RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — The Latest on the decision to allow Saudi women to drive (all times local):

6:55 p.m.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman is welcoming Saudi Arabia’s decision to grant women the right to drive as “a big step for Saudi society.”

Spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Wednesday that Merkel has repeatedly brought up the situation of women during visits to Saudi Arabia. He says “it is a particularly important issue to her.”

Seibert added that “we support Saudi Arabia’s reform course, we encourage Saudi Arabia to continue these reforms and also to strengthen civil rights.”

Saudi Arabia was the only country in the world to ban women from driving. The royal decree, announced late Tuesday, comes into effect next summer, but it comes nearly three decades after women began agitating for the right to drive.


11:55 a.m.

British Prime Minister Theresa May says she welcomes Saudi Arabia’s decision to allow women to drive cars.

May said in a statement Wednesday that it represents an “important step towards gender equality.”

May says: “The empowerment of women around the world is not only an issue I care deeply about, it is also key to nations’ economic development.”

Saudi Arabia and Britain are close allies. The ultraconservative kingdom is the only country in the world that bars women from driving. The change came in a royal order reported by state media late Tuesday that takes effect next June.


8:25 a.m.

Saudi Arabia’s largely state-linked media is responding positively to King Salman’s decision to allow women to drive beginning next summer.

The English-language newspaper Arab News had a banner headline reading: “hashtagSaudiWomenCanDrive.”

The newspaper’s editor-in-chief, Faisal J. Abbas, wrote in a front-page editorial that “much can be said in criticism of the illogical ban and the extremely long time it took to reverse it.

Abbas added: “This is, however, certainly a case of ‘better late than never;’ and we should not for a single moment underestimate the significance of this bold move by Riyadh.”

The headline on the state-linked Arabic newspaper Okaz noted that “In the era of King Salman, women can drive.”

The kingdom is the only country in the world that bars women from driving.