Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat Exclusive : Q & A with Prince Turki Al-Faisal | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
Select Page
Media ID: 55289270

Asharq Al-Awsat Exclusive : Q & A with Prince Turki Al-Faisal

Asharq Al-Awsat Exclusive : Q & A with Prince Turki Al-Faisal

Asharq Al-Awsat Exclusive : Q & A with Prince Turki Al-Faisal

London, Asharq Al-awsat-The current Saudi ambassador to the United Kingdom and Ireland, Prince Turki Al-Faisal has been nominated by the Custodian of the two Holy Mosques, King Fahd, to take on the role of Saudi ambassador to the United States of America. After his two and a half years appointment to the position of British ambassador, the prince”s priority in his new post lies in strengthening ties between the American and Saudi Arabian nations. The former chief of Saudi”s foreign intelligence service, Prince Turki Talks to Asharq Al-Awsat about the cooperation between London and Riyadh in the war on Terror, and the achievements of his current post, his expectations and goals of his forthcoming role.

Q) How do you perceive the recent decision of your relocation to Washington D.C.?

A) As you know, a formal decision has not been announced regarding this reassignment. What has actually taken place is that the government of the Custodian of the two holy mosques, King Fahd, nominated me as ambassador for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the United States. Until the American government accepts this, any talk regarding this matter would be premature.

Q) How would you describe your time in Britain as ambassador?

A) I spent two and a half years in Britain, during which I gained a lot of experience and I was given the opportunity to establish many good relationships with the British people who are a generous and hospitable nation. Also during this period, I was able organize social events to acquaint the British population with their Saudi counterparts.

Q) In your opinion, what have been the most important achievements made during your post as Saudi ambassador to the United Kingdom and Ireland?

A) The most outstanding achievement has been the re-establishment of what were once stagnant relations between Riyadh and London. The British Prime Minister, Tony Blair”s visit to Saudi Arabia and Prince Saud Al-Faisal”s visit to Britain as well as the establishment of the Two Kingdom”s Conference clearly demonstrate the reinstatement of relations between the two countries. Also, the embassy”s participation in many social and political events has constantly been on our agenda.

Q) What can you tell us about security cooperation between the two countries?

A) Currently, there is a security collaboration taking place between various security authorities of the two countries. There is also constant coordination concerning many aspects, despite the fact that the &#34Saudi dissidents&#34 file is still open to consideration.

Q) Considering that some of the dissidents were previously condemned in security cases such as Sa”ad Al-Faqih, whose name was linked to prince Abdullah”s assassination attempt, did you request an extradition of these dissidents from the British government?

A) Khaled El Fawaz is wanted by the Americans, and arrangements are being made between the two countries. As for Al-Faqih and El Mes”ary, they were not officially demanded, yet some negotiations are taking place between the two governments to see what can be achieved.

Q) What about Sa”ad Al-Faqih whose group was categorized as one of those supporting terrorism and was also linked to the attempt of prince Abdullah”s assassination? Will he be extradited to Saudi authorities?

A) The trial of those involved in prince Abdullah”s assassination attempt is still being prepared and details of this trail will be revealed in time.

Q) What are your thoughts on the terrorist attacks that took place in London over the last few weeks?

A) I believe that the terrorist attacks that London witnessed recently are similar to those which have been taking place in Saudi Arabia. Such attacks are the works of misguided groups whose aim is to terrorize and frighten people. However, we deeply put our trust in officials and heads of security of both countries and in their dedicated effort to combat and eliminate terrorism.

Q) Saudi Arabia has had its share of terrorist attacks and still does its best to eliminate it. Having dealt with such an experience, what advice would you give to the British?

A) I believe that the British have enough expertise to handle these kinds of attacks. The British police had efficiently dealt with what was formerly known as the Irish Republican Army in the past 20 years through which it had gained experience that will now assist the British to deal with such actions.

Q) Does this mean that there is no security coordination between the two countries and therefore no exchange of wanted lists?

A) Security cooperation between the two countries has been and still is taking place. As for the exchange of wanted lists between both countries, I believe that the officials of the Saudi Minister of interior affairs are able to give a detailed answer to that question.

Q) What advice would you give to your successor in the case that Washington agrees to your nomination? What are the most important security-related issues that he would have to tackle?

A) I would never claim to be able to guide anyone who will replace me, as he will surely have his own visions and plans. However, I think that the best advice that I can give him is to socialize with the British community and to become acquainted with it. Also, he should try to coordinate the common issues of the two countries in order to develop relations between the two governments and nations as well.

Q) What do you believe will be the most important issues that you will have to deal with in Washington?

A) Realistically, it is undeniable that relations between the Saudi and American people are stagnant. Opinion polls in both countries show that there is a big gap between the people of both countries especially after the 11 September attacks. Therefore, my priority there will be to bridge the gap and try to restore relations. This can be achieved through making the most out of events such as Prince Abdullah”s visit to the United States, which was very successful. Also, endeavors such as the joint statement made by the prince and President Bush, which had refined the relationships between the two countries and focused upon cadres exchange between the two countries, could assist greatly. These are some of the matters that I will pay great attention to.

Q) Does this mean that you will accredit the public diplomacy?

A) As I said, there will be a dedicated focus from my part on the developing and enhancing relations between the nations of both countries.

Q) Diplomacy is built on personal relationships. Have you established relationships with the current officials of the American government?

This is what I will exert my efforts in achieving during my time there. I will work on establishing good ties with all American officials.

Q) Does this mean that you will start afresh concerning relationships with Americans?

A) Why start from scratch when Prince Bandar Bin Sultan has succeeded in 25 years of diplomatic work, to create solid friendships with key decision makers in the United States? I will first rely on God then Prince Bandar”s advice and recommendations in supervising these matters.

Q) Cooperation in the &#34war on terror&#34 is one of the most important issues shared with the United States. In the light of your extensive experience as the former head of Saudi intelligence, do you believe that your experience will assist in tackling the terrorism issue?

A) The matter is handled by specialized bodies such as the General Intelligence Directorate, the ministry of interior affairs in Saudi Arabia in collaboration with American authorities. I would not hesitate in participating in the tackling of this issue if I were asked, apart from that however, I do believe that it is not favorable that an ambassador interfere in such technical matters that is concerned with the exchange of information unrelated to the embassy.

Q) The American court had refused to pursue the lawsuit filed against you. With your new post, will you seek to see the charges dropped against 200 people and public and private corporations in relation to the 9/11 attacks?

A) This remains the decision of the American courts and such matters must be tackled within the courts. It is well known that judicial authorities in the United States enjoy autonomy just as the Saudi judicial system does. We aim to close the cases within these courts. However if they are not, we will continue to defend our image and our people.

Q) Finally, what is your assessment of Prince Bandar Bin

Sultan”s duration in Washington?

A) If you recall, I made a statement immediately after the honorable nomination made by the Custodian of the two holy mosques, and the crown prince to be ambassador to the United States. It said, &#34To follow Prince Bandar Bin Sultan”s is quite a difficult thing to do, however I aim to seek guidance from his efforts and accomplishments with regards to consolidating relationships between the United States and Saudi Arabia&#34. It is for this reason that I believe that I will need support and advice from Prince Bandar Bin Sultan during my post in the United States.&#34