Rome/Casablanca, SPA — The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King, Abdullah bin Abdulaziz has affirmed that the current international circumstances under the crises being witnessed by the human communities and the growing challenges which show more economic, political and social problems in a manner that deepen the human suffering, make dialogue necessary among followers of religions and cultures.
The King expressed aspirations of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the prevalence of harmony and peace not only among the Muslims with their various sects, but also among the nations of the world with all their beliefs.
The remarks of the King were made in an interview with the Italian ‘La Repubblica’ Newspaper, published today.
Following is the full text of the interview of the Custodian of the Two Holy with La Repubblica Newspaper:
(Q) Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz: What prompted you to call for the convening the Madrid conference on dialogue of religions, and to invite believers of different religions and cultures from all over the world? What are the results you hope for? What makes you so concerned about the fate of humanity in this world?
(A) The need for dialogue; between believers of different religions and cultures is called for by the current World conditions and the many crises faced by human communities. Also, the growing challenges that threaten to worsen existing economic, political and social problems and to deepen human suffering. Such condition prevails at a time characterized by wide spread of injustices, corruption and immorality, and the breakup of the family – the basic unit of all societies. Humanity is moving away from noble values and principles that form the essence of all religions and beliefs.
We are part of this world. We influence and are influenced by it. We are a nation of a sublime mission and deeply rooted cultural heritage. Our religion urges us to embrace the principle of dialogue and call upon us to cooperate and coexist in peace with others, and promote understanding, peace, accord and good values among all humans. My optimism stems from the broad positive response to the call for dialogue on the part of many circles, both inside the Muslim world and at all level of various religious and cultural levels around the world.
(Q) You have organized an International Islamic Conference in Mecca. Do you see that Conference as one that provided an opportunity to improve relations between Muslim countries, as well as those between Sunnis and Shiites? You entered the Conference Hall holding the hands of the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, and the former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjan. Does this picture symbolize better understanding between the two countries and the two states?
(A) We always look forward to establish accord and peace not only among Muslims with their various sects, but also between the peoples of the world with all their beliefs. Muslim scholars have not encountered difficulties in their Islamic Conference in Mecca in terms of stressing the principle of dialogue, since dialogue is an integral part of our Islamic teachings. God ordered us to have dialogue in the Quran, and Our Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) also urged us to do the same. The policy of Saudi Arabia is also based on these principles.
(Q) What is the current status of dialogue with the Vatican after your historic visit to Pope Benedict XVI? Do you expect the coming dialogue to help heal up the deep wounds suffered by both sides, and ally Muslims’ fear of new crusades, and Christians’ fear of extremists who threaten values and cultures of the West? What is your response to al-Qaeda’s denunciation of the dialogue among religions?
(A) We can remove mistrust and suspicions from our minds through principle of dialogue. A dialogue that underscores human commonalities which find their expression in all religions, beliefs and cultures. The all call for good in all its forms, and reject evil in all its manifestations. We will then realize that values and principles that unite us are more than those dividing us.
The differences that exist between cultures and societies in general are a matter of course and an eternal fact of the universe. But it is forces of extremism, injustice and darkness that often seek to exaggerate and exploit these differences for the purpose of instigating conflicts and wars, thus brining about a chaotic situation around the world. That is why we find them always in panic when they feel that there is an effort to engage in dialogue and promote understanding instead of confrontation and rivalry. These same forces know that dialogue is the effective way to abort their evil plans that are contrary to all religions and human beliefs, and inherent human nature.
(Q) The G8 met after the Jeddah Energy Meeting, in an attempt to resolve the crisis of hiking prices of crude oil. But expectations are not optimistic and prices are continuing to rise. What bothers you most about the consequences of this international crisis? And what are, in your opinion, the main reasons for the continuous rise in oil prices?
(A) Stability of the world oil markets is the common goal of both the producers and the consumers, and we are striving hard to reach it. In spite of the fact that the Kingdom and a number of oil producing countries have raised their production capacity, we have not detected a positive response at the international oil market. This demonstrates the extent of the effect of other causes and factors on the market prices outside the framework of supply and demand. Most importantly, speculations in the international oil market, and the imposition in many oil consuming nations of additional taxes on imported oil. Saudi Arabia called for a meeting of oil consuming and producing countries in Jeddah to discuss the current situation of the oil market. We believe that strengthening cooperation between the parties in tackling the global oil situation with all the variable that influence and impact the price of oil to the consumer is the guarantor to stabilize international oil market.
We followed-up closely the meeting of the G8, and the resulting resolutions, including a call for dialogue between producers and consumers. It may be important to note here that a World Energy Forum has already been established, with Riyadh hosting its secretariat-general to achieve the goals of dialogue and to coordinate between producers and consumers.
In the context of our endeavor to protect environment and, address global climate change, Saudi Arabia had established King Abdullah Center for Oil Research and Studies, in order to seek technology that would preserve the environment on one hand, and contribute to global economic growth on the other. These efforts include a fund for energy, environment and climate change, as initiated by the Kingdom and announced by during the third OPEC summit in Riyadh. Saudi Arabia contributed three hundred million dollars to this effort. I might add that this program will fund research in many areas including carbon emissions. We urge the G8 to support these existing programs and projects rather than make duplicate efforts in similar programs.
(Q) Food shortage is the second crisis affecting the world after the oil crisis. What is the scenario, which you see, that would occur in the future regarding the scarcity of food and causes of food shortage? Will Saudi Arabia follow the example of China and invest in the fertile lands in other countries to ensure food security in the future?
(A) The world has to put this crisis on the top of its list of priorities. It must double the effort internationally to address the food crisis because it has a direct bearing on the life of every human being. Saudi Arabia has dealt with this crisis at three main levels:
Firstly: It has supported the World Food Program (WFP) with 500 million US dollars in response to the world appeal to cope up with the increase in global fuel prices and food commodities.
Secondly: It is pursuing a medium-and-long-term strategy to launch agricultural investment initiatives aiming at development and enhancement of agricultural products in countries that have the prerequisites for agriculture. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has agricultural experience, technology, and capital to invest in this area. The initiative is not only limited to buying land or even leasing them, but it also includes technology transfer and exchange of experience, and development of agricultural companies, and other steps that would contribute to increasing agricultural crops and providing food to the world in order to alleviate the crisis.
Thirdly: We have been working to strengthen international cooperation to solve the crisis through our call at the Jeddah Conference to launch the “energy for poor” initiative to enable developing countries to meet the increasing energy costs. We called on the World Bank to hold a meeting as soon as possible for donors’ countries, as well as regional and international financial institutions, to discuss this initiative and put it into effect. We proposed to the Council of Ministers of the OPEC Fund for International Development to meet and consider the adoption of a parallel program and allocate one billion U.S. dollars to it. Saudi Arabia announced its readiness to financially contribute to these programs within the framework to be agreed upon. Also, we have allocated $500 million U.S. dollars of low-interest loans through the Saudi Development Fund to finance projects that help developing countries obtain energy and initiate other development projects.
Undoubtedly these objectives require efforts from all countries of the world.
(Q) The continuation of the Arab-Israeli conflict poses a third challenge. In the case of failure of the Annapolis conference, the only remaining peace a plan on the table is the Arab peace initiative presented by you in 2002. What made you put forward this peace initiative? Is this peace plan still in place and implementable? After 60 years of establishing the state of Israel, is it closer to live in peace with its Arab neighbors?
(A) The Arab comprehensive Peace Initiative reflects the overall Arab sincere and serious will towards achieving a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East on the basis of international legitimacy and laws. The Arab initiative is regarded as one of the main points of reference in the peace process, which the Riyadh Arab Summit re-emphasized. In addition to the Arab initiative, there are several international initiatives aiming at advancing the peace process in the region. But all these efforts and initiatives are still colliding with an Israeli policy of rejection and of continuous seize of more Palestinian land, building new settlements, expanding existing ones, and imposing all kinds of unjust restrictions and siege on the Palestinian people in clear defiance of all international laws and ethical principles. Whenever the Arabs and the world make a step forward towards peace, Israel embarks on policies of injustice, aggression against the Palestinian people. Therefore, the international community is urged, more than ever, to deal seriously with the Israeli intransigence, so that the longest crisis in modern history would find its way to solution.
(Q) Are you concerned about Iran’s strengthening its power in Iraq and presenting its new strength in the region?
(A) Iraq is in a dire need of being free from external interference in its internal affairs by any party, so that it can move forward in its efforts to achieve security, stability and prosperity and maintain its national unity and sovereignty, and territorial integrity. The Iraqi people are capable of achieving these objectives with a sincere and serious national will, and full sense of one country among all Iraqis, regardless of ethnic background and political and religious affiliations.
(Q) Has Iran the right to continue its nuclear program? What is the extent of damage caused by President Ahmadinejad’s statements concerning the elimination of Israel? Israel has recently conducted military exercises simulating an attack on Iran. What are the results of such an attack?
(A) Nuclear proliferation in the region does not serve its security and stability. We hope that all countries of the region follow the policy of the GCC and the Arab League to make the Middle East and the Gulf region free from all weapons of mass destruction and nuclear weapons. As regards the Iranian nuclear issue, we call for abandoning the language of tension and escalation, and the adopting of diplomatic solutions to this issue. As long as diplomatic efforts are still active and ongoing, I do not think there is room for discussing other options. The responsibility about statements made by certain countries lies in the countries making these statements.
(Q) Some people believe that the United States has lost its traditional influence in the region, because of its policies and because of the emergence of other competitors looking for a role. What do you think of this? Has it become difficult for America’s friends to continue defending it?
(A) We think that the situation in the region requires every possible international effort in light of the difficult crisis it faces. Whether this effort is American, Russian, European, Islamic or Arab, we will not hesitate to support it as long as it is sincere and serious in dealing with these crises, and as long as it aims at achieving regional security and stability and prosperity, including the legitimate rights of the people of the region. Our international friendships are based on the defense of those rights and interests of the region and its peoples and nothing else.
(Q) What has been achieved so far in Saudi Arabia in combating terrorism? Do you think that you have defeated Al-Qaeda and rid the country of its supporters? Or is there a need for more efforts to be exerted in this context? Is the world making enough efforts to fight terrorism?
(A) Observers of the Saudi efforts in fighting terrorism must feel the significant achievements we have made in fighting this scourge sedition over the past years. These achievements would not have been possible without the blessing of God, and the courage and sacrifices of the security forces, and the Saudi people standing united in confronting this phenomenon extraneous to their religion, society and culture. Since the beginning of recent terrorist attacks in the Kingdom, we adopted a comprehensive strategy to fight it. This strategy does not depend on its security side only, but also it includes fighting financing of terrorism, and dealing with its intellectual roots through the adoption of an integrated program for defying the deviant thought and rehabilitating its followers and giving counseling and advice to them. In this regard we called for an international conference to combat terrorism, which was convened in Riyadh. The conference called for the establishment of a counter-terrorism center for the purpose of prompt exchange of information, and adopt preemptive measure to prevent terrorist action. However the proposed center is yet to be established in spite of the support of many members of the world community. In addition we are working assiduously towards closer regional and international cooperation to confront the phenomenon. We are continuing with our efforts in this strategy till completely eliminating this phenomenon and drying up its sources, and the deviant thought leading to it. We still believe that the international community can exert better efforts in close cooperation and coordination to tighten the noose on terrorist networks wherever they exist, and deprive them of any safe heavens that could be used to threaten the international community.