Today I announce the appointment of Dr Ralph King as Australia’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, with non-resident accreditation to Bahrain, Oman and Yemen.
Australia and Saudi Arabia have a strong and longstanding relationship, with shared regional security interests. Australia welcomed Saudi Arabia’s now King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud to the G20 Summit in November 2014.
The bilateral relationship is underpinned by strong trade and investment ties. Saudi Arabia is Australia’s second-largest trading partner in the Middle East, with more than $2.5 billion of two-way merchandise trade in 2013-14, a 10 per cent increase on 2012-13. In 2014, there were more than 10,000 enrolments by Saudi students in Australia.
Expanding commercial links with Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain and other GCC states is a key Australian Government priority. Australia looks forward to the early resumption of Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations with the GCC.
The Australian Embassy in Riyadh engages the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and its Secretariat based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. On broader regional and international issues, Australia also engages with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Oman as members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, and with Oman and Yemen through the Indian Ocean Rim Association.
Dr King is a career officer with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Until recently, he was Australia’s Ambassador to Egypt. He has served overseas as Australia’s Ambassador to Kuwait, and has been posted also in Hanoi, Beirut and Damascus. In Canberra, Dr King has worked as Speechwriter, and Director of the Security Policy and Operations, and the Recruitment, Performance and Forecasting Sections. Before joining DFAT, Dr King was a Middle East Analyst in the Office of National Assessments. Dr King holds a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) degree in Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies, and an MPhil and a PhD in International Relations. He speaks Arabic and is married with two children.
Dr King is expected to take up his appointment in April 2015. I thank outgoing Ambassador Neil Hawkins for his work in strengthening Australia’s relations with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman and Yemen since 2011.
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