2005 Transcript

Adel Al-Jubeir on CNN: oil, terrorism, mideast
Crown Prince Abdullah’s Foreign Affairs Advisor Adel Al-Jubeir was interviewed by Wolf Blitzer on CNN’s ‘Late Edition’ on oil, terrorism and the Middle East, May 1, 2005
  Crown Prince Abdullah's Foreign Affairs Advisor Adel Al-Jubeir

WOLF BLITZER, HOST: We're joined now by Saudi Arabia's foreign policy [sic] adviser, Adel Al-Jubeir. Adel Al-Jubeir, thanks very much for joining us.

You were down there in Crawford, Texas, earlier in the week when President Bush met with Crown Prince Abdullah. What, if anything, was resolved, in terms of U.S.-Saudi cooperation, to bring down the price of oil in the short term?

AL-JUBEIR: It wasn't about resolving anything, Wolf. It was about clarifying matters. The United States wanted to know what Saudi Arabia's production capacity was, what Saudi Arabia's plans for future production were, in the years out. Saudi Arabia wanted to know what the situation was with the shortage in American refineries. And I believe that the Crown Prince had a wonderful discussion with the President on this issue, as well as many other issues of mutual concern. He also had a very detailed discussion about the future of the oil markets with the Vice-President the day before.

BLITZER: So, is there nothing that the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, working together, can do in the short term to bring down the price per barrel? Right now it's hovering around $50 a barrel, as you know.

AL-JUBEIR: There are a number of steps that one can do. We in Saudi Arabia have increased our production and are currently producing slightly over 9.5 million barrels of oil a day. We have indicated to our customers that our production capacity is up to 11 million barrels. And we are willing to produce the extra 1.5 million barrels, should our customers want to purchase those additional barrels. We have had that option on the table for the past nine or ten months, but we haven't seen many buyers. We don't believe that, as we speak, there is a shortage in crude oil. We believe that there is a shortage in terms of the infrastructure of crude, whether it's shipping, refining, storage, whether it's ...

BLITZER: Demand has really gone up for oil, given the markets of China and India, as well as the West.

AL-JUBEIR: Correct. That is another factor that's putting upward pressure on crude oil.

BLITZER: And this has been a bonanza for the Saudi oil industry and other oil industries, major oil exporters. They're making a ton of money right now.

AL-JUBEIR: Well, yes, we are, but we also lose a lot of money when there is a surplus, and prices crash, as they had in the mid-1980s and as they did in the mid-1990s.

BLITZER: Well, do you think prices are going to be going down any time soon?

AL-JUBEIR: We hope so, because we're working very hard to increase our production capacity to reassure the markets that there is sufficient crude available. We are building refineries in Saudi Arabia, as well as in other places in the world, to make sure that there is enough gasoline for consumers, so that prices come down. We have no interest in high oil prices. It hurts us in the long run, and it hurts consumers in the short run.

BLITZER: There is concern -- and you've heard this expressed, I'm sure -- that all the money that Saudi Arabia is taking in now with the extra exporting of oil at these $50-per-barrel prices -- it was not long ago when it was $20 a barrel, $25 a barrel -- that all this money is coming in, and that some of this money may wind up in the hands of terrorists.

AL-JUBEIR: I think that that's a ridiculous charge to make, Wolf. Saudi Arabia is a victim of terrorism. We have been very diligent in fighting terrorists.

BLITZER: But there are Saudis, not necessarily in the government, but Saudis who are not necessarily opponents of these terrorist groups, as you know.

AL-JUBEIR: When we find them, we punish them. We jail them. We freeze their assets, which we have been doing over the past number of years. Saudi Arabia has been very vigorous in going after terrorists, those who support them and those who condone their actions. The Saudi government has a major reform plan in progress that includes opening up our economy, creating jobs, investing in our infrastructure. And that's where the income from oil is going to go.

BLITZER: For example, the schoolbooks, the textbooks in Saudi Arabia now, have there been the changes that we've been hearing about, calling the West, the United States evil and all of that, has that all gone away, or is that still in the textbooks in these schools?

AL-JUBEIR: I believe that the -- when we looked at our textbooks a number of years back, we discovered that five percent of the materials in those textbooks was objectionable, should not be in them, and 10 percent of them was questionable. I believe the five percent was removed, the 10 percent was worked on. We continue to reassess and reevaluate our textbooks as well as our teaching methods. We have a multi-year program in place, to ensure, to make sure that we bring our educational system and our curriculums up to speed, and bring them up to world standards. And I have no doubt that we will succeed in doing so.

BLITZER: Based on what you know -- and you're very well plugged in -- is there any progress at all being made in the hunt for Osama bin Laden?

AL-JUBEIR: I believe so. I believe that the ability of Al-Qaeda to recruit people is severely diminished. We see it in Saudi Arabia. We see it in other places. I believe their ability to plan large-scale, spectacular attacks is diminished. I believe that their ability to communicate across borders is severely diminished. Their ability to raise funds has been severely diminished.

BLITZER: Why can't the U.S., the Saudis, the rest of the world find Osama bin Laden?

AL-JUBEIR: I wish I had the answer. We are looking. He is enemy number one on everybody's list.

BLITZER: He is a Saudi. How popular is he in Saudi Arabia?

AL-JUBEIR: Well, he was stripped of his citizenship in the early 1990s. I don't believe he has much popularity in Saudi Arabia. Nobody can condone the killing of the innocent. That's just outrageous. No decent human being is going to accept this. I believe that the evidence of his actions, the killing of innocent people, whether it's in New York or in Riyadh or in other places, unacceptable. So I don't believe he has much popularity. Our religious scholars are speaking out against him, condemning his actions and those of his cohorts. And ...

BLITZER: We keep hearing reports from Saudi dissidents and others suggesting that he still is a pretty popular figure, at least with certain elements of Saudi society.

AL-JUBEIR: Of course. What would you expect dissidents to say? You can talk to radicals in Europe and they'll tell you that their agenda is very popular with the masses when, in fact, it's not. If Osama bin Laden or Al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia were popular, we would see an increase in recruitment, not a decrease. We would see an increase in their ability to do damage, not a decrease. And I believe that, as Ronald Reagan used to say, "Facts are stubborn things." We are winning the war on terrorism. It will take time though.

BLITZER: One issue that was very much on the agenda when Crown Prince Abdullah met with President Bush was the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Saudi Arabia has played a role at least in the past. Are the Saudis, is your government, ready to provide a significant sum of money to the Palestinians to develop Gaza, for example, following the scheduled Israeli withdrawal in August?

AL-JUBEIR: We have been one of the largest donors of humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian Authority. I believe we will continue to be. We will do whatever is required in order to help the Palestinians. There was a donor conference several years ago where a number of countries made pledges. I believe Saudi Arabia was one of the few countries to actually come through with its pledges. We expect other countries who have made ...

BLITZER: Is there a bottom-line figure that you're thinking about providing the Palestinians now to help them make this adjustment?

AL-JUBEIR: There really isn't because there can't be. We have to see what the projects are that they require, what are the size of the aid packages that they require, who else is going to contribute, who else is going to fulfill obligations that they have made in the past but have not fulfilled. And then we ask part of the international community step in and help the Palestinians. It is very important to reconstruct the Palestinian areas, very important to create jobs for the Palestinians if we want stability and if we want to see progress in the peace process.

BLITZER: There are, obviously, negotiations under way between the Israelis and Palestinians, the Israeli government, the new government of the Palestinian Authority. There are other Arab states that have peace treaties with Israel -- Egypt and Jordan. Others have less agreements. Do you foresee the day when Saudi Arabia could have full diplomatic relations with Israel?

AL-JUBEIR: Yes, and we've made it very clear when the conference put forth its peace plan, which was adopted as the Arab Peace Initiative at the Beirut Summit in April of 2002, it was very clear: Israeli withdrawal from the territories occupied in '67, establishment of a Palestinian state, a settlement of the refugee problem, the settlement of the question of Jerusalem, in exchange for full and normal relations between Israel and all Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia. That offer has been on the table for years now.

BLITZER: Let's hope that there's some movement toward that direction. And thanks very much, Adel Al Jubeir, for joining us …

AL-JUBEIR: My pleasure, thank you.

BLITZER: Appreciate it.