2003 Transcript

CNN American morning interview with SAIO Director Nail Al-Jubeir

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: President Bush vows to do whatever it takes to get Israelis and Palestinians to get together on peace, the president again meeting today with Arab leaders. Tomorrow in Jordan, the big day: he'll meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and the new Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas. The stakes are high, as we know. Is now the time for peace, though, in the Middle East? 
Saudi Embassy spokesperson Nail Al-Jubeir is with us live in DC to talk about the summit and the road map for peace.
Sir, good morning to you. Thanks for coming back here on 'American Morning'.


MR. HEMMER:  I wanted to get your reaction to what the president said just within the past hour, telling the Israelis to start deconstruction of some of these settlements in the West Bank and also telling the Palestinians to make sure the terrorism is kept in check for good. Your reaction to the initial steps and statements there?

MR. AL-JUBEIR:  Oh, but they are wonderful statements. They're, that's what we were hoping for, the end of settlements and hopefully the end of violence. We can't continue this cycle of violence. It has to stop. And I think the president's statement today is very forceful, you know, stop settlements, stop the violence and let's move on.

MR. HEMMER:  What do you think about the Arab world right now trying to embrace Mahmoud Abbas? Is now the time to give him the platform? And, if so, if you don't...

MR. AL-JUBEIR:  Well, he is the...

HEMMER:  ... what are the chances of this all spiraling back into the violence we have seen for the past two and a half years?

MR. AL-JUBEIR:  Well, he is the prime minister of the Palestinians and it's his decision. It's the Palestinians who have decided that he will be the prime minister and we have to deal with that. We will give him whatever authority and whatever backing he needs.

MR. HEMMER:  So you will do that, then – 

MR. AL-JUBEIR:  Well, he is the prime minister.

MR. HEMMER:  ... across the Arab world?

MR. AL-JUBEIR:  Well, he is the prime minister. He was appointed by President Arafat and he was elected, appointed, voted in by the Palestinian legislators. So he's the person we're dealing with at this moment.

HEMMER:  What does it tell us that Yasser Arafat is not in Sharm el-Sheikh? He has not been invited. He still stays back in Ramallah on the West Bank and yet governments in Saudi Arabia, like your own, governments in Jordan and Egypt have not had any sort of outcry for the lack of Yasser Arafat's presence.
Does that indicate at least publicly that you're ready to sidestep Yasser Arafat and move forward?

MR. AL-JUBEIR:  Well, you see, it's -- the issue is not Arafat. And I think well, if you personalize the issue of being Arafat or Sharon or whoever happens to be the leader, we're not going anywhere. I think the issue is greater than Sharon or Arafat together. It's an issue of war and peace and we have to get to the peace process.
We can't get sidestepped on issues of who is in charge, is it going to be Arafat, is it going to be ... 

MR. HEMMER:  Yes, I understand that.

MR. AL-JUBEIR:  ... prime minister. But, so we have to go beyond that.

MR. HEMMER:  But you can't get on this roadmap to peace without strong leadership.

MR. AL-JUBEIR:  Well, it's true, and right now Arafat appointed the prime minister and we have to deal with him. It's up to him to determine, to see if he can deliver on the promises that we expect from him, as well as from the Palestinian Authority, whether it comes down from Arafat or from the prime minister himself. At the end of the day is, there are commitments that have to be fulfilled. We have to go beyond the destruction and the violence and move on towards the peace process.

MR. HEMMER:  Yes, what about -- with the war in Iraq now over -- and certainly the violence does continue, it's far from settled right now, at least countrywide in Iraq -- what is the view that you perceive right now within the Arab world about American involvement in your region?

MR. AL-JUBEIR:  There, American involvement in the region is vital for the peace process. I don't think anybody could sit back and sort of say we can do it without the Americans. There needs to be a foreign intervention. There needs to be a mediator in there. You have two parties that simply do not want to sit together and if they sit together, they're not talking. A foreign sort of intermediary has to be there. And I think the Americans can play an honest broker in that. I mean the president made it clear that he is very forceful in his commitment to bringing about a peace process.

MR. HEMMER:  What do you think is more difficult right now, is it more difficult for the Arab world to accept an Israeli state in permanent, in total, or is it more difficult for the Israelis to accept a Palestinian state?

MR. AL-JUBEIR:  Well, the Arabs have made a decision back in '81 and it was reiterated by Crown Prince Abdullah back in, I believe it was March of last year, that we're willing to recognize Israel as a state. Israel is there as a fact. The matter, the question is are the Israeli leadership willing to accept a Palestinian state? And right now we have seen there is a movement towards accepting it.
The prime minister of Israel is talking about a Palestinian state, a two- state solution. So it's not an issue of are we going to accept it, it is when do we get to actually creating those two states? And that's the issue, when do we get there? When do we stop the violence? When do we stop the killing?

MR. HEMMER:  Nail Al-Jubeir.
There's been a lot of killing for 32 months running. We will see if it ends now.
Thanks for your time.   We'll talk again.

MR. AL-JUBEIR:  Thank you.

MR. HEMMER:  Spokesperson for the Saudi embassy in DC.