Israeli policies obstacle to peace: Al-Faisal
Saudi Arabia has slammed the policies of Israel's new right-wing government as dangerous and an obstacle to Middle East peace and called upon the international community to pile pressure on Tel Aviv to change them.
Describing the policies of the new Israeli government as dangerous, Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal said the Jewish state "could not be expected to automatically change its stand."
Addressing a joint press conference with British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, Prince Saud said there was an urgent need for solid and firm international action, especially on the part of the United States, to pressure Israel to change its policies that contravene international laws and the requirements of peace.
He also expressed concerns over Israel's continued violation of international law and warned that the Arab peace initiative "will not always be there on the table."
Prince Saud and Miliband attended the fourth meeting of the UK-Saudi Arabia "Two Kingdoms Dialogue" at the Conference Palace here yesterday morning. The two addressed the meeting's dialogue session, focusing on key issues affecting both countries, and spelled out plans to further boost bilateral ties. In the dialogue session, youngsters from both countries outlined their views to key decision-makers from both countries. They also made recommendations on building trust and understanding, and called on both governments to empower young people to take a lead.
This ministerial-level dialogue follows the second Saudi-British Youth Forum that was organized in January.
The dialogue session was also attended by Saudi Ambassador to Britain Prince Muhammad bin Nawaf, British Ambassador William Patey, Deputy Foreign Minister for Economic and Cultural Affairs Yousef Al-Sadoun, and co-chair of the Saudi-British Business Council Baroness Simons.
Prince Saud said that Arab states still backed the Arab peace initiative, which offers Israel full recognition in return for the creation of a Palestinian state based on pre-1967 borders. He said that the "negative remarks" by the government of Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman dampen the chances of peace. He also strongly denounced the recent flare-up of violence in Iraq, saying he hopes the Iraqi government could successfully track the attackers.
Referring to the fragile situation in Lebanon, Prince Saud and Miliband jointly called for a fair and peaceful election, which is scheduled for June 7 this year. Prince Saud said that the elections represent an opportunity to revive Lebanon's political life.
In response to a question, Miliband called for a "united front" between Gulf countries and global powers to deal with Iran. "I know that many countries in the region are concerned not just about the dangers of Iran's nuclear program but also about Iranian activities in the region that cause instability," he added.
"I think it's very important that there is a united front between Europe, America, Russia and China, and the Gulf countries in addressing the range of issues that are posed by the Iranian regime."
In his opening remarks at the press conference, Prince Saud appreciated the role of the British government in organizing the G-20 summit and said that the "world has become more interconnected" than ever and therefore needs to work more cohesively to contain the global recession.
"It was difficult to predict the extent of the potential impact of the decisions taken at the G-20 summit now," he said. Sounding optimistic, he said the stimulus programs that were formulated would restore confidence, boost growth and promote reform of the international financial system with a view to achieving stability and prosperity.
"We consider that the commitments of the Kingdom in financing and implementing the ambitious national development program constitute in itself a contribution to the global stimulus program," he added.
He also called on British companies to take advantage of opportunities made available by the program in the Kingdom.
Referring to the fragile situation in Afghanistan, Miliband said the Afghan government should intensify efforts to reconcile different factions. On Iraq, he said the situation there is very fragile. He also said it is important for both Palestinians and Israelis to adhere to the commitments of their predecessors. Commenting on Iran, he said it is important there is maximum support to America's approach to the issue of Iran's nuclear program.
Miliband said that the UK had been coordinating efforts with Egypt, which has been entrusted with the task of reconciling Palestinian factions by the Arab League. He also confirmed Britain's support for a Palestinian state alongside Israel, with a shared capital in Jerusalem. He said that the "Two Kingdoms Dialogue" had helped greatly to improve bilateral ties between Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom, and that the two countries should work together to build a global society more conducive to the promotion of the values of dialogue, tolerance and moderation.
Speaking at the "Two Kingdoms Dialogue," Prince Saud said that continuing meetings between the young people from the two countries have given them excellent opportunities to know each other and exchange views within the framework of "their shared human concerns to build a better future." On the commercial front, he said Saudi Arabia has become the UK's principal trading partner in the Middle East and the trade volume has doubled.
"In the investment sector, the UK is among the Kingdom's principal investment partners and there are more than 150 joint projects with a total value of about SR55 billion," said Prince Saud.
He pointed out that the number of Saudi students in the UK had gone up by 700 percent since 2000. The total number exceeds 15,000, he noted.
Miliband said he and Prince Saud were also discussing a proposal to simplify visa procedures and grant a five-year multiple-entry visa on a reciprocal basis. This was one of the recommendations read out by Simons in the presence of the two ministers. As part of the recommendations, Simons urged the two governments to accelerate negotiations on an investment protection agreement.
Miliband also held talks with Second Deputy Premier and Minister of Interior Prince Naif before wrapping up his visit to the Kingdom yesterday.