Ladies and gentlemen, thank you. I would like to express my appreciation to Professor Andrew Hess for welcoming me today. It is an honor to be invited to speak here. And thank you all for joining me.
You may be aware that I have been traveling throughout the US, visiting different parts of your country and meeting with Americans. But I think I can say, that I have returned to Massachusetts more than any other state – if for no other reason than because the Commonwealth has so many of the country’s top educational institutions, of which Tufts is certainly one. I should probably look into real estate on Cape Cod.
Last week I attended an award ceremony put on by MIT for an Arab scientist at NASA. At the event, I was asked to discuss some of the contributions Arabs have made to the sciences, including astronomy, and I was reminded of a statement once made by the American statesman Adlai Stevenson. He said:
“I have been told that one of the reasons the astronomers of the world cooperate is the fact that there is no one nation from which the entire sphere of the sky can be seen. Perhaps there is in that fact a parable for national statesmen, whose political horizons are all too often limited by national horizons.”
I believe Mr. Stevenson’s statement bears greatly on what I would like to discuss with you here today. Because I believe we have reached a point in history where this parable is being heeded, and a new era of cooperation between nations of the world has dawned.
We are now moving to link our horizons to overcome our own limited vantages of the world around us – not just for our own betterment, but for the betterment of our neighbors in this global community. Because their peace, prosperity, and security is as important as our own.
For Saudi Arabia and the United States – two nations of critical importance to events in the world today – this realization has culminated in an initiative put forth by King Abdullah and President Bush a year ago: The Saudi-US Strategic Dialogue.
I want to share with you what this initiative entails and why the Strategic Dialogue is critical to the people of our nations and the future of our relationship. And why even though it is an instrument of governments, it needs to be supported on the most basic levels to survive and be successful.
Because I believe we all must continue to broaden our horizons, each and every one of us, lest we risk backsliding into the darkness of misunderstanding and ignorance that impedes cooperation and our positive mutual exchange.
Ladies and Gentlemen. In April of 2005, when King Abdullah and President Bush met for the second time in Crawford, Texas, it coincided with a number of ongoing issues specifically geared to the respective capabilities and global positions of Saudi Arabia and the US – including rising energy prices and necessary peace initiatives in the Middle East.
But discussions between the men also included topics such as the war on terrorism, our countries’ mutual trade, and efforts to bring about greater cultural understanding between the Saudi and American people.
When looking back at this second meeting, it must be realized that four years earlier, this type of interaction and dialogue between Saudi Arabia and the United States would not have been thought possible – or in some peoples’ eyes, acceptable.
The terrorists who struck the World Trade Center and the Pentagon not only took aim at important symbols of America, they tried to destroy the alliance between the US and Saudi Arabia, and drive a wedge between our people.
Indeed, their efforts caused us to reexamine our understanding of one another, but clearly, they failed in achieving their goal.
The terrorists could not sever the important ties that bind our countries. Nor could they undo the 60 years of friendship and cooperation that we share. In reality, their horrific actions have resulted in a stronger, deeper relationship on a government-to-government level than before, as we have rallied together to fight our common enemy, and to go even further in how we collaborate.
But we have worked hard to achieve this. And we must continue to work to support our partnership and strengthen it on every level.
So, as a way to establish a bedrock foundation for the future of Saudi-US relations, and to fully reintroduce cooperation between our countries – the type of cooperation we have known since the day President Franklin Roosevelt first met with the founder of the modern Saudi state King Abdulaziz back in 1945 – our leaders devised at Crawford the Strategic Dialogue.
This new mechanism is intended to institutionalize relations between our countries to overcome inevitable differences and to align our resources and capabilities to a greater extent. It will feature meetings between the Saudi Foreign Minister and the US Secretary of State every six months.
The first meeting officially commenced during the King’s visit with the President, last year, and already, Foreign Minister Prince Saud and Secretary of State Rice have met twice under these auspices.
The gatherings are open to candid discussion and have taken on a collegial tone. There will also be meetings of subgroups, of which six have been created: Energy; Economic and Financial Affairs; Consular Affairs; Cultural Affairs and Human Resources; Military Affairs; and Counterterrorism.
The Subcommittee on Partnership, Education and Human Resource Development has already commenced its business, and the other subcommittees are on track to begin as early as May.
In setting up this framework for discussion, we have accomplished a great deal. We have opened doors and made progress in engaging each other openly on issues of mutual concern. And we have done this in the face of great challenges. As former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani has said: “When you confront a problem you begin to solve it.” And I am confident our efforts are going to be a part of many solutions.
We will find a two-state solution for the Arab-Israeli conflict, as is the goal of both our nations. We will help build a unified, peaceful, and stable Iraq with a unified government.
We will help secure the energy markets by working together.
But we can’t stop here. We must take action while we can, and continue to actively build on the framework we’ve started so that we make our progress last.
When King Abdulaziz and President Roosevelt met, according to every account, they developed an immediate personal rapport and genuinely enjoyed spending time discussing the world and the problems they could work to solve. Although they only met in person over those two days, they had an extensive correspondence in which they parsed ideas and spoke their minds to one another.
One of the many topics they discussed extensively was the Palestine issue. Here we had two great leaders with a connection and immense political powers, yet the progress they made and agreements they came to were swept away with the tide of Roosevelt’s passing and a new administration. And now, some 60 years later, we are still talking about this very issue.
The Strategic Dialogue is intended to be the institution that transcends the ephemeral nature of individual relationships; it will be the means through which we can build on our successes, on our accomplishments, and even on our incremental gains.
Because we know the problems we face today will not be solved over night, but if they are to be solved at all, the solutions need to remain in place as long as it takes.
And to support these solutions and the framework we’ve built, we still need to enhance the most elemental aspect of the Saudi-US relations: the connections between the people. Although strategic relations align our national interests, only our interpersonal relations will govern the future success in reaching our basic interests of securing our mutual peace and prosperity.
Therefore, if the Strategic Dialogue is truly going to be successful, it will need to be supported by a basic dialogue – one between students, businessmen, and everyday citizens, who can engage their Saudi and American counterparts and discuss openly and plainly about what life is about.
Saudi Arabia is so committed to this type of communication that our government has launched a scholarship program to send thousands of Saudi students to colleges and universities abroad to learn, to make friends, and to experience foreign cultures – and most will be coming to the United States.
These students are the ones who will be going out, breaking down barriers of misunderstanding between the cultures by forming the types of friendships and relationships that began Saudi-U.S. relations more than 60 years ago. They will be the ones creating new ideas and new solutions, building on what we have started. They will be the ones demonstrating that despite our differences, Saudis and Americans believe in the same basic principles of faith and family.
President Ronald Reagan once said: “The ultimate determinant in the struggle now going on for the world will not be bombs and rockets, but a test of wills and ideas – a trial of spiritual resolve: the values we hold, the beliefs we cherish and the ideals to which we are dedicated.”
Reagan, who was known as the Great Communicator, foresaw the challenges ahead.
If we do not communicate – if we do not enter into a dialogue on any level – then we will lose sight of the fact that Saudis and Americans stand for the same basic ideas, the same values, and the same beliefs.
So even as individuals, we must work to link our horizons with an open dialogue, so that our nations can prosper, our challenges can be met, and our cooperation remains eternal.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you.