Deputy Foreign Minister Dr. Nizar Obeid Madani yesterday addressed the 26th conference of the foreign ministers of the member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), which is currently in progress in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. In his speech, he reiterated Saudi Arabia's call for lessons to be learnt from the past and for cooperation in working to improve the situation of the Muslim world, in accordance with the teachings of Islam. Saudi Arabia, he said, views Islamic solidarity as one of the pillars of its policy, and the Kingdom's founder King Abdul Aziz and all his sons have held high this banner. He went on to warn against the exhausting of Muslim potential in disputes, differences and disunity.
Underlining the importance of careful study of the challenges being faced, Dr. Madani said the economy of the Muslim world cannot stand aloof from the influence of the global economy, because of the current globalization and openness in commerce and investment. It has therefore become an essential matter to coordinate efforts in order to contribute effectively to this new economic reality. Efforts must be made to remove economic barriers among Muslim countries in order to pave the way for the establishment of an Islamic economic bloc capable of competing with other regional and international blocs. Dr. Madani called for all economic problems to be settled, particularly those of less developed countries such as those of the African Sahel region that have been afflicted by drought. He noted that Saudi Arabia has waived the debts of a number of such countries, and reiterated the Kingdom's concern to proceed with its program for combating drought and desertification in the Sahel. The first and second phases of this program have been completed, with twelve African countries benefiting.
Dr. Madani then turned to political challenges, and referred to differences of opinion that develop into aggression and bloodshed. He recalled the speech delivered at the Islamic Summit in Tehran [in 1998] by Crown Prince Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz, Deputy Prime Minister and Commander of the National Guard, in which he warned against resorting to force for the settlement of disputes. He also recalled the Crown Prince's remarks that history has taught us that any attempt to impose hegemony has led to a bitter struggle with no victor but only victims.
Referring to the impact of Iraq's occupation of Kuwait, Dr. Madani said Iraq must comply with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions; only then will the sufferings of the Iraqi people come to an end.
On the Middle East problem, he attributed the collapse of efforts to settle the dispute to Israel's intransigent policy and its failure to withdraw from the occupied Arab territories, and to recognize the Palestinians' inalienable rights including that of self-determination and establishment of an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital. He called on Israel to adhere to the agreements at Madrid, Cairo, Oslo and the Wye plantation, to the land-for-peace principle and the relevant UN resolutions.
Dr. Madani regretted the continuation of the policy of racial cleansing being carried out in Kosovo. He expressed satisfaction at the positive developments in the relations of the the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states with Iran, especially following the visit paid by Iranian President Muhammad Khatami to Saudi Arabia and Qatar. He said the Kingdom looks for settlement of ongoing disputes, particularly that of the three islands, through peaceful means, including referral to the International Court of Justice. He also urged peaceful settlement of the problems in Afghanistan and Somalia, and of the Azerbaijani/Armenian dispute.
As for the Pakistani/Indian dispute over Kashmir, Dr. Madani urged the two parties to practice self-restraint and to work for a peaceful settlement in line with the relevant UN resolutions that stipulate the right of the people of Kashmir to self-determination. He drew attention to the problem of Muslim minorities and reiterated their right to live peacefully and to attain their legitimate rights including that of practicing their religious rituals and preserving their distinctive cultural identity.
Dr. Madani went on to remark that the phenomenon of globalization is not confined to economic and commercial issues, but includes ideological and cultural concepts. He declared that the Arab world should contribute to spreading the culture of tolerance, dialogue and cooperation, adding that the phenomenon of terrorism must be faced. He called for dialogue amongst cultures, while respecting religious and cultural diversity, and urged a human society where values of justice, equality, security, stability and prosperity prevail.
Dr. Madani closed by noting the Kingdom's nomination of one of its citizens to fill the post of Director-General of UNESCO, which has the support of the GCC and the Arab League, and expressing the hope that OIC members will also endorse the Saudi candidate, which in fact they did.