Saudi Arabia seeks new political bloc in Red Sea region

Saudi Arabia announced Wednesday (December 12th) it is seeking an alliance with six countries bordering the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, a strategic area vital to global shipping, Asharq al-Awsat reported.

Representatives from Egypt, Djibouti, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen and Jordan gathered in Riyadh on Wednesday to discuss the initiative without reaching a final agreement.

A team of experts is expected to meet "soon" in Cairo for technical talks.

"This is part of the kingdom’s efforts to protect its interests and those of its neighbours and ... to stabilise the region that we live in and to try to create synergies between the various countries," Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told reporters after a day of closed-door meetings.

"The more co-operation and co-ordination you have among the countries of this region, the less negative outside influence will be on this region," he said.

The Red Sea also includes the Bab al-Mandeb strait, through which an estimated 3.2 million barrels of oil per day flow toward Europe, the US and Asia. In recent years, the waterway has been targeted by pirates and the Iran-backed Houthis (Ansarallah) in Yemen.

Al-Jubeir said the meeting also discussed boosting trade and conserving the environment.

As part of a push to diversify its economy away from oil, Saudi Arabia has announced several mega-projects along the Red Sea, including a $500 billion business zone shared with Egypt and Jordan and a luxury tourism destination.

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