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Singapore’s Foreign Minister to Asharq Al-Awsat: Russian-Ukrainian Crisis Threatens World Order

Singapore’s Foreign Minister to Asharq Al-Awsat: Russian-Ukrainian Crisis Threatens World Order

Monday, 5 September, 2022 - 09:15
Foreign Minister of Singapore Vivian Balakrishnan

Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said that the Russian attack on Ukraine was a “great threat to the world order,” warning at the same time against the US-Chinese tension over Taiwan.

In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Balakrishnan stressed that the continuation of the Russian attack on Ukraine constituted a major threat to the world order and a blatant violation of international law.

The invasion sets a dangerous precedent that undermines the security and existence of many countries, especially small countries like Singapore, the minister emphasized.

Ukraine Crisis

On the impact of the Russian-Ukrainian crisis on the economic, financial and food situation in the world and Singapore in particular, the minister said that the war would harm supply chains and obstruct post-pandemic economic recovery efforts.

“It is of great concern to countries in Asia, where stable and resilient supply chains are critical to ensuring the continued flow of essential goods, such as food and medical supplies,” Balakrishnan said, stressing the need for countries to work together to ensure that international trade remains smooth, predictable, open and reliable.

Tension between Beijing and Washington

Balakrishnan warned against the deepening division between the United States and China, and the risk of a real and growing mishap or miscalculation between the two countries.

He underlined the need for the two leaderships to maintain communication, especially at the highest level, in order to reach a temporary settlement and to prevent war.

Stable relations between the United States and China are vital to regional and international peace and prosperity, he remarked.

Relations with Saudi Arabia

The foreign minister said that Singaporean-Saudi relations were accelerating towards digital and technological integration, including the expansion of cooperation in many fields, including trade, investment, and education.

The Kingdom is Singapore’s second largest trading partner in the Middle East, as bilateral trade exceeded $6.8 billion in 2021, the minister told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Balakrishnan praised Saudi Arabia’s rapid and dynamic development within the framework of the ambitious Vision 2030 agenda.

In this regard, the minister pointed to the launch of the Saudi-Singapore Joint Committee (SSJC) in December 2021, which he said constituted a major cooperation platform in the fields of transport, logistics, digital economy and energy.

He added that the committee would seek to face future challenges posed by the climate change, with Saudi Arabia adopting the goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2060 and Singapore by 2050.

“With the launch of digital finance in both Singapore and Saudi Arabia, we are discussing a memorandum of cooperation to strengthen partnership in the areas of digital economy, emerging technologies and e-government, which will be signed soon,” the minister revealed.

He added that his country was pleased that Saudi Arabia has adopted the Smart Industry Readiness Index (SIRI) developed by Singapore, highlighting “the aspects of integration between our national strategy for artificial intelligence, and the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.”

Balakrishnan also told Asharq Al-Awsat that his country was keen to strengthen cooperation with Saudi Arabia in artificial intelligence, including digitally enabled services and smart cities.

“We also look forward to strong cooperation in the field of cyber-security,” he emphasized.

The Joint Committee: A platform for cooperation between the two countries

The minister of Foreign Affairs of Singapore said that the Saudi-Singapore Joint Committee (SSJC) was vital platform to discuss concrete projects and strengthen economic ties across a variety of sectors.

The idea of the committee was raised by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz, during the state visit of President Halimah Yacob to Riyadh in November 2019.

The minister announced that his country would host the second session of the SSJC later this year, hoping to expand cooperation to include vital sectors such as green economy and digital fields, in addition to tackling emerging challenges, opportunities for cooperation and contribution to development goals, and attracting Saudi companies to benefit from Singapore as a gateway to Asia.

Energy cooperation

Balakrishnan highlighted his country’s keenness to expand energy cooperation with Riyadh, stressing that the Kingdom was a global power and a key player in the energy sector.

“In December 2021, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed in the energy sector for cooperation in areas such as energy efficiency and conservation, as well as building capacity in low-carbon technologies, such as hydrogen and carbon capture, use and storage,” he stated.

The Minister indicated that both Saudi Arabia and Singapore were aware of the importance of collective action within the international community, to address climate change and improve sustainability.

He noted in this regard that the two countries joined the Global Methane Pledge - which seeks to collectively reduce global methane emissions across all sectors by at least 30 percent by 2030 – during their participation in the 26-COP conference in Glasgow in November 2021.

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