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Saudi FM: Middle East Peace Requires a Comprehensive Approach

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01.08.09

Washington, Asharq Al-Awsat - Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al Faisal asserted Saudi Arabia’s clear vision with regards to the US administration’s policy towards achieving peace in the Middle East at a joint press conference with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Friday, following an extended meeting between the two officials.

The Saudi Foreign Minister addressed the approaches of taking gradual steps to establish peace and pressuring Arab states to take steps towards Israel. “Incrementalism and a step-by-step approach have 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.” This can be considered a response to the US administration that stressed the importance of taking gradual steps in order to launch peace negotiations.

Prince Saud al Faisal was keen to express Saudi Arabia’s “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.” However, he also indicated that “Israel must decide if it wants real peace, which is at hand, or if it wants to continue obstructing and, as a result, leading the region towards instability and violence.”

The Saudi Foreign Minister added, “Today, Israel is trying to distract by shifting attention from the core issue – an end to the occupation that began in 1967 and the establishment of a Palestinian state – towards incidental issues such as academic conferences and civil aviation matters. This is not the way to peace.”

“The question is not what the Arab world will offer. That has been established,” Prince Saud said in reference to the Arab Peace Initiative, “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.”

On her part, the US Secretary of State said that her country “is committed to comprehensive peace in the region,” and expressed thanks to “the Prince for the leadership that King Abdullah and his government has shown by championing the Arab Peace Initiative.”

Prince Saud al Faisal emphasised that “everything I heard in my meeting with the State Secretary was encouraging.”

Clinton confirmed that the Special Envoy for Peace in the Middle East George Mitchell “has returned from his latest trip [to the region] with a clear idea of how best to get the negotiations started.”

Asked whether Prince Saud al Faisal’s position on incremental steps and the request that Arab states take steps towards Israel further complicates the US administration’s efforts at peacemaking, State Secretary Hillary Clinton said, “No, I don’t think so at all…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.”

“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,” Clinton added.

The US Secretary of State highlighted 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,” adding that Saudi Arabia has a “vital role” in establishing peace and “convincing the Arab world to embrace peace.”