Saudi Ambassador to the US Prince Turki Al-Faisal delivered the keynote address at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars Conference “Politics and Diplomacy: Next Steps in Arab-Israeli Peacemaking” in Washington yesterday. In his remarks, he stressed the importance of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and called on the global community to actively work towards such a resolution.
The long-festering conflict must be resolved if the global community is to confront new challenges, particularly terrorism. It is used by terrorists as a recruiting took and is also one of the root causes of anti-American sentiment in the Arab and Islamic worlds, he noted.
History shows that the Israelis and Palestinians will not arrive at peace if left up to their own devices, and that leading powers must move both parties ahead towards peace, Prince Turki said.
To that end, Saudi Arabia understands that its role is to be a voice of reason and moderation, and to bring the Arab world together to support the peace process. “In Saudi Arabia, we desire peaceful coexistence between a Palestinian state and an Israeli state, and peace between Israel and the entire Arab world,” Prince Turki said. He noted the Arab Peace Initiative, a plan for peace proposed by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah in 2002.
The ambassador praised President Bush’s call for a two-state solution and proposal of the Road Map for Peace. He urged the United States to keep the process of the Road Map moving forward, and to continue supporting the process of disengagement from Gaza and the West Bank.
Prince Turki urged Israel to continue dialogue with the Palestinians. “It would be regrettable if Israel sat with arms folded while pursuing a policy of isolation, cutting off the Hamas government, and turning its back on the Palestinian people,” he said. Prince Turki added that Israel has a range of policy options within that framework of dialogue, including strengthening the position of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas through initiatives such as selective prisoner release and easing roadblocks.
There must also be gestures from the new Palestinian government, Prince Turki remarked. He said that Saudi Arabia has told Hamas that it must do three things if it wishes to be a viable governing body: abide by existing agreements made by the former Palestinian government, accept the Arab Peace Initiative and the Road Map, and abandon violence.
“The time is now,” Prince Turki said. “We have willing peoples on both sides – both Israelis and Palestinians. We have a framework for reconciliation that is outlined in the Road Map for peace. And we have a goal that is articulated in the Abdullah Peace Plan. We simply need the parties to make a move with confidence within this framework.”
Full transcript of Prince Turki’s remarks