Crown Prince Sultan interview with Asharq Al-Awsat

June 8, 2008

The following transcript of an interview with Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz was posted on Asharq Al-Awsat’s website June 8, 2008.

ASHARQ AL-AWSAT: Lebanon passed through difficult and serious circumstances. Are you happy with the way things are currently progressing, especially after the election of President Suleiman?

CROWN PRINCE SULTAN: The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was eager to invite all Lebanese parties to resolve their disagreements through dialogue, give preference to national interest, and reach a solution to their problems without tension. Also, the Kingdom has always asserted the importance of reviving Lebanese institutions and achieving stability and prosperity in Lebanon. On that basis, we are extremely satisfied because these goals have been achieved.

We hope that the Doha agreement and election of President Michel Suleiman will mark the beginning of efforts to ensure a stable and prosperous future for fraternal Lebanon. We hope that the Lebanese people, including all their sects and political groups, will work together to serve their country through their constitutional institutions and to achieve accord among themselves in a state that will bring all parties together and impose its sovereignty on everyone.

What prompts satisfaction is the fact that the Lebanese crisis was resolved in the framework of the Arab home. Previously, the Arabs worked to reach the Al-Taif accord to establish the constitutional structure of Lebanon and its institutions. Similarly, the Arabs worked to reach the Doha agreement to pursue that policy and achieve accord through dialogue while rejecting conflict and confrontation. This fact indicates that the Arab nation is most concerned for the interest of its states and people, away from foreign whims and designs. Also, the Doha agreement shows that the Arabs can resolve Arab crises if they are sincere and serious and enjoy credibility.

ASHARQ AL-AWSAT: In your Highness's opinion, what is the missing link today between the Arabs and Iraq?

CROWN PRINCE SULTAN: Iraq is an inseparable part of the Arab nation and a state with ancient history and civilization. We regard Iraq and its people with great love and appreciation. We share both their pain and hopes and look forward to a secure, prosperous, and stable Iraq with all sections of its people enjoying peaceful coexistence and accord, a country that enjoys independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity.

The Kingdom stood by Iraq since the first day of the crisis. Saudi Arabia not only supported regional and international efforts to restore stability to Iraq, but also hosted in the vicinity of the Makkah Mosque the scholars of Iraq and Muslims from all their religious faiths to perpetuate the principle of dialogue among them and ward off sedition. On the other hand, the Arab League deserves a credit for its initiative to organize the first conference to achieve national accord among all political, ethnic, and religious groups of the Iraqi people. God willing, the kingdom will continue its efforts at the Arab, regional, and world levels until fraternal Iraq enjoys security, stability, and the prosperity that it deserves.

ASHARQ AL-AWSAT: Large Saudi military maneuvers were recently conducted. Were these maneuvers part of routine procedures or did they have something to do with the tense climate in the region?

CROWN PRINCE SULTAN: I would like to assert to you that the recent exercise, which the Saudi forces carried out in the northwestern part of the kingdom, known as the Saif al-Islam exercise, was part of the Defense and Aviation Ministry's usual timetable. The exercise was planned several months ago and a date to begin it was set in advance. The Saif al-Islam-6 exercise was conducted in the southern region. God willing, the next exercise will be carried out in another region next year because the armed forces have to be ready all the time. The leadership in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is interested in making the armed forces ready and achieving coordination between all branches of the armed forces in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Proceeding from this fact, forces from the National Guard and Border Guard joined the air, land, navy, and air defense forces in the Saif al-Islam-7 exercise. Therefore, I repeat that the Saif al-Islam-7exercise was part of regular training exercises that the Saudi armed forces conduct from time to time.