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11 December 2023

UN pays tribute to late Saudi King's 'major contributions'

In this March 28, 2014 file photo, U.S. President Barack Obama meets with Saudi King Abdullah about a coalition to tackle the extremist Islamic State group, at Rawdat Khuraim, Saudi Arabia. On early Friday, Jan. 23, 2015, Saudi state TV reported King Abdullah died at the age of 90. (AP)

By Wam

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has ‘learnt with sadness’ of the death of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, the late King of Saudi Arabia and Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, who passed away late on Thursday.

In a statement issued through his spokesperson, Ban extended his condolences to the bereaved family of King Abdullah and the Government and people of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia while also highlighting the ‘major contributions’ the late King made to the development of his country.

"Under his leadership over many decades in different high-level positions in Government, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia achieved remarkable progress and prosperity for its people," the statement declared, adding that Ban paid tribute to King Abdullah's efforts in addressing both regional and international challenges and in promoting dialogue among the world's faiths.

"As the driving force behind the Arab Peace Initiative, King Abdullah left a tangible legacy that can still point the way toward peace in the Middle East," Ban said through his spokesperson. "King Abdullah's leadership will be remembered throughout the Arab and Islamic worlds and the international community."

In addition, the Secretary-General also expressed gratitude for the King's "generous humanitarian and developmental support" for people across the Arab region and wider world.

In a separate statement issued earlier today, the UN's World Food Programme (WFP), in fact, recalled that in 2008, Saudi Arabia, under King Abdullah's leadership, responded swiftly to peaking global food prices with a $500 million contribution – the largest single donation that the UN agency has ever received from a donor country.

"He was a true humanitarian leader, always on the side of the world's hungry poor," WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin said. "When we struggled to save lives and to feed people fleeing from conflict or natural disasters, we could always count on the King's generosity at the most difficult moments."

Moreover, the WFP noted, King Abdullah had also stood by the people of Iraq with a $500 million contribution to UN relief efforts for displaced Iraqis fleeing the conflict in their country. When WFP struggled to meet the food needs of Syrian refugees due to a shortage of funding, the agency added, the King made a new contribution of a total of $104m to help humanitarian efforts.

"King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud worked tirelessly to improve the lives of his people and people suffering far from his homeland. The world, and especially, the people he helped will never forget his life-saving support," Cousin continued.

"On behalf of WFP staff and the millions of people he helped us serve around the world, we express our deep condolences to the Saudi people at the loss of a true, outstanding world leader."