• Simon Upton
Foreign Affairs and Trade

New Zealand's next Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will be career diplomat Laurie Markes, Acting Foreign Minister Simon Upton announced today.

Mr Upton said New Zealand and Saudi Arabia had a wide-ranging bilateral relationship covering common security, commercial, education and energy-related interests.

As a key country in a strategic part of the world, Saudi Arabia was uniquely placed to help influence events in the Gulf region and wider Middle East generally, the Minister said.

"New Zealand is strongly committed to its relationship with Saudi Arabia, and it is important that we should be suitably represented there," Mr Upton said. "We believe there is considerable scope to expand on current trade and to diversify our economic linkages, both bilaterally and regionally."

New Zealand currently exports products in excess of $200 million to Saudi Arabia annually while imports, mostly of oil and petroleum products, total $400 million, making the Kingdom far and away New Zealand's largest trading partner in the Middle East.

Mr Markes will also be accredited as Ambassador to Egypt, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman.

Mr Markes, currently Director of Middle East and Africa Division at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, has previously served in Rome and New Delhi. He was Ambassador to Iran and Turkey from 1990 to 1993, and Ambassador to Mexico from 1993 to 1997. He takes up his posting in Riyadh in January in place of David Payton, who returns to Wellington.