RIYADH – Spain’s King Felipe VI was received on Sunday with honors by the ruler of Saudi Arabia, King Salman bin Abdulaziz, who decorated his Spanish counterpart with the Gulf state’s highest distinction.
King Felipe VI was greeted by King Salman bin Abdulaziz at the royal palace in Riyadh, where the monarchs held a bilateral meeting before taking part in a sumptuous state banquet.
This is King Felipe’s first official visit to Saudi Arabia since he assumed the Spanish throne on June 19, 2014.
Spain’s delegation included Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis and Development Minister Iñigo de la Serna, as well as the secretaries of state for trade, infrastructure and defense.
After a stately ceremonial reception, King Salman proceeded to award King Felipe the Great Collar of Abdulaziz al-Saud – the Arab kingdom’s highest order of merit – named after the founder of the modern Saudi state.
This distinction came as another gesture of goodwill by the House of Saud towards the Spanish royal family, following decades of friendship between former King Juan Carlos I and the Saudi sovereigns.
King Salman, 81, ascended the throne in January 2015 following the death of his step-brother, King Abdullah.
King Felipe started the day by meeting with Spanish expats in Riyadh, which number around 5,000 people, mainly businessmen and qualified professionals such as engineers.
“You have managed and promoted businesses with great success, helping to keep jobs both here and in Spain,” the head of State told his subjects at the Spanish embassy.
King Felipe stressed that Saudi Arabia was a “key country in the Middle East and in the Arab world,” with an economy that conferred the Gulf nation a “very relevant weight” on the international stage.