Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Saud Al-Faisal held a joint press conference today with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
The two US officials are in the Kingdom for a rare joint visit. They met with Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz yesterday, and Secretary Rice held another meeting with Prince Saud today.
In remarks to reporters, Prince Saud said that the Saudi-US talks addressed the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the peace process in the Middle East, the situation in Iraq, the crisis in Lebanon and the region’s nuclear file. He described the talks as “positive, prosperous, frank and transparent.”
Prince Saud said that Secretary Rice briefed Saudi officials on President George W. Bush’s initiative to hold an international peace conference on Palestine this fall.
“We are interested in a peace conference to deal with the substantive matter of peace, the issues of real substance and not form or non-substantive issues. If that does so, it becomes of great interest for Saudi Arabia. And should we then get an invitation from the Secretary to attend that conference, we will look very closely and very hard at attending,” he stated.
During the meeting, King Abdullah highlighted the importance of resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict, he said. The foreign minister reaffirmed Arab support for the Arab Peace Initiative, and called on Israel to avoid political maneuvering and demonstrate that it is serious about taking steps towards peace.
Turning to Iraq, the Saudi foreign minister expressed concern over the ongoing security and political deterioration there and its potential threat to regional security. Saudi Arabia expressed the hope that it would be able to work closely with the Iraqi government on security measures, especially dealing with terrorist activity, he said.
On a diplomatic level, Prince Saud stated that the Kingdom has decided to send a delegation to Iraq to assess establishing a Saudi embassy there.
Continuing with Iraq, Prince Saud said that the Iraqi government is responsible for achieving its goals without foreign intervention. He remarked that the issue of foreign intervention was a major topic of discussion both at the recent meeting on Iraq in Sharm El-Sheikh and at the meetings of Iraq’s neighboring countries. “We are looking for tangible results of the plans and programs agreed upon in these meetings,” he added.
The Saudi-US talks also addressed the crisis in Lebanon and ongoing tensions there, despite extensive economic and political support and Arab and international efforts to reach a resolution. Both countries called on the Lebanese parties to put national interest first, resolve their political issues via dialogue and avoid foreign intervention.
On the issue of Iran’s nuclear file, Prince Saud said that the Kingdom reiterated its support for resolving the current conflict with diplomacy.
The Saudi foreign minister also expressed satisfaction with Saudi-US cooperation in counterterrorism, and the importance of continuing such cooperation.
For her part, Secretary Rice welcomed yesterday’s UN Security Council resolution to deploy peacekeeping forces in Darfur, and praised Saudi Arabia’s role in bringing about the resolution.Transcript of the press conference in English