DUBAI (AFP) – Saudi Arabia, one of Washington’s top allies in the Middle East, on Tuesday hailed new US President Barack Obama’s desire to bolster ties with the Arab world.
Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal praised Obama for “his desire to have a strong and fruitful relationship with the Arab world” and said his stance was a “positive development” in Washington’s policy towards the Middle East.
In an interview with the Al-Arabiya satellite television network on Monday, Obama sought to assure the Muslim world that “Americans are not your enemy” and urged Israelis and Palestinians to return to the negotiating table.
Obama has promised to directly address Middle East questions at the start of his presidency rather than waiting for years like his predecessor George W. Bush, but said he did not want expectations raised too high for swift progress for peace, following the Israeli war against Hamas in Gaza.
Prince Saud told the Saudi-funded and Dubai-based Al-Arabiya that a resolution of the Middle East conflict would “automatically contribute to the resolution of other regional crises.”
He said Arab nations were ready to discuss with Obama’s administration the Saudi-initiated peace plan which dates back to 2002 calling for a normalisation of ties with Israel in return for a full withdrawal from Arab land occupied in 1967.
“Arab states… have no reservations in holding a fruitful dialogue to respond to any questions posed by the American administration about the peace plan,” he said.