2003 Transcript

MSNBC News Live, interview with SAIO Director Nail Al-Jubeir

CHRIS JANSING, CO-ANCHOR:  President Bush said today it will take cooperation and courage on the part of Arab leaders to make a settlement between Israelis and Palestinians work.
So how do those nations feel about the prospects for peace? 
We're joined now by a representative from one of those key countries. Nail Al-Jubeir is the director of information for the Saudi Arabian information office.
Good morning and thank you for being with us.

MR. NAIL Al-JUBEIR (Director of Information, Saudi Arabian Information Office):  My pleasure.

MS. JANSING:  How does Saudi Arabia view the prospects for peace as President Bush has ended this meeting with Ariel Sharon and the new Palestinian prime minister?

MR. AL-JUBEIR:  We're always hopeful there will be a peace process. We don't have an alternative there.

MS. JANSING:  Secretary of State Colin Powell says, in fact, this is a window of opportunity. Of course, American administrations have thought that before, including President Clinton. Do you believe the situation is right, the time is right, circumstances are right?

MR. AL-JUBEIR:  We always hope they will be the right time. If one looks at the history, there have been enough bloodshed in the region, enough wars and people have to realize the only alternative is the peace process. Force will not solve the issue.

MS. JANSING:  What can Arab leaders do, do you believe, to make the process work this time?

MR. AL-JUBEIR:  Well, we did come forward back last March with a peace initiative which committed the Arab countries to a peaceful solution of the conflict. We've been waiting for the Israelis. Now the Israelis have come by in terms of negotiating with the Palestinians on that issue. We're committed to the process and welcome President Bush's road map and statement, we hope it will lead to a settlement.
Whatever it will take to lead to a peaceful settlement in the dispute, we're there.

MS. JANSING:  How much do you think the view in the Arab world of the efforts of President Bush are shaped by the war in Iraq and now that the United States is a power in an Arab nation?

MR. AL-JUBEIR:  Well, this is an issue that the US government has to overcome. It has to prove to the people in the region, one it's not an occupying power and the United States has never had a history of occupying power.
And secondly, that President Bush is very committed to the peace process. He made that commitment last year. He repeated it last year, and hopefully today's statement is an indication that we're going forward with this peace process.

MS. JANSING:  Do I take from your answer that the main concern is that America's presence in Iraq might just last a very long time?

MR. AL-JUBEIR:  Well, we hope it won't last a very long time. I think the American government, neither does the American public, have an interest in a long occupation. Historically the US is not an occupying power. It does not know how to occupy countries and luckily it's not a colonial power. It always fought for the independence of countries. Now, I don't think it's the time they'll change and become an occupying power.

MS. JANSING:  Do you think Washington has the will or ability to press Israel into a settlement?

MR. AL-JUBEIR:  I think this president has a will to press for it. The only thing we have to worry about are the extremists, not only in the Middle East and in the Arab world, but as well as those in this country, those who have fought for years to undermine the peace process.

MS. JANSING:  If Mahmoud Abbas can bring in some of these like Hamas, do you think it will influence others?

MR. AL-JUBEIR:  I believe we have to see. I think he has a very tough road ahead of him that he has to achieve. He has to convince the Palestinian people that the Israelis are serious of this. He has to convince them that the Americans will play as an honest broker in that role and he thinks he has a chance at it.

MS. JANSING:  As you know, the current peace plan calls for an independent Palestinian state by 2005. How realistic do you think that is given the current circumstances?

MR. AL-JUBEIR:  We can only hope it will happen. We have been calling for a Palestinian independent state for some time. The fact that the current administration -- rather the current administration in Israel finally admitted that there will be a Palestinian state, it's just a matter of time. It is an indication that there will be one. Is it going to be five years or is it going to be later? We think the longer it drags out, the more violence, more bloodshed, the less likely that it will lead to a peace process.

MS. JANSING:  Mr. Al-Jubeir, thank you for your time. We appreciate you being with us.

MR. AL-JUBEIR:  Thank you