Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen:
Allow me at the beginning to express Saudi Arabia's great appreciation for the efforts of the European Union and the United States of America in preparing and bringing about this important international conference with its emphasis on the present and future of Iraq. The level of participation in this meeting reflects the realization and commitment by the international community to help Iraq at this critical juncture of its history.
From the inception of the crisis, Saudi Arabia has advocated the view that the objective of future Iraq should be an independent and unified country enjoying security, stability and prosperity, and at peace with its neighbors. This vision was emphasized in every meeting which Saudi Arabia participated in, whether on the international, regional, or neighboring countries level. We urged the adoption of the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of Iraq, and the necessity of retaining the territorial integrity of the country.
We feel deep sorrow and great concern for the deteriorating security conditions and the continuing daily toll of casualties in Iraq. We believe further that the international community has a responsibility and a role to play in bringing Iraq back to normalcy.
However, we firmly believe that as a matter of priority the issue is mainly political. A political stable environment must be established as a prerequisite to achieve the goals set by this conference.
Fortunately, there is a great deal of international goodwill to help. Contributions and funds are available from various sources, and Saudi Arabia has participated in this economic drive. We have already provided about three hundred million Riyals [U.S. $80 million] in humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people. In the Madrid Conference in October 2003, we offered one billion dollars for reconstruction efforts in Iraq, in the form of soft loans to development projects through bilateral contacts with the Iraqi government, and by financing and guaranteeing Saudi exports to Iraq.
Saudi Arabia also made clear its readiness to look into ways to ease the burden of its official debts to Iraq. We provided the Iraqi side with all relevant information in this regard. With the establishment of the Iraqi government, we are looking forward to direct discussions on debt relief.
However, the sad realities of daily confrontations and acts of violence persist. If we are to meet the real needs of Iraq, the first priority is to deal with the political issues and resolve them. The political process, which includes the drafting of the new constitution, can only succeed in its purpose if it embraces and reflects the collective will of all Iraqis. The effort of the international community at this time should, as a matter of priority, concentrate on reconciliation and unity of the Iraqi people. This is essential for the establishment of legitimate government institutions, accepted by the people, that would have the ability and means to stabilize the political and security conditions of the country. Under no circumstances should this be construed as diminishing either the importance of reconstruction efforts in Iraq or Saudi Arabia's commitment to this objective.
In conclusion, I hope this meeting will achieve concrete results concomitant with the level of influence of the participants. This shall require true resolve and political will to help the Iraqi people achieve their hopes and aspirations after such a long period of hardships and suffering.
Thank you for listening.