This commentary was published in Asharq al-Awsat on 20/01/2011
Each word expressed by Prince Saud al-Faisal in yesterday’s interview on Saudi Channel One was important, and had wider implications. From the onset of the interview, which centered on the subject of Lebanon, and the issue of the International Tribunal, the Saudi Foreign Minister sent an imperative message.
Prince Saud said to his interviewer: “If you’ll allow me to disagree with you. From the outset I never personally said that I was directing this issue [the Saudi-Syrian initiative], this subject is being personally led by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. He has been in direct communication, head of state to head of state, with the Syrian President. The commitment to end the Lebanese problem altogether was an issue between the two heads of state, and when this never materialized, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques backed off from these agreements!”
According to these comments, the Saudi King oversaw the issue himself. Therefore no one can say now that there is a party in Lebanon which is not committed or responding to Saudi Arabia, such as the March 14th Alliance, or Saad Hariri, as certain people have tried to claim for some time. Likewise, no one can talk of outside interference or pressure regarding the Saudi position, as King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz has a track record of stances which prove that he acts according to his own convictions, and the interests of his country. The latest of these was the declaration of Arab reconciliation in Kuwait, thus restoring the normal relationship between Riyadh and Damascus, even before Washington had sent its ambassador to Syria.
Prince Saud al-Faisal’s statement was clear, especially when he said that communication had been direct, between the Syrian and Saudi heads of state, and when [the commitment to resolve the Lebanese issue] did not materialize, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques gave up on these agreements. As a result, we should see a decline in the volume of accusations and ridiculous leaks which are put forth by media outlets affiliated to Hezbollah and Damascus. There is no initiative, and there is no “S+S” [Saudi-Syria].
This of course leads us on to the second significant piece of information in Prince Saud’s statement: Now every party is trying to reach an agreement regarding the issue of the International Tribunal in Lebanon, submitting ideas and proposals under their own names and explicitly in public, without Saudi Arabia shouldering more responsibility than it should. No one is speaking on behalf of Riyadh, as an agent of Saudi Arabia, or having been authorized by the Saudis, as some have suggested in Lebanon in recent days.
Therefore we welcome the efforts of the Turks and the Qataris, but their ideas and proposals should not come under the umbrella of ‘Saudi Arabia’, as we saw after the trilateral summit in Damascus, where Syria, Turkey and Qatar all met, and called for the need to activate the Saudi-Syrian initiative. Whoever wants to propose, initiate, and play a role in Lebanon should do so, but under their own name and in public, and without referencing the Saudis.
It is true that Prince Saud al-Faisal’s statement poured cold water over many in the region, and in Lebanon, but this is a good thing, and was much needed. Likewise yesterday I quoted an official who was familiar with the Lebanese issue, saying that there must be openness about what is happening in the region and in Lebanon, instead of talk that conceals more than it reveals, and consists of “flattery and mutual dishonesty”.