Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Saud Al-Faisal touched on several key issues in his regular press briefing today.
Speaking to reporters in Jeddah, Prince Saud noted Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz’s meeting yesterday with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss the peace process. King Abdullah places a great deal of importance on Palestinian unity, Prince Saud said.
Commenting on the upcoming international conference on Palestine proposed by President George W. Bush, Prince Saud said, “If this conference will not discuss serious topics aimed to resolve the conflict, put Arab initiative as a key objective, set an agenda that details issues as required and oblige Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories, this conference will not have any objective and will turn into protracted negotiations.”
Asked if there was a new Saudi initiative on Palestine, Prince Saud replied that the Kingdom remains committed to the Makkah Agreement. “The terms of Makkah initiative are clear and agreed upon by the Palestinian parties,” he said. “If there is a desire for reconciliation, they have to refer to the terms of Makkah Agreement and implement them. The Kingdom will not provide any alternative initiative to Makkah Agreement.
Turning to Iraq, Prince Saud said that Saudi Arabia has followed the Petraeus-Crocker report to Congress and expressed the hope that Iraqi authorities will work towards national reconciliation.
Asked about elements of the Petraeus-Crocker reports that indicated American forces would be in Iraq up to five years, Prince Saud replied that the matter was for Iraqis to decide. The presence of US forces in Iraq is subject to the will of the Iraqi government, and any extension is up to the Iraqis, he said.
Prince Saud expressed surprise at recent comments by Treasury Undersecretary Stuart Levey criticizing the Kingdom for failing to crack down on wealthy individuals identified by the US as financiers of Al-Qaeda.
“We are surprised by this, as whenever we sat with US officials, they thanked us for what the Kingdom has done in combating terrorism at security level and then we heard such statement. Anyone says that, he should show where is our remiss in this regard,” Prince Saud said.
The Kingdom also hopes for a resolution to the crisis in Lebanon and is cautiously optimistic about developments there following the announcement of an initiative by Nabih Berri. An agreed-upon presidential election is the first step towards ending the crisis, Prince Saud said.
Questions also addressed a possible visit to Saudi Arabia by the Syrian foreign minister. Prince Saud expressed the hope that such a visit would contribute to bringing Saudi and Syrian viewpoints closer on Arab issues if indeed it takes place.