Jeddah, Asharq Al-Awsat – Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal met with his British counterpart, William Hague, in Jeddah yesterday. Following the meeting, Prince Saud Al-Faisal held a joint press conference with the British Foreign Minister, during which he revealed that the talks had dealt with bilateral relations between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom, in addition to the various crises taking place in the region, as well as the Gulf Cooperation Council [GCC] initiative to resolve the crisis in Yemen.
Prince Saud al-Faisal welcomed the launch of comprehensive national dialogue in the neighboring Kingdom of Bahrain, and the formation of an independent fact-finding committee which will investigate the recent unrest in Bahrain.
The Saudi Foreign Minister stressed that Saudi Arabia was assured by the restoration of security and stability in Bahrain, and welcomed the launch of comprehensive national dialogue as decreed by King Hamad Bin Isa al-Khalifa of Bahrain. He added that Saudi Arabia also welcomed the process of genuine reform and development taking place in Bahrain, whilst stressing the comprehensive rejection of any foreign interference in Bahraini internal affairs, or any attempts to tamper with the security of Gulf States or incite sedition within them.
Prince Saud al-Faisal also said that Saudi Arabia is monitoring the events taking place in the region, although he stressed that Riyadh is committed to not interfering in the internal affairs of other countries. He added that Saudi Arabia is deeply pained and saddened at the huge civilian death toll caused by these regional crises, adding that “we call on all parties to be prudent and wise while tackling this matter, evade more bloodshed, and carry out serious reforms that guarantee human rights.” He stressed that “King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz is committed to the security and stability of the Arab world, and maintenance of the unity and independence of its countries.”
As for the peace process in the Middle East, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said “we support the international community’s efforts to revive the peace process between the Palestinians and the Israelis on the basis of starting with border and security negotiation in order to pave the way for dealing with other fundamental issues, most notably the issue of Jerusalem, within less than a year.” He added that “this is so that negotiations could reach the state of establishing an independent viable Palestinian state within the framework of the two-state solution.” He also stressed that efforts in this regard would not succeed unless the Israeli policy of rejection and intransigence which continues to challenge sincere international efforts to resolve this situation was dealt with seriously and firmly.
For his part, British Foreign Secretary William Hague expressed his happiness at visiting Saudi Arabia, adding that Britain is looking forward to future relations with the country. He stressed that “at a time of great upheaval and change in the region, our constructive cooperation on regional issues including Yemen, Bahrain, Syria, Iran, and the Middle East peace process, is even more critical.”
As for the conflicting Iranian statements being made on Saudi Arabia, Prince Saud al-Faisal said that this was normal in politics, adding that “I would like to state that there was a series of talks with Iran in the past, including a scheduled visit for [former] Iranian Foreign Minister [Manouchehr Mottaki] to visit Riyadh…however they placed some conditions that we did not agree with..” However the Saudi Foreign Minister revealed that “recently the new Iranian Foreign Minister [Ali Akbar Salehi] telephoned me whilst he was in Pakistan, expressing his wish to continue [bilateral] dialogue. I told him that Iran has already received an invitation [to visit], and that…they are welcome. He then offered to hold a tripartite meeting in Kuwait [between Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Kuwait].” However Prince Saud al-Faisal expressed reservations about this proposal, saying that Saudi Arabia would prefer to address this issue [relations with Iran] bilaterally.
During the talks, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal and British Foreign Secretary William Hague also discussed the situation in Lebanon. Prince Saud al-Faisal announced that Saudi Arabia calls on all Lebanese political factions to respond to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon’s indictment with the requisite reason and calm, away from the language of division, in addition to avoiding any escalation or confrontation with the international community.
As for Yemen, where demonstrations have been taking place since January, Hague stressed that Britain encourages all parties “to engage in political dialogue…and for an orderly transfer of power [to take place].” Whilst Prince Saud al-Faisal said that Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh – who has been hospitalized in Saudi Arabia for more than a month recovering from wounds received in a bomb attack on his palace – “is in good health, generally speaking.”