Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Saud Al-Faisal left Egypt today after participating in the international conference on Iraq in Sharm El-Shaikh. In his address to the conference, he commented that its convening demonstrates the concern of the international community, the United Nations and regional organizations to deal effectively and seriously with the situation in Iraq and achieve the desired goal of peace in accordance with UN Security Council resolution 1546. Iraq, he declared, should be helped to achieve security and stability, and be assisted in the political process to set up a permanent broad-based legitimate government. He added that freedom and democracy in Iraq cannot be achieved by the use of force, but only through reconciliation and the participation of all political, ideological and racial classes in the political process.
Twenty nations are represented at the gathering, indicative of the need for international cooperation to deal with the consequences of the situation. While sharp differences remain on how to proceed, there is total commitment to supporting Iraq’s interim government, as outlined in a communiqué that gives strong backing to the fight against insurgents, and urges the Iraqi government to meet with its opponents in an attempt to persuade them to take part in the general elections scheduled for January 30, 2005. No deadline has been set for withdrawal from Iraq of the U.S.-led forces, in spite of a push by France as well as a number of Arab countries, although the communiqué refers to the mandate of foreign forces as "not open-ended". The communiqué condemned “all acts of terrorism in Iraq”, referring particularly to the kidnapping and killing of civilians, aid workers, diplomats and journalists; and called on the neighboring states to intensify cooperation to control Iraq's borders.
The meeting brought together Iraq's six neighbors – Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Iran, and Saudi Arabia - as well as Egypt and a number of other Arab countries, plus China, Japan, the United States, and regional bodies such as the Group of Eight, the United Nations, the European Union, the League of Arab States, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Yesterday, foreign ministers of Iraq and its neighboring countries held a consultative session attended by Tunisia and Bahrain as holders of the current and previous Arab Summit presidency, and by Egypt, the host country. The ministers were in unanimous agreement that elections in Iraq should be held in the best possible circumstances and that the Iraqi people should receive the utmost assistance to secure their self-determination, and to restore the security and stability of their country.
Today’s conference also provided an opportunity for discussion of the stalled Middle East peace process, with an informal meeting of the ‘quartet’ of sponsors: U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. In opening the conference, host Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abu Gheit expressed the view that the seemingly intractable Arab-Israeli conflict was as much a threat to the region as Iraq's instability. Prince Saud Al-Faisal also took the opportunity of conferring with Secretary Powell, discussing regional and international issues of mutual concern in addition to current developments in Iraq.