Prince Saud Al-Faisal, Secretary Clinton hold joint press conference

April 1, 2012

Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held a joint press conference at the Foreign Ministry in Riyadh yesterday, following the First Ministerial Meeting of the Strategic Gulf Cooperation Forum. Prince Saud described the talks between representatives from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states and the United States as positive and constructive. The discussions focused on the current crises and challenges in the region, he noted, as well as the strengthening of U.S.-GCC relations. Prince Saud stressed “the importance of the strategic cooperation forum between GCC member states and the United States, taking into account that the regional security in the Gulf region and the Middle East is of interest to regional and international powers.”

He explained, “At the forefront of these challenges are the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, terrorism, and Iran’s continued interference in the affairs of the countries in the region, as well as its suspicious nuclear program.” Prince Saud noted that the “heinous massacre against the Syrian people” was also discussed, as well as the latest developments in Yemen and the overall political situation in the Middle East. Addressing recent unrest in the Arab world, he said, “We hope that the region’s countries and peoples will achieve their aspirations and hopes for a prosperous future, and preserve their security and safety under their sovereignty, independence and national territory integrity, but free from any external interference.”

With regard to Syria, the Saudi Foreign Minister stated, “I think we all agree that immediate cessation of the systematic killing should be a priority for permanent efforts in accordance with the Arab League plan and within the general framework of international legitimacy. However, we should keep in mind that the massacres of the Syrian regime have reached levels that can only be described as crimes against humanity, and the international community should not tolerate these under any pretext.” He accused the Syrian government of spreading propaganda that falsely portrays the opposition as terrorists. “The Syrian regime doesn’t want to recognize that there is a revolution in Syria – and we saw the shelling of tanks, which continue their movements – as if we are living in a world of mixing fact and fiction,” he added.

Asked about providing assistance to the Syrian opposition, Prince Saud stated, “The Syrians are being killed because they cannot find a way out of their crisis, and we will not allow the continuation of murder and we will help them at least to defend themselves.” Therefore, he declared, “We are with the idea of arming the Syrian opposition, which is fighting for its life and freedom.”

On the issue of terrorism, Prince Saud said, “I think we have taken important steps in the fight against terrorism, and we are required to continue with these efforts to protect our communities from the evils of terrorism, and to eradicate its roots.”

For her part, Secretary Clinton praised the U.S.-Saudi partnership, which dates back more than six decades. “We are working together on a range of issues of common interest at the bilateral and multilateral level,” she said. “For example, the United States and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia share an interest in ensuring that energy markets promote economic growth. We recognize and appreciate the leadership shown by the Kingdom and we are working together to increase prosperity in our countries and around the world.” She expressed hope that the new Forum will allow the GCC states and the U.S. to “deepen and coordinate multilateral cooperation on common challenges, such as terrorism, nuclear proliferation and piracy.”

Addressing the challenges faced by the region, Secretary Clinton noted that Iran continues to threaten its neighbors and undermines regional security through its policies towards Syria, Yemen and the Gulf. She expressed particular condemnation of the Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the United States, as well as allegations of Iranian involvement in recent terrorist attacks in India, Georgia and Thailand.

Regarding Syria, the U.S. Secretary of State advocated the creation of a timetable for the Syrian government to implement Kofi Annan’s Six Point Plan, which calls on the regime to withdraw its troops and weapons, establish a ceasefire, end interference in peaceful demonstrations and allow international observers.

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