Mail & Guardian - 20/4/2006
International community pressure to convince Iran not to develop nuclear arms should apply to Israel as well, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said on Wednesday.
Saud made his comments during a wide-ranging inaugural speech at the second Saudi-British Two Kingdoms: Friendship and Partnership conference, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
Speaking at the joint opening in Riyadh with United Kingdom Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, Saud said: "Our two kingdoms are in full agreement that the volatile region of the Middle East must be free of all weapons of mass destruction.
"If the international community is attempting to convince Iran not to develop nuclear arms, this should apply to Israel as well. I am always surprised that when Israel's stockpile of nuclear weapons is mentioned, the international community opts to remain silent and seeks to shroud the fact with an obscure blackout."
Saud said the present crisis between Iran and the international community should be resolved through peaceful negotiations.
He also said the Saudi government believes that withholding economic aid from the democratically elected Palestinian government would only compound the misery and suffering of the Palestinian people, who are already living at subsistence level.
"This in turn would lead to further despair, extremism and violence," he said.
Saud said his government supported the Arab League peace plan for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which he hoped would be accepted by the conflicting parties.
Saud also said Saudi Arabia and Britain were "full partners, with other nations", in the war against terrorism.
"All point to the fact that we are winning that war," said Saud, whose country had been hit by a wave of terrorist violence in 2003.
He said Saudi Arabia is looking forward to the UK support for its proposal to establish an international counter-terrorism centre under the auspices of the United Nations.
On Iraq, Saud said Riyadh and London believed that the suffering of the Iraqi people must come to an end, and that the formation of a strong and unified government representing all sectors of the Iraqi people was the only way to assure a unified and prosperous Iraq.
On economic relations, Saud pointed out that Saudi Arabia is still the largest trading partner of the UK. Saudi imports of $2 500-million in 2004 had increased to $2 770-million in 2005.
The volume of trade in the last three years went from $2,6-billion in 2002 to $4,8-billion in 2005. British capital invested in major projects in Saudi Arabia is estimated at $1-billion.
"Perhaps it is timely to consider seriously the establishment of an investment holding company between our two kingdoms. This company would have an agreed upon capital and can be formed by the private sector of both countries," Saud said.