693 a year earlier.