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RIYADH: Cyprus is keen to join the Digital Cooperation Organization and forge a good relationship in research and development with Saudi Arabia, said visiting Cypriot Minister for Research, Innovation and Digital Policy Kyriacos Kokkinos.

Headquartered in Riyadh, the DCO is a global multilateral organization established in 2020 by seven member states: Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Nigeria, Oman, and Pakistan to drive greater collaboration and cooperation across entrepreneurship, innovation, business growth and employment in a shared digital economy.

Kokkinos, in an exclusive interview with Arab News, said: “Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and our President Nicos Anastasiades met in Riyadh a few weeks back, and this meeting brought the two countries closer.

“We agreed to explore collaboration in various sectors of the economy as well as the society.

“I spent one day in Jeddah, and three days in Riyadh. We had a number of very productive meetings,” he added.

“To be honest, I am very positively surprised by the gigantic steps that have been happening in the past six years in the Kingdom, in all sectors of the economy, especially in research, innovation, and digital,” said Kokkinos.

“It’s not just that, what I realized is that reform is very evident in the social fabric, and in the society, not just in the economy, and this is a very positive message for us that Saudi Arabia is very much aligned in terms of challenges, business opportunities, as well as social interaction between the two countries through specific programs that we have agreed with counterpart ministers and senior officials during the meetings here,” he added.

The Saudi ministers and officials who met Kokkinos during the visit include Minister of Communications and Information Technology Abdullah Al-Swaha, Governor of the National Cybersecurity Authority Majed bin Mohammed Al-Mazyed, Hassan Nasser from the DCO, Governor of the Digital Government Authority Ahmed Mohammed Ali Al-Suwaiyan, and President of the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology Dr. Munir Eldesouki.

“We have discussed and explored the option for Cyprus to sign the DCO,” Kokkinos continued. “We are very close to coming to an agreement to sign the DCO.”

However, he said that as Cyprus is a member of the EU, “we have to inform and get their concurrence, which I hope (will happen) within the next few weeks.

“Throughout my meetings, what I witnessed is very vibrant, very prosperous economic activity around the new technologies, research sciences. I visited the KACST, and witnessed the phenomenal job being done on genetics laboratories, semiconductors, industrial robotics, 3D printing, and space. The job there is phenomenal.

“It’s not just the infrastructure — the state-of-the-art equipment and laboratories — but also the people and the human capital. I am amazed by the quality of scientists because I myself come from the sciences and technology sector,” said Kokkinos.

“We have agreed that we will bring our university in contact with the universities here, especially KACST, and interchange and collaborate on specific projects in the sectors and domains of mutual interest,” he added.

Kokkinos said that an agreement had been reached to assign joint task forces from both countries to collaborate on a bottom-up approach and to build an agenda on an ongoing basis, and also to facilitate the business bridge and the social bridge between Cyprus and Saudi Arabia.

He added that Cyprus is a very dynamic economy and a gateway to Europe for the Middle East and North Africa.

“When I was told of this visit, I had high expectations, and the high expectations have not just been met, they have been exceeded by far,” Kokkinos said. “The primary reason I say this, is the willingness and the determination of the business community, and the government to collaborate with Cyprus and make alliances.

“The warm hospitality, substantial reforms and very vibrant ecosystem that has been interacting with my visit, and their willingness to collaborate to build business bridges is wonderful. Our two countries have a lot in common, such as culture, food, and social interaction. I believe that this is becoming a priority for us, and for the Kingdom as well Cyprus, (this) can be the home for doing business in the region.”

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