Manama: Two Saudi trade bodies have refused to receive a Russian delegation to protest Moscow’s support to the Syrian regime.
“The Russian delegation was not official and comprised seven businessmen,” Abdullah Bin Mahfoodh, member of the Chamber of Commerce in Jeddah. “They were in Saudi Arabia to visit some trade shows and they asked their consulate in Jeddah to coordinate a visit to the chambers of commerce in Riyadh and Jeddah,” he told local Arabic daily Al Sharq.
The delegation visited the Jeddah trade body where they were received by employees, but they did not meet any businessman, he said, adding that four of the members were Muslims and they performed Umrah.
Makkah, where Muslims perform Umrah and Haj (pilgrimage), is about 70 kilometres from the Red Sea resort of Jeddah.
Ben Mahfood attributed the “lack of interest” of the Jeddah commerce chamber in organizing a meeting between Saudi and Russian businessmen to Moscow’s support to the Syrian regime.
A statement from the chamber denied remarks posted on social networks about an official Saudi reception for the delegation despite Moscow’s siding with the Syrian regime.
“The delegation members were received by the head of directorate, but there was never an official meeting with any of the chamber leaders,” it said. Thousands of Saudis launched an online campaign against the planned Saudi Russian meeting and used popular networks to denounce it, saying that it was a source of shame.
Last week, Saud Al Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, said that the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states were losing hope that a peace plan spearheaded by United Nations and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan could put an end to violence in Syria.
Al Faisal said that Russia needed to change its stance on Syria.
“The time has come for Russia to change its stance from supporting the Syrian regime to working to stop the killing and (supporting) a peaceful transition of power,” he said at a news conference.
Ahmad Al Ghamdi, the head of the chamber media centre, said. They remained committed to the official Saudi Arabian position on the matter.
“Saudi businessmen have turned down all invitations by their Russian counterparts to take part in common activities,” he said, quoted by the daily.
The Russians arrived in Saudi Arabia through an invitation by a private company and the chamber had no role in granting them the necessary papers, he said.
“The limited reception went ahead only after we made sure that some of the visitors represented Muslim areas,” he said.
Abdul Rahman Al Jaraisi, the head of the chamber of commerce in Riyadh, said that the cancellation of the meeting with the Russian delegation was “an expression of compassion with the brotherly people of Syria and a protest against the Russian position on what is happening there.”
“We refused to meet because we wanted to convey the message from the Saudi business community and from Saudi Arabia that we have reservations about the unfair and unjust way they have been dealing with Syria,” he told Al Sharq. “Russia will be the greatest loser and if they stop exporting iron or wheat, we will not lose anything. There are Saudi substitutes for the iron and several other countries are ready to export to us iron and wheat,” he said.