On March 5, 2002, Adel Al-Jubeir, Foreign Policy Advisor to Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, gave a number of television interviews:
PBS Charlie Rose:
In an extended interview on March 5, 2002 on PBS 'Charlie Rose' focusing on the peace process, foreign policy advisor to Crown Prince Abdullah Adel Al-Jubeir, responding to a question about the Palestinian right of return, remarked: "The refugee issue is dealt with in the UN resolutions which call for a just settlement of the refugee issue. We have intentionally -- the details of what goes on in the negotiations are really between the parties most directly concerned."
He noted that in the past negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis, and negotiations between the Israelis and Syrians, came very close to succeeding and that the parties should return to the talks and pick up where they left off.
Asked specifically what might prevent Crown Prince Abdullah from presenting his plan to the Arab League summit in Beirut, Mr. Al-Jubeir replied, "It depends what happens on the ground, whether Mr. Arafat will be part of the summit or not, but as of now we are moving in that direction."
"We have seen no indication from the Israeli government that they even accept the principle of withdrawal," he noted. Sharon must make a fundamental decision if he really wants peace. If there is no fundamental commitment to the concept of land for peace, he suggested, "then all the talk of peace from the Israeli side is essentially nonsense. Do they want peace in the region with their neighbors or not? What the initiative here says is very simple. What the vision is, is very simple: if you want to have normal relations with the countries of the region here is what you need to do. And, we don't even have a commitment from Prime Minister Sharon that he would."
In explaining the fundamental boldness of the proposal put forward by Crown Prince Abdullah for the sake of the potential for peace, he explained, "Saudi Arabia is the heartland of the Arab world. Saudi Arabia has historically very rarely taken major decision with regards to pushing the peace process forward. So this is something that is very bold and very daring on the Kingdom's part…. The world needed it because there was no way out. The Crown Prince has been very clear in his commitment to seeking a solution to this. He has been very vocal in terms of the positions he has taken over the past year to try to put an end to the violence…"
He also suggested that Yasser Arafat's ability to totally quell the violence directed against Israel may be limited at a time when Israel has launched military attacks against the Palestinian Authority. "When the Israelis freeze the funds that are used to pay the security forces of the Palestinian Authority that doesn't do much for their morale," noted Mr. Al-Jubeir. "When the Israelis blow up the buildings of the security forces of the Palestinian Authority that doesn't do much for their morale. When the Israelis engage in assassinating Palestinian leaders that doesn't do much for people's morale." He urged that both sides step back from the brink to reduce the levels of violence through the Tenet accords and the Mitchell plan and then press ahead with the peace effort so that extremists on both sides will no longer have veto power over the future of the region.
Asked in the Saudi Arabian view what Washington needs to do to help move things forward, he said: "They should reengage in terms of the peace process. I think they are looking at it. They are assessing the situation and we would hope they would become more actively involved. They deserve a lot of credit for what they have done so far and the history of the conflict has shown that only when there is active and strong involvement from the outside and in particular by the United States does the peace process move forward."
He also was asked briefly about the exchange of letters between Crown Prince Abdullah and President Bush in August suggesting that continued inaction by the U.S. could force the Kingdom to reevaluate its relationship with the U.S.
"But what happened after this exchange of letters, the President then laid out his vision for a Palestinian state, Secretary Powell elaborated on it at his speech in Kentucky and the Crown Prince wanted to be supportive and we have this, the Saudi vision that he was going to lay out at the Arab Summit," said Al-Jubeir.
In an interview on March 5, 2002 with PBS' NewsHour’s Elizabeth Farnsworth, foreign policy advisor to Crown Prince Abdullah Adel al-Jubeir said that the Saudi Arabian initiative emerged when the Crown Prince discussed his vision of a Middle East peace settlement with NY Times correspondent Tom Friedman, who happened to be visiting the Kingdom at the time. “The idea has been discussed in the Middle East for some time,” he explained. “Even Tom Friedman wrote about it two weeks before he spoke to the Crown Prince.”
“The Crown Prince wanted to send a message to the Israeli public that peace is possible,” said Mr. al-Jubeir. “He wanted to send a message to the peace camps in Israel and the United States that they shouldn’t lose hope and that they should reenergize themselves and redouble their efforts for peace. He wanted to send a signal to governments around the world that should they get reengaged in the process that they would find willing partners on the Arab side.”
Asked whether the term “normal relations” was accurate in regards to the promise to establish diplomatic relations with Israel, Mr. al-Jubeir replied, “That’s correct, but it comes at a price. The idea was for a total Israeli withdrawal from all the occupied territories that were occupied in 1967, including in Jerusalem in accordance with UN resolutions in exchange for full normal relations.”
Asked whether there was flexibility in the terms of the offer, Mr. al-Jubeir said, “The position that we take is that it is full withdrawal for normal relations. With regards to the details on what happens on the ground that is really up Israel and its neighbors. It’s up to the Palestinians to decide how much territory they will accept and up to the Syrians.”
In addressing developments since the idea was first floated, Mr. al-Jubeir explained, “Secretary Burns came to Saudi Arabia. A number of other leaders came to Saudi Arabia. The point that we are making is that we should redouble our efforts to push the peace process forward. We have to put an end to the violence and we have to move the negotiations forward.”
Asked what he was doing to that end in Washington now, he replied, “Talking to people, showing them that the downside risk is tremendous, that the path of violence did not work and that we should try our best to move the parties towards a political solution.”
Mr. al-Jubeir noted that President Assad and most other Arab leaders have supported the peace initiative as have over 40 other leaders around the world. “Elizabeth, when you look at the last 50 years of the Arab-Israeli conflict there has not been a statement, an initiative, a vision or a plan that has gathered as much international support as quickly as this one,” he observed. “And what this tells us is that there is so much desperation on both sides for a way out that they all lined up behind this vision.” He added that Saudi Arabia sees no indication that Sharon even accepts the concept of land for peace.
Asked if it was true that Egyptian President Mubarak had been asked by Sharon to arrange a secret meeting with HRH Crown Prince Abdullah, Adel al-Jubeir replied, “No, we have not heard this.” He said that Saudi officials had only seen press reports in that regard, adding, “But if anything this tells us that he is not serious. If the Israeli prime minister were serious he would seek a meeting with President Arafat. If the Israeli prime minister were serious he would reach out to the Syrians and to the Lebanese and to the Palestinians. Those are the proper addresses for a settlement.”
Asked if HRH Crown Prince Abdullah would formally present his plan to the Arab League Summit, Mr. al-Jubeir replied, “We are moving in that direction yes.”
He also dismissed suggestions that the Saudi Arabian initiative was a public relations gambit to respond to criticism of the Kingdom in the U.S. press, noting Saudi Arabia’s longstanding concerns with the plight of the Palestinian people and what is currently going on in Palestinian territories. He also stressed that Saudi Arabia has long sought greater U.S. engagement in the peace process and remarked, “Saudi Arabia has a history of stepping in when things are very difficult and moving the process forward.” He specifically cited the 1981 Fahd plan in Fez and the Kingdom’s instrumental role in the Madrid conference.
Asked about a recent poll showing that only 16 percent of respondents in the Kingdom have a positive opinion of the United States, he replied, “I am glad you asked the question about this poll because people don’t look at the flip side. Over 90 percent of those who had a negative view towards the United States had that negative view because of American policy, not because of American values. And so they see the images on television in the territories and they see inaction by the United States and they consequently -- it affects their views toward the U.S.. I believe that is a temporary situation.”
In an interview on March 5, 2002 on ABC's Nightline conducted by Chris Bury, Mr. Al-Jubeir expanded on his earlier interview on the PBS NewsHour regarding the need to restore momentum towards peace. He said that what is different about the current peace proposals put forward by Crown Prince Abdullah is "the timing and the source". He said that the peace process is stuck, violence is escalating, and the Crown Prince felt it was necessary to do something to keep the hope for peace alive.
Asked about suggestions that the peace proposal was floated as a Saudi Arabian public relations initiative, the advisor to Crown Prince Abdullah replied, "That's absolute nonsense. What triggered this vision or this plan was the fact that the peace process has gone from bad to worse and worse and that every time when we think it hits rock bottom the bottom drops. There was a need for something to jolt people back to reality and to get them to roll up their sleeves and work towards peace. To say that an attempt to save innocent lives is linked to public relations is ridiculous." He further suggested that some criticize the effort "in order to avoid having to step up to the plate and make the difficult decisions."
It is the fundamental simplicity of the vision put forward by Prince Abdullah, total withdrawal for normal relations with the Arab world, that makes it so powerful, he argued. "This statement was not meant to be vague," he said. "This statement was meant to be general. It was meant to give people a roadmap or a vision of where we can take this process."
Asked if Saudi submission of the plan to the summit in Beirut was conditional on the ability of Yasser Arafat to attend, Mr. Al-Jubeir said, "We hope and we expect that Yasser Arafat will be able to travel. It is unheard of that a president of a people -- elected by his own people -- would be jailed in his own home. It is unheard of that his home would be bombed at a time when people should be looking for ways to break the cycle of violence and to make peace. And, so his inability to travel would have very negative consequences for how the summit in Beirut turns out."
Mr. Al-Jubeir concluded noting that the past few days have clearly shown there is no military solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the time has come to return to the quest for a viable political solution. It is time to move the region from an era of conflict to one of development and nation building, he said.
In an interview on March 5, 2002 on Fox News' O'Reilly Factor, foreign policy advisor to Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Adel Al-Jubeir responded to questions on Saudi Arabia's views regarding support for the U.S.-backed overthrow of Saddam Hussein, saying, "I don't know if we are there yet. I don't know if your country is there yet. Our position with regards to Iraq is very clear that Saddam has to comply with UN resolutions with regards to weapons of mass destruction and that's what we are working on."
He added, "We are just as impatient as everybody else with him and I believe there is a UN mechanism that we go through. The UN resolutions are very clear and we have to find a way to make him comply."
He steadfastly refused to discuss hypothetical situations regarding Iraq and stressed the importance of acting within internationally accepted legal guidelines in dealing with Iraq's refusal to comply with UN resolutions. However, there is no argument, said Mr. Al-Jubeir, that Iraq should be made to comply and that the UN should determine a proper course of action. "We don't really want to go in and start dropping bombs on people," he cautioned.
Turning to the war on terrorism, host Bill O'Reilly asked why the Saudis had refused to allow the U.S. to use the Prince Sultan Air Base to conduct military operations against Afghanistan. Mr. Al-Jubeir explained that the base is located more than 2,000 miles from Afghanistan "and most importantly because your military didn't ask for it. This notion that there was hesitation on the part of Saudi Arabia to support the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan is just not true."
He added that Bush administration officials from the President on down have said on the record that everything the U.S. has requested of Saudi Arabia in terms of assistance in the war on terrorism Saudi Arabia has provided. Reports that Saudi Arabia is an unreliable ally is dead wrong, he said, and the Kingdom was shocked that so many Saudi nationals had been involved in the criminal actions of September 11. "But we believe that the reason that this operation had 15 Saudis in it was an attempt to give it a Saudi face in order to drive a wedge between our two countries," he said.
Complaining that people have been very loose with the facts regarding Saudi Arabia, Mr. Al-Jubeir also rejected Mr. O'Reilly's assertion that there are schools in the Kingdom which are fostering extremism. While the Kingdom has religious schools, he said, "not one of them educates terrorists".
Asked about Iranian complicity in the shipment of arms to Palestinian factions as alleged by Israel, Mr. Al-Jubeir said that the Kingdom is opposed to any action which fuels the violence in Palestine. He said the Kingdom believes Iran today is playing a moderating role in the Gulf region. "They have turned the corner away from radicalism and we want to encourage that," he said.