Saudi Arabia, Thailand hold first high-level meeting in decades

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Saudi Arabia, Thailand hold first high-level meeting in decades

A woman wave a flag as people celebrate Saudi Arabia's 90th annual national day, amid the spread of the coronaviruses COVID - 19 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on September 23, 2020. REUTERS Ahmed Yosri

CAIRO, Jan 25 Reuters -- Saudi Arabia and Thailand agreed on Tuesday to exchange ambassadors at the first high-level meeting between the two countries since a row over jewellery theft nearly three decades ago that led to the Gulf state downgrading ties.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha agreed on the appointment of ambassadors in the near future and to strengthen economic and trade relations, according to a joint statement on Saudi state media.

Saudi Arabian Airlines will resume direct flights to Thailand in May, according to a Twitter post on Tuesday.

After a diplomatic row over the theft of around $20 million of jewels by a Thai janitor in the palace of a Saudi prince in 1989, Saudi Arabia downgraded relations with Bangkok. Three Saudi diplomats in Thailand were killed in three separate murders in a single night.

Prayuth expressed sincere regret over the tragic events in Thailand between 1989 and 1990 and said his government was ready to bring cases to the competent authorities in the event of new relevant evidence. The theft of the jewels remains one of Thailand's biggest unsolved mysteries and was followed by a bloody trail of destruction that saw some of Thailand's top police generals implicated.

A large number of the gems, including the rare blue diamond, are yet to be recovered.

In 2014 a Thai criminal court dismissed the case against five men, including a senior police officer, charged with murder of Saudi businessman Mohammad al-Ruwaili, who disappeared a month after witnessing one of the shootings of Saudi diplomats.

Thailand is eager to normalise relations with oil-rich Saudi Arabia after the spat cost billions of dollars in two-way trade and tourism revenues and loss of jobs for tens of thousands of Thai migrant workers.