Singapore will be 'important node' in Arab network
The Straits Times
Friday, 29 Feburary 2008

Singapore has always been an 'important node' in the international Arab network, and Foreign Minister George Yeo is confident that the country will become one again in the 21st century.

With the Middle East fast becoming a 'new frontier' for Singapore, he told the House yesterday that the region is 'full of opportunities, though not without risks'.

In the last few years, relations between Singapore and the Arab nations have seen a 'sea change' and high-level bilateral visits are so common, it is happening almost every month.

Mr Yeo was responding to Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman and Mr Hawazi Daipi (both Sembawang GRC), who asked about Singapore's ties with the Middle East.

Relations with the six countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have been stepped up, said Mr Yeo, and negotiations on a free-trade agreement between Singapore and the GCC were successfully concluded last month.

The GCC members are Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

It is estimated that about 35 million people live in these GCC states.

Beyond the GCC, Singapore's ties with Libya have also 'begun to flower', said Mr Yeo, since the establishment of relations last year.

Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong will be making an official visit to Libyan capital, Tripoli, later this year.

Mr Yeo also revealed that Shell's Singapore chairman Lee Tzu Yang has been appointed to chair the new Middle East Institute. An international search for a director is ongoing.