Arabia has stated that it is ready to welcome Iraq back into Arab
fold. “We are ready to forget the past to overcome the present
difficulties and we welcome Iraq’s return into the Arab fold. We
don’t have anything against Iraq,” said Prince Sultan, second
deputy premier and minister of defense and aviation.
a wide-ranging interview with Asharq Al-Awsat Arabic daily, a sister
publication of Arab News, he voiced his confidence that Arabs would
emerge winners in their present conflict with Israel.
Arabia, he said, would continue to support the Palestinians “until
Jerusalem is liberated and the Palestinian Authority raises its flag
in the liberated territories.”
Saudi defense minister dismissed belief that the Gulf region would
remain under the protection of foreign forces, saying that such
comments were based on prejudice.
best way to stop foreign ambition is to shut out the possibility of
chaos in the region,” he remarked.
also underscored the military cooperation among the six GCC member
denied reports that military aircraft carrying out strikes on Iraq had
set off from Saudi territory. Planes flying from Saudi Arabia and
other Gulf states are on air surveillance and security missions only.
are not at all allowed to conduct any military operations,” he
reference to Saudi-Iraqi relations, he said Saudi Arabia has
absolutely no interest in imposing sanctions against Baghdad or
creating any political and military tension. “We hope that Iraq will
be able to alleviate the suffering of its people by complying with UN
Security Council resolutions,” he said.
pointed out that Saudi Arabia’s stand during the last Arab summit in
Amman was in favor of the Iraqi people. “We have offered them
everything and stood with them in all matters, but the Iraqi
government rejected our initiatives,” he added.
the interview, Prince Sultan also emphasized that Riyadh’s good
relations with Tehran were not at the expense of the United Arab
Emirates’ right to the three disputed Gulf islands — the Greater
and Lesser Tunbs and Abu Mousa Island.
good relations with Iran could be used to settle this issue,” he
said, and urged the two Islamic countries to settle their outstanding
differences to reinforce peace and stability in the region.
Sultan highlighted Saudi Arabia’s efforts to unify Arab ranks. “We
always work to forge Arab unity and solidarity and settle differences
between Arab countries.”
said Saudi Arabia was the first country to call for an Arab and
Islamic solidarity conference in Makkah during the time of King Abdul
whether the security of the Gulf region would remain in the hands of
foreign forces, he said: “This is not true. Saudi Arabia, which has
an area close to one third of Europe, is protected by Saudi armed
forces. The claim about foreign protection in the Gulf is based on
prejudice. We reject it.”
presence of foreign forces in Gulf waters is not a new development,”
he continued. “These are international waters, like most other seas
and gulfs in the world. Nobody has any authority over them. Different
countries have sailed in these waters since the fifties.”
relation to the idea that the Gulf countries require political changes
more than military development, Prince Sultan said: “Why do they
talk about new arrangements if the Gulf is now more successful and
more stable than before?”
ruled out plans to militarize Saudi society, expand military
institutions and increase military spending. “The development and
security of the region will not be based on more tanks and warplanes
and ships. There should be progress at the educational and economic
and all other levels, alongside military development,” he pointed
Sultan commended the Kingdom’s economic reforms introduced in line
with international developments. He supported the Kingdom joining the
World Trade Organization but insisted that it should not in any way
undermine the country’s Islamic faith. “We have defended the faith
for a century and will continue to do so,” he added.