RIYADH: This year’s G20 Summit will show that world leaders can work together to solve the “chaotic” problems brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, Argentina’s ambassador to the Kingdom has told Arab News.
Riyadh is hosting a virtual summit this year from Nov. 21 to Nov. 22 as part of its G20 presidency.
Marcelo Gilardoni, quoting parts of a speech given earlier this year by Argentinian President Alberto Fernandez, said it was important to demonstrate courage and solidarity in the face of the global health crisis.
Fernandez made a statement in March during an extraordinary G20 leaders’ summit and talked about creating a humanitarian emergency fund in response to COVID-19.
“We come together at a unique time in history that demands that we act with courage,” he had said. “The urgency imposed by the deaths requires that we create a global humanitarian emergency fund that will allow us to be better equipped with supplies to deal with the current context. Research on COVID-19 should also be a global public good. Medical and scientific knowledge should be made universally available at affordable prices. We need to rebuild global coexistence on the basis of solidarity.”
Gilardoni, reflecting on the president’s speech, said Saudi Arabia had done a great job with the G20 by being creative and flexible — and also emphasizing multilateralism and solidarity.
“This is the first time in the world that we are holding these kinds of meetings virtually not physically,” Gilardoni told Arab News. “(We are) working together to fight against whatever might come. We are part of the same world. It’s a year in which all member countries can show the world that we can work together in solving this chaotic and big problem we’re having.”
The ambassador added that, with physical meetings impossible due to the pandemic, Saudi Arabia had chosen a virtual format for the flagship forum for international economic cooperation. But he expressed regret that face-to-face contact was some way off, especially as Latin Americans and Saudis shared common ground when it came to making and strengthening connections.
“Physical meetings are very important. We share those values of looking into each other’s eyes. Negotiating is much easier if you’re in front of the person you’re negotiating with. This is a very important challenge for Saudi Arabia and the whole world. So, I think it showed the world that we can do that virtually. I hope we will be able to go back to physical meetings.
“We have these common values, family values, friendship values, and also hospitality. And I think this was an important occasion (the G20) to show the world the new Saudi Arabia, what they have, which is very nice. Somebody told me when you make a Saudi friend, it’s a friend forever. So, this is a value they have to share with the world.”
Gilardoni said that the focus of the G20 agenda had changed and that it was now trained on COVID-19 and health issues.
“Saudi Arabia has been trying to keep some of the issues on the agenda as well, but it’s been diverted into COVID-19 and health issues. The G20 Summit in Riyadh will be remembered for these efforts to fight together and unite against such (a) pandemic this year and against whatever may come in the future.”
He said that bilateral relations were very good and that the two countries were working together in several fields.
“We are working together with the Saudi authorities to boost our bilateral relations in the best way. We’re working together in sports, in agricultural issues in trade and investment, and also financing structural projects in Argentina and culture. We still have a way to go. The more we know each other, the more friends we can become and the more partners we can be.”
He praised the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plan to diversify the economy and its performance during the global crisis. “I visited some of the tourist destinations. I’ve been to AlUla, which is marvelous. I’ve been to Neom and, of course, Diriyah in Riyadh. Saudi Arabia is doing very well in tourism and opening to the world. I’ve attended last year’s tourist visa announcement for some 50 countries. I hope we will be included in that list very soon.”
He said he had been welcomed in the country and was feeling at home. “I have very good Saudi friends, and it’s a wonderful country. It’s a country we have to get to know as foreigners. Everybody in my family and my friends that came to Saudi Arabia were astonished because of the people, but also the beauty of the country. It’s very diverse, very different.”