Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques discusses with U.S. Secretary of State Clinton Palestinian issue developments, reviving faltering peace process, regional, international topics

Prince Saud Al Faisal meets Clinton, calls for plan to prevent nuclear proliferation in Mideast

Clinton says has fear Iran could turn into military dictatorship

The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud received US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the accompanying delegation.

During the meeting, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques welcomed the US Secretary of State and her accompanying delegation. For her part, US Secretary of State thanked the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques for good reception.

The US Secretary of State conveyed the greetings of US President Barack Obama to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. In turn, the King sent his greetings to the President.

The meeting was attended by Prince Saud Al-Faisal, Minister of Foreign Affairs; Prince Miqren bin Abdulaziz, Chief of General Intelligence; Prince Miteb bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, Deputy Commander of the National Guard for Executive Affairs; Prince Saud bin Abdullah bin Mohammed Al Saud; Prince Mansour bin Nasser bin Abdulaziz, Advisor to the King; Prince Dr. Abdulaziz bin Sattam bin Abdulaziz; Abdulmohsen bin Abdulaziz Al-Tuwaijri, Assistant Deputy Commander of the National Guard; Ibrahim bin Abdulrahman Al-Tassan, Chief of the King's Special Affairs; and Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir, Saudi Ambassador to the United States.

They all had lunch with the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.

King Abdullah and U.S. Secretary of State Clinton held a meeting in Rawdhat Khuraim on the outskirts of the city of Riyadh.

During the meeting, the developments of the Palestinian issue and the international efforts exerted to revive the troubled peace process in the region were discussed.

A number of current issues at the regional and international arenas and the position of the two friendly countries towards them in addition to the aspects of cooperation between the two countries were also discussed.

The meeting was attended by Prince Saud Al-Faisal, the Foreign Minister; Prince Miqren bin Abdulaziz, Chief of the General Intelligence; and Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir, the Saudi Ambassador to the Untied States of America.

On the U.S. side, the meeting was also attended by James Smith, the U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom; Jeffrey D. Feltman, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Department; Philip G. Crowly, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs.

King Abdullah also held a meeting with U.S. Congresswoman and Head of Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee Nina Lowey.

During the meeting, they reviewed a number of issues of common concern.

The meeting was attended by Prince Miqren bin Abdulaziz, Chief of General Intelligence; Prince Mohammed bin Naif bin Abdulaziz, Assistant Interior Minister for Security Affairs and Saudi Ambassador to the United States of America Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir.

On the U.S. side, it was attended by U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia James Smith and a number of members of Congress.

Earlier, King Abdullah received U.S. Congresswoman Lowey and her accompanying delegation.

During the audience, the King welcomed them in the Kingdom.

On her part, the U.S. Congresswoman expressed gratitude and appreciation for the reception and generous hospitality.

The audience was attended by a number of princes, Saudi Ambassador to the United States of America and a number of officials.

On the other hand, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal and U.S. Secretary of State Clinton held a joint press conference, marking the end of the one-day official visit of Clinton to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia during which she held a meeting with King Abdullah at his farm residence at Rawdhat Khuraim on the outskirts of the city of Riyadh.

For his part, Prince Saud Al-Faisal said Clinton had a long in-depth, comprehensive and frank talk with the monarch as customary whoever she meets with him. 'I have also met with her and discussed bilateral relations and ways of enhancing them in a number of fields in addition to the continuous coordination and consultations on vital regional and international issues of importance to our two countries', he added.

He pointed out that this week coincides with the 65th anniversary of the first meeting between the former leaderships of our nations when late King Abdulaziz bin Abdulrahman Al Saud, founder of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, met with U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt on the 14th of February 1945. 'During that meeting, they laid the foundation for relations between the two countries based on mutual respect, service of joint interests for our two countries and peoples and work together at the United Nations for the achievement of international peace and security', he said.

Prince Saud said such bases enabled the two countries to proceed with firm steps towards enhanced relations to confront challenges, overcome problems and move towards a strategic stage according to a constitutional framework and direct contacts between the concerned authorities in the two countries, resulting in the conclusion of a number of agreements and memoranda of understanding covering all scientific, economic, security, and military fields of cooperation.

However, among the most noted results of this cooperation is the increasing number of Saudi students on scholarships in the United States from 3,000 over the last few years to about 25,000 in the current time, he said.

Prince Saud Al-Faisal said that among the prominent results of that cooperation was the increase the volume of trade and investments as well as the mutual visits at the official and popular levels and between businessmen, stirring the consulates of our two countries to face the volume of visas granted to the extent that they were (occasionally) exposed for media criticism to accelerate and simplify the procedures.

He added that, in this regard, the meetings tackled the issue of tightened procedures of travel against the Saudi nationals, pointing that he had noticed an understanding from the U.S. government on 'our point of view and worry' over this matter.

The Minster made clear that a promise to review these proceedings was given on the basis of realizing a balance between security measures on one hand and the protection of civil freedoms and fundamental rights on the other.

On regional and international issues, Prince Saud Al-Faisal said that the peace process was on top of these issues, whereas the existing efforts and updates were reviewed, adding that 'we appreciate the U.S. government's early moves to revive the peace process, and push towards addressing the key issues of the conflict, within the framework of two-state solution, aiming at the establishment of an integral, viable and independent Palestinian state, and at the same time we agree on the illegitimacy or illegality of Israeli settlements'.

He said the Kingdom underlines the importance of launching the peace process with comprehensiveness to tackle all key issues simultaneously according to certain references and within clear timetable, taking in mind that the step-by-step and confidence-building policies have fallen short of achieving their goals, most evident of which is Israel's current government rejection to resume negotiations from where they were adjourned.

The Iranian file was among the agenda of discussion, Prince Saud Al-Faisal said, adding that, the Kingdom reiterates its support for the efforts of the 5+1 group to solve the crisis peacefully and through dialogue. We call for the continuation of these efforts, he said. We also call on Iran to positively respond to them to dash out regional and international suspicion towards its nuclear program, particularly that the efforts of this group guarantee Iran's and the region's countries right of peaceful use of nuclear energy according to the standards, measures and supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The Saudi Foreign Minister said the Kingdom underscores the importance of the regional and international efforts focusing on guaranteeing that the Middle East, including the Gulf, turns to be mass destruction weapons, particularly nuclear weapons, free zone and that such standards be imposed on all countries of the region without exception, including the Israeli nuclear program. He added that history witnessed that no weapon introduced into the region remained unused.

He said his meeting with Clinton also discussed the latest developments in Yemen, welcoming the Yemeni government's decision to ceasefire in North Yemen and hoping that the other parties comply with this decision to bring about security and stability in Yemen and work towards enhancing the national unity, development and prosperity of Yemen.

Prince Saud Al-Faisal also said that the situation in Afghanistan was discussed in light of London Conference held recently on Afghanistan, including the need to keep up the military efforts with parallel civil efforts aiming at assisting Afghanistan in developing its infrastructure and achieving social and economic development as well as supporting the national reconciliation among Afghanis to get the Afghan people out of the state of misery, frustration and deterioration of security, which is being exploited by terrorist organizations to achieve their ends.

'Doubtless, our joint security efforts have contributed to great extent to counter terrorism and such efforts should be continued and intensified so as to eliminate this abhorrent global phenomenon and extract it from its root', Prince Saud Al-Faisal added.

He also stressed that the Kingdom, for its part, is proceeding with its firm policy to fight terrorism at all its security, intellectual and financial levels, pointing to the great successes achieved by the Kingdom during which it managed to pre-empt terrorist operations internally, and also prevented terrorist operations from being launched from its territory.

He made clear that these achievements were achieved thanks to Allah Almighty and to all the Saudi people' stand against this alien phenomenon to the Saudi society and their culture.

On Iraqi issue, Prince Saud Al-Faisal said that it was one of the topics discussed, wishing that the upcoming elections could achieve the aspirations of the Iraqi people in achieving its security and stability as well as promoting its territorial integrity and strengthening its national unity based on the principle of equal rights and duties among all Iraqis, whatever their beliefs, groups and sects and in distancing Iraq from any outside interference in its affairs.

On her part, Secretary Clinton affirmed that her country's relations with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been based on permanent and vital partnership, mutual respect and common interests, noting that her talks in Riyadh dealt with ways of enhancement of bilateral relations between the two countries, issues of common interest, the peace process and the situations in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

On the peace process, she said, 'It is time to renew that spirit today, and move to specific matters. The United States of America believes that through negotiations based on goodwill, the parties can mutually agree on the result which puts an end to the conflict and meets the Palestinian goal of setting up an independent and viable state.'

Clinton urged the international community to support the actions of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Prime Minister of Palestine Salam Fayyad, and the Palestinian Authority to build the Palestinian economy and its necessary institutions for a viable and an independent state which provides security, the rule of law and basic services for the Palestinian people.

As for Iranian affair, Clinton said that her country led last year unprecedented efforts to launch a new relationship with Iran, and sought with its partners to meet with Iran and to pursue an approach to allow a peaceful nuclear program along with international preventive safeguards, but Iran rejected the initiative.

The U.S. Secretary of State added that since October, Iran has rejected all initiatives to meet with 5 plus 1 Group with regard to the nuclear program; and now Iran informed the International Atomic Energy Agency that it would start production of enriched uranium at a higher rate, considering that step as provocative and a challenge to the U.N. Security Council resolutions.

In reply to a question on the possibility that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia provides guarantees to China for voting at the UN Security Council against Iran over its nuclear program, Prince Saud Al-Faisal, the Foreign Minister said, ' The Chinese seriously bear their responsibilities in Group 5 Plus 1; and they do not need the Kingdom's proposals about what they should do. '

Prince Saud stressed that the Kingdom renews its support for the efforts of Group 5 Plus 1 to solve the Iranian nuclear crisis peacefully and through dialogue, calling on Iran to respond positively to those efforts for dispelling regional and international doubts over its nuclear program.

In Doha, Clinton had said that United States is doing its part to bridge the gap between the Islamic and Western worlds by investing in educational opportunities to encourage students from Muslim countries to study in the US.

“We are investing hundreds of millions of dollars in educational opportunities for Muslim students to come to the United States,” Clinton said during a visit to the Carnegie Mellon University-Qatar.

Clinton said it was Washington’s way of reversing the difficulties some students from Muslim communities faced after the September 11 attack in New York. “After 9/11, as some of you may know, the US became very focused on protecting our citizens and made it more difficult for people to come to study and work in the US… we are trying to reverse that.”

Clinton said she was impressed by Qatar’s commitment to education, highlighting the important work of Qatar Foundation as an example. “Education City is so important for Qatar and beyond… It sends a strong message, not just here in the region, but around the world.”

“We must look for ways to celebrate our differences while finding a common cause in the human objectives of peace and prosperity… What kind of future will we provide for students, including the ones here today?” she wondered.

Speaking about women taking up educational opportunities, Clinton said her travels throughout the Arab world allowed her to meet many conservative families that understand the value of an education for their daughters, as well as their sons.

“Education provides an opportunity for women to fulfill their God-given potential,” she said.

According to Clinton, they want to remove misconceptions of what some of the people in the United States have about Muslim communities, and the misconceptions of the Muslim people about the US, hence their plans on investing in education and reaching out to young people.

“We are working hard on this and we hope that many of the Muslim communities around the world will reciprocate by inviting American students… inviting American professors, inviting American business leaders, media personalities, to their area… which, I think will help to move us beyond what is a very narrow focus that we are unfortunately seeing too much of in the past,” she said.

Clinton had said in Doha on Monday that Iran's leadership is being turned toward a dictatorship before the world's eyes.

"(The) Revolutionary Guard ... we believe is, in effect, supplanting the government of Iran," Clinton said during an interview with al-Jazeera while on a diplomatic mission to Doha, Qatar. "We see that the government of Iran -- the supreme leader, the president, the parliament -- is being supplanted, and that Iran is moving toward a military dictatorship. Now, that is our view."

The United States remains open to engagement with Iran concerning its controversial nuclear program but believe the Islamic Republic must go down a different path, she said.

"We want the world united in sending an unequivocal message to Iran that, 'We will not stand idly by while you pursue a nuclear program that can be used to threaten your neighbor, and even beyond,'" Clinton said. "And we hope to try to influence the decision-making within Iran. And that is our goal."

The United States will "always defend" itself and its allies, especially those in the Gulf who face the greatest immediate threat from Iran, she said.

"But we have pursued a dual track, not a triple track, but a dual-track approach of engagement and potential pressure, and that is what we're focused on," the secretary of state said.

"(Our) goal, eventually, is to have a Middle East free of nuclear weapons."

Meanwhile, Qatar urged the United States to talk directly to Iran on the nuclear issue.

“Holding a dialogue with Iran through messengers is not advisable,” said Qatari Prime Minister HE Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabor Al Thani.

The Qatari prime minister suggested that Washington better approach Tehran for direct negotiations on the key and controversial nuclear question.

The Premier, who also holds the foreign portfolio, was addressing a special plenary session of the US-Islamic World Forum on the ‘Future of US-Muslim World Relations’ with Clinton as a guest of honor.

The region is important for the energy security of the world and most of the oil exported from here passes through the Strait of Hormuz, said Sheikh Jassem. “We are a small country, so peace and stability is important for us,” he added, hinting that Qatar has cordial relations with both the United States and Iran.

“During our talks, Iranian officials assure us that they are not making a nuclear bomb but when we hear from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), they express suspicion,” he said.