Saudi Arabia - Israel Relations: The 19th Periodic Press Briefing of H.R.H. Minister of Foreign Affairs
(January 6, 2004)
Following a call for tolerance, renunciation of violence, and acceptance of people of all creeds and races, Prince Faisal of Saudi Arabia began this press conference by expressing support for the “legitimate cause” of the Palestinian people. Faisal cited the recent expansion of Israeli settlements as a continuation of Israeli efforts to stall the peace process. During the conference he also addressed the humanitarian crisis in Iran due to their recent earthquake disaster, the Western media's “attack” on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and concerns of general instability in the region.
The Kingdom and its citizens paid great attention to the audience of Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, the Deputy Premier and Commander of the National Guard, with Ulema and thinkers who participated in the Intellectual Dialogue Forum and his call for tolerance, renunciation of violence and extremism, and pursuit of moderation and dialogue in accordance with the Islamic principles. We are in utmost need for this call among ourselves in the Arab and Muslim world and the world community to confront trends aiming at defaming Islam and its tolerant principles. All citizens are satisfied over the great support for the four major fundamentals announced by the Crown Prince regarding adherence to religion, homeland, patience and action.
The Kingdom renew its support for the Palestinian people and their legitimate cause, also emphasizing on the importance of calling on the world community to press Israel to stop following unilateral policies and to agree to the international efforts to achieve peace. The Crown Prince affirmed the Kingdom's support for the proposal submitted by Palestinian Premier Ahmed Qurie to the Saudi leadership to build a housing project in the Palestinian city of Rafah.
I received the European envoy for peace process in the Middle East Mark Aut, and opinions were identical on continual Arab-European coordination to reach the required steps for the revival of a peace process at this critical juncture.
The kingdom’s sees the latest announcement of Israel's Premier to expand settlements in the Syrian occupied Golan Heights is a continuation of the Israeli unilateral policies which are against the international peace efforts; meanwhile Syria announced its readiness to resume negotiations with the Israeli side within the framework of the international peace initiatives.
Regarding Iraqi situation, the kingdom emphasize the importance of achieving security in Iraq as an utmost priority to realize the ambitions of the Iraqi people including the regaining of their sovereignty, stability and reconstruction.
Regarding the humanitarian disaster in Iran as a result of the destructive earthquake that recently hit Iran, the kingdom hope that the joint efforts by Gulf Cooperation Council states in providing aid worth U.S. 400 million dollars for the victims and the finance of projects of reconstruction and development in the inflicted areas will contribute to overcome this plight and alleviate the humanitarian suffering. A delegation of the Gulf funds will visit Iran in the next few days for an agreement with the Iranian authorities on starting the implementation of this program.
Then HRH the Minister answered the questions raised by representatives of local and foreign press agencies:
Question: Although the optimistic [spirit] prevail[s] among the most citizens with regard to the recommendations that concluded by the conference, some say there is an obstacle in the way to education curriculum change that adopted by reformers because it poses risk to the country. Do we talk about details of national forum regarding to this point?
HRH the Minister: I don’t read the recommendations that resulted from the forum but as I understood there were issues [but they have been settled], it’s educational reform [in] general and it is not in curricula in particular. It focused on curricula, but also focused on the teacher and his duties and [the] issue takes a wide scope, so there is a great interest in the conclusions, however, there would be a private agenda in this purpose.
Question: Your highness there is currently an attack from American media on the kingdom and some Arab Countries, in [the] opinion of your highness who’s behind this media campaign and what [is it’s] purpose, and is there any plan to confront this attack?
HRH the Minister: It’s not in not only American media but also in some Arabic Journals, and I don’t know what the fault is that the Kingdom [has] committed in order to be attacked by those media. Their attack on us is not logical they manage to damage our good actions and attempt to doubt all our works. We think the circles which attack us [...] without reasons are Israelis and here the reasons are clear as for Israel because it want[s] to impose its power on Arab Countries, although the kingdom has introduced a peace plan. I think the Israeli people appreciate it and the opinion polls proved that the Israeli [public] were responsive to the peace plan, but, Israeli government instead of that it attacks us. We think the Arabic journals in particular that repeat the same accusations in reality serve the Israeli premier. Sharon [wishes] to stop peace process and to silence [the] Arabic voice that appeal[s] for right and support [of] international law. If the American media are directed [by Israel] or not and this refers to American media conscience that I know, there are good American journalists who can’t write things they don’t believe in. The strange thing there is a journalist who wrote about [the] Kingdom and analyze its society and when we investigate this journalist or that Television commenter or so called expert in middle east affairs, we find that he does not visit the Kingdom for one day and he may not know or meet any Saudi and at the same time is considered as expert in our country affairs and his comments accepted as real information in evaluating our country events though he does not know the reality of our country.
Question: His Excellency the prince now there is talk about resettlement of Palestine, what [alternative action can] the Arab [world] provide that contributes [to] reducing Palestinian tragedy under the international ignorance to right [of] return?
HRH the Minister: In the Arab project that agreed wholly, it stipulates [...] the Palestinian is entitled to return or to compensation. Of course the things which the Arab countries have been agreed on them and that [are] compatible with international legislative resolution. I express [that] they have shown enough flexibility and therefore, the right should be confirmed by international legitimacy, and the Arab countries consolidate the role of Palestinian authority. Of course all should participate in confronting the Sharon plan, since his start of political life we accuse him (Sharon) with all things except he is frank in his action, he wants the Palestinian problem as Arab problem and not Israeli problem, he wants to evaluate the Palestinian from Palestinian territories. They would go to anywhere in Arab countries, and the problem remains Arabic issue not a Palestinian, and this is impossible and should confronted with all means by Arab countries.
Question: His highness the Prince under the Arab communications conducted with [the] Kingdom recently and that mentioned in your address, the visit of Palestinian premier and Mr. Jan Abiad, is there an agreement to hold meeting for Arabic follow up committee, when and for what? Also with reference to your meeting with [the] European envoy, is the kingdom demanded to hold [a] quadrant committee meeting that concerns peace process [at the] ministerial level, as I know there are communications to hold this meeting?
HRH the Minister: As the matter of fact I know that the conference presidency and also follow up committee are moving to determine schedule to hold follow up committee meeting, one of the important issues suggested before follow up committee is the following up of Lebanon issue and the move to recur the supporting for this resolution. When the European envoy made his visit, he assured this orientation, so this Arabic effort has been given to him, it was met by reviving the “road” map by the four-party committee, the effort would complete itself. There would be meetings, and we await responses from [the] European side about possibility of any joint move within this framework, coordination is undergone by presidency to define the date of this meeting for the follow up committee.
Question: Your highness, concerning the situations in Iraq, resistance operations and operations targeting some civilians what is the Saudi stance?
HRH the Minister: The issue of resistance and the will of united Arab people. What I noticed was the Iraqi[s] themselves being exposed to violence. [It is necessary] that security prevails in order [for] Iraq [to] get out of this vicious circle which impedes its move towards sovereignty independence and building up its homeland. The second point which I talked [about] was targeting international organizations Embassy and consulates found in Iraq, as all of these paralyze [it’s’ move] towards sovereignty in Iraq and the capability of international organizations or states which need to help Iraqi people to overtake this tribulation. This is the thing which I have tackled in the paper submitted before the meeting, but the stance for Iraq we believe the speed to deliver authority for an Iraqi legal government, and this is an assistant step for stability, Any work that impedes that, no doubt, would lead to instability.
Question: The international problems in any country might affect the neighboring states, and the basic problem in Iraq now is the problem of distributing authority among internal powers, what [is] the Kingdom’s satisfaction about this distribution?
HRH the Minister: This is the Iraqis opinion. The political system built on sectarian and racial bases might be the cause of national inconsistence. The means of unity and unifying vision, the Iraqi citizen should have the same right and duties before law. We should coup with their wish, hoping that would not lead to the big danger which is partition of Iraq and in this case the impacts of this partition and instability would [create negative] reactions for all neighboring countries of Iraq.
Question: Some [who view Iraq from an outside perspective] would notice that there is trenching for civil war, there are “Badr” brigade troops, Muqtada Assadr Islamic army “Almahdy army” about one million troops, the Kurdish militias, and yesterday a Sunni army in Anbar. Another factor, is to push American forces to war to justify there is failure. Is there an Arabic stance to stop this Iraqi collapse to words civil or sectarian war?
HRH the Minister: No one can replace the Iraqis, if there is the political will for the Iraqis to leave things at this extent, which I cannot confirm or deny, but I would say that the danger which comes from sectarian or racial practicing would lead to threatening security, stability and unity in Iraq which in turn would threaten the whole region