Prince Saud holds talks with French foreign minister

January 14, 2008

Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Saud Al-Faisal met with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner for talks in Riyadh today. The two ministers discussed Lebanon, Palestinian-Israeli peace process, Iraq, Iran and Darfur.

Kouchner accompanied French President Nicolas Sarkozy on his two-day state visit to Saudi Arabia, which concluded today.

In a joint press conference after the meeting, Prince Saud said that yesterday’s talks between Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz and President Sarkozy were cordial and frank. The two leaders discussed expanding bilateral cooperation in a number of areas. They also reviewed regional and international issues, including the Middle East peace process, the political crisis in Lebanon, the Iranian nuclear file, counterterrorism efforts and support for intercultural dialogue.

On Lebanon, Prince Saud urged Syria to use its influence in Lebanon to persuade parties to accept an Arab League initiative to end the political crisis there. “What is demanded is that Syria convinces those listening to it in Lebanon on this solution as it is an urgent solution,” the prince said.

On other issues, the prince also said that Saudi Arabia and France both support a diplomatic resolution to the crisis surrounding Iran’s nuclear program.

Asked if President Bush’s current tour of the Middle East could be characterized as an effort to rally support against Iran, Prince Saud suggested that the question should be addressed to the president. “When we hope that Iran responds to the demands of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), it is to spare the region the clash or its possibility. These are, of course, our wishes, but action is not in our hands,” he said.

Prince Saud also noted that the Kingdom continues to press for the release of Saudi citizens detained at the US military prison in Guantanamo Bay.

For his part, Kouchner noted that Saudi Arabia and France have been in agreement on Lebanon for months, and that France strongly supports the Arab League initiative to end the political crisis in Lebanon and work towards helping Lebanon achieve a national government.