Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Saud Al-Faisal and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice held a joint press conference in Riyadh yesterday following the secretary’s meeting with Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz.
The Saudi-US discussions focused on bilateral relations as well as major regional and international issues, including the Palestinian situation, the Middle East peace process, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, issues concerning Iran, and reform in Saudi Arabia.
Prince Saud highlighted the deep Saudi – US friendship and the determination to further strengthen relations between the two nations. He said that the Strategic Dialogue Committee would meet for its third session in the United States in a few months.
He also noted that King Abdullah received a letter from President Bush shortly before Secretary Rice’s visit to the Kingdom stressing the depth of bilateral relations and the importance of strengthening them.
On the Palestinian situation, Prince Saud denounced Israel’s decision to withhold funds from the Palestinian Authority and stressed the Kingdom’s commitment to the peace process.
“Saudi Arabia assured its full commitment to the peace process in the Middle East and the importance of respecting the free will of the Palestinian people without hastily prejudging the situation,” Prince Saud said. “We denounce Israel’s withholding of the due funds of the Palestinian Authority. We wish not to link the international aid to the Palestinian people to considerations other than their dire humanitarian needs.”
Turning to Iraq, Prince Saud condemned the terrorist attack on a Samara mosque yesterday. He also said that the Kingdom is looking to the new Iraqi government to stop such criminal actions and to achieve security, stability and unity in the country.
As for Iran, Prince Saud said that there is no proof it is producing nuclear weapons, and that the Kingdom supports a region free of nuclear weapons. “We hope – we ardently hope – that they would follow our policy and the policy of the GCC of making the Middle East an area free of atomic weapons,” he said.
Secretary Rice also condemned the Samara attack, and called on the Iraqi people to denounce terrorism. “This is of course a tragic incident and one, I am sure, committed by people who wish to tear the Iraqi people apart,” she said.
Saudi Arabia and the US also discussed increasing the contact between their peoples, Secretary Rice said. “This is something to which King Abdullah and President Bush have been very much dedicated, and we talked about how to do that,” she remarked.
Asked about the US position on a Hamas-led Palestinian Authority, Secretary Rice replied that the US stance is in line with that of the EU, UN and Russia.
“There are certain requirements of governing that need to be met by Hamas now that it has been elected by the Palestinian people who are voting for change, that we believe were still voting for hopes of a peaceful and better life,” she said. “The international community is united in its view that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict can only be resolved by peaceful means, that violence and terrorism are not permissible in that context or any other context, that it is necessary to have a two-state solution.”
Transcript of the press conference