Remarks With Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Al Faisal

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
February 15, 2010

FOREIGN MINISTER SAUD: (Via interpreter) (Inaudible) these issues and other international issues of interest to our two countries. It’s worthy of note that these consultations covered the vital regional issues and the other international issues of interest to our two countries. It’s worthy of note that this week marks the passing 65 years since the first meeting between the leaderships of our two countries was held. His Majesty King Abdul-Aziz al Saud, the founder of modern Saudi Arabia, met His Excellency President Franklin Roosevelt. The two leaders laid the foundation of Saudi-U.S. relations which are based on mutual respect, the promotion of joint interests, and joint efforts to serve the United Nations pursuit for achieving international peace and security.

These principles have helped our two countries to steadfastly confront all challenges and to take significant steps to consolidate bilateral relations and to move toward a significant strategic stage, according to an institutional framework and through direct contacts between concerned bodies in both countries and signing civil agreements and memos of understanding in all fields of scientific, economic, security, and military cooperation.

Of course, among the most salient results of this cooperation is the (inaudible) increase of Saudi students in the United States from 3,000 students to about 25,000 during the last few years. Also, there is an increase in the volume of trade and investment and the visits of Saudi and U.S. nationals at both official and (inaudible) levels. Together with the advent of businessmen, this has increased the burden of our consular missions who are required to issue more and more visas and who sometimes face media campaigns calling for its expediting and facilitating measures. In this connection, I raised the issue of tightening the travel measures against Saudi nationals. I noticed that the U.S. Government has sympathetic understanding of the Saudi viewpoint and the Saudi concern in this regard, and that the tightening of measures applies to all travelers to the United States and emanates from our keenness to achieve a balance between security measures and respect of civilian freedoms and basic rights.

Within the framework of considering regional and international issues, the peace process received particular attention. We (inaudible) and reviewed current efforts. We actually appreciate the prompt movement of the U.S. Administration to resuscitate the peace process and to treat the major issue of conflict within the framework of the two-state solution which aims at (inaudible) autonomous and viable Palestinian state. We also believe that Israeli settlements are illegal and illegitimate. The Kingdom believes in the importance of launching the peace process comprehensively to treat all the main issues of the conflict simultaneously, according to specific terms of reference and a clear-cut time schedule taking into account that the step-by-step policy and the confidence-building (inaudible) strategy have failed to accomplish their objectives. This is mostly evidenced by the current Israeli Government’s refusal to resume negotiations starting from the negotiations steps that were taken by the previous government.

Our talks also considered the Iranian nuclear issue. The Kingdom reiterates its support of the P-1+5 or the 1+5 group to solve the crisis peacefully through dialogue, and we call for a continuation of those efforts. We also call upon Iran to respond to these efforts to remove regional and international suspicions towards its nuclear program, particularly since the efforts of the group secure or recognize the right of Iran and all the states in the region to peacefully utilize nuclear energy according to the criteria and the measures of the International Atomic Energy Agency and under its surveillance and supervision.

The Kingdom also stresses the importance of regional and international efforts being focused on having the Middle East and the Gulf region being totally free from all weapons of mass destruction, notably nuclear weapons. It also stresses the criteria that the standards must apply to all states in the region without exception, including Israel’s nuclear program. History testifies that any weapon that enter the region has been used.

We also discussed the current situation in Yemen and we welcomed the Yemeni Government’s decision to observe a ceasefire in north Yemen. We hope that all parties will abide by this decision in order to make peace and stability prevail in the brotherly country and to direct our efforts towards consolidating Yemeni national unity and achieving the country’s development and prosperity.

We also discussed the situation in Afghanistan in the light of the current London conference. In the light of the recent London conference, we stressed the importance of having military efforts accompanied by civilian efforts (inaudible) helping Afghanistan to develop its infrastructure and to achieve its social and economic development, and to support national reconciliation among those citizens. This is the only way to save Afghanistan from that state of despair and frustration and insecurity – a state that has been exploited by terrorist organizations to achieve their wishes – objectives.

Our joined security efforts have substantially helped to combat terrorism. These efforts must be continued and intensified to completely eliminate this hateful world phenomenon and to eradicate it completely. For its part, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is determined to continue the policy of combating terrorism in all its security, ideological, and financial aspects. It has actually achieved a considerable amount of success in thwarting several terrorist operations domestically and also in preventing other terrorist operations from being launched from its territory. These achievements have been made thanks to God’s help and the support of all Saudi people, all Saudi citizens who support all these efforts to eradicate this alien type of culture which is alien to the culture of the Saudi people.

We also discussed the situation in Iraq. We hope that the forthcoming elections will realize the aspirations of the Iraqi people to achieve security, stability, and territorial integrity and to consolidate its national unity on the basis of equality among all Iraqis irrespective of their beliefs and sectarian differences and to protect their country against any foreign intervention in their affairs.

Once again, I welcome Her Excellency the Secretary and I am pleased to give her the floor.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much. I am delighted to be here today with the foreign minister and to have had this opportunity for a very active day of consultation and conversation, both with the foreign minister and with the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, His Majesty King Abdullah.

The United States and Saudi Arabia have long shared a partnership. As the foreign minister said, it goes back 65 years this week to another meeting between our President and the Saudi King. It is a partnership that is both durable and dynamic. It is built on mutual respect and mutual interests, and it is crucial to our shared hopes for the future. I am pleased to have had this opportunity to both reaffirm that partnership and discuss how we can broaden and strengthen it.

There are many, many important issues that we discussed together today. And last night, I reaffirmed at the speech that I gave at the United States-Islamic World Forum President Obama’s vision of renewed partnership and shared responsibility. Tomorrow, I will have the privilege of meeting with Saudi citizens in Jeddah, including women, students, business leaders, civil society advocates, to explore further the bonds between our people and the common aspirations that we all share: security for ourselves and our communities; a better life for our families; and the chance for all children to live up to their God-given potential.

A pillar of this broad engagement is the idea that we must take shared responsibility. We face common challenges, as the foreign minister said. We discussed Afghanistan and Pakistan, the extremist groups who operate from bases there who have killed people of many faiths in many countries. Both the United States and Saudi Arabia have been targeted, so we know what is at stake. And I want to extend my appreciation to the Kingdom for the effort that it has undertaken to combat terrorism everywhere.

Our two nations also share the goal of a comprehensive peace in the Middle East. The King and foreign minister and I discussed how best to re-launch credible and productive negotiation on Middle East that will achieve both parties’ aspirations. The 2002 Arab Peace Initiative is vital to the efforts necessary to promote a comprehensive peace and it lays out a vision of a better future for all of the region’s people. It is time to renew its spirit today and to move towards specifics.

The United States believes that through good faith negotiations the parties can mutually agree on an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the 1967 lines with agreed swaps, and the Israeli goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israeli security requirements. We believe it is possible to reach an outcome that both realizes the aspirations of all people for Jerusalem and safeguards its status for the future.

While encouraging negotiations, the international community must also support the work of President Abbas, Prime Minister Fayyad, and the Palestinian Authority to build the Palestinian economy and institutions necessary for a viable and independent Palestinian state that provides security, rule of law, and essential services to the Palestinian people.

We also discussed Iran’s increasingly disturbing and destabilizing actions. For the past year, the United States has led an unprecedented effort to launch a new relationship with Iran. With our partners, we have sought to meet with Iran to chart a path for a fully peaceful nuclear program within international safeguards. But Iran has refused to reciprocate, and since October has refused every offer to meet with the P-5+1 representatives on its nuclear program. Now, Iran has informed the IAEA that it will start producing higher grade enriched uranium. This announcement is a provocative move in defiance of the United Nations Security Council resolution. The Iranian Government knows that this risks creating more regional instability and will result in increasing isolation.

International solidarity is critical in dealing with Iran. We are working actively with our regional and international partners in the context of our dual-track approach to prepare and implement new measures to convince Iran to change its course. We will also continue to speak out against the ongoing human rights violations in Iran, which we have seen again this past week.

And we also discussed the importance of our continued cooperation on Yemen. When Prince Saud and I attended the January 27th London meeting on Yemen, we agreed with those present to coordinate our assistance to help the Yemeni Government implement needed political and economic reforms. The Government of Yemen presented at that conference its own plan for national economic development. We look forward to supporting that plan. We want to help the government promote security and minimize the threat from violent extremists within its borders. We also discussed a provision of reconstruction aid to Yemen’s war-ravaged northern region now that a ceasefire has been announced, which we hope will hold.

So on these and many other fronts, the dialogue and partnership between the United States and the Kingdom provides a foundation for progress. I am very pleased to have the foreign minister as a partner as we work to strengthen the ties between our nations and our people. And again, I want to thank him and His Majesty for the gracious hospitality showed to me and our entire delegation, including the traveling members of the American press who were included in an absolutely wonderful lunch that the King hosted for us. Thank you again for all of this warm welcome that has been provided to us.

FOREIGN MINISTER SAUD: I hope they remember it. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Your Royal Highness, first of all, let me pass along our gratitude at being included today. Please pass that along to His Majesty. And two questions for you.

The first is, as the U.S. seeks to build international support for sanctions against Iran, there’s been a lot of talk about the role that Saudi Arabia could play by reassuring the Chinese that it will guarantee a reliable supply of oil in the event that there were some disruptions in the global oil supply. I wonder whether you have conveyed that message to the Chinese Government. And if you haven’t conveyed it, do you think it makes sense for Saudi Arabia to take that step?

And then one quick follow-up, if I may. Secretary of State Clinton said earlier today that the United States would pledge to defend its friends and allies in the region from Iranian aggression. This has been characterized by some as the creation of a security or a defense umbrella for the region. Do you think that the notion of a security umbrella makes sense for the Persian Gulf? Would you feel comfortable with such an arrangement?

FOREIGN MINISTER SAUD: Well, you put your finger on the threats that face the nation – the region because of the position that Iran has taken not to come out forthrightly and accept the proposal that would have resolved this dispute to the benefit of all, allowing Iran to produce atomic energy and providing the safety and the security of the region.

As I said in my statement, the inclusion of atomic weapons in the region is dangerous because historically we have seen that there has been no weapon introduced to the region, but as (inaudible) how destructive or inhumane in its use. So things are not going to remain static. Proliferation is not something that one can look at lightly. You allow for proliferation to happen here, the genie jumps from another place. And so Iran, if it continues on the line that is continuing, will provide the impetus for further proliferation and, God forbid, see the region full of atomic weapons. So this is a threat that we do not want to even conceive, let alone do something about it. We think that the United Nations Security Council and the permanent members have a specific and special responsibility in this matter.

Saudi Arabia and its relations with China, of course, are a close relationship, and especially the economic sphere (inaudible) produces of oil that is exported to China. But it is not a matter of just Saudi Arabia and China; we have to come with a real plan to prevent the proliferation of atomic weapons in the region. This is why we put our proposal that the region be free, declared free of atomic weapons and weapons of mass destruction. We believe that is the right approach.

Sanctions are a long-term solution. (Inaudible) we can judge. But we see the issue in the shorter term, maybe because we are closer to the threats than that. So we need immediate resolutions rather than gradual resolution to this regard.

I am sure the Chinese carry their responsibility as one of the five permanent members of the United Nations very seriously and they need no suggestion from Saudi Arabia to do what they ought to do according to their responsibility.

Sorry for the long-winded response.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) (Inaudible) for targeting the airplanes by al-Qaida (inaudible) by the al-Qaida (inaudible) the cooperation between Washington and Riyadh in combating against terrorism. And so how do the United States evaluate and see the efforts (inaudible) by the security forces in Saudi Arabia in this regard?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, the United States and Saudi Arabia have a shared experience with terrorism and a shared determination to protect our people from those who, as the foreign minister said, would use terrorism to undermine the security or the financial or the physical well-being of the people of either of our countries. And I think it’s a challenge that we all have to meet. The foreign minister called terrorism an alien culture, and I think that’s exactly right. I’ve never heard it called that before, but I think he very accurately describes what is an effort to intimidate people, to frighten people, to create conditions in which people do not feel safe in their own homes or going to a market or a movie theater or a volleyball game or a mosque. And no country can tolerate that. We owe our citizens the protection that they deserve.

So we do look to the Kingdom to advise and guide our efforts. We cooperate together, as we do with many other countries. And I think that increasingly, the terrorists are being seen for what they are, as aliens, no matter who they pretend to represent. They are trying to go into societies and wreak fear and danger in ways that must be combated, and the United States is committed to doing so and working with other leaders and countries like Saudi Arabia who share that commitment.

QUESTION: Thank you. Mr. Foreign Minister, earlier today, Secretary Clinton warned that Iran’s Government was being taken over by a shadowy force, the Revolutionary Guards, that could lead to a military dictatorship in Iran. Do you agree with her statement, and how do you think Iran’s growing power affects what Saudi Arabia has called the traditional equilibrium in the region?

And then for Madam Secretary, how would you assess the state of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia?

FOREIGN MINISTER SAUD: (Inaudible.) which is a very extremist policy (inaudible) it is important (inaudible) if we want security for the region, it requires an Iran at peace and happy with itself. And we hope that that situation will be solved soon, but it is a matter of calming down – but it is now a matter of extremism. I think it will be a difficult time for the region in the future.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Let me just add to the foreign minister’s comments. I think that the change in Iran from democratically elected governments, whether one agreed with them or not, which had the support of the Iranian people, to what we see today is very dramatic and troubling. And increasingly, more and more aspects of Iranian society – security apparatus, the economy – are being controlled not by the clerical leadership, not by the political leadership, but by the Revolutionary Guard. I share the foreign minister’s hope that this is not a permanent change, but that instead the religious and political leaders of Iran act to take back the authority which they should be exercising on behalf of the people.

It’s a very difficult environment for normal politics to take place by Iranian standards. And in many conversations with experts on Iran, with exiles from Iran, with former prisoners in Iran, the message is very clear that the space keeps shrinking for either religious or civilian leadership. And something else is filling that space, and so far as we can tell, it’s the expanded power of the Revolutionary Guard.

Now, with respect to women in Saudi Arabia, I am delighted that I’ll have a chance to meet with and talk to a number of women tomorrow when I’m in Jeddah. I am particularly pleased that I have in my life a number of women who are from the Kingdom who grew up here, whom I know personally. And I want to publicly recognize the efforts of His Majesty the King for the emphasis on education, the commitment to provide opportunities for young women to pursue their interests. And I am very anxious to hear directly from women themselves. I don’t want to second-guess or in any way substitute my observation for their experience, because the experts in women in the Kingdom are the women themselves. But I am very excited by many of the positive developments that I have read about and been told about over the last several years under His Majesty’s leadership.

QUESTION: (In Arabic.) (Inaudible) my question is to His Royal Prince. Iran (inaudible) controls (inaudible) and this can threaten the economical interests and (inaudible) can create crisis with the Iranian authority. What is the stand of the oil-exporting countries with regard to this announcement, and why is your (inaudible) measures that you can take to establish some sort of international stand against Iran?

FOREIGN MINISTER SAUD: (Via interpreter) If this is true, this is considered an act of war – this announcement will be received as an act of war and this (inaudible) concerned with the (inaudible) other than it would be threatening the international peace and security and to be hazardous action to be taken by the Iran authority. We hope that this announcement (inaudible) false, but if it is true, it would be very hazardous and threatening.

Thank you.

PRN: 2010/T22-05