Deputy Prime Minister and Commander of the National Guard Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, in an interview published today by the German weekly magazine 'Der Spiegel', stressed that the Middle East has the potential for a bright and prosperous future. The only threat to this, he said, is Israel's intransigence, adding that the Israelis must learn to co-exist with those around them.
Crown Prince Abdullah agreed with the magazine's comment that there is a real crisis in the Middle East, and remarked that the long conflict has not seen such a level of violence as is now being committed by Israel on a daily basis, noting that contemporary history knows no other case in which a state has used so many tanks and aircraft against unarmed people, destroying the Palestinians' farms and homes and all their means of livelihood and survival. ''I have told Jewish people and others I meet" he said, "that Israel runs the largest school in the world for graduating freedom fighters; at the same time, it closes the doors of hope and work in the faces of the sons of the Palestinian people. ….. "
If we concede that there is violence on the part of the Palestinians, he added, "it is merely an unorganized expression of despair and disappointment. Meanwhile, we and the world see every day that Israel's violence is a kind of state terrorism in which the most modern weapons and the highest level of planning and organization are used precisely and destructively."
On the conditions for achieving peace in the Middle East, Crown Prince Abdullah said these should be in accordance with the United Nations resolutions and the principle of land for peace, adding: "Whatever Israel has done, it cannot attain land and peace together. Peace, stability and welfare should be a right for all or they will be unattainable dreams.'' He indicated that as a result of Arab acceptance of the possibility of co-existence with Israel, "the point is being reached today where Arabs and Israelis are able to try a new method of relations and substitute the rhetoric of bullets for dialogue. We now face a golden opportunity that Israel should not miss since it is not in her interest to miss it.'' He added that Israel has no real choice except to live and coexist with its neighbors in an atmosphere of security and joint stability based on renunciation of dictatorship and hegemony.
On the fact that U.S. President George W. Bush received Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon but refused to receive Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, Crown Prince Abdullah declared that Saudi Arabia cannot mediate for President Arafat with the U.S. administration, saying "we cannot dictate to the U.S. President or any other president what to do or whom to receive." He went on to clarify that "emanating from friendship and the concern to maintain mutual interests, we have positive and continual dialogue with the U.S. administration." Giving his belief that any balanced perspective necessitates listening to both sides in a conflict, he expressed his optimism on the appointment of a special envoy to the region, adding "We hope his efforts reflect the pivotal responsibility of the United States concerning this conflict, in its capacity as today's superpower, with great interests in the region and always promoting human rights."
To a question on the U.S. angering the Kingdom, Crown Prince Abdullah replied: "We do not look at things in this way. It never crosses our mind that the U.S. is trying to anger us. And of course, we understand the depth of the pressures this administration is facing. However, we believe a balanced American position serves the needs of all parties as well as the vital interests of the U.S. itself. These interests are not limited to one particular country. What we hear, see and read confirms that many Jewish people do not approve of the policies of Sharon and the extremist Israeli right. They believe that his ways hurt the interests of Israel and present a threat to its future, for in the end the Israelis have no way out except to live with those around them if they want to exist in this region. Logic says the support a nation receives from one or more than one country, does not last forever. We watch with cautious hope the ideas and suggestions that are presented whether they are included in the Mitchell Report or through the Egyptian-Jordanian initiative. What is important is to look into those suggestions as a whole. If the Israelis imagine that they can be selective in what they accept and reject of these ideas and suggestions, peace and stability will become difficult for both parties.
"In this context we have a point that must be addressed: it is not the leaders of the intifada who have written the Mitchell report, but prudent and distinguished western leaders. The Palestinian leadership does not have a magic key that it can use to halt the intifada. Its position, however, will be stronger and more fruitful if the other party concedes to withdrawal of its troops from Palestinian cities and villages and a halt to the cancerous proliferation of settlements, and to a return to the negotiating table with faithful intent and honest commitment to what has been agreed to in previous stages. Otherwise, what good are agreements, commitments, and understandings if one side knows that the other is unwilling to carry these through? If this is the case, then we would have destroyed all the credibility of international commitments and conventions, and buried all hopes for real peace, keeping only the fire of doubts and fears, burning and open to all possibilities."
Replying to another question on the U.S. imposition of smart sanctions on Iraq as a way to resolve the issue, Crown Prince Abdullah declared that the Kingdom took an initiative more than three years ago to end the sufferings of the Iraqi people while keeping in place international supervision of Iraq's potential for manufacture of weapons of mass destruction or for threats to its neighbors. He added that the Iraqi leadership should shoulder the responsibility of rebuilding confidence, proving its good intentions and complying with the agreements; it should also shoulder responsibility for the past before obliterating this tragic issue from the nation's collective memory. To a question on American and British aircraft taking off from Saudi and Kuwaiti territory in order to raid Iraq, he said this allegation is inaccurate, declaring that Saudi territory is not used for such raids. Asked if rapprochement with Iraq is possible while President Saddam Hussein is in power, he said that keeping a president in office depends on the will of his people.
Concerning Islamist extremism, Crown Prince Abdullah stated: "Islam is our religion, our constitution and the cornerstone of our society and culture; extremism is not an Islamic or a Middle Eastern or an ethnic phenomenon."
To a question on the bombing incidents involving Americans, he gave assurances that in the Riyadh case, the perpetrators had been arrested and tried long ago. As for the Al-Khobar incident, investigations have not yet been completed, since there are some aspects involving fugitives.
In reply to an additional question on relations between Riyadh and Washington, he affirmed that the friendship and mutual interests that bind the two countries are too strong for discord, and pointed out that differing viewpoints are natural from time to time, emphasizing that the course of events imposes the necessity of dialogue in order to acquaint the U.S. administration and people with the facts. "After all," he said, "It is the people of the region who live and experience the pains of the Palestinians, are witness to and are burnt and affected by the fire and tragedies of this war. Friendship has neither meaning nor objective if one of the friends is unable to provide the other with the full picture, and alert the other to dangers that may result in God knows what damages. The area is today sitting on an explosive powder keg. Any delay or laxity in attending to the diffusion of its detonator will not endanger the Palestinians alone: rather its harm will engulf the whole area, perhaps the world at large.
"Again, the United States enjoys a distinguished position as the leader of the new world order: whether or not the U.S. likes it, this imposes on it the necessity of meeting crises before they get out of hand. This is our understanding of real friendship, a friendship that pivots on dialogue, frankness, and honesty. We always say your friend is not he who believes you but he who is honest with you."
In reply to a question on the recent visit of U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell to the Kingdom and the fact that his visit focused on Iraq rather than Palestine, Crown Prince Abdullah reiterated that meeting with any U.S. official always leads to the discussion of the hardships the Palestinian people are suffering. "Palestine" he said "is in our hearts and is always the core of our interests in any meeting with an international official."