Remarks With Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal
Secretary of State
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, good afternoon, and thank you very much for being here. It is a pleasure for me to welcome His Royal Highness Prince Saud here back to the State Department, a building he has spent more time in than I have. (Laughter.) So it’s a delight and an honor.
I think it is so self-evident but bears repeating that Saudi Arabia has been a close friend and ally of the United States for many years. Our partnership is grounded in mutual respect and mutual interest. Our two nations seek to maintain an open and active dialogue on a wide range of bilateral, regional, and global challenges, including achieving a comprehensive peace in the Middle East based on the two-state solution, ending Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, confronting violent extremism, and encouraging economic recovery and growth.
Today, Prince Saud and I discussed ways we can broaden and deepen our partnership, including the continuation of the U.S.-Saudi Strategic Dialogue, something that was discussed between His Majesty the King and President Obama.
I thanked the Prince for the leadership that King Abdullah and his government has shown by championing the Arab Peace Initiative. The wide support for the King’s plan is very encouraging. But of course, we need to do more to realize the rights of Palestinians and Israelis to live in peace and security in two states, side by side.
And the United States is working very closely and intensely with the Israelis on the issues of settlements and easing living conditions for the Palestinians, and with the Palestinian Authority on improving security and ending incitement on the West Bank and in Gaza.
We have also asked the Arab states, including our friends in Saudi Arabia, to work with us to take steps to improve relations with Israel, to support the Palestinian Authority, and to prepare their people to embrace the eventual peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Saudi Arabia’s continued leadership is absolutely vital to achieve a comprehensive and lasting peace.
Prince Saud and I also discussed our other efforts to address regional security challenges. I want to underscore publicly what the Prince knows and His Majesty the King knows: The U.S. commitment to Saudi Arabia’s security is unwavering. We share concerns about the destabilizing role that Iran has played throughout the region and the continued expansion of its nuclear program and its support for terrorism. At the same time, we are working together to deny terrorists safe haven and access to funding, particularly in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
I also appreciate His Majesty the King’s and the Prince’s efforts for Saudi Arabia’s leadership within the G-20 and our mutual response to the global economic crisis.
I am also personally very pleased by the steps that His Majesty the King is taking to implement reforms, including appointing the Kingdom’s first female official as deputy minister of education. The work that the King is doing on educational reform and judicial system reform and championing interfaith dialogue is very important. And I was excited to hear about the upcoming opening of the King Abdullah University in Saudi Arabia for graduate study that will be focusing on the modern sciences.
So, Your Royal Highness, thank you. Thank you for your years of friendship, and thank you for making this visit and our commitment to continuing our dialogue. I look forward to working with you in the future on behalf of our nations and our common goals for the world.
FOREIGN MINISTER SAUD: Madame Secretary, thank you for your kind invitation and for the wonderful lunch that we just had. Frankly, I thought at one point that our meeting would be at a health facility, instead of the State Department. (Laughter.) I am glad to say that we have both recovered enough to face the media, and both know how dangerous that is.
To our friends in the media, I would like to say that our meeting was productive and fruitful. Our two nations have been friends and allies for over seven decades. We have seen the coming and breaking of many storms. Over time, our relationship has grown stronger, broader, and deeper. And our discussion today reflected the maturity of this relationship. It was frank, honest, and open, as discussion between friends must be.
Today, our two nations are working closely to promote peace between Palestinians and Israelis, to encourage reconciliation in Lebanon, to stabilize Pakistan and Afghanistan, to combat terrorism, and to emphasize the need for Iran to adhere to its obligation under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. And we consult on many more political issues as well, as global economic matters, energy and the environment. We have a large commercial relationship that benefits both our people. As you can see, we have a long list of common challenges and opportunities ahead of us. And I can say that our common interests make it incumbent upon us to closely coordinate our efforts.
Given the large number of issues we deal with, our two nations established a Strategic Dialogue in 2005. The Strategic Dialogue was designed to institutionalize the relationship between our two relevant countries and it served its purpose well. Today, the Secretary and I discussed ways to enhance its productivity and to make it more relevant to the challenges our two nations face.
I would be remiss if I didn’t express our thanks and appreciation to President Obama and to Secretary Clinton for their early and robust focus on trying to bring peace to the Middle East. I expressed to the Secretary our view that a bold and historic step is required to end this conflict and divert the resources of the region from war and destruction to peace and development.
It is time for all people in the Middle East to be able to lead normal lives. Incrementalism and a step-by-step approach has not and-- we believe-- will not achieve peace. Temporary security, confidence-building measures will also not bring peace. What is required is a comprehensive approach that defines the final outcome at the outset and launches into negotiations over final status issues: borders, Jerusalem, water, refugees and security.
The whole world knows what a settlement should look like: withdrawal from all the occupied territories, including Jerusalem; a just settlement for the refugees; and an equitable settlement of issues such as water and security. The Arab world is in accord with such a settlement through the Arab Peace Initiative adopted at the 2002 Arab Summit in Beirut which not only accepted Israel, but also offered full and complete peace and normal relations in exchange for Israeli withdrawal from all Arab territories occupied in ’67. This initiative was adopted unanimously by the Islamic countries at Makkah Summit in 2005.
Today, Israel is trying to distract by shifting attention from the core issue- an end to the occupation that began in ’67 and the establishment of a Palestinian state to-- incidental issues such as academic conferences and civil aviation matters. This is not the way to peace. Israel must decide if it wants real peace, which is at hand, or if it wants to continue obfuscating and, as a result, lead the region into a maelstrom of instability and violence.
The question is not what the Arab world will offer. That has been established. But an end to the conflict, recognition, and full normal relations as exist between countries at peace. The question really is: What will Israel give in exchange for this comprehensive offer? And remember, what Israel is asked to give in exchange for peace, namely the return of the occupied territories, never belonged to it in the first place. Israel hasn’t even responded to an American request to halt settlements which President Obama described as illegitimate.
Allow me to conclude by saying that I was pleased to discuss the issues with the Secretary, and I appreciated hearing her views on it. I thank you, Madame Secretary.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much.
MR. CROWLEY: We’ll go to question with David Gollust of VOA.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, I just – the foreign minister’s very strong opposition, obviously, to confidence-building measures before a comprehensive settlement, I wonder if that for you means that it makes it very difficult for success in this process because, of course, Senator Mitchell has made the search for confidence-building measures on each side as an interim step to a comprehensive settlement as something he’s seeking. Does this complicate your – the Administration’s efforts at peacemaking?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, I don’t think so at all. I think that the efforts we are undertaking are to create a negotiation that will lead to a comprehensive settlement in the interests of both the Palestinian and the Israeli people. There are many aspects to this. Some of them were mentioned – security, water, borders, refugees, Jerusalem. All of these have to be discussed and agreed to by the parties.
Our intention is to try to get agreement from the parties to be part of such a negotiation and to begin it, and to begin it with the intention of finishing it and resolving all of the issues in a comprehensive way. What the Arab Peace Initiative did, very importantly, was to obtain unanimous support, as His Royal Highness said, to the proposition there should be a two-state solution; that as a part of that two-state solution, there should be a recognition of Israel and relations with Israel.
We know that this is all in the process that has to be undertaken, and we are looking forward to seeing the parties sitting down at the negotiating table, supported not only by the United States, but by other nations led by Saudi Arabia and the Arab and Muslim nations that signed on to the Arab Peace Initiative.
QUESTION: You don’t see that as a setback?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, not at all.
MR. CROWLEY: Next question from Al Arabiya.
QUESTION: Thank you. Judging by what – judging by what we just heard, it seems that the differences between the United States and Saudi Arabia are fundamental on this issue, and it seems to me that the talks between President Obama and King Abdullah and the talks now are not narrowing the divide between the two – two divergent approaches. I mean, you talk about incremental measures, confidence-building measures, and the prince is talking about comprehensive approach in one fell swoop.
I mean, how – this has been – you have been at it for six months. I mean, this is for both of you: How are you going to reconcile these clearly divergent views?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I don’t see it that way, and that’s what I just said. There is no substitute for a comprehensive resolution. That is our ultimate objective. In order to get to the negotiating table, we have to persuade both sides that they can trust the other side enough to reach that comprehensive agreement.
We also know that there are a series of issues that have to be resolved. As His Royal Highness said and as I have just repeated, you have to take those issues by issues, but within the negotiation for the comprehensive peace agreement. That’s not a contradiction. Senator Mitchell has a lot of experience in negotiations, and he knows that oftentimes the hardest part is getting people to sit down across from the table. When you listen to him and he talks, for example, about his negotiations in Northern Ireland, he finally got them to sit at a table, but it took about a year for them to talk to each other.
So what we’re trying to do here is to say, look, everyone knows there are certain issues that have to be agreed upon. We’re not starting with a blank slate. There are border issues that must be agreed upon for the Palestinian people to have a viable state. There are security issues that must be agreed upon for the Israeli people to feel that they can live side-by-side. That’s all part of the comprehensive agreement, but of course there are specific issues that will go into making up that comprehensive agreement.
QUESTION: Your Highness, if the Obama Administration gets a full settlement freeze, would your country or the Arabs do anything in return?
FOREIGN MINISTER SAUD: Freeze?
FOREIGN MINISTER SAUD: Well, of course, a settlement freeze Israel has refused. And this is why we believe that making conditions right for a settlement is not by making gestures. It is by delving into the real issues. As the Secretary has said, that is what will make peace. And remember, giving up settlement is not something that Israel is giving. It is giving right, but it is not theirs. I mean, it is obvious that the withdrawal from these settlements is not something to be (inaudible) for Israel, but an important first step to real negotiations on the real issues which separate the two people, and to make peace with them.
QUESTION: Samir Nader with Radio Sawa. Your Highness, did you hear anything encouraging from the Secretary or Senator Mitchell that will enable the Kingdom to take some steps to help the U.S. in its efforts?
And to the Secretary, Madame Secretary, are you considering lifting Sudan – removing Sudan from the list of state that supports terrorism?
FOREIGN MINISTER SAUD: Of course (inaudible) is encouraging. I haven’t heard any discouraging remark that I could mention. And we are especially impressed by the President and the Secretary taking this issue right now at a time so early in the Administration. This is a positive step that we think is going to lead, hopefully, to a breakthrough in the negotiations. And the role of the United States, it is safe to say, is necessary in order to achieve any breakthrough in the negotiations. And since there is this serious intent and serious application to it, we think there is a chance for success.
SECRETARY CLINTON: With respect to your question, Samir, we have made no decision to lift the listing on the terrorist list of Sudan. As you know, there is a very intensive review going on within the Administration concerning our policy towards Sudan, but no decisions have been made.
MR. CROWLEY: Last question, Al Hayat.
QUESTION: Yes, hi. Joyce Karam with Al Hayat newspaper. Madame Secretary, my question to you is: Is the U.S. position still for a complete settlement freeze, or are you willing to take some exceptions here and there in East Jerusalem or some of the reconstruction that’s still going on?
And Your Highness, I want to ask you: What’s the Saudi position in case comprehensive negotiations resume? Do you want these negotiations to focus on the Palestinian-Israeli track, or do you prefer a multilateral approach that would involve also the Syrian and the Lebanese tracks?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, with respect to your question, thank you. We are very deep into the discussions led by Senator Mitchell, and I don’t want to preempt or preview what he is doing. But we are working very hard to position the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority to be able to sit down.
And we know there has to be some preliminary work done, including a number of issues, not just the one that you mentioned. But we feel like we’re making headway, and we are determined to do so in a matter of as short a period of time as possible. I can’t put a deadline on that; I don’t believe in that. But I think that Senator Mitchell returned from his latest trip with a clear idea of how best to get the negotiations started.
FOREIGN MINISTER SAUD: And for the last part of your question, of course, you know the Arab peace plan talks about full peace in the Middle East, total peace on all aspects of – whether between Syria and Israel, Lebanon and Israel, or Syria (inaudible), and above and beyond that, peace with all the Arab country. And now, after it was accepted by the Islamic countries, with all the Islamic countries. That is what is offered (inaudible).
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.
MR. CROWLEY: Thank you very much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you all very much.