Sweden Seeks Saudi Investments as Ties Improve After Rights Spat

Sweden is exploring new investments in Saudi Arabia six months after a diplomatic spat threatened bilateral trade ties.

Swedish Enterprise Minister Mikael Damberg said the two countries now share “good diplomatic relations,” with Swedish companies present in Saudi Arabia arranging the meetings they need and no longer facing visa problems. 

Damberg will meet Saudi government officials on Monday to discuss economic partnerships, the first such ministerial contact since Swedish criticism of the Gulf Arab state’s human-rights record soured relations.

Diplomatic ties are “back to normal,” Damberg said in an interview in Dubai, where he was attending a conference before heading to Riyadh.

In March, Sweden canceled a military cooperation pact with Saudi Arabia, and Foreign Minister Margot Wallstroem criticized the Gulf kingdom over human rights. In response, Saudi Arabia recalled its ambassador to Sweden briefly and said it would stop issuing new business visas to Swedes.

Though the Swedish government has made it clear it won’t continue its military agreement with Saudi Arabia, Damberg said it’s shifting to other areas where cooperation can prosper. Top Swedish executives had expressed concern that canceling the military deal with the nation’s most important trading partner in the Middle East would affect business.

Swedish pharmaceutical and medical technology companies could benefit from “huge investments” Saudi Arabia is making in its health care system, he said. 

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