Prince Saud Al-Faisal: “In the Name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.On behalf of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, it is my pleasure to reiterate welcome of the President of the United States of America and his accompanying delegation to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
All over the years, Saudi-American relations have witnessed great strides in the service of mutual interests, and promoting bilateral cooperation in economic, commercial, technical, cultural and other fields.
Through these historic relationships, we have dealt with several international and regional challenges that we encountered together with continuous cooperation, consultation and coordination, within the framework of our shared objectives for fostering international peace and security.
This same spirit prevailed the talks that were carried out between the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, and President Bush, which were comprehensive, deep and candid. The outcome of these talks yielded promoted bilateral relations by signature on an agreement for technical cooperation in the field of installations and infrastructure security.
We also signed a memorandum of understanding for cooperation in the field of nuclear energy and other energy fields. The two sides also exchanged diplomatic notes on completion of discussing the text of the scientific and technical cooperation agreement, to be signed in the near future.
Under the exhaustive examination of regional and international situations and their developments, there will be a major focus on the peace process in talks of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and the U.S. President this evening.
I would like to point out that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has followed with interest the American President's speech in the Israeli Knesset. We are all aware of the special US-Israeli relation and its political dimensions.
It is, however, important also to affirm the legitimate historical and political rights of the Palestinian people under international law and its legitimate resolutions, which are still confiscated by the Israeli occupation.
We fully agree with vision mentioned by His Excellency [the US President] on the right of peoples to justice, tolerance, freedom and hope. The Palestinian people are in dire need to enjoy these rights and principles from which it was deprived over 60 years.
Perhaps the size of the humanistic suffering weighed upon the West Bank and Gaza Strip population, is the biggest proof of that under the policy of collective punishment practiced against it.
We believe that stressing the right of a nation to exist should not strike out or revoke the legitimate rights of other nation. Hence comes the importance of the meeting in Annapolis in its emphasis on the comprehensive, permanent and just solution to the ongoing conflict, based on the principle of guaranteeing the rights of the Israeli and Palestinian peoples to two independent States living side by side in security, peace and accord.
Undoubtedly, Israel's continued policy of expanding settlements on Palestinian territories, and its unilateral actions would further complicates on the situation and disrupt the peace process.
As regards the Lebanese crisis, we must praise the efforts of the Arab Committee, which resulted in the detente (ease) in the Lebanese crisis. We hope the measures for opening Beirut international airport and harbor, and all roads, and return of the situation to what it was before the recent events, and not to recur.
The Kingdom expresses its support of the agreements reached based on the Lebanese Constitution and the Taif Agreement. The Kingdom emphasizes that the real test lies in the full and comprehensive application of the provisions of this Agreement, especially in terms of rejecting the use of armed violence to achieve political ends.
The Kingdom also sees the importance of ensuring that weapon will not be reused against the Lebanese people, so that dialogue can realize its objectives in permanent solution to the crisis without any pressure and away from the threat of arms, together with emphasis on ensuring the most important sovereign rights of the state; i.e. preservation of peace and declaration of war, and strengthening its capabilities with all legitimate means to enable it undertake this responsibility.
We also stress abidance by the constitutional underpinnings and elements of the comprehensive consensus solution of the Arab Initiative. The Arab Initiative provides for the immediate commencement of election of the consensus President Gen. Michel Suleiman, and forming a national unity government, and beginning the review of the election law.
With regard to Iraq, we believe that the recommendations of the recent expanded meeting of neighboring countries in Kuwait constituted an appropriate framework to address the situation in Iraq in the light of the recent developments, particularly with regard to the call to expedite the launch of an all-inclusive political process that accommodates all Iraqis without exception.
We support the Iraqi government attitude towards uncovering the facts about external interference, which should be dealt with decisively, so as not to hamper the efforts of the Iraqi government and international efforts to achieve Iraq's security and stability, preserve the unity, independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Finally, I would like to express the Kingdom’s welcome of the statement of principles on the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, as well as the Security Initiative of weapons proliferation and ban principles.
The Kingdom's support for the t the international and regional efforts to distance the Middle East and the Gulf region and the world from the threat of proliferation of nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction as a whole. Our support of the initiatives calls for the need to subject all the peaceful uses of nuclear energy for the standards and measures of the IAEA and under its supervision.
It is my pleasure to take your questions, together with my colleague the Minister of Petroleum.
Question: May I ask the Oil Minister: if you see a need now to increase production as President Bush has suggested. And Mr. Foreign Minister: Do you think it is realistic at this point to think there would be a Mideast peace agreement before president Bush leaves office.
Al-Naimi: You know every month, we receive nominations from our customers worldwide. On may 10th, we increased our response to our customers by 300,000 barrels because they asked for it. So our production for June will be 9,450,000 b/d. this per request of about 50 customers worldwide. As far as the US is concerned, most of the 300 came from the US and we responded to it on May 10th.
Question: So nothing further necessary?
Al-Naimi: Any request that comes from our customers will be responded to favorably.
Prince Saud: That I could visualize the peace happening during this administration? It is a very simple question. The answer is yes. And I hope it happens.
Question to Prince Saud: After your recent statements addressing a call or may be a blame to Iran for supporting what happened in Lebanon recently, some voices inside Iran accused the Kingdom with the same position that it is not at the same distance from all parties in Lebanon. What is your reply?
Prince Saud: We say that we are taking the same distance from all parties. However, we do not take the same distance from those who are right and those who are wrong. There is a wrong action, and there is a right one. No doubt, the use of power to reach political ends is a wrong action. Undoubtedly, the Lebanese weapons should not be pointed at the Lebanese. This [position] we do not consider it a bias. If this action were taken by the other party, we would have the same position. I do not know if the same thing applies to who wonders about this issue, if he stands at the same distance from the two parties.
Question to Prince Saud: You talked about help of the United States to Saudi Arabia in using the nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. Would that be a message to Iran that Saudi Arabia could have nuclear weapons in the future?
Prince Saud: It is a message to everybody that Saudi Arabia is going to produce atomic energy peacefully. And I hope it would be emulated.
Question: for Al-Naimi: Do you agree with the Iranian assessment that OPEC nations would have to cut the supply of some heavy grades of crude oil because there is not as much demand for that kind of oil right now, especially after the winter periods ended? For Prince Saud: Are you anxious about Prime Minister Siniora’s ability to hold on to power given his bullies push this last week? Is there more the United States and Saudi Arabia can do to help him?
Al-Naimi: Let me respond to your question in this manner. Saudi Arabia responds to the requests of its customers. If they want heavy crude, they will get heavy crude. If they want light crude, they will get light crude. Saudi Arabia has 5 types of crude so we are able to respond to the requests of all our customers.
As far as I know, the demand for heavy crudes is high. It is not low. The problem is not the crude supply. The problem is in the type of refineries, which are mismatched with the supply of the crudes.
So, in other word, it depends on the customer. If their customer has only the ability to process light crudes, they do not see demand for heavy crudes. Whereas, we have customers worldwide, that are able to process heavy crudes, and we give them what they need to process.
Prince Saud: Premier Siniora is currently representing the Lebanese legitimacy. For that reason, there was a stress to support and stand by the international legitimacy in the Arab League resolution. Till the Lebanese legitimacy changes based on elections, standing by will continue.
Question: Your Highness, you conducted preliminary talks with Secretary Rice. Did you felt that there is a positive progress in the US position on fulfilling the two-state promise? Secondly, did you sense from her support to the Lebanese agreement brokered by the Arab Ministerial Committee?
Prince Saud: As for the second question, I think the agreement is received with welcome. The hope is of course common that it would yield implementation of what is agreed upon. As for the question if I sensed optimism form her about finding a solution; I do not think that she comes to visit the Middle East region for fun. She occasionally comes, and she must have confidence that there is progress in the talks. But I think that the tactic adopted in these talks, is to maintain sort of secrecy. I do not think that I am not in a position to tell that in what tracks there is progress, and in what tracks there is not. This question is to be addressed to the Secretary of State.
Question: I would like to ask the Foreign Minister a question: In the United States today, the American politicians are being quite critical of Saudi Arabia for its collaboration on oil, on terrorism, on the Middle East peace process. I just would like to know how you respond to this kind of criticism that you are hearing more commonly on the American campaign trailing in Congress.
Prince Saud: All I can say to those who criticize is this: Come on over! And see what we are doing in all these fields. Here, our Minister of Petroleum says: Customers! Where are you? I want to sell oil, but where are the customers? Do I sell oil to just be stored in the sea? No customers are coming to. So, where does the problem lie? Certainly not in our willingness to sell oil.
As to the cooperation on terrorism, I do not think there is more cooperation on terrorism than between us and the United States. All the official agencies that are responsible for fighting terrorism, and have reported to Congress, have assured of this situation.
But anything about Saudi Arabia that questions the motives or the actions of Saudi Arabia, I would suggest to the Congress to come and see! Come and tell us what the questions are! What are their anxieties about the Saudi policy? We will talk with each other, and the famous word goes in Congress: “Let us sit down and reason together”. May I have Minister Ali add to this
Al-Naimi: Let me just say what Saudi Arabia is doing in the upstream business and in the downstream business. Over the next four years we are gonna be spending 90 billion dollars. To do what? To increase capacity, which will take us to 12.5 million barrels per day by the end of 2009. We are spending money to build three refineries to the tone of a million barrels per day in Saudi Arabia for export internationally.
We are, as you well know, investing heavily in the Port Arthur Refinery in Texas. We are doubling the capacity of that refinery. So how much more does Saudi Arabia need to do to satisfy the people who are questioning our oil practices, or our oil policy? And as His Royal Highness said: We will say: if there is a customer that needs additional crude, please come and ask for it.
To also give you an example, over the last few months when supplies from Venezuela and Mexico were reduced to the US, Who supplied the difference? We supplied to the tone of additional 300,000 barrels per day, from 1.4 million to 1.7 million barrels per day to our customers in the US. So how much more can we do?
Question: One question to follow up Minister’s on the comment he’s just made on the investments that Saudi Arabia is going to make in the future: Do you envision expanding capacity beyond 12.5 million barrels per day? And the second question is: When President Bush visited [Saudi Arabia] in January, the price of crude oil was in a low nineties per barrel, and now it is over a hundred and twenty seven I think. I would like for you to explain what has happened? Can you account for why the price is going up so much? Do you envision a scenario where the price could go back down?
Al-Naimi: the price, as you well know, WTI’s NIMEX price is affected by many, many factors. The least of them are the fundamentals of the oil business. Supply and demand are in balance today. If you look at inventories world, they are also high. So, the fundamentals are sound.
Where we have a problem; is in the value of the US dollar; the financial institution hedging in the commodity market; there are geopolitical problems in the world: Venezuela, Nigeria, Iraq, sanctions on Iran and so forth, and the is of course the pessimists in the oil business, the peak oil theory that says oil is going to peak, people questioning Saudi capacity and so forth. So these are all elements that impact the price of oil. But the fundamentals of the oil business are very, very sound.
Expanding capacity depends on projections of demand. All the projects today, from the IEA, EIA and so forth are up to 2030 does not show supply from Saudi Arabia more than 10 or 11 million barrels per day. The 12.5 million barrels per day capacity as far as we see it in the distant future is more than enough.
Now, should these projections differ to a higher level, Saudi Arabia has no policy not to expand its capacity. But we are very pragmatic in this area. We need to make sure that the demand is there. We have always maintained around 2 million barrels per day of spare capacity. And we intend to so in the foreseeable future.
Question: How much do the geopolitical uncertainties boost the price, and particularly what else can the US and Saudi Arabia do to dampen down concern about Iranian nuclear program or simply Iranian meddling in the whole region?
Prince Saud: Question addressed to whom? Since there is political in [the question], I will give it a try. Of course, geopolitical considerations affect the economies of the region, not just the oil, industry. Uncertainty is the devil that besets all projections or plan and all other considerations. What to do about it is to settle issues that are in the region.
Palestinian issue is an example. Settling of that problem certainly will quiet the geopolitical implications in the Middle East. The nuclear file of Iran, we hope will be settled through negotiations. We hope Iran will follow our policy of having the Middle East free of nuclear weapons. All these elements definitely affect the economy. And settling them as much as we can will be the way to go about solving.
Question: Your Highness: despite your optimism about Secretary Rice’s visit to the region, how could we interpret the difference in language i.e. “US President’s promise to establish a Palestinian state this year” compared to his yesterday’s evening speech, and emergence of the form of the Palestinian state , and difference form prior promises.
Prince Saud: The wording of my introductory remarks is a reply to this question specifically. Refer to it. The proposed vision of H E the President about a two viable independent states living in peace and security side by side, is the same perspective toward which we all acted to achieve it.
The perspective of the Arab initiative identical to this perspective, our participation in Annapolis meeting, and the promises given in the meeting affirm this perspective. If we were to talk in terms of rights, they are here and there. What is required is equality in treatment, and referring to legitimacy and absence of eclecticism in dealing with the two parties. I would like you refer to the statement I talked about.
Question: There is an agreement between the Kingdom and the United States requiring protection of oil installations. What is the nature of this protection? Does it require send for US troops? Will this affects Saudi sovereignty?
Prince Saud: First, the agreement signed is in the field of training and exchange of experience. There will not be any other party protecting these installations except Saudi Arabia.
Question: Some Lebanese bodies called for changing the Taif Agreement. How do you see this?
Prince Saud: The Lebanese people know their own affairs best. If they want to change the Taif Agreement, it is up to them.
Question: Do see that the US is still committed to solve the Lebanon and Iraq issues?
Prince Saud: This is what affirmed by the US government.
Question: Are the results reached by the Arab Ministerial Committee on the Lebanese issue or crisis in agreement with Saudi Arabia’s priorities? Or all that is addressed is the same?
Prince Saud: In fact, the conclusion reached by the committee reflects to a great extent, not to say completely, the resolution issued recently in the Arab League, since it does not overlook anything. In some points, there could be more clarity. Around the issue of weapons, for example, there could be more clarity than what it was. But I think this issue is discussed, as I visualize, extensively in the negotiations conducted so far. It will be discussed more in the talks to be lead by the President and participation of the Arab League.
Question: I would like to ask you if you perhaps could give us a flavor of your discussions with President Bush around the oil issue. How forcefully did he ask you in increase production? Was there is any concern on your part that this sticking to your stands would be construed as an embarrassment for him at home?
Prince Saud: The discussion was carried out in a friendly fashion. I do not what you mean by ‘forcefully’? He did not punch any tables or shouted at anybody. But we talked about the issue which dealt with oil. And His Excellency the Minister of Petroleum explained our policy, and that is to respond to any request that comes to us. And I think you are satisfied with that.
Al-Naimi: He was because our response is positive. If you want to move more oil, you need a buyer. And we have said, let the buyer come, and will satisfy his quest. It is very simple business: You want more oil, who is gonna buy the oil? We have customers that are satisfied. Do you have additional customers, we will satisfy them. What more can we do?
Prince Saud: May I say the President showed great concern for the impact on the American economy. He showed of course great concern for that. And we of course sympathized with that completely. But on our part, we are doing everything we can to help the international economy by producing as much as needed from us.
Question: On what you have announced on the Saudi-US agreement on the peaceful nuclear energy, would you kindly give us some details of the agreement? Is this agreement different form the movement of the 6 GCC states, and what announced two years ago regarding their nuclear program?
Prince Saud: Read ‘Um Al-Qura’ [the official gazette]! You will find the statment there. It is not different from what we have agreed upon in GCC.
Question: Your Highness: The US expressed its desire, in several times, at different levels, to have Saudi presence in Iraq within a certain peaceful political process. Is the situation of Saudi Arabia is the same, or there are new developments with President’s Bush recent visit, i.e. presence of security there?
Prince Saud: Presence of security is a major criterion as he said. We will know this when we see it. If security is there, we will dispatch the ambassador. Lack of security is also clear. Arab presence is not absent in Iraq. We called for the Arab League meeting in Baghdad.
This is a proof of our desire to have Arab presence in Baghdad. Why not, and Baghdad has been the capital of Islamic and Arab nation for centuries. We are keen. We are confident that security will be secured. When it is available, there will be Arab embassies. Meanwhile, outreach and contact between the Arab League, Arab countries and Iraq will continue and intensify.
Question: How much support does Saudi Arabia give to holding another peace conference sponsored by Moscow? We know that Israel stands in the way of this subject. Eventually, it is agreed upon in Annapolis.
Prince Saud: As you have cited, it is agreed at the Annapolis Conference on holding a meeting in Moscow. All attendance agreed on it. I think it will be held. What we heard from the Russian authorities is that they are preparing for this meeting. It is only a matter of time.