Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Prince Saud al-Faisal, has spoken out on key political issues in the region, such as Iraq’s constitution, terrorism, and Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
The exclusive interview, which appears in the January 27 issue of MEED magazine (Middle East Economic Digest), comes at a time when Riyadh is reasserting itself on the international political stage after more than three years.
Prince Saud discusses Riyadh's attempt's to foster international cooperation in the war against terrorism. He said: “Terrorism has affected our foreign policy in many ways and one of the main areas that our foreign policy is now taking is to make the struggle international. To have everybody involved is the only way to defeat terrorism.”
The minister goes some way to answer allegations – covered in the US media - that Riyadh is not doing enough to stop Saudi nationals entering Iraq to join the insurgency.
“I don’t know why Saudi Arabia is singled out,” says Prince Saud. “It has made more efforts than anybody else in both these aspects. Even in the matter of the terrorists in Iraq, [the US] tell us they were from Saudi Arabia but they have never told us the numbers or never showed us these Saudis or even given us their names.
“We have done everything that we can - we catch hundreds of them. We are working with all the families in Saudi Arabia to prevent their sons from going to Iraq and we have spoken to religious people to convince the people that this is not Jihad.”
Prince Saud went on to express deep concern about neighbouring Iran’s nuclear ambitions, warning that they could have disastrous consequences for the region.
“We are urging Iran to follow our position: that the Gulf and the Middle East should be nuclear free. We hope that they will join us in this policy and ensure that no new threat of an arms race will happen in the region.”
Other subjects covered during the far-reaching interview are Prince Saud’s belief that a review of Iraq’s new constitution is needed; Iran should abandon its nuclear ambitions; and how Damascus should cooperate fully with the UN investigation into the murder of Rafiq Hariri.