London, Asharq Al-Awsat- Prince Turki al-Faisal, the Chairman of the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies in Riyadh, former Saudi Intelligence chief, and former Saudi Ambassador to London and Washington explained the circumstances surrounding his handshake with Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday. This handshake came after Ayalon revealed that Prince Turki al-Faisal had refused to sit with him on a panel at the Munich Security Conference, although Ayalon later apologized to the Prince after he stepped down from the podium.
Prince Turki al-Faisal stressed that this incident should not be taken out of context or misunderstood, and stressed that his “strong objection and condemnation of Israel’s policies and actions against the Palestinians remains unchanged.” This came as part of a statement issued by Prince Faisal al-Turki yesterday. Asharq Al-Awsat has managed to obtain a copy of this statement, and the text of Prince Faisal al Turki’s statement reads as following:
During the Munich Security Conference that was held in Munich and which began the day before yesterday, Danny Ayalon the Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister indirectly addressed me by saying that an individual from a certain country that has a lot of oil has refused to sit on the same panel with him, and that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with all of its wealth has not provided one penny to the Palestinian Authority. I replied to him saying that I did not refuse to sit with him because he is the Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister but because of his rude behavior towards the Turkish Ambassador in Tel Aviv, Ahmet Oguz Celikkol. I also rejected his claim with regards to the support my country gives to the Palestinian Authority, reminding him that Saudi Arabia has provided more than $500 million to the Palestinian Authority during the past 5 years as a measure to cover its deficit.
Ayalon then asked me to come up to the podium and shake his hand to show that there were no hard feelings, and I pointed out that it was up to him to come down [from the podium] to me, and when we stood face to face he said that he apologizes for what he said, and I replied that I accept his apology, not only to me but also to the Turkish ambassador.
Senator Joseph Lieberman, member of the US Senate, was with him on the stage, and in the beginning he objected to my refusal to sit with the Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister, but after listening to my words he also expressed his regret for misunderstanding my actions and he praised my direct clarification of the situation.
However this incident should not be taken out of context or misunderstood, and my strong objection and condemnation of Israel’s policies and actions against the Palestinians remains unchanged. It is clear that Israel’s Arab neighbors want peace, but they cannot tolerate behavior that falls within the framework of theft and therefore should not be pressured into rewarding Israel for returning land that did not belong to it in the first place.
Until Israel heeds US President Barak Obama’s call to remove all settlements, Israel must be under no illusion that Saudi Arabia will offer what it most desires and that is regional recognition.