Minister of Interior Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz held a press conference in Riyadh yesterday, and reiterated the Kingdom's stance towards terrorism as consistently against the killing of innocent people and the destruction of property. He observed that the Kingdom has been targeted by terrorists, dating back even before the attack on the Holy Mosque [in 1979], an event he described as among the most horrible of terrorist acts. Saudi Arabia's position on terrorism is therefore not new, nor the outcome of what happened in the United States [on September 11], the Kingdom's reaction to which is in accordance with that position. That the Kingdom is against terrorist acts should be obvious to anyone who understands Islam.
Prince Nayef pointed out that over ten years ago, Saudi Arabia worked with other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to forge a strategy to combat terrorism. In 1998, the Kingdom signed the League of Arab States' agreement on fighting terrorism, which reflected the Arab consensus on the definition of terrorism and ways of combating it. At that time, he said, the Arab ministers of interior and justice jointly issued an appeal to the international community, and to the United Nations, to conclude an international agreement to combat terrorism; regrettably, there was no response to this call. Meanwhile, he said, the Kingdom has been concluding bilateral agreements on fighting terrorism, citing the recent accord with Iran.
Commenting that certain Saudi nationals accused of involvement in terrorist acts are working against their own country, Prince Nayef declared that the Saudi people are faithful Muslims who respect human life, honor, and property. Security in the Kingdom, he said, will always be strong and firm. He expressed regret for the inappropriate and unjust treatment of a number of Saudi citizens abroad following the attacks, but this, he said, is understandable in the situation, and such treatment is being addressed. Saudis overseas are there as students, patients, businessmen or tourists, he said, adding: "Some Saudis might or might not have been involved (we haven't had any confirmation yet) but maltreatment of a whole nation cannot be justified by the acts that individuals have committed."
Prince Nayef went on to remark that if Arabs and Muslims are involved in these terrorist acts, it should not be forgotten that they have been driven to them by the unresolved issues from which the Arab world suffers, chief among them the cause of Palestine, where innocent people are being killed and their houses destroyed by Israel, which uses its strength of planes, tanks and weapons against people who defend their homeland with nothing but stones. As long as Palestine is subject to aggression and injustice, he declared, all nations of the world must clearly commit themselves to justice and what is right: Palestine should not be erased from the map; it should remain the homeland for its people; and there is a need to differentiate between the Palestinian struggle and terrorism.
Answering questions following his statement, Prince Nayef confirmed that the Arab League agreement on combating terrorism could be the basis for a more comprehensive international agreement. He expressed the hope that an international conference would be held to discuss this.
Commenting on Osama bin Laden, Prince Nayef stressed the Kingdom's categorical rejection of him as a Saudi citizen, pointing out that his Saudi nationality was revoked many years ago. Saudi Arabia is totally against the acts that have been committed by bin Laden or his associates. Moreover, he added, bin Laden's opinion of the Kingdom is well known; he is a terrorist, and stands against the country that was once his home.
Concerning the Kingdom's role in the international efforts led by the United States against terrorism, Prince Nayef declared: "We will support and participate in any international efforts in this respect, and we would like to make it clear that we are against all forms of terrorism." Asked if the U.S., as a supporter of Israel, can play a fair role in combating terrorism, he said the position of the U.S. and of many European countries is not fair with regard to the Palestinian cause. These countries, he said, must revise their position, otherwise the problems will continue, since Israel constitutes a source of instability in the region.
As for Saudi Arabia's humanitarian relief efforts, they, he said, will not change. They will go to Muslims in need wherever they are, but, he said: "We will make sure that the relief assistance goes directly to those who genuinely deserve it."
Meanwhile, Prince Nayef today issued directives to extend all possible facilities for Afghani nationals residing in kingdom, especially regarding issuance of travel documents or iqama (residence permit) renewal. This gesture was made in recognition of the sufferings of the Afghani people caused by international circumstances following the recent terrorist attacks in the United States.