In an appearance yesterday on CNN Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer, Saudi Ambassador to the US Prince Turki Al-Faisal discussed Vice President Cheney’s visit last week to Riyadh, Iraq, a recent Washington Post commentary by former Saudi adviser Nawaf Obaid and oil prices.
[full transcript ]
Asked by Blitzer whether the Saudi government had summoned Vice President Cheney to Riyadh last week out of concern over Iraq, Prince Turki Al-Faisal replied that King Abdullah invited the vice president to visit because they had not met for some time.
“Governments don’t summon vice presidents to come to see them,” Prince Turki said. “King Abdullah has been in constant contact and cooperation with both President Bush and Vice President Cheney since they came into office. The vice president’s visit was in line with the continuous cooperation and discussions that the king has had with American leaders.”
Prince Turki noted that Saudi Arabia and the US share many concerns, especially Iraq. “We have mutual concerns about Iraq, about Palestine, about all of the things that operate in the area, terrorism, instability, etc. Iraq, obviously, is one of the top concerns that we have. We share our views with your leadership on a continuous basis…There is no need to press Saudi Arabia to advance the prospects for peace.”
Prince Turki pointed out that his country has worked with all elements of the Iraqi population, not exclusively with Sunnis. “The Saudi Arabians’ role is to come together with the Iraqi people and simply arrange for mutual respect and mutual acceptance,” he said. “Anything that happens in Iraq affects us. Iraq has had a long history of sectarian and ethnic tolerance and living together.”
Prince Turki also commented on Nawaf Obaid’s commentary in the Washington Post last week, which stated that Saudi Arabia planned to revise its policy on Iraq by providing assistance to Sunni military leaders in the same way that Iran is supporting Iraqi Shi’a elements. Prince Turki denied that this is Saudi policy, and that Obaid’s consultancy work for the Saudi government has been terminated.
“It would be contradictory to think in terms of Sunni and Shi’a. We have received in Saudi Arabia all of the factions in Iraq. Most recently, during the holy month of Ramadan, we hosted a conference between Sunni and Shi’a religious leaders to get them to agree on what to do in Iraq.”
On the need for an international conference, Prince Turki cautioned that specific issues for discussion would have to be clearly defined beforehand. He mentioned three basic issues: the militia issues; brigandage and disruption of daily life; and the lack of provision of basic services by the government. Prince Turki said, “The Maliki government is trying very hard to overcome all of these challenges. It is incumbent on us and other neighbors of Iraq and the world community to support the Maliki government in challenging these tremendous obstacles that they have in Iraq.”
The ambassador also said that the Kingdom is working for a stable and acceptable price of oil and was concerned with poor countries unable to afford oil that cost $70 a barrel.Transcript of Prince Turki's interview