In a regular press briefing in Jeddah today, Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Saud Al-Faisal said that both the Arab and international communities have welcomed the US initiative to hold an international conference on Palestine this fall.
He reiterated that the success of the conference depends on whether it addresses core issues of the conflict – a comprehensive solution, a viable Palestinian state, dismantling of settlements, resolving the issue of Palestinian refugees and Jerusalem. These points were emphasized during Secretary of State Rice and Secretary of Defense Gates’ recent visit to Saudi Arabia, the prince said.
Prince Saud dismissed the idea of convening an Arab summit to discuss the US initiative on a Palestinian conference. He noted that such a summit is not necessary since the US initiative contains key elements that are already included in the Arab Peace Initiative, which the Arab League adopted at its 2002 meeting in Beirut.
He also emphasized that the Palestinian situation depends on Palestinian efforts to resolve their differences and move forward in the peace process according to the Arab Peace Initiative.
Turning to Iraq, the Saudi foreign minister said that the Kingdom is sending a delegation to Iraq next week to review the possibility of establishing a Saudi embassy in Baghdad.
Asked if Sunni ministers’ recent withdrawal from the Iraqi government would impact the Kingdom’s decision to establish an embassy in Baghdad, Prince Saud replied, “The Saudi embassy in Iraq had nothing to do with the formation of the Iraqi government, but it looks after the interests of the two countries. The presence of the embassy would be a positive factor in the relations between the two countries.”
Responding to a question about Russia’s role in the Middle East peace process and the Iranian file, Prince Saud said that as a permanent member of the UN Security Council Russia is a major player in global policy. He noted that National Security Council chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan recently delivered a message from Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz to President Putin.
On other issues, Prince Saud expressed satisfaction with Sudan’s response to the agreement on sending African and UN forces to Darfur. He also said that Saudi Arabia is looking to the various Lebanese parties to resume national dialogue and implement initiatives aimed at containing the crisis.