At a press briefing in Riyadh today, Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Saud Al-Faisal welcomed the results of the conference on the future of Iraq held in the Egyptian town of Sharm El-Shaikh by Iraq's neighboring countries jointly with others such as representatives of the Group of Eight. The Kingdom, he said, reiterates its position calling for the provision of all necessary circumstances and guarantees to lead the political process in Iraq towards its projected goals in accordance with UN Security Council resolution 1546. This goal can only be reached through elections that aim at maintaining Iraq’s independence, sovereignty and regional integrity, and not through force. What will guarantee success, he said, is a comprehensive national reconciliation and extensive popular participation by all political, religious, and ethnic groups.
Prince Saud expressed the Kingdom’s concern for the feelings of frustration in much of Iraq’s population. Saudi Arabia calls for a comprehensive national dialogue to be held, that includes all components of Iraqi society, to ensure that the elections will be, not an excuse for sedition, but an exercise in unity and strength, which will lead to the emergence of a legitimate and stable government based on principles of justice and fairness applying to all sections of the Iraqi people without exception. To a question on Iraq's debts, he reiterated that the Kingdom will commit itself to a significant reduction in this regard. On resumption of diplomatic representation between the Kingdom and Iraq prior to the formation of an elected Iraqi government, he pointed out that an Iraqi team is currently restoring the Iraqi embassy in Riyadh, and he expressed welcome to an Iraqi ambassador. As for the proposal to send an Arab Islamic force to Iraq after the departure of foreign occupiers, that is still on the table, unresolved.
Turning to the Palestinian issue, Prince Saud expressed satisfaction over the prudent steps taken so far for a peaceful transfer of power in the Palestinian territories. This, he said, consolidates the unity of the Palestinians in their just cause towards achieving a fair and comprehensive peace that safeguards the inalienable right to establish their independent state with Al-Quds [East Jerusalem] as its capital. He added that the Kingdom is also satisfied at the outcome of the meeting of the Quartet on the fringes of the Sharm El-Shaikh conference, but pointed out that any breakthrough in the peace process is hindered by Israel's lack of cooperation; the international community must therefore put pressure on Israel to meet the requirements of the peace process. He confirmed that Saudi Arabia will attend an upcoming Middle East conference initiated by the United States that will focus on economic cooperation and political reform. Such reform, however, must be based on the internal situation of each country, which has its own heritage, customs and traditions. The Middle East is in need of Western capital to expand its economy, and for markets in the developed world to be open. He also asserted that the ban on proliferation of nuclear weapons should include Israel.
As for the International Conference for Combating Terrorism that is being hosted by Saudi Arabia in February, Prince Saud confirmed that the response has been good, and all those receiving invitations to attend are in full agreement on its necessity. The conference will be held on a practical and expert level, not a political one. What is needed, he said, is effective international cooperation on the major issues. Taking part will be senior officials in charge of agencies concerned with the three themes of the conference that cover money laundering and drug control as well as terrorism.
To a question on municipal elections in the Kingdom, Prince Saud said reform must take into consideration a gradual change that benefits the citizens without threatening the country’s national unity.