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JEDDAH: The new US consul general in Jeddah, Ryan Gliha, has highlighted the enduring ties between the US and Saudi Arabia, and pledged his commitment to strengthening them. He also saluted the people of Jeddah for being so friendly and welcoming.

“The ties between our countries are strong and are kept strong by the vibrant interaction between our two peoples,” he said. “Security, business, educational and cultural exchange are essential parts of our long-standing relationship.

“The Saudi-US strategic partnership is based on security and economic interest but it has really grown beyond that. It has grown because of the people-to-people contacts … that friendship is something that reinforces the strategic nature of our relationship. At the heart of that is exchange — both cultural and educational. My colleagues and I, as the consul general, are committed to strengthening those relationships in the years to come.”

Gliha was speaking in his keynote address to a reception at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Jeddah, organized by the US Consulate General, to welcome him to his new post. The guests included government officials and diplomats, as well as prominent members of the business community and educators.

A career diplomat with the Senior Foreign Service, Gliha arrived in Jeddah last week. He stressed the strong economic ties between the two countries, and the important role of the business community in Jeddah in attracting American businesses to Saudi Arabia. The US is one of Saudi Arabia’s largest trading partners, with bilateral trade in goods and services reaching $45 billion in the past year.

“The business community here in Jeddah has been at the forefront of building that trade relationship, which is vital to both of our economies,” he added. “I look forward to making a very specific outreach to the business community here, as well as in the western region of Saudi Arabia.”

A speaker of Arabic, French, Uzbek and Farsi, Gliha saluted Saudi Arabia for its ability to handle the millions of pilgrims that arrive from around the world each year. In particular, he noted the increasing numbers of American pilgrims.

“This year we’ve had a record number of American citizens perform Hajj,” he said. “More than 20,000 came here during Hajj this season and the government should feel very proud of how everything went this year. The Kingdom is an amazing host for Hajj, and has always been an amazing host for American pilgrims.

“These numbers are really just numbers and I don’t like to talk about statistics, because what they really signify are representations of our relationship and it is truly stronger today than it has ever been before.”

His assignment in Jeddah marks a return to Saudi Arabia for Gliha, who began his diplomatic career in the city at the offices of the US Consulate General in 2002, where he served for two years as head of the visa unit. These days, visas are issued in a more simple and efficient manner, he said.

“We are issuing more than 40,000 visas a year from our consulate here in Jeddah, and we have more than 10,000 Americans that call western parts of Saudi Arabia home, so we are very busy on that front,” he added. Gliha concluded his speech by recalling the pleasant time he spent in Jeddah at the start of his career in diplomatic foreign service, and noting the changes in Saudi Arabia since then.

“It’s been 13 years since I’ve been in Jeddah and it’s amazing to see how much this city has changed,” he said. “I look forward to seeing the rest of western Saudi Arabia and all the progression that has taken place this past decade.

Gliha said the people of Jeddah are “friendly, dynamic and welcoming. I’ve always felt at home here, and while I’m seeing new buildings and construction projects everywhere I go, it’s really the people that brought me back here to Jeddah.”

Before his posting to Jeddah, Gliha served as interim charge d’affaires at the US Embassy in Doha, Qatar, from November 2017 until August 2018, after serving as deputy chief of mission from 2015 to 2017. He also served as director of the Regional Media Hub, and was the Arabic-language spokesman for the US Department of State’s Bureau of Public Affairs at the US Embassy in London from 2012 to 2015. In the summer of 2014, he also served temporarily as the acting deputy assistant secretary of state for international media in the Bureau of Public Affairs in Washington DC.

His other diplomatic assignments include stints as cultural affairs officer and public affairs officer in Beirut, Lebanon, public affairs officer in Sanaa, Yemen, and special assistant to the undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs in Washington.

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