London, Asharq Al-Awsat – Saudi Ambassador to the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, Prince Mohammed Bin Nawaf, criticized some British newspapers and claimed that they had published false information about his country, during a working lunch hosted by the Saudi Embassy in London yesterday and attended by a number of British officials and members of the House of Lords and House of Commons.
During his talks with the British officials, Prince Mohammed Bin Nawaf discussed a number of issues, including the recently uncovered assassination plot targeting Saudi ambassador to Washington, Adel al-Jubeir.
He also revealed that Riyadh has made repeated appeals to the Syrian government to respond to the Syrian people’s calls for reform, stressing that Saudi Arabia respects the choices of the people of Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Yemen.
As for the issue of the Gulf Peninsula Shield Force, Prince Mohammed Bin Nawaf said that Saudi Arabia’s participation in protecting the security of Bahrain took place within the framework of the Gulf Cooperation Council [GCC] Joint Defense Agreement, stressing that the only state that saw this step as a threat was Iran. The Saudi Ambassador to Britain said that Iran viewed the Gulf Peninsula Shield Force’s presence in Bahrain as a threat to its regional interests, and resorted to deceptive propaganda methods under the pretext of protecting human rights.
Prince Mohammed Bin Nawaf also stressed that the developments taking place in Saudi Arabian society are moving in harmony with social and cultural changes. He added that these developments confirm the Saudi government’s willingness to listen, debate, and work in the best interests of the citizens of Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi ambassador to the UK made these statements during a working lunch held at the Saudi Arabian Embassy in London on Wednesday, also attended by Chairman of the UK’s Defence Select Committee MP James Arbuthnot, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the British Ministry of Justice MP Crispin Blunt, former British Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth, House of Lords member Baron Rogan, MP Daniel Kawczynski, and other members of the British Defence Select Committee and Foreign Affairs Committee, as well as a number of other British members of parliament.
In his speech, Saudi Ambassador to the UK, Prince Mohammed Bin Nawaf welcomed the British members of the House of Lords and the House of Commons, making reference to the strong ties between Saudi Arabia and Britain. He stressed that these ties have been strengthened by decades of bilateral partnership in a number of different areas.
Prince Mohammed Bin Nawaf said “today, the continuation of these relations, and their development and growth is good for both countries in particular and the world in general.”
However he did reveal that some British newspapers have published misconceptions about the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, saying that such misconceptions have been taken as reality by certain sections of British society.
Prince Mohammed Bin Nawaf added “it has become normal nowadays for the political and economic efforts of the Saudi Arabian government with regards to the issue of reform to be underestimated, and there is a disaffected group within British society that does not accept what Saudi Arabia is doing, and this is a position that must be addressed not just by rhetoric, but also with facts.”
The Saudi Ambassador to the UK also stressed that “our two countries [Saudi Arabia and Britain] share many concerns such as human rights, economic and political growth, and combatting terrorism.” He added “these issues cannot be solved overnight, but rather they require reflection and action commensurate with the complexities of culture and tradition.”
In his speech at the Saudi embassy on Wednesday, the ambassador confirmed that “human rights is a fundamental issue in our thinking and an indisputable part of our faith” adding “allow me to reveal the achievements made by the Saudi government in the promotion and protection of these rights.”
In this regard, Prince Mohammed Bin Nawaf referred to the issuance of decisions permitting the establishment of governmental and non-governmental human rights organizations, stressing that these organizations have promoted and supported the concept of human rights in [Saudi] civil society.
He stressed that “the [Saudi] press, as well as individuals, now have the freedom to publish news of any transgressions or abuse of human rights.”
He also referred to the strengthening of the role of the Saudi Arabian judiciary, now being granted greater independence. He was referring to the issuance of the 2007 law establishing a Supreme Court, which has the authority to take final [judicial] decisions. This new Supreme Court replaced the Supreme Judicial Council as Saudi Arabia’s highest court authority, also transferring powers such as the authority to establish and abolish courts, and name judges.
He added “this development did not escape the attention of the Human Rights Watch organization, which praised the reforms being undertaken by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz with regards to the judiciary in a 2010 report.”
Prince Mohammed Bin Nawaf also made reference to the issuance of a number of royal decrees granting women the right to obtain a business license, as well as allowing women to vote in municipal elections, and indeed stand as election candidates for the municipal Council and Shura Council.
The Saudi Ambassador to the UK added that there are a number of other examples in this regard. He stressed that what is happening in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia represents a natural progression in line with social and cultural changes, adding that this reform and development represents clear proof of the Saudi government’s willingness to listen, debate, and work in the best interests of the people of Saudi Arabia.
As for the economy, Prince Mohammed Bin Nawaf stressed that his country is on solid ground and its economy is growing strongly, despite the political instability in the region.
He indicated that the Saudi government has been able to successfully manage the country’s economy with regards to growth and development, which is why Saudi Arabia is the region’s largest economy, and the fifth fastest growing economy in the world, according to a World Bank report.
Prince Mohammed Bin Nawaf also revealed that the Saudi government has allocated $400 billion for the development of infrastructure in the Kingdom, including airports, roads, as well as programs focusing on education and training, research and development, information technology, health care, social affairs, and security services.
He added “despite this expenditure, the Saudi Arabia budget remains in surplus, whilst foreign exchange reserves have increased to more than $500 billion. The strong economic position of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia means it is an indispensable country, and Saudi Arabia has taken this position in the international arena in a responsible manner, making it difficult to ignore our interests.”
As for the political arena, he revealed that Saudi Arabia is committed to guaranteeing peace and security in the Middle East, and ensuring that the world is a better place for humanity, pointing to the efforts exerted by Saudi Arabia to resolve the Palestinian Cause.
Prince Mohammed Bin Nawaf said “the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia strongly believes that peace will remain a distant dream unless there is a just and lasting solution for the Palestinians. The suffering of the Palestinians does not affect them alone, but it affects all of us, and as British Foreign Secretary William Hague previously said, the world will be a more dangerous place if the Palestinian questions remains without a solution.”
He also referred to the initiative put forward by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz for Middle East peace, stressing that this initiative which received unanimous support from the Arab world represents a rational solution to the conflict.
The Saudi Ambassador to the UK also said “it is unfortunate that the present Israeli leadership chose to ignore the initiative and play for time and search for alternatives to continue their control of the Palestinians” adding that “the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia does not accept, and will not approve, these [Israeli] demands. Peace is a necessity, and Israel must abide by international law and United Nations resolutions.”
Prince Mohammed Bin Nawaf also acknowledged that Saudi Arabia had been subject to criticism in Britain for sending forces to Bahrain; however he stressed that these forces had been deployed to Bahrain at the invitation of the government of the Kingdom of Bahrain and according to the GCC Joint Defense Agreement in order to protect Bahrain’s vital infrastructure.
He said “only one government in the world has taken a contrary view to everyone else with regards to what happened in Bahrain, and that is Iran, who saw this step as a threat to their interests and resorted to deceptive propaganda methods under the pretext of protecting human rights.”
The Saudi ambassador to Britain also revealed that the Saudi Arabian government has repeatedly appealed to the Syrian regime to respond to the Syrian people’s calls for reform, also making reference to the personal address issued by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to end the security forces suppression of the unarmed Syrian people, noting that the Syrian leadership failed to listen to the Saudi monarch’s advice.
He also stressed that countries such as Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Yemen are important to Saudi Arabia, and that Riyadh respects the choices of their people, and always extends the hand of brotherhood and assistance to them.
As for the issue of counter-terrorism and security, Prince Mohammed Bin Nawaf said “we have strongly fought terrorism, and we have succeeded, thanks to God, in crushing Al Qaeda and eliminating it from the territory of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, however we remain vigilant and are working hard with our allies to eliminate the sources of terrorism who are committing crimes in the name of Islam.”
He also said that “Saudi Arabia, the cradle of Islam, is committed to confronting such evil and debunking this [terrorist] ideology, and in this regard the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has submitted a proposal to establish an international center to combat terrorism” adding that “this is a project that is endorsed by the UN.” Prince Mohamed Bin Nawaf also revealed that “the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz, may God protect him, has donated $10 million to support this [project].” He stressed that “the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will work on all fronts to defeat terrorism, and with the help of God, will prevail.”
Prince Mohammed Bin Nawaf concluded his speech by saying “the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, whose leadership has taken strong and measured reformative steps, has emerged as a state that is equipped with everything necessary to play a key role in the Middle East and the world.”
The Saudi ambassador also answered a number of questions put to him by his guests on a number of political and cultural issues, as well as the bilateral relations between Britain and Saudi Arabia.
Answering a question on Iran and its behaviour in the regional and international arena, Prince Mohammed Bin Nawaf said “it is the fate of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Iran that they are neighbours in the same region, and nobody can change this reality, however Iran is acting irrationally, and the latest such behaviour was the attempt to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the US, Mr. Adel al-Jubeir”. He added that Iran’s irrational behaviour is clear to see with regards to its policies on Lebanon, Iraq, Bahrain, and Yemen.
The Saudi Ambassador to the UK also addressed questions put to him by British MPs and officials on the situation in Bahrain, Egypt, Libya, and Syria as well as the future of the Arab League and the oil market. Prince Mohammed Bin Nawaf also talked about the spread of social networking media, and the economic situation in Saudi Arabia.
MP Daniel Kawczynski expressed his thanks and appreciation to Saudi Ambassador to Britain, Prince Mohammed Bin Nawaf, for his hospitality, and revealed that he will be visiting Saudi Arabia in December along with a British parliamentary delegation. The British MP said that this visit comes following the successful visit of a Saudi Shura Council delegation to London earlier this year.