Secretary of State John Kerry met today with King Salman, GCC Foreign Ministers and Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Saud al Faisal for consultations. SUSRIS provided the State Department’s background briefing on the visit yesterday [link]. Here for your consideration is the official Saudi Press Agency account of the briefing and press Q&A with Secretary Kerry and Prince Saud.
Prince Saud Al-Faisal: Bilateral Talks with US Secretary of State Were Fruitful and Constructive
Riyadh, Jumada I 14, 1436, Mar 5, 2015, SPA — Prince Saud Al-Faisal, Minister of Foreign Affairs, expressed thanks to and appreciation of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud for the care and attention he received during the period of his treatment. Prince Saud Al-Faisal also expressed thanks to the Saudi for their noble feelings.
Prince Saud Al-Faisal expressed delight over the return of diplomat Abdullah Al-Khalidi to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, thanking the state apparatus and the security services which participated in his safe return under the guidance of the wise leadership. Prince Saud Al-Faisal also thanked Prince Mohammed bin Naif bin Abdulaziz, Deputy Crown Prince, Second Deputy Premier and Minister of Interior, for giving the matter high priority since the first day of kidnapping Al-Khalidi.
This came in a speech by Prince Saud Al-Faisal, Minister of Foreign Affairs, during a joint press conference with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Riyadh today. Prince Saud welcomed Kerry and his accompanying delegation, pointing out that the US Secretary of State met with GCC foreign ministers and then met with Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs confirmed that the bilateral talks with the US Secretary of State were fruitful and constructive, describing the talks as transparent. The talks dealt with a wide range of issues relating to bilateral relations as well as regional and international issues of common interest.
Prince Saud Al-Faisal said ‘We discussed regional and international issues of common interest as well as the latest developments in Yemen, Syria and Libya in addition to the existing efforts exerted by the international coalition to fight terrorism; the developments of Iran’s nuclear program negotiations; the peace process in the Middle East; and other issues.’
Prince Saud Al-Faisal also said ‘With regard to Yemen, as you see, there is full international agreement on rejecting the Huthi coup d’etat on legitimacy, endeavors to impose faith accompli or the status quo with force, and refusal of the procedures resulting from this coup d’etat, including the so-called constitutional declaration by the Huthi militia. The international community expressed its full support to the legitimate government in Yemen, led by President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi. This is clearly reflected in the statements issued by GCC, Arab league and the UN Security Council.’
‘Noting these positions, efforts, and resulting decisions and measures, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia renew its emphasis upon importance of resuming the political process based on the GCC initiative, its executive mechanisms and outcomes of the Yemeni national dialogue. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia stresses importance of helping the brotherly Yemeni people out of their ordeal due to these hazardous actions, in a way that maintains Yemen’s stability and territorial integrity, and regional security and stability,’ Prince Saud Al-Faisal added.
‘We discussed counterterrorism of the international coalition and in particular anti-ISIL organization efforts, including ongoing military, security, intellectual, financial and media actions. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia underscores importance of this coalition in fighting ISIL in Iraq and Syria, and stresses the importance of providing of the military means necessary to fight this challenge on the ground, and that the campaign should have comprehensive strategic perspective, fighting terrorism wherever it may be and whatever the organizations that stand behind it, in order to uproot terrorism,’ Prince Saud Al-Faisal said.
‘Our talks included the negotiations of the Iranian nuclear program. Saudi Arabian government supports the efforts of 5+1 in view of solving this file peacefully to reach successful agreement that dissipates skepticism, and ensures not shifting it into a military program that threatens the region and the world. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia also supports the 5+1 position in seeking a firm international inspection system to ensure that Iran is not seeking the manufacture or the possession of nuclear weapons, together with maintaining Iran’s right and all regional countries right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy according IAEA’s standards, requirements and supervision’, Prince Saud Al-Faisal added.
As for the Syrian crisis in its fourth year, I think we all felt that continuity of this crisis not only led to destruction of Syria, displacement of its people and deepening their humanitarian suffering, it also made Syria a safe haven for terrorist organizations, with the endorsement of the illegitimate Bashar Al Assad’s regime. This entails a threat to Syria, the region and the world, urging us to intensify efforts to promote and support moderate opposition with all ordnance and training to encounter Al Assad’s terrorism and terrorist organizations and to expel the foreign occupier from its territories. We stress at the same time that reaching the peaceful solution based on Geneva 1 Conference that demands achieving military balance on the ground, Prince Saud Al-Faisal said.
‘We have also discussed the peace process in the Middle East within the framework of the efforts exerted by the United States recently to revive peace negotiations to reach a just, a permanent, and a comprehensive solution supported by the Arabs, Palestinians and the Arab league. Our view of the desired solution will always be; based on the principles and the resolutions of international legitimacy, and Arab Peace Initiative aiming at creation of viable independent Palestinian State. Unfortunately, these efforts are still not yielding. Everybody is clear about the Israeli policy of stubbornness and procrastination, and its unilateral forcible measures against rights of the Palestinian people. A case in point, the recent Israeli detention of the 14-year old girl Malak Al Khatib, indicted by an Israeli court martial to two months and a fine with pretext of hurling stones. This verdict calls for severe rejection and grief, particularly being passed under the sight and hearing of all world and its justice organizations, in a flagrant defiance to all human rights, and women and children rights conventions and principles,’ Prince Saud Al-Faisal added.
‘On our part, we stress the importance of international community shouldering its responsibility towards the inhumane practices of Israel against the Palestinian people. Also, to obligate it to respect the peace process and its principles, and not to violate the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people,’ Prince Saud Al-Faisal concluded.
For his part, Kerry underscored the importance of the safety and security of diplomats abroad, noting that the United States is very concerned at the fierce attack on its ambassador in South Korea today and that the United States could not be threatened or frightened through threats by whoever could harm any U.S. diplomat, confirming determination to follow what is in the benefit of the nation, respect the rights and international humanitarian values and legally prosecute whoever dares to cause harm to its diplomats.
Kerry said he discussed with Prince Saud Al-Faisal many issues with the participation of the GCC foreign ministers for the second time in a row in a month. This indicates somewhat the priorities and challenges which we face, he said, adding that the United States is aware that partnership with the GCC is very important to confront a number of urgent challenges, necessitating the importance of continuing contact, particularly in these tough times.
The U.S. Secretary of State pointed to his meeting with the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud with whom the United States is gearing forward to follow the same personal close relation which we enjoyed with late King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Kerry added.
He said the outcome of the nuclear file mentioned by Prince Saud Al-Faisal would tackle many issues, alleviate tension and obstacles facing the regional security, cool down the pace of nuclear arms race, enhance the system of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, and enhance chances of peace here and other places, noting that the reason behind his visit is ‘to brief our partners in the GCC countries’ on the latest developments since the negotiations started.
He added that ‘we are going to take measures to guarantee that Iran would not possess nuclear weapons as integral part of regional and world peace’. ‘We are keen to demonstrate a pure peaceful program for Iran’, he said, adding that the United States is able to block and close all necessary paths that lead to Iran’s possession of nuclear weapon before being transferred to a nuclear weapon producer.
Kerry added that some successes were achieved with some serious gaps that could be refilled.
‘We are not aware until now when we could reach this goal’, Kerry stated, noting that the United States will remain absolutely committed to deal with all pending issues with Iran, including its support for terrorism.
As regards, the Yemeni crisis, Kerry confirmed that the United States and the GCC are aware of the importance of coordinating with all political parties in Yemen, particularly with the Houthis, to agree on a reconciliatory peaceful solution based on the GCC initiative and the outcome of the national dialogue conference.
On the situation in Syria, he said the world wants an end to the war in Syria, particularly that three thirds of the population is now displacing, the country was ruined because of the Syrian President who sprayed his people with poisonous gas, tortured more than 10,000 using baseless evidence and photographs as evidence to do so. He said the regime in Damascus has lost legitimacy ‘but we have no priority more than fighting IS to give the people of Syria the ability to rebuild their state’.
Then, the Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs and the US Secretary of State answered questions from reporters.
In a reply to a question regarding the Iranian file, Prince Saud Al Faisal said ‘the United States will adhere to the negotiations with Iran and will prevent an Iranian development of atomic bomb’, pointing out that this is the objective of the whole international community, but this will not take our eyes off or at the expense of other files as Iran’s other files are of key and primary source of concern to the Gulf Cooperation Council, particularly the atomic energy and atomic bomb, he said.
But we are worried as much about the nature of work and the tendencies of Iran in the region, which is one of the most leading elements of implanting instability in the region,’ he said, pointing out Iranian intervention in Iran ‘Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, and Iraq,’ and possibly in other regions.
Prince Saud stressed that these practices must be halted should Iran wanted to be part of the solution in the region, not part of the problem.
In the same context, Kerry stressed the importance of making the GCC states feel more safer towards Iran’s activities that are opposed by all of us, starting with preventing Iran from possessing nuclear weapons, noting that this comes in the first step.
Kerry stressed that nothing has changed with regard to our shared commitment to stand in the face of any kind of intervention or any violation of international law or support for terrorism, drawing attention that Iran sponsors terrorism, therefore, efforts will continue to stop it.
He called on the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries to come to Washington during the next month or the coming two months to continue reviewing the cooperative efforts and actions that can be taken in the fields of security and cooperation. ‘We agree that the task is long and difficult and will not be resolved or identified in a single (agreement) meeting ,’ Kerry added.
Asked about the role of the GCC countries to alleviate the procrastination of the Iran-supported Houthis in Yemen, Prince Saud Al-Faisal recalled that the GCC has offered an initiative since the coming of Houthis to power by force in Sanaa, noting that the GCC countries reiterated their support for legitimacy in Yemen as the only way to bring about peace and stability in the country.
He expressed happiness to Yemeni President Hadi’s resort to the southern part of the country and support for the statements he made from there, citing his claim of legitimate power in Yemen, rejection of any measure taken by the Houthi coup, and call to convene all party meeting outside Yemen.
Prince Saud Al-Faisal said the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, will most likely be the venue for the proposed meeting. If so, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is ready to host the meeting, he said, adding that we are going to use the GCC initiative as a tool to re-arrange the situations in Yemen.
Asked to comment on the situation in Takreet, Iraq, following revelations about flagrant involvement of Iran in the developments, Prince Saud Al-Faisal said Iran is now controlling the whole country of Iraq, a matter of concern to Saudi Arabia, he said, adding that Iran is controlling the peace and war process in Iraq, creating instability and enhancing sectarianism and sedition in Iraq, a situation which was not occurring before.
On the same issue, Kerry said the operation in Takreet is led by the Iraqi security, militias and tribes, citing the Iraqi prime minister Al-Abbadi as saying. He drew the attention to some moves of the Iranian forces in the northern part of Iraq who were taking part since the beginning of the struggle without any coordination with us.
On the Syrian issue, Prince Saud Al-Faisal said there is agreement that Bashar Al-Assad has no legitimacy and that the solution should be based on Geneva I. This means the creation of a transitional government and a political settlement that brings about peace and stability in Syria, through the withdrawal of foreign forces from Syria, leaving the Syrians to unite under one umbrella, without prejudice between Shiites and Sunni or Christians or other national groups in the country, he said.
Asked why not calling Iran as a supportive country for terrorism, he said Iran is a neighboring country but is interfering in the internal affairs of Arab countries, and occupying the territories of some of them, practices which he described as could not be followed by a peace-loving country.
He expressed hope that Iran listens to advices of its neighbors before hatred and hostility would prevail between it and its neighbor.
Read more on this topic:
- Secretary Kerry, Prince Saud Al-Faisal Press Briefing – SUSRIS – Mar 5, 2015
- Kerry seeks to address Arab concerns over possible Iran nuclear deal – WashingtonPost – Mar 5, 2015
- Secretary Kerry to Visit Riyadh for Consultations – Background Brief – SUSRIS – Mar 4, 2015