The Kingdom’s address to the 63rd UN General Assembly

September 27, 2008

Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Saud Al-Faisal address to the 63rd United Nations General Assembly, New York, September 27, 2008

Mr. President:

I would like to begin by expressing to you, and to your friendly country Nicaragua, our sincere congratulations on your assumption of the presidency of the 63rd session of the General Assembly of the United Nations. I am fully confident that your diplomatic experience and your extensive knowledge of international affairs will be the best guarantee of the smooth running and success of the session’s work. I also wish to express our gratitude and appreciation to your predecessor Dr. Srgjan Kerim, who directed the work of the previous session in such a wise and able manner.

I likewise extend our gratitude and appreciation to HE Mr. Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary-General, for his tireless endeavors to strengthen the role of the United Nations and uphold its principles in spite of the increasing challenges and difficult circumstances with which we are faced. We wish to assure His Excellency of our full support and backing in this regard.
Mr. President:

The tremendous developments that have taken place in the transport, communications, media and information technology sectors have helped to facilitate and expand contact and interaction among all the peoples of the world with their various religions, beliefs, cultures and languages. No part of our human family, in all its rich diversity and fertile pluralism, currently lives in isolation without affecting or being affected by others.

However, while these advances improve the human condition, they were used by extremist minorities in every religious or cultural community who are seeking to propagate notions of intolerance, exclusion, racism and hatred. We all therefore need to work together in an earnest manner, under the auspices of the United Nations, in order to create an environment conducive to promotion of the values of dialogue, tolerance and moderation and the establishment of relations of cooperation and peace among cultures, peoples and states based on mutual respect and shared determination to overcome divisions and differences.

The World Conference on Dialogue was held at Madrid from July 16-18 of this year. In his opening address at the inaugural session of that conference, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques said: “I have come to you from the place dearest to the hearts of all Muslims, the land of the Two Holy Mosques, bearing with me a message from the Islamic world (Ummah), represented by its scholars and thinkers who recently met in the confines of the House of God; a message declaring that Islam is a religion of moderation and tolerance; a message calling for constructive dialogue among followers of religions.”

The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques made it clear that the conference was being held because mankind “is passing through a critical phase which, in spite of all the scientific progress, is witnessing a proliferation of crime, an increase in terrorism, disintegration of the family, subversion of the minds of the young by drug abuse, exploitation of the poor by the strong, and odious racist tendencies …It is therefore incumbent upon us to declare to the world that difference must not lead to conflict and confrontation, and to state that the tragedies that have occurred in human history were not attributable to religion, but were the result of extremism with which some adherents of every divinely-revealed religion, and of every political ideology, have been afflicted ... If we wish this historic meeting to succeed, we must focus on the common denominators that unite us.”

The Madrid Declaration was consistent with these sound principles, since it affirmed the unity of origin and equality of human beings notwithstanding differences of color, race and culture, as well as the need to respect human dignity, protect human rights, preserve peace, fulfill commitments and give effect to the right of peoples to security, freedom and self-determination.  The Madrid Declaration called for the rejection of theories affirming the inevitability of a clash of civilizations and cultures, warned of the dangers of campaigns seeking to intensify conflict and disrupt peaceful coexistence, and advocated the dissemination of a culture of tolerance and mutual understanding through dialogue as a framework for international relations.

It is vitally important to build on the outcome of the Madrid Conference on Dialogue so that these sound recommendations can take the practical and effective form of joint action policies by the international community. Therefore, on behalf of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, and the Arab Group, I call upon the General Assembly of the United Nations to convene a high-level meeting to endorse and support a continued process of dialogue among religions and peoples in conformity with the Madrid Declaration.

Mr. President:

Throughout the past six decades, the Arab-Israeli conflict has overshadowed all other issues in the Middle Eastern region, creating a climate conducive to the development of extremism and the spread of terrorism, and hampering the development, modernization and reform endeavors in this region which should be playing a significant and essential cultural role instead of being distracted by conflicts that drain its energies and dissipate its resources.

The Arabs have continued to affirm their commitment to a just and comprehensive peace based on international law. Yet no reciprocal commitment was forthcoming from Israel. Please allow me, on behalf of the Arab Group, to make it absolutely clear that we will totally reject any partial or interim solutions, because history has taught us that such solutions tend to become permanent.

While supporting the continuation of the current negotiations between the two sides with a view to reaching a comprehensive final solution, the least that we expect from Israel during these negotiations is that it should halt all its settlement operations. The continuation of settlement activity in the occupied Arab territories renders the negotiations meaningless and makes it difficult for us to convince our peoples of the feasibility and benefits of achieving peace. In this regard, it would be unreasonable to impose conditions on the Palestinian people, who are under occupation, while making concessions to the occupation authorities in a reversal of logic that does not inspire confidence in the seriousness, fairness and credibility of the current peace process.

Mr. President:

We welcome the positive security developments that have recently taken place in Iraq in its campaign against terrorism and militias. We hope this will herald earnest political movement towards achieving comprehensive national reconciliation among all the Iraqi people. The Iraqi people have clearly manifested their consistent commitment to the unity of Iraq, and their condemnation of acts of violence, sabotage and strife among citizens of their common Iraqi homeland.

Accordingly, we reaffirm the need for non-interference in Iraq’s internal affairs and express our grave concern at successive reports indicating that certain states are continuing to provide financial and military support for some militias, in flagrant violation of Iraq’s sovereignty, in a reprehensible attempt to extend their influence and hegemony over parts of its territory.

Mr. President:

My government has welcomed the Doha Agreement reached among Lebanese leaders under the gracious patronage of HH Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, Emir of the State of Qatar, and the outstanding endeavors by the Arab League and HE its Secretary-General. We congratulate Lebanon on the election of HE President Michel Suleiman and the formation of a government of national unity. It is our hope that this will put an end to armed conflict among Lebanese, that efforts to embark on a comprehensive national dialogue will be expedited and that the Lebanese Government’s endeavors to extend its authority over all Lebanese territory will be crowned with success. We also welcome the agreement between Lebanon and Syria on the exchange of diplomatic representation, the demarcation of their borders and normalization of their relations.
We reiterate our support for Security Council resolutions 1757 and 1701 and call for rapid Israeli withdrawal from the Shebaa farms area which Israel itself acknowledges to be occupied territory.

Mr. President:

Effective resolution of the problem of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction requires the renunciation of double standards. We therefore emphasize the importance of turning the entire Middle East, including the Gulf region, into a zone free of all weapons of mass destruction. In fact, Israel is the only country in the Middle East which is armed to the teeth with all types of weapons of mass destruction that are totally exempt from any form of control.

While supporting the right of all states to the peaceful use of nuclear energy, we take very seriously the undertakings of Iran to fully and strictly respect its obligation to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. We hope that this obligation will be put into practical effect in such a way as to ensure a peaceful and rapid solution to the problem of the Iranian nuclear program and save the region from devastating conflicts, futile arms races and serious environmental hazards.

We reaffirm our support for the right of the United Arab Emirates to recover its occupied islands by peaceful means, and hope that Iran will respond rapidly and favorably to this call.

Mr. President:

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia supports the steps that were taken to achieve peace in Darfur. It is important to avoid taking any measures that would hinder the requisite cooperation by all the parties involved to achieve this objective.

We also once again appeal to all the parties in our sister state Somalia to put the national interest first, end the spiral of violence and conflict and reach a comprehensive agreement that will restore security and stability to that country.

Mr. President:

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has condemned it in all its forms and manifestations and has achieved notable successes in combating it. The Kingdom has also acceded to most of the international conventions against terrorism.

The only way to achieve a decisive victory over terrorism and rid ourselves of its evil is by dealing with its root causes. We must settle disputes which cause people to fall prey to despair, frustration and anger, in accordance with the principles of international law. The United Nations must play an active role in promoting the values of dialogue, tolerance and respect for the various religions and cultures.

Mr. President:

We feel grave concern at the growing indications of a potential return to the phase of cold war or hot peace among great powers. In this connection, we wish to emphasize that successful solutions to universal problems can be found only within the framework of multilateral cooperation under United Nations auspices and in accordance with the purposes and principles of its charter and international law.

Mr. President:

No region of the world has been unaffected by the repercussions of the US credit crisis, which have had an impact on the international financial system, thereby undermining the world economy and confronting it with serious challenges that will entail a slowdown in global real growth rates. This crisis is a natural consequence of the lax application of laws and regulations insofar as financial institutions have been allowed to manipulate banking systems and devise speculative and unsound financial instruments that have inflated the market value of their assets.

Our greatest fear is the imminence of a worldwide recession if the financial crisis induces the governments of developed countries to take measures that might curb the freedom of international trade and reduce the flow of investments. We therefore appeal to the parties concerned to take urgent and effective action to remedy the flaws in the international financial system and strive to restabilize it.

In this regard, there is an imperative need to mobilize and coordinate international endeavors through specialized multilateral organizations in order to address this crisis and reach an international agreement on ways to remedy the defects in the world economy in such a way as to secure a financial system that offers equal opportunities to all the parties while, at the same time, providing appropriate liquidity for the developing countries and safeguarding their monetary reserves from the collapse of any of the major international currencies.

Mr. President:

The Declaration of the Millennium Development Goals constituted an important turning point on the road towards the adoption of a common developmental vision within a framework of complementarity between national and international endeavors. Since its establishment, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has realized the importance of focusing on development and education endeavors and has adopted successive development plans which have helped it to integrate the Millennium Goals in its national programs. The Kingdom has achieved notable success in exceeding the objectives specified in the Millennium Goals for some sectors and in making progress towards the achievement of the remaining goals even before the year 2015.

The emphasis placed by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques on expanding education opportunities worldwide led to my government’s recent declaration of allocating $500 million for education projects in developing countries.

Mr. President:

We believe that the urgent issues with which the world is faced, such as climate change, food security and rising prices of basic commodities necessitate cooperation by all the components of the international community in order to find equitable solutions that take into consideration the interests of all. It would be unfair to require some to bear burdens exceeding their capacities while showing indulgence to others who have been more instrumental in aggravating the problem and are more capable of bearing the burdens entailed by solutions thereto.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia takes its international responsibilities in this regard very seriously. During the recent OPEC Summit in Riyadh my government announced its donation of an amount of $300 million for the establishment of a special fund for research on energy, the environment and climate change.

Because of the importance of international cooperation in the energy sector, Saudi Arabia is keen on promoting dialogue among producers and consumers, and hosts the General Secretariat of the World Energy Forum. The Jeddah Conference of Petroleum Producing and Consuming Countries was held under the patronage of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, who launched his “Energy for the Poor” initiative. In this context the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia also announced that it would be allocating $500 million to offer easy loans by the Saudi Development Fund to finance energy projects in developing countries.

Mr. President:

While a developing country itself, my country continues to assist those countries with the highest needs. Saudi Arabia wrote off more than $6 billion of its loans to least developed countries. The Kingdom has also donated $500 million to the World Food Program to assist needy countries to meet the higher prices of basic food commodities. In addition, Saudi Arabia’s contribution to the Islamic Fund for Eradicating Poverty has reached $1 billion. In fact, Saudi Arabia contributes significantly to the capital of 18 international financial institutions and bodies.

During the last three decades, Saudi Arabia provided more than $90 billion in assistance grants and soft loans to 86 developing countries. This sum represents four percent of Saudi Arabia’s GNP, far higher than the percentage targeted by the United Nations.

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