Saudi Arabia, Thailand agree to restore full diplomatic ties

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

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

Saudi Arabian Airlines announced in a Twitter post on Tuesday that it would restart direct flights to Thailand in May.

Saudi Arabia downgraded relations with Bangkok after a diplomatic row over a theft in 1989 of around $20 million of jewels by a Thai janitor working in the palace of a Saudi prince, in what became known as the “Blue Diamond Affair”.

A year after the theft, three Saudi diplomats in Thailand were killed in three separate assassinations in a single night.

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.

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

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

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