Singapore's President Tony Tan, PM Lee Hsien Loong congratulate Saudi's new King Salman

Saudi Arabia's King Salman is seen during US President Barack Obama's visit to Erga Palace in Riyadh on Jan 27, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Saudi Arabia's King Salman is seen during US President Barack Obama's visit to Erga Palace in Riyadh on Jan 27, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

Singapore President Tony Tan Keng Yam and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong have written to Saudi Arabia's new King Salman to congratulate him on his ascension to the throne last month, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Sunday.

King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, 79, succeeded his half-brother King Abdullah as Saudi monarch following the latter's death on Jan 23 aged about 90.

"On behalf of the people of Singapore, I offer my warmest congratulations to Your Majesty on your accession to the throne," Dr Tan said in his letter to King Salman, according to the MFA press release.

"Under Your Majesty's wise and benevolent leadership, I am confident that the people of Saudi Arabia will continue to enjoy peace and prosperity. Your Majesty's wise counsel will be much needed given the challenges facing the region."

Dr Tan noted that bilateral relations between Saudi Arabia and Singapore are "warm and longstanding", and the Free Trade Agreement between the Gulf Cooperation Council and Singapore will further enhance two-way economic links.

"Our peoples enjoy close ties and Singapore remains grateful for the Kingdom's support in facilitating the fulfilment of the religious obligations of Singaporean Muslims," Dr Tan added, referring to the haj pilgrimage made by local Muslims to the Holy Mosque in Mecca.

The haj is one of the five basic requirements of Islam that all Muslims must carry out at least once in their lifetimes, if they can afford it. Last year 1.4 million people made the trip. Singapore has been asking for a bigger haj quota - the number of pilgrims allowed by the Saudi government from each country for its pilgrims - since 2013 due to rising demand.

In his letter to King Salman, PM Lee recalled their meeting in Brisbane last November during the Group of 20 Summit.

"I appreciated Your Majesty's insights on regional developments given the Kingdom's key role in the Middle East. We are deeply grateful that the Kingdom has warmly welcomed Singaporean Muslims for the haj annually," wrote Mr Lee.

Both PM Lee and Dr Tan expressed willingness to working with King Salman to strengthen bilateral relations.

seokhwai@sph.com.sg