Saudi Arabia hosted Afghan talks


“The Kingdom’s effort was the result of an official request by President Hamid Karzai,” Prince Saud told a news conference in Riyadh.

“We can only try because we are concerned about security and peace in that country … but it’s up to the Afghans themselves,” he said.

“If we feel there is a desire by the Afghans to solve their problems politically and end violence … then that’s what we hope for and there will be endeavors in that framework. But if we don’t feel there is a response then it would be difficult to find a way to intervene,” the minister said.

Prince Saud was speaking after talks with the European Union’s foreign policy chief Javier Solana, which he said covered deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Taleban and Afghan officials reportedly attended an iftar party in Makkah last month. Both sides in the Afghan conflict have denied the meeting amounted to reconciliation talks.

Solana also met with Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah and discussed major regional and international issues and ways of strengthening relations between Saudi Arabia and the European Union.

Prince Saud said Saudi Arabia was waiting for security to improve in Iraq before it appoints an ambassador to Baghdad. He said there was no point in taking the risk of sending an ambassador if the diplomat ends up having to stay in a fortress without being able to communicate with anyone.

However, the prince stressed there were no political reasons for the lack of Saudi diplomatic representation in Iraq. “It’s only the security issue,” he said. “A diplomat should have the ability to at least move freely and get in touch with officials and civilians.” And if “no one can communicate with him … what’s the point of taking the risk to send him?” he pointed out.

Prince Saud welcomed recent comments by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak that Israeli leaders were seriously considering an Arab peace plan initiated by King Abdullah. He hoped the new Israeli prime minister would act on it and that it was “better late than never” for Israel to show interest in the plan.

“In any case … a little something is better than a … ‘no’ to the Arab peace initiative,” the minister added.



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