Foreign Minister's Press Briefing
The Kingdom Condemns Israeli Decision to Expand Building of Settlements in Eastern Jerusalem
Riyadh, Dec 11. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has strongly condemned the decision of Israel to expand building of settlements in Eastern Jerusalem, and said that development contradicts with the principles of Annapolis peace conference.
This was announced by Prince Saud Al-Faisal, the foreign minister, at Press Briefing here today.
Prince Saud said:
'The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is expressing its deep condemnation and denunciation of Israel's decision to expand the building of settlements in Eastern Jerusalem, which is contrary to the basis and principles of the Annapolis Peace Conference requiring address of the key issues of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, including Israeli settlement on the occupied territories.
This issue had been raised with Mr. Tony Blair, the international Quartet's representative during his visit to the Kingdom this week. On our part we stressed the importance of standing firmly against these colonial practices that would empty the peace process of its content, and undermine the dedicated international efforts to launch serious negotiations between the concerned parties on specified and clear basis and within a comprehensive framework.
In addition, we discussed with the representative of the Quartet, the conference of donor states for the Palestinians to be held in Paris on the seventeenth of this month. In this connection, we expressed our aspiration that the conference would provide a real and tangible support to develop the Palestinian territories and improve their infrastructure. We also underlined the importance that the support should cover all Palestinian territories without exception, and removal of all obstacles that stand in the way of assisting the Palestinian people, alleviating their humanistic suffering, most importantly , lifting of all blockade measures imposed by Israel, and release of all Palestinian financial entitlements with Israel.
With regard to Lebanon, Saudi Arabia is following with great interest the ongoing consultations to resolve the presidency crisis, and urge all Lebanese parties to accelerate and double efforts to reach a compromised solution to election of president of the Republic based on prioritizing the national interest to other interests, aiming at maintenance of Lebanon's security unity and stability.
The Kingdom also followed the report of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the United States of America, and the international reaction to it.
Here we reaffirm our position calling for the importance of continued diplomatic negotiations between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and with the permanent members of the security Council and Germany, in order to address this issue peacefully so that the Region is free of nuclear weapons, and the right of countries in the region to posses nuclear energy for peaceful purposes would be ensured in accordance with the standards of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA),together with the application of these standards to all countries of the region including Israel.
Prince Saud added:
We would like to express our regret over the sporadic security incidents witnessed on the Iraqi arena recently.
We hope these events would be controlled in order to ensure non-return of the cycle of violence in Iraq again.
Further more, we hope the Iraqi Government would invest the relative improvement of security in moving a head with the project on national reconciliation , which is basic requirement for achieving social justice among Iraqis of all beliefs, ethnicities and political affiliations, and equating amongst them in rights, duties and participation in wealth.
These should be done within the framework of achieving security and stability in Iraq, its sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, and the maintenance of its Arab and Islamic identity.
I am also pleased to express the Kingdom's satisfaction with the results of the 28th GCC summit held in Doha. The issued resolutions would activate the march of joint cooperation in all fields, including announcement of GCC Common market at the beginning of 2008.
This will enhance the benefit of GCC citizens, deepen the GCC citizenship, and achieve full equality of treatment between nationals of the GCC countries in practicing professions, trades, economic activities and investment.
The GCC is going on its efforts, with the help of God, to take further steps towards activating joint action in all areas to realize security prosperity and development of its peoples in the light of the directives of our leaders, and in response to aspirations of the peoples of GCC countries.
In response to a reporter's question, Prince Saud Al-Faisal said the GCC member states are interested in defending themselves, rather than seeking a balance of powers in the region.
The requirements for this are, no doubt, security tools, he said, adding that every time the GCC leaders consider during their summits the issue of their countries' security and defense and how to improve the security situation in their countries, including upgrading the sense and means of defense of the citizen and the nation and increasing the level of cooperation among themselves in this regard.
On reports that he refused listening to the interpretation of Israeli Prime Minister's speech at Annapolis conference, Prince Saud said "This is untrue".
He pointed that normalization of relations with the Israelis is not objective.
The Arab Peace Initiative states that matter unequivocally, he said, adding that whenever a full withdrawal was implemented, there could be talk about normalization. But before full peace, this is not acceptable, he went on to say.
Commenting on a question on the relations between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the State of Qatar, he confirmed that the relations are as normal and similar as the Kingdom's relations with its other sisterly countries of the GCC.
We are tied to numerous and continuing bonds and we hope they would be permanent and soon a Saudi ambassador will be appointed there, he said.
Asked on the nature of the visit of Hamas delegation to the Kingdom recently, Prince Saud said when Khalid Mishaal requested the visit, I met him and we had lengthy conversation on the issue.
I think there is now a Palestinian awareness that among the necessities of the coming period is the unity of the Palestinian perspective, he said, adding that the Palestinian factions now realize the damage which has harmed the Palestinian cause as a result of inter-fighting in the near past.
He expressed hope that this feeling would be translated into solutions rather than mere theories, noting that the Palestinian issue now enjoys unprecedented, absolute and full world support and concern, a matter that necessitates avoidance of inter-fighting by Palestinian factions.
Asked about the agenda of the International Quartet Committee for Peace in the Middle East and the Arab Peace Initiative Committee in Paris, Prince Saud said the Arab side would focus on the importance of full implementation of Annapolis conference recommendations, particularly the halt of Israeli settlements, its security wall and improvement of the living situations of the Palestinians in this period.
He said a meeting for the Arab committee will precede the meeting of the two committees.
Asked on reports that Syrian Foreign Minister would visit the Kingdom soon, he said "I did not hear about this".
Asked about the significance of the participation of the Iranian president in the last GCC summit in Doha, Prince Saud explained that the invitation to him was extended by the host country that has the right to do so. Other presidents were also invited but only one, the Iranian president, attended, Prince Saud explained.
Asked whether arrangements are under way to install a security network for the Gulf in which Iran, Yemen and Iraq take part; Prince Saud categorically denied reports that the leaders of the GCC discuss any security arrangements during the summit.
Asked to confirm whether there are differences between the Kingdom and Iran which the two parties would like to settle them in the Iraqi field, Prince Saud said "We have no scores to settle with Iran, but I don't know if Iran might have". He went on to say that "This concept is rejected. We deal with Iraq as a sister state and neighbor. We don't see it otherwise. We seek to help it as we could".
Prince Saud confirmed that arrangements are under way to re-open the Saudi Embassy in Iraq. Nevertheless, the delay is in the Iraqi court as it might take time to find a suitable location and provide security for it, he said. However, it will be opened very soon", he added.
Asked to confirm reports quoting Bahrain's Foreign Minister as saying that a meeting for the GCC member states would soon take place to re-evaluate their national currencies, Prince Saud said the GCC ministries of finance usually meet to tackle such matters.
However, no new news in this regard, he added. The GCC summit did not discuss the matter as it is obvious that the dollar is a very important currency and will remain the most important for the oil price to be pegged to it. So, I don't think this will be reviewed, Prince Saud said.
In response to a question on the Lebanese presidency dilemma, Prince Saud said "Their first choice is to agree on electing a president; otherwise they will be thrown to the inevitable second option of a constitutional vacuum. He could not accept the difference of the pro-government and pro-opposition factions over who is to assume the presidency according to constitution.
I don't think choosing a president or not benefits one party rather than the other. It should be in the benefit of all, otherwise it would be very strange, he commented.
Prince Saud Al-Faisal explained that the donors' conference for the establishment of a Palestinian state is designed to fix what each donor country could provide within the real needs of the Palestinian authority. He expressed belief that the conference will succeed in providing the necessary sum for the Palestinians to cope with the tragic situation they are bogged in.
He said the amount to be solicited will definitely cover the requirements of the Palestinian authority budget and the infrastructure rehabilitation works. However, the size of donations will be disclosed in Paris even though there are indications that there is interest in the world community court to provide help for the Palestinians.
A tangible assistance will, no doubt, come out from the Arab side, Prince Saud said.
Asked to show the Kingdom's views on Iranian President Nejad's proposals at the GCC summit, Prince Saud said all the proposals came in the economic cooperation framework. We are keen that relations between Iran and the GCC be fruitful, constructive and strong.
However, I wished if the proposals would have addressed some points of difference between the two parties as the improvement of the economic situations is vastly based on eliminating any obstacles barring two parties who would like to sit and conclude a deal.
On a repeated question on whether the Kingdom would support that the GCC currencies remain pegged to the U.S. dollar, Prince Saud downgraded the question, saying the repetition hints that there is grave financial crisis and not only a usual fluctuation of the world currencies, including the U.S. dollar.
I don't think that the GCC countries have ever lost as a result of their currencies being pegged to the dollar in the past. On the contrary, they benefited much, he said. So, long-term considerations should govern the issue and not the current market ups and downs, he added.
On his meeting with Khalid Mishaal, he advised the Palestinian factions to avail themselves of the new opportunity of the world support for their case.
Asked whether he sees Annapolis as a success or a failure, he suggested that the evaluation of Annapolis conference would come in accordance with the outcome of aftermath activities. If, for instance, negotiations on the thorny issues started and moved ahead, then it could be considered a success, otherwise it would not.