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Crown Prince Abdullah interview with Financial Times
London , 25th Jun 2001

  Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, Deputy Premier and the Commander of the National Guard, has stressed that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has so far accepted all peace initiatives in the Middle East region, regardless of their source, and that the Kingdom has its own peace plan which was announced by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Fahd bin Abdul Aziz and was then named after him [the Fahd Plan].

In an interview with “The Financial Times”, he said that the Kingdom has great credibility with all parties in Arab and Islamic countries and may therefore be qualified to convince all parties to sit at peace negotiating table, but it can not fulfill this role or offer this crucial service as long as Israel continues to abort all peace initiatives.

The Kingdom is concerned about the deteriorating situation in the Palestinian territories and instability in the region as a whole, Crown Prince Abdullah said. “It is in the interest of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to be in a region in which peace, security and justice prevail where all the people have equal rights.”

He added that as long as Israel thinks of itself as a super-power dominating the region and imposing its will on others, stability will not be achieved in the region. He noted that as for al Quds [Jerusalem], it is part of Muslim's conscience which no true Muslim will abandon.

In reply to another question on deteriorating situation and actions of (Israeli Premier) Ariel Sharon since he assumed power in Israel last March, Crown Prince Abdullah remarked that it is a great mistake to leave a dangerous international issue (such as Palestinian issue) to the mercy of local elections.

He added, “We do not care who rules Israel but we do care that Israel respects its obligations and agreements".

On U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell's approval of the report of Mitchell's committee and appointment of new American envoy to the region, he said it is a good and positive step. He indicated that Powell had fought for security of the region during Kuwait's liberation and he knew very well the effect of Israeli violence on such security and the stability of the region.

When asked whether he had requested the U.S. administration to mount pressure on Israel, Crown Prince Abdullah said, “We believe in what the United States of America says when it calls for human rights, peoples' rights and international law. [We believe it when is says] it is eager for new world order”. He added that we look forward to America fulfilling an effective and just role.

When asked about relations between Saudi Arabia and the United States, following his decision not to visit the United States, he replied, “Our relations with the United States are old and strong and are based on joint major interests. Thus it is not easy to harm them. A visit, not made today, can be made tomorrow. What is important is not the date but the climate in which the visit is made and the opportunity to achieve success”.

On the possibility of using Saudi oil as a means of exerting pressure in the peace issue, as happened in the seventies, Crown Prince Abdullah explained that oil is an economic and strategic material on which depends the welfare of industrial and developing countries alike.

He said that we are keen that our oil policy be logical, striking a balance between the interests of producers and consumers. He added that he does not see that it is in the interest to speak on oil out of this context.

On the European role in peace process, he said Europe has moral and political responsibility towards the region and he noted cultural, economic and historical links between Europe and the region.

On relations with Iran and American press reports alleging Iran has been involved in Dhahran's bombing, Crown Prince Abdullah said we do not formulate our policy on press reports. “Our policy is based on protecting our basic interests in the service of our people and peace issue”. He added: “We see that it is in the interest of stability and development in the region that there should be rapprochement with Iran”.

Responding to another question on the security agreement between the Kingdom and Iran, he said it was concluded according to the desire of the two countries to fight terrorism, drug smuggling, money-laundering and other violations that harm the interests of the two peoples. He indicated that the agreement is not in any way directed at damaging the interests of any country.

On lifting American boycott on Iran, he said that it is up to the two countries but we see that greater stability in the region could ensue from American-Iranian dialogue.

Responding to a question on smart sanctions against Iraq which the U.S. administration is trying to develop, Crown Prince Abdullah said: “We announced three years ago a Saudi initiative aiming at eliminating the sufferings of Iraqi people. Responsibility now rests on Iraqi leadership that obstructs every movement to remove the sufferings.” He noted that sanctions do not target the Iraqi people but they are a means to an end - that is protection of the region from new adventures of the Iraqi regime.

On the American role in convincing Israel to stop its expansionist and oppressive policies and go along the will of world community and resolutions under international law, he said: “Any success of the United States in convincing the Israeli side would serve the interests of world peace and the interests of the United States”. He observed that, if action is taken, it will reflect positively on the overall situation in the region.

Responding to a question on whether Arab governments should continue their efforts for reconciliation between Iraq and Kuwait, he said the problem is not just between Iraq and Kuwait, but it is between Iraq on one hand and its neighbors, the Arab world at large and international law on the other.

In response to a question on the U.S. administration's policy on oil, he said that the administration has suggested a group of oil policies and one of them emphasizes the importance of dialogue between producers and consumers. Such an approach is what the Kingdom has always called for.

As for pressures on OPEC, he expressed his belief that all peoples know now that OPEC alone is not responsible for market stability. The role of producers outside OPEC and the governments of consuming countries have no less important roles than OPEC.

On OPEC's increase of production in the next meeting on 4th July, he said that OPEC will increase its production if it feels that there is real need for that increase to maintain stability in the market.

On his proposal to set up Secretariat General for International Energy Forum in the Kingdom, he explained that it is important to coordinate matters among all parties to maintain equilibrium if the interests of producers and consumers are to be protected. He added that the forum will ensure price stability and maintain balance between supply and demand.

On domestic reforms in the Kingdom, he said that economic reforms are running according to the planned program and at the appropriate speed.

On the Kingdom's decision to prohibit foreign companies from entry in oil production, he said: “Aramco is one of the largest companies in the world and has technical ability to produce and market oil. We do not see the necessity for competition from other companies in this field”. Crown Prince Abdullah added that the Kingdom's oil producing capacity exceeds 10 million barrels per day and it can increase that if deemed necessary. As for refining and petrochemical industries and secondary industries that depend on gas or oil, they are all open for foreign investment, he declared.

On announcing the successful bidders in development of gas, Crown Prince Abdullah said that large companies were called to invest in the sector of natural gas production and development and provide the gas to the industries of electricity, water desalination and petrochemicals. He estimated the volume of investments in the three gas projects to stand at more than U.S. dollars 20 billion in the next few years and that amount will be increased to more than double in the following years. Such investment will result in job opportunities for thousands of citizens. It will also increase the growth rate of the Saudi economy, he said.

In reply to a question that foreign companies investing in gas will also be concerned with electricity and that the Saudi government supports electricity prices, he said that Saudi Government has worked to restructure the electricity sector, issuing new charges in which the subsidy of the Government decreased greatly. He noted that any project for generating electricity will be preceded by comprehensive negotiation between the government and the company concerned.

On unemployment in the Kingdom, he said, “In the past citizens depended almost completely on the state to provide job opportunities, but today, after the inflation of the governmental system, the natural field for job seekers is the private sector”. He indicated that the state gives priority to unemployment and deals with it by enabling the private sector to provide new job opportunities and by finding new fields of investments for national and international capital.

In response to a question on how to attract Saudi capital from outside, Prince Abdullah said the Saudi Government was embarked on several reforms to convince Saudi capitalists that investment in their country would be more safe and profitable for them than outside. “However, we cannot prevent any Saudi from managing his money the way he likes”, he told The Financial Times.

Asked whether the Saudi government was planning to allow the Shoura Council to discuss state budgets, Crown Prince Abdullah said the Shoura Council was discussing the five-year plans on which the budgets are based. The recent increase in number of the Shoura Council's members was new evidence that it has been granted more responsibility and authority, he added.

On the legitimacy of the government-picked Shoura Council members, he said “The question is irrelevant in our society. The Government chooses the Shoura members solely on the basis of their qualifications and their contributions in public life.”.

He cast light on the main features of the Saudi economy, citing openness of the economy since the early days of King Abdul Aziz. On the main changes seen by the Saudi economy, he cited recruitment of Saudi youth, introduction of new industries and technologies, upgrading the performance of some industries and services in the public and private sectors and modernization of society, to meet the challenges of the information era and advanced technology without contradiction with the Islamic Shariah and values.

On the project of strategic perspective of the Saudi economy, he said it is based on exploitation of the potential of our young people, diversification of income resources, development of a positive investment climate, development of Saudi expertise in various economic fields and dealing effectively with globalization and its ramifications.

In reply to a question on local, regional and international changes in the area, he said: “There is special relationship linking the people of the Kingdom with their leadership”. He noted that the Saudi state had struggled for three centuries to lay the foundation for an unprecedented degree of unity in the Arab world.

Source: SPA©

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