1999 Public Statement

Crown Prince Abdullah interviewed by Asharq Al-Awsat
Crown Prince Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz, Deputy Prime Minister and Commander of the National Guard, has given an exclusive interview which was published today in the London-based Arabic newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat.

In the interview, the Crown Prince reiterated Saudi Arabia's position on party politics, declaring that the Saudi government in fact embodies the will of the people in respect of all Arab and Muslim causes. He went on to say: "The Kingdom's policy is not a mere reaction to certain developments … the Kingdom is not merely a mediator, but a partner in the Middle East peace process, because it is an indivisible part of the Arab world.  …..  We are concerned with the sufferings of our brothers in Palestine, the Golan Heights and southern Lebanon, which have been caused by the Israeli occupation.  We are anxious to mobilize all available potentialities to contain the deteriorating situation originated by Binjamin Netanyahu", who, he noted, had undermined peace and stability in a most sensitive part of the world. Remarking that Israeli premier-elect Barak is known only from the statements he spelled out in his electoral program in addition to his political history, he stated: "We shall never try to get ahead of developments, but we will be waiting to see what the new Israeli Prime Minister is planning to do."

On the so-called 'policy of the Saudi Riyal' and whether the Kingdom would be capable of playing an influential role in spite of a decline in its financial capabilities, Crown Prince Abdullah said the Kingdom views money as a means and not as an end. Before pride in its financial resources, Saudi Arabia is proud of its Islamic creed, noble values and distinguished status in the Muslim world.  He remarked that the Kingdom was established with the grace of Almighty God under the leadership of King Abdul Aziz and with the assistance of a number of devoted followers who had made great sacrifices for the sake of their country. The Kingdom is a founding member of the League of Arab States and the United Nations. Pointing out that in the 1970s the Kingdom suspended its oil exports despite the fact that at that time it was totally dependent on oil revenues, Crown Prince Abdullah said: "We did this in the seventies as a reaction to the support extended to Israel by certain countries, and by so doing we proved that a national stance is more important than financial gain." The Crown Prince added that Saudi Arabia is not the only country to face economic problems. Even the United States of America, a country with a very strong economy, faces deficit problems.
Crown Prince Abdullah recounted the positive contribution, in collaboration with the Republic of South Africa, that Saudi Arabia had made to the settlement of one of the most complicated international problems, namely, the Lockerbie situation.  By solving it, he said, "we were able to lift the painful embargo imposed on Libya", adding: "It is our policy to work for easing the sufferings of our brothers."
Asked about the reaction of Iran to the growth in sales of Saudi oil to South Africa, the Crown Prince made it clear that the Kingdom is concerned to avoid any action that might harm Iran's interests. "During my recent visit to South Africa," he said, "I never tried to change the situation of oil imports in the country … South African oil imports are subject to the elements prevailing in the market."
On the possibility of military confrontation between the Kingdom and Iran, Crown Prince Abdullah said this would be strange, since the two countries are linked by ties of religion, history, and heritage.  He noted that the Kingdom and the other Gulf states are as anxious as Iran to settle all disputes through dialogue and peaceful means, and referred to the visit to Saudi Arabia by Iranian President Khatami as having a positive role in enhancing Saudi/Iranian relations. The Crown Prince went on to say that Iran has the right to develop its defensive capabilities, and the Kingdom has the same right; and wondered why there is talk only about Iran, and not about Israel's armaments. He noted that enhanced Saudi/Iranian relations will contribute positively to the settlement of the dispute between Iran and the United Arab Emirates over the three islands. Denying that he had signed a secret agreement with the Iranian president, he said that nothing would justify this, since "We always work publicly."  He also denied that there was any agreement with Iran to depose Saddam Hussein of Iraq, saying this is a matter that concerns the Iraqi people, and urging Iraq to implement the United Nations resolutions. Meanwhile, the Crown Prince denied reports saying there is a dispute between the Kingdom and the UAE over petroleum and border zones.
Crown Prince Abdullah underscored the importance of restoring Arab rights, in particular in the case of Jerusalem.  He said that it would be better for the new Israeli Prime Minister to prove to the world that he is not another Netanyahu, and categorically denied that contacts had taken place between the Kingdom and Israel.  He said: "I am confident that our brothers in Syria, Palestine and Lebanon are capable of dealing with Israel in a manner that serves Arab and Muslim interests.  …..  I feel optimistic that one day I will be able to perform prayers in Jerusalem after its restoration to the Arabs and Muslims."
He confirmed the Kingdom's support to Jordan, and its concern to maintain contact with Yemen. On Saudi-Libyan relations, he said they are close, remarking: "As I am a frank man, so is Libyan Leader Colonel Muammar Gadhafi, and he is anxious to serve the interests of his country, just as the interests of our country are of concern to us. We may have different views on some issues, but our views are identical on the major causes that concern the future of the Arab world."
Crown Prince Abdullah stressed that the Kingdom's projected cabinet reshuffle would take place on time as originally scheduled, and with the approval of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Fahd Bin Abdul Aziz.
Concerning the decline in oil revenues that has led to an increased deficit in the state budget, he stated that necessary measures would be taken to restore the financial balance. These include rationalization of expenditures, and would not impact adversely on the citizens. The Crown Prince said the state is anxious to enable the Saudi private sector to play an active role in the process of economic development.
On the so-called 'cultural invasion', he remarked that it would be difficult for any country to carry out censorship on all audio-visual media materials and publications, but the Saudi people, through their religion and deep-rooted values, are capable of dealing with this themselves.