In an interview on CNBC’s “Street Signs” yesterday, Saudi Ambassador to the United States Prince Turki Al-Faisal granted what CNBC billed as his first live interview since Saudi Arabia entered the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Initially focusing on Saudi Arabia’s entry into the WTO, Prince Turki told program host Ron Insana that it took some time for the Kingdom to come into compliance with the terms and conditions for entry into the WTO, but the decision to move forward reflects a commitment to diversify the Kingdom’s economy and highlights the vibrant private sector in Saudi Arabia.
Asked how Americans might participate in Saudi Arabia’s economic expansion, Prince Turki said that the Kingdom hopes to take advantage of US expertise and capital markets. “American businessmen have been the friends of Saudi Arabia for the last 70 years, and we want to capitalize on that,” he said.
Prince Turki noted that there are many opportunities for American investment and the Kingdom has implemented a number of regulations to insure that markets are sound. Saudi Arabia has learned from the experiences of the stock shocks in Kuwait and Wall Street. Broadening the economic cycle in the Kingdom means more citizens can participate in investment, and as a member of the WTO the Kingdom will further open investment opportunities for non-Saudis as well. Prince Turki added that he is confident that there is no bubble in the Saudi equity markets.
Turning to Iraq, Prince Turki said that Saudi Arabia believes that the outcome of the elections in Iraq will set the future course of the country, not only for the sake of national unity, but also to ensure that all Iraqis have a stake in the new government. Saudi Arabia as a friendly neighboring state will do everything to help the Iraqis achieve security and stability.
Asked about political reforms in the Kingdom, Prince Turki noted that Saudi Arabia has already begun to increase political participation for its citizens. Already there have been municipal elections, and those are to be followed by elections for regional councils and the Consultative Assembly. Saudi Arabia hopes to expand women’s voting rights in the next round of elections in three years, and women already hold elective positions in the chambers of commerce.
Asked if Saudi Arabia would join other nations in denouncing Iran for assertions from that country’s president that the Holocaust was a myth, Prince Turki said that as a rule Saudi Arabia does not make its diplomatic correspondence public and prefers to let its concerns be known directly and privately to the governments in question. However, he stressed that Saudi Arabia has never had any doubts itself about the nature of the Holocaust, and noted that then-Crown Prince Abdullah in 2002 outlined a peace plan for the Middle East that, once implemented, could lead to recognition of Israel by all Arab states and normalization of relations with Israel.
Asked about Iran’s nuclear program, Prince Turki said that Saudi Arabia is concerned about development of nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction by any country in the region and believes that the region would best be served by a ban on all weapons of mass destruction backed up by international guarantees.