Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Saud Al-Faisal and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice co-chaired the second Saudi-US Strategic Dialogue in Washington yesterday.
In a joint statement issued after the meeting, both countries reiterated the importance of a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East. They expressed opposition to unilateral steps taken by any one party that could undermine the peace process, and pledged to work towards providing aid to the Palestinian people through proper channels.
On Iran, Saudi Arabia and the US both expressed concern about the threat of nuclear weapons proliferation in the region. Prince Saud reiterated the position of the Gulf Cooperation Council that the entire region should be free of nuclear weapons. Both the US and Saudi Arabia called on Iran to work with the international community.
Turning to Iraq, both countries agreed that a stable, democratic, unified, pluralistic and prosperous Iraq is in the interest of al. They expressed the hope that the new Iraqi government would preserve the unity, identity and territorial integrity of the country, and stated their intent to support the new government politically and economically.
Saudi Arabia also said that it is studying positively the Proliferation Security Initiative.
The statement also noted that the various working groups on Counterterrorism, Military Affairs, Energy, Economic and Financial Affairs, Consular Affairs and Partnership, Education, Exchange, and Human Development reported on their activities.
Of note, the US expressed satisfaction with the Saudi decision to form a group to enforce Saudi laws on trafficking in persons. The US also welcomed the measures Saudi Arabia has taken to combat extremism and intolerance.
Prince Saud and Secretary Rice also held a joint press conference after their discussions. Both stressed the importance of the Dialogue and the closeness of Saudi-US relations.
Prince Saud said, “It's a reflection of the maturity, I think, of the relations between the two countries that they can have an open dialogue with no restrictions, no holds barred, and each country is considerate of the other and sensitive to the issues that face the other.”
Secretary Rice remarked, “I think you can see from the broad range of issues that we deal with that this is a relationship that is both deep and broad, a relationship that goes back decades, and a relationship that is critically important not just to the peace and security of the region, but to the peace and security of the world.”
Prince Saud and Secretary Rice fielded a number of questions on the US-Iranian standoff over Iran’s nuclear program, aid to the Palestinians, the overhaul of educational materials and teacher training in Saudi Arabia, and oil production.
The Strategic Dialogue was established by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz and President Bush during their April 25, 2005 meeting at the president’s ranch in Crawford, Texas. It aims to institutionalize relations and cooperation between the two nations. The first Strategic Dialogue was held in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on November 13, 2005. The next one is scheduled to be held in Saudi Arabia this fall.