Custodian of the two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz has given a wide-ranging interview on foreign policy issues to Russia’s official news agency, Itar-Tass.
Russian President Vladimir Putin today begins a historic visit to Saudi Arabia, the first by a Russian leader to the Kingdom. As Crown Prince, King Abdullah visited Russia in September 2003.
In the interview, which was published today, King Abdullah welcomed Putin’s visit to Saudi Arabia and said that it would boost relations and deepen cooperation between the two countries.
In addition, the King noted that the visit is a good opportunity for Saudi Arabia and Russia to consult on a range of critical regional issues and economic cooperation.
In particular, King Abdullah said that he looks forward to expanding cooperation in the following areas: the promotion of mutual investment, air transport services, the avoidance of double taxation, scientific cooperation, research, education and technology.
And as the world’s leading producers and exporters of oil, cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Russia on petroleum matters is necessary, the King said. Therefore, the Saudi-Russian talks will also include joint committees that will discuss oil and energy cooperation.
On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, King Abdullah stressed the importance of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in order to achieve regional stability, and highlighted Arab initiatives to bring peace.
The King noted that, as a member of the Quartet, Russia has an important role in reaching a peaceful settlement to the conflict. He expressed the hope that the Quartet’s current efforts would lead to a revival of the peace process, focusing on radical solutions to the primary issues of the dispute.
Turning to Iraq, King Abdullah said that efforts to achieve stability in Iraq must involve a comprehensive approach that takes into consideration the country’s security, political and sovereignty dimensions.
The security dimension requires eradicating all sources of violence and armed militias without discrimination, the King said. The political aspect will be accomplished through national unity among the various Iraqi factions and an equal sharing of the country’s wealth. As for the sovereignty dimension, that is achieved by preserving Iraq’s independence, sovereignty and unity of territory.
Failure to address these three dimensions equally will negatively impact the situation in Iraq and any efforts to achieve stability there, the King warned.
On terrorism in Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah said that tremendous efforts to combat terrorism in the Kingdom have resulted in a decline in terrorist acts over the past two or even five years. He credited efforts to combat the deviant thought on a social level as well as the bravery of the Saudi security forces.
Despite these successes, the King warned that the war on terrorism is not yet finished, and that domestic and international counterterrorism efforts would continue until the phenomenon is completely eradicated.
Asked about the Kingdom’s position on allowing women to drive, the King said that the matter is considered a social one, and that role of the government is to provide an environment that is in keeping with Shari’ah law. He pointed out government efforts to increase employment opportunities for women.
On other issues, King Abdullah commented on the need for intercultural dialogue and the importance of GCC economic integration. He also touched on the upcoming Janadriyah Heritage and Culture festival as well as his initiative to host large numbers of Hajj pilgrims each year.