Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Saud Al-Faisal met with European Union High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana in Riyadh yesterday.
In a joint press conference after the meeting, Prince Saud said that the talks focused on developments in the Middle East and Gulf region, the Middle East peace process, the crisis in Afghanistan, and the progress on a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)–EU free trade agreement.
Commenting on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Prince Saud warned that Israel’s policy of building and expanding settlements is a dangerous obstacle to peace.
“We are today witnessing one of the dangerous effects of this policy reflected in the escalation of settlers’ attacks and ferocity on the Palestinians,” Prince Saud said. “All of this constitutes an insurmountable obstacle for establishing an independent, contiguous and viable Palestinian state.”
He also expressed the hope that the new Israeli prime minister would work towards peace.
On Afghanistan, Prince Saud confirmed that the Kingdom had hosted a meeting between the Afghan government and the Taliban at the request of President Hamid Karzai. He warned that any further attempts at mediation on the part of the Kingdom would require a readiness by the Afghan factions to renounce violence and participate in the political process.
Turning to Iraq, Prince Saud said that the opening of a Saudi embassy in Baghdad has been delayed for security reasons, not political ones.
“Naturally, a diplomat should be provided with a minimum extent of movement and communication with officials and people,” Prince Saud said. “He should not be isolated from the world to perform his work properly and effectively.”
Prince Saud also welcomed the Syrian-Lebanese agreement to establish diplomatic relations and reiterated the Kingdom’s support for a Middle East region free of weapons of mass destruction.
For his part, Solana said that he expects a GCC-EU free trade agreement to be achieved by the end of 2008.