Prince Saud Al-Faisal, Minister of Foreign Affairs, met in Jeddah on Sunday with a U.S. congressional delegation led by Rep. Dan Burton of Indiana, Chairman of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, and including Congressman Benjamin Gilman of New York, Chairman of the International Relations Subcommittee on the Middle East; Congressman Bernard Sanders of Vermont; Congressman William Delahunt of Massachusetts; Congressman Mike Rogers of Michigan; and Congressman Brian Kerns of Indiana. The meeting was attended by U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Robert Jordan.
The meeting touched on a number of issues of vital interest to both countries, including the Middle East peace process, the Kingdom's position on Iran and Iraq, and child abduction and custody issues, which dominated the discussion.
Prince Saud called child abduction and child custody issues “a human tragedy that should not be politicized.” He assured the delegation that Saudi Arabia is fully committed to solving all outstanding child custody cases, stating that the Kingdom has set up a committee to review each case on an expedited basis and to recommend ways of resolving them.
The Foreign Minister called on Chairman Burton to work closely with the Kingdom to create practical and workable solutions that would not only solve these tragic issues, but also prevent them from happening in the first place. “Both countries should work closely together to find a practical and workable solution to these tragic cases. These solutions must guarantee parental rights, and more importantly, safeguard the rights of the children, who are the real victims in these cases", Prince Saud said.
Prince Saud expressed his appreciation to Rep. Burton for his efforts in this respect, and indicated that he would furnish him with a list of cases involving Saudi children who were abducted to the U.S. by their American parents. Chairman Burton stated that he would look into these cases as well.
The Foreign Minister informed the visiting delegation of the Kingdom’s readiness to enter into bilateral protocols with the U.S. that would establish a mechanism for dealing with these issues and help overcome the obstacle of differing legal jurisdictions and make it possible to resolve these cases in a practical manner. At the same time, he reminded the delegation that there are about 1,100 cases of child abduction involving one American parent, and less than one percent of these involve Saudi parents. Most involve countries adjacent to the U.S. or in Europe.
Prince Saud expressed the hope that more U.S. Congressional delegations would visit the Kingdom to learn, first hand, about Saudi Arabia and its people.