Press Briefing by
His Royal Highness Prince Saud Al-Faisal,
Minister of Foreign Affairs,
Jeddah, Tuesday, 23/7/1428 - 06/08/2007
In the Name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful
Last week witnessed a large political movement within the ongoing efforts to resolve the crises in the Gulf and the Middle East region. Saudi Arabia participated in the quadripartite meeting of the Foreign Ministers of France, Egypt and the Secretary-General of the Arab League, which discussed developments on the Lebanese situation. We are still looking forward to the [positive] response of the Lebanese factions to the initiatives aiming at containing the crisis, resumption of the national dialogue, respect for the legitimate political process, and refraining from any activities that undermine the security and stability of Lebanon and threaten its independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, especially in the light of external interference in Lebanon.
With regard to the Palestinian issue and the peace process in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia has participated in the meeting of the Arab Committee for fact finding on the events in Gaza. The committee examined the initial reports received and there are still intensive contacts in order to achieve Palestinian national reconciliation and return of the situation to Gaza to the legal framework committed to the Palestinian constitutional frameworks. The situation depends on the [positive] response of the Palestinian brothers to the efforts of settling differences amongst them, and moving forward in the peace process according to the Arab initiative.
The Kingdom also participated in the meeting of the Arab League Council at its extraordinary session to discuss the report of the ministerial committee on the Arab peace initiative, and the intensive efforts that have succeeded in mustering broad and clear support to the initiative through the meetings held with the international Quartet, the (EU) European Union, international and regional organizations, and permanent members of the UN Security Council. We have noticed broad Arab and international welcome to the positive points in the American initiative, especially since the idea of holding an international conference has always been an Arab demand. We believe that success of the conference depends on addressing the central issues of the conflict namely comprehensiveness of solution, creation of a viable and contagious Palestinian state, dismantling of settlements, and solving the problems of refugees and Jerusalem. These same elements converge in content with the Arab peace initiative. Emphasis was made on these fundamentals in the joint meeting of the GCC countries, Egypt and Jordan, with the United States in Sharm el-Sheikh, and during the visit of the US Secretary of State and Defense Secretary to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
In Sharm el-Sheikh, we also discussed the situation in Iraq in detail. The meeting reaffirmed respect for Iraq's sovereignty, territorial integrity, political independence and national unity. We believe the importance of the decision taken by the meeting lies in stressing the mutual commitments between Iraq and its neighbors and the international community, namely non-interference in its internal affairs and to continue support of Iraq politically and economically to overcome its crisis. And on the part of the Iraqi government, to honor its obligations, and re-stressing of the dire need to implement the principles agreed upon during the Ministerial Meeting held in Sharm el-Sheikh last May of the neighboring countries of Iraq and Egypt, with the permanent members of the UN Security Council and the G8. The meeting emphasized the responsibility of the Iraqi government in launching a comprehensive national reconciliation for all Iraqis, sponsoring economic reform, the provision of security and services to all Iraqis, and ensuring equality between citizens, whatever their beliefs, ethnicity and political affiliation.
In yesterday’s Council of Ministers’ session, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques indicated that the Kingdom, in all its positions, strives for maintaining its national interests, security and stability of its people, the unity of Arab action, firmly establishing Islamic solidarity, and understanding of the real world and the forces that affect it. The Kingdom believes that the road to this, is independence of the national decision, focusing on the common interests between the Arab states, and supporting moderate and legitimate tendencies in the Islamic world, and dealing with all world countries in openness and on equal footing.
In this context, the Council [of Ministers] affirmed that the Arab and Islamic worlds possess enormous potential for revival and development, and achieving security, stability and prosperity in their communities, and effective contribution in making future of the world and bringing cultures together. Only the forces that speak more than one voice, look for places where difference lurks, make their positions away from facts, and strive for its own direct narrow benefit, impede this prospective potential. Addressing crises of the region and achieving progress of its peoples is based on going past these forces and their detrimental slogans and ideologies.
It’s my pleasure to take your questions:
QUESTION: Your Highness! You spoke of efforts between Fatah and Hamas or reconciliation efforts. Would you cast more light on these efforts to bridge the gap between Fatah and Hamas, particularly as there will be no feasible ultimate solutions at all unless the Palestinian internal front is united?
PRINCE AL FAISAL: It is self-evident that Palestinians and the Palestinian cause can not be addressed or gone forward in its solution without unity of the Palestinian position. This is what set the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques to strive for and he succeeded in laying the foundations of this Palestinian accord. We hope and pray that Palestinian unity is restored so that peace efforts may succeed.
QUESTION: If you allow me, Prince Bandar bin Sultan visited Russia recently. What role does Saudi Arabia expect from Russia to play in the peace process in the Middle East, and the Iranian file in particular, because it is the closest ally to Iran?
PRINCE AL FAISAL: The role played by Russia is a great one. It is a permanent member of the UN Security Council; a state with great potentialities and major role in world policy. The contact with the Russian government was within the framework of the bilateral relations of the two countries, and coordinating overall issues of mutual interest to both countries, whether in the Middle East, the Balkans or Central Asia. There were meetings within the duties of HRH Prince Bandar as Security General of the National Security Council in this country with his Russian counterpart. He also met the Russian President to deliver a message from the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.
QUESTION: Your Highness! You spoke about the request or urge of the Palestinian factions to accept the initiatives of conciliation amongst themselves. This means that there are initiatives and items provided to them. Is this true? Is there hope that they will respond [favorably]?
PRINCE AL FAISAL: We hope that unity bond is restored on the bases agreed upon. There is nothing new on what should be done in this regard. Decision of the Arab League Fact Finding Committee on this issue is clear that matters should be restored to normal in Gaza, and agreement on the fundamentals of Palestinian legitimacy. In this aspect, I think the parties agree in principle. It is only setting the record straight and approaching agreement on these concepts and moving forward to taking measures on the ground to restore things to normal.
QUESTION: Don’t you see that the situation or events taking place on the arena requires convening an Arab summit to establish a unified stand by the Arab leaders on the initiative or invitation of President Bush, so that the invitation may not boil down to drafting another roadmap and holding meetings without achieving results?
PRINCE AL FAISAL: In fact, I do not think things need an Arab summit. The vast majority of Arab States indicated its point of view of the initiative of President Bush i.e. it has significant elements that exist in the content of the Arab initiative. Thereupon, it is considered positive in terms of general perspective. It also focused on specific points; as I stated in the introductory remarks, namely comprehensiveness of the solution and the requirement of the conference, when and if held, to address the key points such as Jerusalem and the borders of 1967 and return of the Palestinians.
QUESTION: Your Highness! Yesterday, Iran made a formal request to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to establish a free trade zone with the GCC. How do you interpret this formal request, especially as it is the first of its kind under the current circumstances?
PRINCE AL FAISAL: I do not think it is the first of its kind. There is a general tendency among Islamic countries to establish pan-Islamic free trade zone and adopting this practice among certain Islamic countries. This issue has been discussed previously with Iran. Undoubtedly, stability of the economic status among the Islamic countries is important. Doubtless, improvement of condition and advancement of economic goals of any Islamic country also would reduce any potential tendency to achieve them though political or other means.
QUESTION: Recent backing out of the Iraqi government by the Sunni “Accord Front”. Don’t you think, Your Highness, that quitting of this Iraqi Sunni coalition would undermine all the efforts of resolving the domestic security situation, as there is no political agreement inside Iraq, nor is there a real intention in Iraq to solve the security problem, due internal political differences?
PRINCE AL FAISAL: No doubt, opting out of this coalition should signify the status of Iraqi national reconciliation. Consequently, it is a step that does not indicate improvement in the situation in this aspect in Iraq. This makes us affirm responsibility of the Iraqi government to shun these conditions. Because difference between Iraqi factions and sects could lead to nothing save continuity of the violence cycle encountered by the Iraqi people, and continued instability. This will not be in the interests of Iraq or the region.
QUESTION: if Your Highness allow me, What are the most recent results on re-opening of the Saudi Embassy in Iraq?
PRINCE AL FAISAL: A mission will go next week, God willing, to Iraq to consider the situation there, and identifying how the Saudi embassy could be established.
QUESTION: Your Highness! What are the contents of the Saudi-Iraqi convention on fighting terrorism two days ago?
PRINCE AL FAISAL: In fact, the interior ministers met and decided on this matter in cooperation between the countries. But there is no new convention. There was security mission from Iraq, which held talks last week, including talks on opening the embassy and the decision was made at that time.
QUESTION: Your Highness! Regarding the province of Darfur, and the resolutions made on solving the problem of the conflict there. How do you, Your Highness, peruse these resolutions and this problem?
PRINCE AL FAISAL: The question is not specific. There is one basic element i.e. the outcome resolution of the meeting of the UN Security Council on Darfur. There is agreement between the United Nations, the African Union, and the Sudan on the presence of the African forces and United Nations troops. This agreement has been made in Mecca as you know. After the passage of the recent resolution, we hope that it will lead to stability in Darfur and the Sudan in general. We only express our satisfaction with the strong response of the Sudan to this agreement, and hope that it will lead to prevalence of peace.
QUESTION: Your Highness! Will withdrawal of the Sunni ministers from Al-Maliki government and some ministers of Alawi’s list affect opening a Saudi embassy in Iraq?
PRINCE AL FAISAL: Saudi embassy in Iraq has nothing to do with government formation. The Saudi embassy will care for the real interests of the two countries. Its presence there will be a positive factor for the relations between the two countries, and to explore the possibilities of what the Kingdom can provide to contribute in any Iraqi needs…… Thank you.