Saudi cabinet renews condemnation of Israel’s practices in Jerusalem, occupied lands

Prince Saud Alfaisal holds talks with President Assad of Syria, Egyptian, Jordanian foreign ministers prior to summit

Saudi Arabia and Syria call for summit resolution that would back solidarity

Abbas urges Mitchell to rein in Israel’s serious escalations

Palestinians hail Saudi Arabia’s permanent support for their cause

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud chaired the cabinet's session held here today.

At the outset of the session, the king briefed the cabinet on the meetings, messages and contacts held during the week with some leaders of brotherly and friendly countries and their envoys including the message he received from Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifah Al Thani, the Emir of Qatar, and his meetings in Aljnadryah with King Hamad bin Isa Al Khlaifah of Bahrain, Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahayyan, Deputy Premier and Minister of Interior of the United Arab Emirates, French Minister of Culture Frederic Mitterrand, Director General of United Nations Education, Sciences and Culture Organization Irina Bokova, and guests of the National Guard, scholars, intellectuals and media personalities from the kingdom and abroad.

In a statement to Saudi Press Agency following the session, Minister of Culture and Information Dr. Abdulaziz Khojah said the cabinet highly valued the great care and unlimited support by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques for cultural activities in the kingdom. He stressed this week's cultural activities in the kingdom which included the king's patronage of the National Heritage and Culture Festival in Aljnadreyah; Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques International Prize for Translation with its five branches, which include the translation prize for efforts by institutions and commissions, the translation prize for human sciences from other languages to Arabic, the translation prize for human sciences from Arabic to other languages, the translation prize for natural sciences from other languages to Arabic and the translation prize for natural sciences from Arabic to other languages, and King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Prizes for Culture and Heritage which were announced recently and which will be handed every year starting the next National Heritage and Culture Festival.

These reflect the kingdom's cultural and scientific status and, owing to the King's support, testify to the kingdom's becoming a forum and a destination for constant Arab, Islamic and international scientific and cultural activities.

The minister said the cabinet then listened to Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz, Deputy Premier, Minister of Defense and Aviation and Inspector General, on his inspection visit to the armed forces at the southern borders in Jazan Region during which he-on their behalf- extended congratulations to the king, who is the supreme commander of all armed forces, for what has been achieved, due to the grace of Allah and then his support during the military operations. The cabinet stressed that the crown prince's visit reflects the royal care and expresses the genuine solidarity between the leaders and the people in various locations.

Naif bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the Second Deputy Premier and Minister of Interior Prince, now the honorary president of Arab Interior Ministers Council, briefed the Cabinet on the results of the 27th session of the Arab Interior Ministers Council which was held in Tunis.

The cabinet expressed hope that the Arab strategy project fro intellectual security introduced by the kingdom at the session will be a basis for a comprehensive Arab security vision that will contribute to boosting efforts aiming at building intellectual immunity among the people and the Ummah (nation) against the deviant intellectual effects threatening the common Arab security.

The Minister of Culture and Information said the cabinet then reviewed a host of reports on developments of events regionally and internationally. The cabinet reiterated condemnation of the Israeli authorities’ constant escalation in Alquds city and their repressive practices against the Palestinian people. The cabinet stressed that failure of the international community to take decisive and practical decisions against these Israeli provocative violations will undermine chances of achieving security and peace in the region.

Dr. Khoja said the Cabinet reviewed a number of issues on its agenda and issued the following decisions:

The Cabinet approved an agreement between the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Swiss Federal Council in the field of scheduled air transport services signed in Jeddah on 04/07/2009.

The Cabinet authorized the Second Deputy Premier and Interior Minister (or his deputy) to discuss and sign a draft Arab Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.

The Cabinet authorized the Second Deputy Premier and Interior Minister (or his deputy) to discuss and sign a draft Arab Convention against Corruption.

The Cabinet approved the organization of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Center for Arabic Language.

The Cabinet authorized the Minister of Finance (or his deputy) to sign a draft agreement between the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the government of the Republic of Ireland on the avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of tax evasion with respect to taxes on income as well as the attached protocol.

The Cabinet authorized the Minister of Finance (or his deputy) to sign a draft agreement between the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the government of Ukraine on the avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of tax evasion with respect to taxes on income and capital as well as the attached protocol.

The Cabinet authorized the President of King Abdulaziz City for Sciences and Technology (or his deputy) to discuss and sign with the Ukrainian National Space Agency a draft agreement between the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the government of the Republic of Ukraine for cooperation in the field of research and peaceful uses of outer space.

The Cabinet approved a number of appointments as follows:

1- Fareed bin Abdulghani bin Mohammed Malki as Ambassador and Minister Plenipotentiary (Rank 14) at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

2- Saud bin Mohammed bin Anyyt Allah Al-Sati as Minister Plenipotentiary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

3- Nabil bin Hussein bin Hassan Ashri as Minister Plenipotentiary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

4- Saad bin Munawer bin Wasel Al-Hujaily as Director General of Administrative and Financial Affairs (Rank 14) at the Ministry of Health.

Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad received this week Prince Saud Al-Faisal, the Saudi Foreign Minister, who arrived earlier in the Syrian capital.

During the reception, they reviewed the bilateral relations between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Syria in various domains.

Syrian President Assad and Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saudi who met in Damascus on Monday. called for a "firm stand" on Jerusalem. SANA news agency reported that "talks during the meeting dealt with the current Arab situation and the importance of the upcoming Arab Summit in Libya to come out with decisions that would consolidate Arab solidarity and joint action in addition to adopting firm stances regarding major Arab issues, on the top of which the situation in the occupied Jerusalem."

According to the news agency, "the meeting also reviewed the latest developments in the occupied Palestinian territories in light of the constant Israeli aggressions and violations against the Palestinians.

"Both sides also underlined the importance of stepping up efforts to expose the Israeli practices, which indicate Israel's rejection of peace, to the world public opinion, calling on for putting an end to them," the report added.

Prince Saud a trilateral meeting with his Egyptian counterpart Ahmed Abul-Gheit and Jordanian counterpart Nasser Joudeh.

In a statement, the official spokesman of Egyptian Foreign Ministry Hossam Zaki, said that the trilateral meeting of the foreign ministers of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan discussed a number of Arab and regional issues in preparation for the upcoming Arab summit scheduled to be kicked off on Saturday in the city of Sirte, Libya.

The meeting came as part of keenness on the continuation of communication, coordination and exchange of views on the important basic issues which are expected to be discussed by the Summit, Zaki added, pointing out that the meeting also discussed the latest efforts to achieve peace in the Middle East and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in general.

Meanwhile, US Middle East envoy George Mitchell said he had a "positive" meeting with Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas on Monday on starting US-brokered indirect negotiations with Israel as soon as possible.

The so-called proximity talks, which had been hard-won by Mitchell on a previous visit to the region, were thrown into doubt last week by Israel's announcement of new homes for Jewish settlers in annexed Arab east Jerusalem.

"We discussed a full range of issues including our common desire to enter the proximity talks at the earliest possible time," Mitchell said.

He said he hoped the talks would proceed "in a manner which we hope will lead to direct negotiations and an agreement that starts the process of comprehensive peace in the Middle East that will allow two states for two people living side by side."

The US envoy said he would continue his talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders "to establish the conditions which will make possible the early commencement of proximity talks and moving in the direction of peace and prosperity for all."

Mitchell also held talks with King Abdullah II of Jordan, a key US ally which signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994.

"Israel should stop its provocative actions. The United States should work on removing obstacles facing the re-launch of peace talks," a palace statement quoted the king as telling Mitchell.

The US senator's visit comes as the peace process has been thrown into disarray after Israel insisted it would go ahead with construction of the new settler homes in east Jerusalem, which to Washington's anger were announced during a visit by US Vice President Joe Biden on March 9.

The Palestinians withdrew their earlier agreement to enter the proximity talks, which had been proposed as a comprise to get round their refusal to join direct talks without a total settlement freeze.

"We condemn the Israeli statements concerning... the settlement activities," Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said at the joint news conference with Mitchell.

"It's a total defiance of the Quartet statement," he added.

On Friday, the so-called Middle East diplomatic Quartet -- the European Union, Russia, the United Nations the United States -- called on Israel to "freeze all settlement activity... to dismantle outposts erected since March 2001 and to refrain from demolitions and evictions in east Jerusalem."

But on Sunday, Israel's hard-line Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted construction of the new homes would go ahead, saying: "Building in Jerusalem is the same as building in Tel Aviv and this is something we have made very clear to the US administration."

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who had described the timing of the announcement of the new homes as "insulting", was due to hold talks with Netanyahu in Washington later on Monday ahead of the Israeli premier's White House meeting on Tuesday.

The US Middle East envoy urged restraint from all sides following deadly clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces near the northern West Bank city of Nablus.

"President Abbas raised his concern about recent events including the events in the last few days in the Nablus area," Mitchell told reporters.

"On behalf of the US and President (Barack) Obama, I urge all sides to exercise restraint. What is needed now is a period of calm and quiet in which we can go forward in the effort in which we are engaged."

On Sunday, Israeli soldiers shot and killed two Palestinians at an army checkpoint near Nablus. An army spokeswoman said the men were killed when they tried to stab a soldier.

On Saturday, clashes between Palestinians and Israeli troops in the Nablus area resulted in the deaths of two other Palestinians.