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Ambassador talks to major foreign policy-security group

21/06/2005 :

The Kingdom's ambassador to the UK, HRH Prince Turki Al-Faisal, gave a major speech in Paris last week to a leading foreign policy group in which he set out the facts on Saudi Arabia and on how the work of Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahab informed the Kingdom's society. He also corrected misconceptions over his work, and highlighted the country's political developments, its energy policy, and its continued fight against global terrorism.

During the speech, which was given at Le Cercle - a think-tank for international affairs chaired by former UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Lord Lamont of Lerwick - Prince Turki highlighted his credentials in talking about these issues, noting that not only was he a principle member of the Al-Saud ruling family, but also a descendent of Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahab (1703-1791).

"There are so many misinterpretations and distorted interpretations of Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahab, his principles, and his thought," he said, noting that most academics that criticized his work had not consulted ibn Abdul Wahab's writings or the sources on him in English or Arabic. "They are confused between what is part of Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahab's legacy and the views of those they wrongly identify as his followers and advocates."

Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahab was a religious and social reformer in the first Saudi State of the 18th Century who aimed to purify the faith of superstitious practices and bring Muslims back to a true expression of Islam. His name is often used negatively to describe current political events and the violent actions of those who claim to be Muslim.

"He believed in the importance of education and social justice. This was reflected in his writings on the protection of women and the poor. He also believed that violence is prohibited in principle by Islam and it is against the interest of spreading the faith and attracting people to true Islam," he said. "True followers of ibn Abdul Wahab have time and again reiterated his principled views on condemning violence and extremism."

Prince Turki showed how some of the Kingdom's leading Islamic scholars - guided by the work of ibn Abdul Wahab - also condemned violence, especially all forms of terrorism, and in particular suicide bombings.

Ultimately, said the Prince, ibn Abdul Wahab's work pointed to the path of true Islam, a requirement to follow the five principles - the declaration of faith, prayer, Zakat (religious tax), fasting, and pilgrimage - which in turn, he said, ensures peaceful co-existence, ".in which relations between peoples of different faiths and origins should be based on dialogue and kindness."

Prince Turki Al-Faisal also highlighted the Kingdom's modern history, stressing the political developments of recent years - including the constant expansion of the Shura Council (the chief method of consultation between the Saudi government and its citizens) and the efforts made to attract inward investment. He spoke at length on recent successes against terrorists in the Kingdom and its cooperation in the 'War on Terror.'

Le Cercle was set up after World War II with members from 25 countries. Meeting at least bi-annually in Washington DC and in other cities, the group includes many senior intelligence experts who have a particular interest in the combating of terrorism.

The full text of the speech by Prince Turki Al-Faisal follows:

Speech by HRH Prince Turki Al-Faisal to the meeting of Le Cercle

PARIS 16-19 JUNE 2005

Lords, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

I thank Lord Lamont for giving me the opportunity to speak to such a distinguished audience.

I would like to start by introducing myself  as a descendant of both the founder of the Saudi state, Imam Mohammad Bin Saud from my father's side and the religious reformist, Muhammad ibn Abdulwahab from my grandmother's side.

 I am a member of the Al Saud House and I am at the same time a follower of Muhammad ibn Abdulwahab's thought and principles which are derived and originated from one of the four main schools of thought and jurisprudence in Islam, namely, the Hanbali School. The founder of this school is Ahmad Ibn Hanbal (780-855), a Muslim jurist and theologian. His disciples founded the fourth of the four major Sunni schools of jurisprudence, advocating a stricter interpretation of the Quran. 

In 1740, Muhammad ibn Abdulwahab (1703-1791) initiated a reform movement in what is today Saudi Arabia. Muhammad ibn Abdulwahab's essential maxim was the oneness of God and the purification of faith.

   There are so many misconceptions, and distorted interpretations of Muhammad ibn Abdulwahab, his principles and his thought. These misconceptions are prevalent throughout much of Western literature on Muhammad ibn Abdulwahab and even in some parts of the Middle East. Some in the Islamic world have branded his work as heresy, whilst in the West they claim he advocated violence and extremism. An encyclopedia, describes the attributes of Muhammad ibn Abdulwahab's legacy as, "Wahhabi mosques are simple and without minarets, and the adherents dress plainly and do not smoke tobacco or hashish".  Nothing is true in this statement except the last two words.

 So, what is the truth about Muhammad ibn Abdulwahab and his thought?

I will shortly brief you about  this. But before I do so, I would like to state the following important facts.

  1. Most critics of Muhammad ibn Abdulwahab and his ideas have never consulted his works and writings.
  2. Very few of those who criticize him and his ideas have visited the original Arabic sources on him and his works.
  3. The majority of his critics especially in the West are ignorant of Arab and Islamic culture and literature and they are confused about what is part of the religion and part of the culture. They are also confused between what is part of Muhammad ibn Abdulwahab's legacy and the views of those they wrongly identify as his followers and advocates.

Muhammad ibn Abdulwahab was a religious and social reformer who emerged in the 18th century, a century that is known as one of renewal and reform in Islam. His aim was to purify the faith from superstitious practices and to urge people to act in accordance with the proclamation of faith, the oneness of God. He insisted that this belief should be adhered to by all Muslims and lived out in every aspect of daily life. In order to achieve this, Muslims had to go back to the fundamental principles of Islam, from which is derived the Sharia: the Quran and the Sunna.

Muhammad ibn Abdulwahab was a man of strong faith and religious conviction. He was keen to conduct discussions and debates with his followers and opponents. He believed in the importance of education and social justice. This was reflected in his writings on the protection of women and the poor. He also believed that violence is prohibited in principle by Islam and it is against the interest of spreading the faith and attracting people to true Islam.

I urge all scholars interested in Muhammad ibn Abdulwahab to consult his writings and also to look at the original Arabic sources on his life and thought.

True followers of Ibn Abdulwahab have time and again reiterated his principled views on condemning violence and extremism.

The Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al- Al Sheikh has said on September 15 2001, and I quote: " Hijacking planes, terrorizing innocent people and shedding blood, constitute a form of injustice that cannot be tolerated by Islam, which views them as gross crimes and sinful acts.Any Muslim who is aware of his teachings of his religion and who adheres to the directives of the Quran and the Sunna will never involve himself in such acts because they will invoke the anger of God Almighty and lead to harm and corruption on earth" 

The late Sheikh Muhammad Bin Salih Al-Uthaymeen, one of the senior Saudi religious scholars, a follower of Muhammad ibn Abdulwahab, was asked about attacking an enemy by blowing oneself up. He responded:

"Indeed, my opinion is that he is regarded as one who has committed suicide, and as a result he shall be punished in Hell, for that which is authenticated on the authority of the Prophet (PBUH), "Indeed, whoever (intentionally) kills himself, then certainly he will be punished in the fire of Hell, wherein he shall dwell forever."

"And do not kill yourselves. Surely, Allah is Most Merciful to you."

As a Muslim, I believe in a pure evocation of Islam, that in essence dictates that a Muslim follow five fundamental principles, or pillars of Islam:

1. Faith

The declaration of faith, the testimony of God's oneness.  " there is no God worthy of worship except God and Muhammad is his messenger"

2. Prayer

Salat are obligatory prayers performed five times a day, and form a  direct bond between the worshipper and God.

3 Zakat

All things belong to God, and  wealth is therefore held by human beings in trust. Thus Muslims are required to give a portion of their wealth to those in need.

4. Fasting 

In the month of Ramadan, all Muslims fast from first light until sundown, abstaining from food, drink, misbehavior and sexual relations. Exemptions from fasting only apply to the sick, elderly, pregnant women and those who are traveling.

5. Pilgrimage (Hajj) 

The annual pilgrimage to Makkah - the Hajj - is an obligation only for those who are physically and financially able to perform it.

As a follower of ibn Abdulwahab, I believe in peaceful co-existence, in which relations between peoples of different faiths and origins should be based on dialogue and kindness. This belief is rooted in the Godly guidance of the Quran:

"??? ??? ???? ??? ??????? ???????? ?????? ??????? ????? ?? ???? ?? ??? ?? ???? ??? ?? ?? ????? ??? ???? ?????????." ????? - ???? 16 - ??? 125.

Call unto the way of thy Lord with wisdom and fair exhortation, and reason with them in the better way. Lo! thy Lord is Best Aware of him who strayeth from His way, and He is Best Aware of those who go aright.

"?? ???? ????? ??? ??????? ?? ??? ????? ???????? ????? ?????? ???????? ?? ?????? ??? ???? ?????? ?? ???? ???? ????." ??????? - ???? 49 - ??? 13.

O mankind! Lo! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that you may know one another. The noblest of you, in the sight of Allah, is the best in conduct. Allah is Knower, Aware.

"??? ?? ??? ?????? ??? ???? ????? ??? ???? ????? ??? ???? ????? ?????? ??? ?? ?????? ????? ???? ???? ????? ????? ??? ????? ??? ???? ?? ???? ???? ??????." ?? ????? - ???? 3 - ??? 199.

And lo! of the People of the Scripture there are some who believe in Allah and that which is revealed unto you and that which was revealed unto them, humbling themselves before Allah. They purchase not a trifling gain at the price of the revelations of Allah. Verily their reward is with their Lord. Lo! Allah is swift to take account.

I do believe in equality between male and female in their duties towards God and in their rights under God's law. This balance between rights and responsibilities is rooted in Godly guidance.

"?? ???????? ????????? ????????? ????????? ????????? ????????? ????????? ????????? ????????? ????????? ????????? ????????? ?????????? ?????????? ????????? ????????? ????????? ?????? ????????? ????????? ???? ????? ????????? ??? ???? ??? ????? ????? ?????." ???????- 33 - ??? 35.

Lo! men who surrender unto Allah, and women who surrender, and men who believe and women who believe, and men who obey and women who obey, and men who speak the truth and women who speak the truth, and men who persevere (in righteousness) and women who persevere, and men who are humble and women who are humble, and men who give alms and women who give alms, and men who fast and women who fast, and men who guard their modesty and women who guard (their modesty), and men who remember Allah much and women who remember - Allah hath prepared for them forgiveness and a vast reward.

God has praised female over male in various occasions in the Quranic narrative.

In the tradition of the Prophet, when a young man asked the Prophet, who is the most meritorious of care and mercy, father or mother. The Prophet answered,  three times, your mother, your mother, and your mother, and after that comes the father.

Developments in Saudi Arabia

Now I would like to talk about my country, Saudi Arabia; its steady evolution and development.

Certainly we in Saudi Arabia have seen more change in the past 50 years than possibly any other country.

We have evolved from a group of inter related desert tribes and isolated communities to a country united under the banner of Islam;  from a desert land with less than a handful of schools, and an almost non existent health service to a modern state with education and advanced medical services for all.

Reform and change has been at the centre of our governance. And reform and change will continue to be at the centre of our governance in order to meet the challenges and demands of our ever evolving society.

Ladies and gentlemen:

The leadership of the kingdom has responded to the demands and challenges of our society by applying reforms that meet the needs of our society in accordance with the teachings of Islam.

When the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was reunited in 1932 the task facing our leaders was enormous.

There was nothing much to help us but determination. With nothing we began to build a government administration from scratch. With oil wealth we were able to bring education, health, security and economic prosperity to  Saudi Arabia.

Our founder King Abdulaziz set the guide lines. He emphasized the importance of the development of Saudi Arabia as a moderate Islamic state.

The task was formidable and to complete it we set ourselves regular targets and goals outlined in a succession of five year development plans.

I would like you to note that word -  moderate. Our detractors sometimes accuse us of being extreme and yet in all that has been done and that we continue to do, we have striven to maintain a balance that will meet the needs of all the people of the Kingdom - both the more conservative and the more liberal in our society. To describe us as extreme is to misunderstand the nature of Saudi Arabia and the role that it plays within the region and within the Islamic world.

Saudi Arabia is at the heart of the Islamic world. This means our responsibility is not just to our own people, but to Muslims around the globe who look to the Kingdom as the cradle of Islam.

Having established a modern infrastructure and administration, major reforms of government have been introduced.

In 1992 the Basic Law of Government was issued, institutionalizing the structure and organization of the state, and regulating the line of succession. At the same time the Al Shura Council (our consultative assembly or parliament) was re-established in a modern form and regional councils were set up to allow citizens in each region to have a say in planning for their welfare.

Development and governmental reform did not stop there. Twelve years ago the Al Shura Council had 60 members. Four years later it had 90 members. In  2001 it had 120 members. This year it was expanded to 150 members. Two years ago it appointed its first women advisors. Today it is not just a consultative assembly but also has the power to consider, propose, and amend laws without prior royal approval.

The leadership of my country has stressed that the path of reform and development will continue. As the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Fahd said in setting out his reform agenda 2 years ago - I quote:

"We will continue on the path of political and economic reform. We will work to improve our system of government and the performance of the public sector and broaden popular participation in the political process."

Ladies and gentleman:

I would like to take a few minutes to examine the Reform Agenda outlined by King Fahd. It is not an optional agenda. It is seen as an imperative plan, essential to the ongoing growth and development of the Kingdom.

This six-point reform program deals with religion, politics, administration, justice, economics, social affairs, and education. Let us look at that programme and at the actions taken in just 21 months since it was announced.

First, religion:

The King emphasized the moderate nature of Islam as practiced in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and as defined by the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) who said - and I quote - "We are a people of the middle."

King Fahd urged all religious authorities to heed the words of the Prophet (PBUH) and to preach tolerance. More than three thousand imams were given courses that emphasized that ideal.

Second, politics:

 King Fahd  emphasized the need to increase wider public participation in public affairs; to streamline government bureaucracy; and to establish a non-governmental body to monitor human rights.

Within six months of the reform programme being announced a human rights committee was established. A year later, Municipal  elections were held across the Kingdom.

Third,  the  judicial sphere:

King Fahd ordered improvements to the administration of Saudi Arabia's legal system and the development of a system that is easily accessible and understood by all citizens and that would clearly protect their rights. 

Already history has been made with open court hearings and better access to legal representation. A supreme court has been established, and the codification of laws has begun.

Fourth, economics:

 The King outlined a variety of important reforms, freeing the economy from bureaucratic obstacles; encouraging domestic and foreign investment, and privatizing economic assets. He also ordered improvements to the taxation system.

Saudi Arabia's economy is among the top 25 economies in the world, accounting for one fifth of the GDP of the entire Middle East and 25 per cent of all trade between Arab countries.  The Kingdom is currently experiencing GDP growth of more than 7 percent, the highest in the Middle East. And our economy accounts for more than 60% of economic activity in the Middle East.

Our stock market has increased almost three-fold in both share prices and trade volume over the last two years and now ranks 11th in the world. The base of the stock market is ever expanding. The all share index is consistently increasing. Now nearly 8 million individuals trade in the stock market in Saudi Arabia. Market volumes have also increased significantly, now averaging more than 1.7 billion US dollars per day.

Both national and international investments are rapidly increasing.

Our economy is thriving. New laws have increased opportunities for investment in the Kingdom. New initiatives have promoted non-oil exports. 

Ladies and gentleman:

Let us now look at the fifth and sixth points of King Fahd's reform plan.

Fifth was social reform: King Fahd stressed the need to give women equal opportunities and an equal role in the development of Saudi Arabia and to encourage and increase  women's participation in all walks of public life. 

The result ?  In 2003, women advisors were appointed for the first time to the Shura Council. Later in the same year the National Dialogue Forum discussed the role of women in Saudi Arabia. The reform of business laws has given women a free hand to set up business and to enter into all areas of business life.  In the legal profession, women lawyers now practice alongside with men.

The sixth point is education:

A country's greatest asset is its people and its children are its future. Education is key. King Fahd emphasized the need to reform and develop education particularly for the young to enable them to meet the demands of an increasingly competitive world. He called for the improvement of educational standards  to prepare young Saudis for the employment market of the 21st century. Six universities have been added to the eight already in existence. More that one hundred vocational and technical colleges are newly established, for men and women.

Those reforms and developments are already under way. The foundation stones of our future have been set; and I hope this reform programme demonstrates the important part change and development play in the governance of Saudi Arabia.

Reform is an inherent part of our government policy. But this reform will be and must be achieved our way in order to be successful.  Consensual government is at the center of our policy.  Our continued aim is to provide governance that balances the needs of all the people. 

Our leaders today, and yesterday, lead and led with the consent of the people. That is the rock, the foundation upon which the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is built. Our desire to reform is perpetually intertwined with our objective of consensual government.

Oil has  helped the Kingdom in implementing development plans; but it has brought with it international responsibilities for global economic stability.

We have never shunned that responsibility.

Saudi Arabia has the largest oil reserves in the world. Its production capacity is elastic. It can  - and does - increase  and decrease production to meet global needs.

Recently His Excellency Ali Al Naimi, the Saudi Minister of  Petroleum, announced  plans to increase our sustainable production capacity further to 12.5 million barrels per day.  This will allow us to maintain spare capacity of no less than 1.5 million barrels per day.

This spare capacity is insurance, not just for us but for the whole world. It ensures the continuity of a stable oil market in the future, enabling the Kingdom to raise production when international supplies are dislocated or when there is an unusual surge in demand.

Oil is a strategic global commodity, vital to world economic stability. The Kingdom's commitment to maintaining balance in this market is an intrinsic part of its commitment to fairly playing its part in world affairs.

We have striven at all times to maintain balance in this sensitive market by increasing oil supplies at times of crisis.

Let me give you some examples:

  • We increased production after the Iranian Revolution when there was a drop in Iranian oil production;

            and again

  • During the first Gulf War when Iraqi oil exports were halted

            And again

  • In the run-up to the recent Gulf War when Iraqi exports fell
  • We also supplied additional crude to the U.S. market after September 11th  to calm markets.  

And most recently, following the recent escalation in oil prices Saudi Arabia was keen to bring stability back into the market by increasing output.   

We have responded to world economic needs with integrity, we have striven to keep the balance in the international oil market.

Let me now turn briefly to our international and regional agenda.

One of the most serious universal threats we face today is terrorism.

 Fighting and defeating terrorism require solid international cooperation, a unity of vision and stance.

Realizing this urgent need for cooperation and coordination, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has called for the establishment of an international body with the aim of exchanging information about terrorism and terrorist activities. Crown Prince Abdullah's call for the creation of an international center further stresses the need for cooperation among all members of the international community in the war against terrorism. All delegates to the Counter- Terrorism International Conference held in Riyadh in February 2005 welcomed the proposal of the Crown Prince. Delegates to the conference agreed that any counter-terrorism attempt will fall short of the ideal unless it is part of a collective effort by the international community.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

The Kingdom's stand against terrorism has never changed and is founded on Islamic law and the teaching of the Holy Qur'an.  Saudi Arabia has never, throughout its history, sanctioned or supported the indiscriminate use of violence. Violence goes against all the laws of the Kingdom and the Kingdom has actively and always supported regional and international efforts aimed at combating terrorism.

Well before the horrific events of September 11th, the Kingdom played a leading role in putting together, with other Arab countries, the Arab Agreement on Combating Terrorism. The Kingdom also coordinated and shared information on terrorists and terrorism with friendly countries, including France.

As the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia has said: "Islam is not a religion of violence. It is a religion of mercy for everyone."  He has consistently condemned violent acts of every kind as have other Muslim scholars.

Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdulaziz has vowed that the State will continue to be vigilant in pursuit of these evil men until every one of them is caught. I quote. "It is the terrorists who are our enemies, and security will be imposed on them by force. Our country will prevail in spite of them.  Every enemy will be tracked down, no matter how long it takes."

The organisation of the Islamic Conference and the Muslim World League, of which Saudi Arabia is a member, have stressed that those who commit terrorist acts have committed a cardinal sin, prohibited by Islam and contrary to God's order - and I quote -  "Do not take life which God has made sacred".

On the practical level in the war against terrorism, the Kingdom has taken many measures both unilaterally and in coordination with the international community. I will share with you some of the most important of these measures as follows:

  1. Supporting and implementing UN Security Council Resolutions by freezing the funds and financial assets of the individuals listed in Security Council Resolution 1333 and other related resolutions.
  2.  Maintaining a Counter-Terrorism committee with the United States comprised of intelligence and law enforcement personnel who meet regularly to share information and resources and to develop action plans to root out terrorist networks.
  3.  Having the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) exchange information on money laundering related activities with other banking supervisory authorities and with law enforcement agencies, along with the establishment of Anti- Money Laundering Units at the Ministry of Interior, SAMA and commercial banks.

In the legal and the financial area of the war against terrorism, the Kingdom has also taken many other initiatives and measures. These include the creation of  a High Commission for the Oversight of Charities to look at ways to regulate charities. Also, taking joint action with the United States to freeze the assets of suspected individuals believed to have funneled money to terrorist organizations.

After its visit to the Kingdom,  the United Nations Financial Action Task Force  (FATF) concluded in its report of 2004 relating to  Investigation and Enforcement Procedures, that Saudi Arabia's procedures were substantive and effective. In the area of international cooperation, the evaluation team found that Saudi Arabia's legal structures regarding international cooperation were sound.  In relation to charities, the assessors found that the Saudi system of regulating charities was more thorough and more effective than anything they had otherwise encountered, and should be a model for other jurisdictions.

The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks on the United States, an independent commission set up by the US government in the wake of September 11th, has reported that there is no evidence of Saudi government funding of Al-Qaeda. It says - I quote: "We found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution, or senior officials within the Saudi government funded Al Qaeda."

0n June 1st 2005, the American Defence Secretary described the Saudi efforts in fighting terrorism as " admirable". Other American officials have also shared similar views.

On the security front, the Saudi authorities have achieved considerable success.  Since September 11, 2001, Saudi security has questioned more than 1,600 individuals, arrested hundreds of suspects, and succeeded in extraditing tens of Al-Qaeda members from other countries to face justice.

The Saudi security forces have eliminated the top terrorist leaders of Al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia. More of these terrorists have recently been arrested or killed. The increasing success of the Saudi security forces became clearer during and after April 2005. We saw how swiftly and effectively the security teams dealt with the most dangerous group of terrorists in the town of  Ar-Rass in Qasim Province, in which 15 terrorists were killed, 5 arrested, and with one surrendering. No members of this terrorist  group were able to escape or penetrate the security measures.

In 2003, a list of terrorists and suspects then still at large was drawn up by Saudi Arabian security. At present 22 of the 26 known senior Al-Qaeda operatives have been killed or captured.

Ladies and gentleman:

Understanding must be advanced through better dialogue between   civilizations, cultures, and religions with the aim of promoting tolerance and defeating the preachers of hate.

Ongoing international conflicts that fuel terrorism  must be resolved. I would like to highlight here the ongoing crisis of the  Palestinian people .

The British Prime Minister rightly noted at the conclusion of the London meeting in March 2005 on supporting the Palestinian Authority, when he said and I quote:

 " I described it (the Palestinian problem) recently as the single most pressing political challenge" .. "this is the issue that causes as much misunderstanding, division, concern, worry as virtually any other in the whole of international community" "much of the poison that we want to take out of the international relations has swirled around as a result of the failure to make progress on this issue."

There have been many peace initiatives and mediation efforts to solve this conflict. All were blocked by Israeli stubbornness and unwillingness to end the occupation of Palestinian land.

This stubborn uncaring intransigence is a political minefield that will cause irreparable damage to that much troubled road to peace.  It could indeed be fatally damaging to any chance of reaching a "final" solution to the Palestinian issue and the Arab Israeli conflict. 

It is this apparent inability of  Israel to live side-by-side with the Palestinians, to treat Palestinians as neighbours, equals and friends - this desire to take all rather than to share which is most damaging to the peace process.

It seems to me that after the severe injustice which was inflicted on the Palestinians, after expelling three quarters of them from their homes and farms during the establishment of Israel, that Israel has acted to institutionalise its policies of discrimination, aggression, and injustice through the enactment of the Law of Return which took effect on July 1950. This law gives every Jew the right to immigrate to Israel and become an Israeli citizen.

The Law of Return and the policy of occupation go hand in hand with each other. The Israeli military occupies the land, the state of Israel arranges for Jews living abroad to emigrate to Israel and live in settlements which are built on Palestinian land. So, the Law of Return for Jews has been practically constituted as the Law of Exile for the Palestinians.

Jews who have never lived in Palestine and who are strangers to the land and the culture of Palestine are given the right to "return", while on the contrary, those who have been expelled and uprooted from their homes, lands and farms are deprived of their natural right to return. Instead,  the international community indulges itself in discussing how to place those refugees in other countries rather than in their homeland. This is unjust. UN Resolution 194  gives Palestinians the right to return or to be compensated.

This is a moral issue and has to be fairly addressed.

In 1946 King Abdulaziz  wrote to American President  Truman urging him to consider moral principles and not to tolerate unjust policies aimed at accommodating Jewish claims at the expense of the rights, dignity and independence of the indigenous people of Palestine.

In his reply President Truman told King Abdulaziz that the Palestinian problem was the most difficult problem facing the world.

Here six decades later, it is still the most difficult problem facing the world.

Why?

The answer is plain.  The world has operated a set of double standards in dealing with our region, one rule for Israel and another rule for everyone else.

Israel has repeatedly flouted a multitude of United Nations  resolutions calling on it to halt its aggression, to end the occupation of the Palestinian land, to cease unlawful and forceful acquisition of property and land of the Palestinians.

On July 9th last year, the International Court of Justice condemned the Israeli wall and pointed out the damage the wall's construction would inevitably do to any prospect for peace. The Court concluded that the barrier being built violated the human rights of Palestinians and must be dismantled.

The ruling continued - let me quote - "Israel is under an obligation to cease forthwith the construction of the wall being built in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including in and around East Jerusalem, to dismantle forthwith the structure therein situated."

Christian Aid last December published a report on the crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territories summarizing the current situation. It concluded that the so called security wall, illegal Israeli actions and the expansion of colonies had combined to destroy the possibility of a two-state solution.

On both sides, acts of terrorism and retaliation feed each side's justification for its acts. Suicide bombings, collective punishments, the destruction of houses, targeted killings, expropriation of land, destruction of olive groves, all of  these actions result in killing and more killing of innocent lives. This must stop.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

So what is the prospect for  peace and a peaceful settlement in this area?

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, alongside other Arab countries, has clearly expressed its interest in reaching a peaceful solution for the Palestinian tragedy based on international legitimacy and the principle of peace for land. This desire for peace was clearly stated in Crown Prince Abdullah's Plan, which calls for total Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories according to UN resolutions in return for total Arab recognition of Israel.

This peace initiative was approved by all the Arab states, welcomed by the United Nations, but remains unaccepted by the Israeli government.

In 2003  the Security Council adopted resolution 1397. This includes the vision of two states - Israel and Palestine - living side by side within secure and recognized borders.  And yet ongoing Israeli actions destroy the possibility of achieving that vision.

The Roadmap of President Bush is still on the table. It provides the clearest and most divinable mechanism for peace. And yet, Israel has objections to it.

Ladies and gentlemen:

I believe, as do many others both within and outside the Arab world, that the hope for peace and stability will never be realized until a just and comprehensive solution is found for the Palestinian people in which they have the right to self determination; to their own state, on their own land. This comprehensive peace requires determined action from the international community and particularly from the leading powers in the United Nations.

The Palestinians have declared a ceasefire. There is now a relative respite. Let that lead to the implementation of the Roadmap. Let that lead to the coming of peace to the land of peace.

Another alarming situation is the Iraqi crisis.

Saudi Arabia, and the Arab world as a whole, wish to see an Iraq that lives in peace within its borders and with its neighbours.  We believe that this can be achieved through a viable and legitimate Iraqi government, chosen freely by the Iraqi people.

We are neighbours and just as stability in Saudi Arabia will positively affect Iraq, stability in Iraq will also have a positive impact on Saudi Arabia.

Following the war to rid Iraq of Saddam Hussein's regime, terrorism has gripped Iraq.  The terrorists found in the confusion the perfect breeding ground for their cruel agenda of mayhem, death and destruction. Iraq has become a recruiting spot.

These terrorists are followers of Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi and Al Qaeda who claim   to be fighting the occupying American forces but who are killing more Iraqis and actually, and ultimately more dangerously, fighting the development of  a pluralistic and viable  Iraq.

In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen,

Peace, stability, prosperity, and tolerance in our precious world will not be achieved unless we live up- as individuals and groups,  societies and nations- to the great principles that we believe in. We have to be just and deal fairly with one another.

Let us all pray for a just and peaceful world.

Thank you






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