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(LEAD) Moon returns home after trip to Middle East

14:20 January 22, 2022

(ATTN: ADDS photo, Moon's message on recent construction site accident in last 2 paras)

SEOUL, Jan. 22 (Yonhap) -- President Moon Jae-in returned home Saturday from a three-nation trip to the Middle East, where bolstering economic and defense cooperation was high on the agenda.

President Moon Jae-in (L) and first lady Kim Jung-sook arrive at Seoul Air Base in Seongnam, just south of Seoul, on Jan. 22, 2022, after a three-nation trip to the Middle East. (Yonhap)

In the United Arab Emirates, South Korea signed a preliminary deal to sell Seoul's midrange surface-to-air missiles to the Persian Gulf nation, in the latest sign of deepening defense cooperation between the two nations.

The deal was signed after Moon held talks with UAE Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum in Dubai.

In Riyadh, Moon held talks with Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman agreed to work together in areas related to the hydrogen economy.

During the talks, Seoul and Riyadh signed preliminary deals to jointly develop green hydrogen, which is produced from renewable energy sources, especially solar and wind, and jointly build a hydrogen ecosystem.

Moon also held talks with Gulf Cooperation Council Secretary-General Nayef bin Falah Al-Hajraf in Riyadh, and they agreed to resume their free trade negotiations in the first quarter of this year.

In Cairo, Moon held summit talks with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and agreed to conduct a joint feasibility study on a bilateral free trade agreement.

If realized, an FTA with Egypt would mark South Korea's first free trade pact with an African country. Bilateral trade between South Korea and Egypt has been on the rise in recent years and stood at US$2.3 billion last year.

Meanwhile, Moon ordered officials to ensure that the government can play a leading role in picking up the pieces after a recent accident at a construction site in the southwestern city of Gwangju.

One worker was found dead and five others remain unaccounted for after the facade on a 39-story apartment building under construction by HDC Hyundai Development Co. crumbled to the ground in Gwangju on Jan. 11.




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