In today’s press briefing, Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Saud Al-Faisal commented on last Saturday’s reception for those who participated in the recent Intellectual Dialogue Forum in Makkah that was given by Deputy Prime Minister and Commander of the National Guard Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, citing the Crown Prince’s call for tolerance, renunciation of violence and extremism, and the pursuit of moderation in accordance with Islamic principles. Prince Saud referred to the dire need for such a call in the international community as well as the Arab and Muslim worlds, in order to confront the trend of defamation of Islam and its tolerant principles. He criticized U.S., Israeli and some Arab media for attacking the Kingdom, noting that certain journalists who denigrate Saudi Arabia have neither visited the country nor acquired sufficient information on its society, history and culture. Saudi citizens, he said, acquiesce in the four major fundamentals delineated by the Crown Prince: religion, homeland, patience and action. As for reform, Prince Saud confirmed that Saudi Arabia is moving forward in this, and stated that there is consensus on the central role of women, adding that no one should downplay their role in building the homeland. Educational reform, he added, is another issue on which consensus was reached in the recent Dialogue Forum.
Prince Saud reiterated the Kingdom's support for the Palestinian people and their legitimate cause, and urged the international community to put pressure on Israel to cease its unilateral policies and conform to international efforts to achieve peace. He noted that Crown Prince Abdullah had affirmed the Kingdom's support for the proposal submitted by Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurie for construction of a housing project in Rafah, and affirmed that discussions with European Union Special Representative for the Middle East Peace Process Marc Otte had revealed unanimity of opinion concerning ongoing Arab-European coordination with the aim of reviving the peace process at this critical juncture. He added that the Israeli Prime Minister’s latest announcement of expansion of settlements in the Syrian-occupied Golan Heights is a continuation of Israel’s unilateral policies, which are contrary to international peace efforts; meanwhile, Syria has announced its readiness to resume negotiations with Israel within the framework of the international peace initiatives. Referring to statements by Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and some of his cabinet members concerning the issue of Palestinian refugees, Prince Saud said the Arab countries' proposal confirms the relevant UN resolutions. A Palestinian refugee, he said, has the right to return home or to be compensated.
On the Iraqi situation, Prince Saud stressed the importance of achieving security in that country as an utmost priority in order to realize the ambitions of the Iraqi people. Iraq, he said, must come out of the vicious circle of violence of Iraqis against Iraqis that is obstructing progress towards sovereignty, independence and reconstruction, pointing out that targeting international organizations and embassies in Baghdad paralyzes their ability to help the Iraqi people overcome their plight. Most important, he added, is a speedy transfer of authority to a legitimate Iraqi government. As for power-sharing, he commented that in principle all Iraqis, regardless of race or religious sect, should enjoy the same rights and shoulder the same responsibilities, adding that if the Iraqis do not unite, there is the danger of their country fragmenting, and that a divided country would have a negative effect on its neighbors.
Regarding the humanitarian disaster in Iran arising from the destructive earthquake that recently struck the city of Bam, Prince Saud expressed the hope that the joint efforts of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in providing U.S. $ 400 million in aid for the victims and to finance reconstruction in the afflicted areas will help alleviate the suffering.