Foreign Minister comments on Damascus summit

March 30, 2008

Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Saud Al-Faisal held a regular press briefing in Riyadh yesterday.

In an opening statement, Prince Saud remarked that Saudi Arabia’s policies on Arab and Islamic issues are based on the principles of truthfulness and transparency, commitment to international resolutions as well as its effort to promote Arab unity. The Kingdom’s recent political efforts within the Arab League have focused on this framework, he noted.

The Kingdom had been looking forward to the Arab summit in Damascus to achieve these goals. Regrettably, Saudi Arabia has observed that circumstances related to the summit do not suggest the desired or hoped-for result, the prince stated.

Unfortunately, there have been attempts to derail the Arab League initiative in Lebanon and to consolidate foreign interference there, Prince Saud noted. These attempts began with the assassination of Prime Minister Rafiq Al-Hariri, and then the resignation of Lebanese government ministers in an effort to strip it of its legitimacy as well as attempts to freeze Lebanese institutions, including the parliament, he said.

Since the beginning of the crisis in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia has diligently worked towards achieve a compromise that preserves the interests of all Lebanese parties – without any hidden agenda. Saudi Arabia’s motives are simply to help that Lebanon overcome this crisis and achieve security, stability and prosperity, Prince Saud said.

But each time a solution was accepted, a refusal brought matters back to square one, the prince noted. This attitude continued, halting areas of agreement and firmly establishing an external influence on Lebanon at the expense of the country’s national interests. There is no logic or justification for stymieing the Arab initiative, and it is regrettable that the matter did not stop there – there were flagrant attacks by some Lebanese factions on the Arab League, he said.

Such attacks call for a firm response in order to maintain the credibility of Arab constitutional organizations, Prince Saud said. Attempts to disrupt solutions in Lebanon by ignoring Arab League resolutions are akin to efforts to deepen the Palestinian crisis, disrupt Iraq and derail Arab causes in general.

Despite all this, the Kingdom was eager to participate in the Damascus summit to boost solidarity; Saudi Arabia has never boycotted an Arab summit, Prince Saud said.

“We still expect from Damascus, where the summit is held, a positive movement on the Lebanese arena to implement the initiative, to complement to the tireless efforts of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and a number of Arab states. We also hope that the summit will succeed in patching up the Arab rift, closing the ranks and giving precedence to the national Arab interest over foreign interests,” the prince said, concluding his statement.

In the Q&A, Prince Saud denied that the Kingdom pressured Egypt, Jordan and Yemen to send low-level representation to the summit. “These states are independent,” he noted.

Prince Saud also denied that there were efforts to isolate Syria. “I have not felt from any Arab parties a desire to isolate Syria, but on the contrary … Syria is one among important states in the region,” he said. “The problem is that what had been unanimously endorsed at the Arab League, including Syria, has not been implemented in the measures taken later on the ground.”

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