Prince Faisal Bin Abdul Aziz at the opening session of the United Nations in 1945. One of the founding members of the UN, Saudi Arabia plays an active role in this and other international organizations.

During the last 250 years, Saudi Arabia has emerged from being a land where tribes once ruled to one that is a unified and secure state. Having experienced prodigious growth, unrivaled by any other developing country, Saudi Arabia's success has propelled the Kingdom from the margins to the center of regional and global affairs. Yet the facets of Saudi tradition have remained as anchors during the era of progress and modernization that has swept the nation.

As part of Saudi Arabia's efforts for a negotiated resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict, King Fahd meets regularly with Arab leaders, including Egyptian President Mubarak (right) and Syrian President Al-Assad.

Geographically located at the crossroads of the world, an economic power with a stable government and thriving society, Saudi Arabia has come to be at the center of world affairs because the Kingdom has not restricted its role to defending and promoting its own national interests. As the birthplace of Islam, Saudi Arabia holds a special place in the hearts of the one billion Muslims scattered across the globe. Guided by principles espoused by Islam and rooted in its rich Arab heritage, Saudi Arabia has, over the decades, successfully assumed the growing responsibility associated with that status.

Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal attended the Conference of Peacemakers in Sharm El-Sheikh in March.

For a nation built on Islamic principles, upholding Islam and protecting Islamic interests was the cornerstone of Saudi foreign policy under King Abdul Aziz. One of his earliest acts was to forge peaceful relations with neighboring countries in order to guarantee the safe passage of Muslim pilgrims to the Holy Cities of Makkah and Madinah.

Today, Saudi Arabia is a nation whose views are actively sought by global powers looking for a better understanding of Islamic and Arab issues. The Kingdom's diplomacy is considered a central factor in averting crises. Its mediation is solicited to resolve disputes that, if unchecked, could have reverberations far beyond the region.

In the closing years of this century, Saudi Arabia's role as a vital player on the regional and international stages transcends that associated with a single nation - albeit one possessing more than one quarter of the world's oil reserves. It has emerged as a bridge between the traditions and culture of the Arab and Islamic worlds on the one hand, and the rest of the world on the other.

Saudi Arabia is a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a regional organization dedicated to promoting security and economic cooperation.

King Abdul Aziz was also committed to promoting and protecting Arab interests in the region. He was one of the first Arab leaders to recognize the importance of the issue of sovereignty for Palestine, and how the unsuccessful resolution of that issue might lead to longterm regional instability.

Out of such concerns, Saudi Arabia began to assume an active role in international organizations. As a founding member of the United Nations, Saudi Arabia has steadily increased its participation in that organization. Since 1945, the Kingdom has been active not only through the support of the regular operating budget of the organization and through financial contributions which assist peacekeeping missions around the world, but also through active participation in many of the United Nation's specialized agencies.

As a promoter of self-determination and economic development for the global community, Saudi Arabia is involved with many umbrella organizations of the United Nations. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Foundation (UNESCO) are two such agencies which benefit from the Kingdom's assistance. Saudi Arabia is also a very active member of the United Nations' International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the branch of the UN which provides help to governments in developing nutrition programs and child health and welfare services, as well as providing emergency medical and food aid to children worldwide.

Crown Prince Abdullah with Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

Saudi Arabia has also been a dedicated participant in the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). Founded in 1961, during the height of the Cold War, NAM has evolved during this decade into an organization that, guided by the principles of the United Nations, seeks to settle international disputes and enable nations to exercise self-determination and establish independence and sovereignty over their territories. The NAM member - nations have directed their efforts towards the eradication of apartheid, the liberation of Kuwait, self-determination for the Palestinian people, and the restoration of peace to Bosnia-Herzegovina, Somalia and other nations experiencing internal conflict. With the demise of communism, NAM has turned its sights towards the productive cooperation between the states of the global North and South, and the emphasis on social and economic development.

Closer to home, Saudi Arabia initiated discussions that led to the formation of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in May 1981. The GCC member nations - Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates - established the council to coordinate policies in the fields of investment, development, trade, finance and security. The relations of the GCC states are based on common cultures and histories, and the desire for regional peace and stability, particularly in light of such events as the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the outbreak of war between Iran and Iraq in 1980, and the liberation of Kuwait.

King Fahd and President Bill Clinton, here with Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the U.S. Prince Bandar Bin Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz, continue a tradition of close contacts and cooperation between their two nations. King Fahd and Prince Sultan with President of Afghanistan Burhanuddin Rabbani (above).

As one of the leading nations in the Damascus Declaration, Saudi Arabia has reinforced its position regarding the Middle East peace process. The Kingdom - along with fellow members Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Syria and the United Arab Emirates - has emphasized the necessity of unwavering commitment to the principles upon which peace talks have been based since the Madrid Conference of 1991.

Through its membership in the 47-state strong Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), Saudi Arabia continues to uphold its responsibility as a leader of the worldwide Islamic community through the defense of the rights and interests of Muslims. Through this international forum, the OIC seeks to erase hostilities among Muslim states and foster fraternity, while upholding the tenets of Islam.

As a leading member of regional organizations such as the League of Arab States, Saudi Arabia continues to actively pursue the peaceful resolution of disputes involving Arab and Islamic nations.

The Arab-Israeli conflict has been a high priority for Saudi Arabia since the 1940s. During the 1960s and 1970s, Saudi Arabia, under the leadership of King Faisal Bin Abdul Aziz, strongly advocated a peaceful resolution to the Arab-Israeli wars. As a party to the Madrid Peace Talks of 1991 and the ongoing Middle East peace process, Saudi Arabia has diligently worked towards the resolution of this crisis based on United Nations Security Resolutions 242 and 338. In addition to its diplomatic efforts, the Saudi government continues to send humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people.

In 1989, King Fahd hosted a conference in the Saudi city of Taif, that led to the resolution of one of the bloodiest and most destabilizing events in the region - 15 years of civil war in Lebanon. King Fahd invited the leaders of Lebanon's warring factions to meet in order to try to resolve their differences. The resulting Taif Accord brought about national reconciliation and put the Lebanese back on the path of normalcy.

In conjunction with Saudi Arabia's continuing desire to advance the self-determination of nations, it has, along with its Arab League brothers, strongly condemned events such as the Israeli air raids on Lebanon which occurred this past April as a violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 425, which calls for Israel to withdraw unconditionally from Lebanese territory.

King Fahd has actively worked to help resolve disputes, end conflicts and bring about national reconciliation in many parts of the world. He is seen here with the Bosnian and Albanian Presidents (top) and Lebanese President Rafiq Hariri (above).

During this decade, Saudi Arabia sent its soldiers as part of a United Nations' sponsored task force to assist in the containment and eradication of disease and the easing of famine in civil war-stricken Somalia. In 1991, King Fahd received members of the Somali National Reconciliation Conference in Jeddah to reiterate his dedication to assisting that nation in the restoration of peace and stability to its people.

In 1993, the leaders of Afghanistan's warring factions met in Makkah to sign a peace accord. Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani attributed the success of the reconciliation talks to King Fahd's personal intervention and mediation. Saudi Arabia was a strong supporter of the Mujahideen in their struggle during the 1980s to drive out the communist regime in that nation. However, during the efforts to oust the communists, there was much in-fighting among the Mujahideen. Saudi Arabia, and King Fahd in particular, helped mend these fences so that Afghanistan could return to normalcy and get on with the task of rebuilding its infrastructure and economy. Throughout the struggle, the Kingdom offered humanitarian and financial assistance in addition to political support.

Saudi Arabia was one of the first countries to oppose Serbian aggression in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and its campaign of - ethnic cleansing - which resulted in the death of tens of thousands of civilians. Speaking at the United Nations and at other international forums, Saudi Arabian diplomats have vociferously encouraged multi-national efforts to halt Serbian aggression. King Fahd has met numerous times with Bosnian and world leaders to seek an end to the bloodshed. Through such work, Saudi Arabia helped set the stage for the Dayton Accord, which halted the Serbian onslaught.

The government and people of Saudi Arabia have donated hundreds of millions of dollars, as well as clothing, food and medical supplies to Muslim civilians in that war-torn land through the establishment of the Supreme Commission for the Collection of Donations for Bosnian Muslims, which is chaired by Prince Salman Bin Abdul Aziz.

In the spirit of the United Nations Charter, Saudi Arabia has pursued relationships of peaceful co-existence and economic cooperation with many other nations. There are deep mutual interests and firm ties with the European Community, Japan and countries of the developing world.

Within this larger framework, the Kingdom's relationship with the United States is an outstanding example of how two nations can prosper when they share similar principles and mutual interests and respect.

Shortly after its founding, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia established a strong friendship with the United States that has endured and flourished over the last six decades. The origin of this friendship is rooted in King Abdul Aziz's admiration of President Woodrow Wilson's call for self-determination for nations. As the relationship of these two nations grew, it reflected the ideals of independence, justice and peace, which would be cornerstones of the United Nations Charter.

King Abdul Aziz recognized the importance of contacts between men and nations. The early foundations of Saudi-U.S. relations were built on the personal friendships of King Abdul Aziz and American leaders. In a historic meeting on February 14, 1945, King Abdul Aziz met with U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on board the U.S.S. Quincy in the Suez Canal to discuss the role of the Middle East in the post-war era. These two leaders developed a relationship of mutual respect and admiration that translated into solid ties between their two nations.

This tradition of personal relations between leaders of Saudi Arabia and the United States has continued through the decades, with each Saudi King meeting with a U.S. President since that first meeting. This personal link has helped cement relations between the two countries, as their leaders are able to discuss frankly issues of mutual interest.

As the first reigning Saudi king to visit the United States, King Saud Bin Abdul Aziz made an official visit to the White House in 1957, to meet with President Dwight D. Eisenhower. During the winter of 1962, he returned to Washington, DC, to hold meetings with President John F. Kennedy.

Prince Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz addressing the United Nations General Assembly on the occasion of the UN's 50th anniversary in October 1995.

King Faisal Bin Abdul Aziz carried on the diplomatic legacy of his father by making several trips to the United States to hold discussions with U.S. leaders. In 1945, as Crown Prince, Faisal signed the United Nations Charter in San Francisco. He returned to the United States in 1962 to participate in the opening session of the United Nations General Assembly. During this trip, he also held meetings with President John F. Kennedy. As King, he returned to the United States to meet with Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon. It was due to King Faisal's diplomatic acumen that the Kingdom emerged unscathed from the regional turbulence during the 1960s and 1970s.

In the late 1970s, King Khalid Bin Abdul Aziz received President Jimmy Carter in Riyadh. King Khalid oversaw the strengthening of Saudi-U.S. relations through a series of conferences and agreements focused on technology and trade.

In 1982, Crown Prince Fahd Bin Abdul Aziz became king. His rule has been an active one, especially on the diplomatic front. A participant in Saudi domestic and foreign affairs since the 1930s, King Fahd acquired the wisdom necessary to successfully steer the Kingdom through a rapidly changing world. Since becoming King in 1985, King Fahd has met with Presidents Reagan, Bush and Clinton, receiving the latter two in Saudi Arabia.

During this century, Saudi Arabia has emerged as a unified nation and become a socioeconomic and political world leader. Guided by a foreign policy that focuses on Arab unity, Islamic solidarity and peaceful coexistence, Saudi Arabia has become a strong advocate of peace, security and constructive cooperation throughout the world. As we move toward the new millennium, Saudi Arabia stands firm in its policies of continuity as it welcomes the challenges of a new century.

Last StoryTable of ContentsNext Story