Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz said that Saudi Arabia helped broker a deal between Syria and the United Nations concerning the questioning of five Syrians about the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Al-Hariri.
In an interview published yesterday by Asharq Al-Awsat and Al-Hayat, King Abdullah said that he suggested to French President Jacques Chirac and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan that the five Syrians be interviewed by UN investigators either in Switzerland or Austria instead of Lebanon, which would have been humiliating for Syria and all Arab countries.
The King said that he had sent National Security Council Secretary-General Prince Bandar bin Sultan to Paris and Damascus to negotiate the agreement. Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal informed the five members of the UN Security Council about the agreement.
King Abdullah said that he had previously advised President Assad to cooperate with the UN investigation into Hariri’s death, without a positive response.
It will take five years to restore stability in Iraq, King Abdullah said. He added that the Kingdom will not interfere in Iraqi internal affairs, and he has encouraged Iraqi tribes to steer clear of the violence.
The Kingdom had cautioned the US against the Iraq war, King Abdullah said, remarking that the outcome there had served Iranian interests, as expected.
King Abdullah sharply criticized Al Qaeda terrorists, saying, “They don’t know the meaning of jihad.” He noted the Kingdom’s successful campaign against terrorists remains ongoing. “I don’t say that we have uprooted terrorism in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, because that needs a lot of time and effort.” He also called for enhanced international cooperation to combat terrorism.
On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, King Abdullah stressed the importance of caution and understanding in dealing with both sides, and noted new developments in the Israeli political arena.
“I want to give more chance to the peace process, and the emergence of Amir Peretz as the leader of the Israeli Labor Party may pave the way for a breakthrough and lead to unification of the dispersed peace camp in Israel,” he said. “The Palestinians are advised to close their ranks because challenges of war and peace are in need of a united front.”
King Abdullah said that the upcoming extraordinary Islamic Conference summit, due to be held in Makkah December 8-9, was aimed at strengthening Islamic unity and establishing a joint front against terrorists as well as terrorist ideologies and thoughts.
King Abdullah also emphasized the strong Saudi-US relations as well as his friendship with President Bush. He noted that Saudi Arabia, like other countries in the world, has been the victim of terrorism.