Congress center of anti-Saudi hostility, says Turki


 “The reasons for that are many, the first of which is the Zionist lobby in the United States,” Prince Turki said at a symposium entitled “The Role of Diplomacy in Political Crises,” organized by the Saudi Association for Media and Communications here yesterday.

He said that the lobby was powerful and had a direct impact on the decisions taken by members of Congress. “The lobby supports and encourages Congress members to take hostile stances toward Saudi Arabia,” he said.

Prince Turki said that before Sept. 11, 2001, public surveys showed that 45 percent of Americans believed that the Kingdom was a friendly nation. “After it was announced that 15 of the 19 hijackers who took part in the attacks were Saudi, public surveys showed that 60 percent believed that Saudi Arabia was a hostile country,” he said.

The former ambassador said he believed the best way to reach the American people was through mainstream America. Sept. 11, according to the prince, will continue to have a negative impact on relations between the two countries for years to come.

“It has left an imprint on relations between the two countries…On the government level, much has been done. But on the people-to-people level, there is much doubt, caution, and fear between the nations,” he said.

Prince Turki believes that overcoming traditional diplomatic efforts and having direct contact with the people of any nation, especially the United States, is the key to success in diplomacy. “Issuing press releases at times of crises is no longer beneficial. The ambassador must confront the public, especially in modern democratic nations…Taking asylum behind diplomatic gates will no longer do,” he stressed.

Prince Turki said that during his term in the United States, many measures were taken on the government level to improve relations between the two countries. He mentioned that among those measures were Saudi delegations visiting the United States and the holding of direct talks with their counterparts in America on the corporate level. Another measure taken by the Saudi government was to open “its doors all the way” for American and Western journalists to visit the Kingdom and see the situation here first hand.

“We fear nothing. We are not closed. And we do not cocoon ourselves…Unfortunately, after Sept.11 our traditions, customs, and religion were put under the spotlight,” he said. He pointed out that the establishment of the Saudi-US Strategic Committee on the government level had positive impacts on “sealing many of the gaps between the two countries.”

Prince Turki noted the importance of reaching to American hearts and minds on the nongovernment level. “During my tenure as ambassador, I visited 25 US states and spoke directly to the American people. I realized that the majority of them were unaware of the major topics we discuss here in the Arab world,” he said, adding that the reason for that was “the biased American media,” which he believed was blinding the American people.

“Americans are people of good will. They are tolerant and are not prejudiced and come from different backgrounds,” he said, adding that despite their biased media, the American people have the tendency to search for the truth and listen to both sides of the story.

Prince Turki said that it was important to cooperate with Amnesty International despite its hostile reports about alleged violations of human rights in the Kingdom. Preliminary approval was given to the human rights body to visit the Kingdom and preparations are under way for a future visit, he added.

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