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Saudi Foreign Minister Al-Jubeir

SNA (Tokyo) — Dr. Adel Al-Jubeir, Saudi Foreign Minister, addresses Japanese journalists in Tokyo on September 2, 2016. Topics included diplomatic issues with Syria and Iran.


Adel al-Jubeir: Thank you very much. Thank you to everybody. It’s a pleasure to be here with you. Today as you know, his Royal Highness the Deputy Crown Prince is on an official visit to Japan where he met with his Imperial Majesty, the Emperor of Japan, he met also with the Crown Prince of Japan, with the Prime Minister of Japan, with the number of ministers. We have a large delegation of ministers as well as a business delegation that is engaging in making discussion with the Japanese counterparts. We attach great importance to our relationship with Japan which is a relationship that is now sixty years old. We have tremendous commercial ties with Japan and we have based on cultural ties with Japan, and we both are looking forward, both Japan and Saudi Arabia, to taking the relationship to a higher level.

Japan is looking at its fourth industrial revolution in order to transform its economy. Saudi Arabia is implementing its Vision 2030 which has the same objective and we believe that there is a lot of complimentarity between the two visions for the countries. We think that there are a lot of areas in which the two countries can cooperate and in which we can open up new venues of interest and opportunities between our two countries. So this is in a nutshell the purpose of the visit.

So far the meetings have been extremely productive and extremely positive, not only in the commercial sense and in the bilateral sense but also in how the two countries view the challenges facing the region in the Middle East. So very appreciative of the hospitality and the warm reception that his Royal Highness has received in Japan and we look forward to working with our friends in Japan to further broaden and deepen and strengthen the bilateral relations.

The region, of course, in the Middle East as you know has been facing a number of challenges: we have the situation in Syria; we have Iraq; we have Yemen; we have Libya; we have Iran’s negative policies of interfering in the affairs of other countries and supporting terrorism and stoking the fires of sectarianism. So these are challenges that we have to deal with.

In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, we are dealing with those challenges, and at the same time that we are moving our country towards a higher level of development. We are engaged now in a program that we call the National Transformation Program, which is a five-year program to make government ministries more efficient, more transparent, more accountable, so they can perform better for our citizens; as well as implementing what we call Vision 2030, which seeks to transform Saudi Arabia; which seeks to diversify our sources of income away from oil; which seeks to open up new avenues in recreation and entertainment; which seeks to unleash the potential of our youth.

In Saudi Arabia, 70% of our citizens are under the age of thirty. We want to encourage creativity, encourage innovation, encourage small businesses. We want to encourage job growth. we want to open up sectors to investment, both domestic and foreign, that have not been explored extensively such as mining, such as tourism, recreation, entertainment. We are looking to partner with companies in the Kingdom, as well as outside the Kingdom, including in Japan, in order to put this in place. The objective is to have a dynamic, innovative, creative, sustainable economy that can produce jobs, that will then contribute to our stability, that will insulate Saudi Arabia from the problems that we face in our region.

Saudi Arabia is a country with deep roots. The first Saudi state was established in 1744, almost three hundred years ago, under the same basis, under the same leadership as it exists today. The Kingdom in the past 70-80 years has confronted many challenges and was able to overcome those challenges.

In the 1950s and 1960s, if you recall, the Middle East was going through a tumultuous change in terms of revolutions. Monarchies were collapsing, Egypt, and we had coup d’etats in Libya, in Nigeria, in Sudan, in Yemen, in Iraq. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its allies in the Gulf were able to overcome those challenges because of their internal cohesion and the legitimacy of their governments.

In the 1970s, we had to deal with the aggressive moves by the Soviet Union towards the Middle East. The Soviet Union was in Egypt, in Somalia, in the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen. They were seeking warm water ports, and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia worked with our allies in the United States in order to push back against the advancements of the Soviet Union in the 1970s, and we succeeded.

In the 1980s, we supported the Mujahideen in Afghanistan, which defeated the Soviet invasion and ultimately led to the collapse of the Soviet Union. We worked very closely with our allies in the 1990s to try to push back against what we recognized as the emergence of Usama bin Ladin’s terrorism, we stripped him of his citizenship in the early 90s, he left Saudi Arabia and settled in Sudan, and we were trying to persuade the world that we are dealing with a terrorist threat.

Unfortunately, some of our friends didn’t see it this way. They thought he was a political reformer, that he was expressing his opinions, and it was not until the bombing of the USS Cole in the late 90s that people recognized that we were dealing with a terrorist, and not a political activist.

And then of course we had the cooperation between the US and Saudi Arabia in 1990, that put together a coalition of more than thirty countries to liberate Kuwait from the Iraqi occupation. At the time people thought Saudi Arabia would be negatively affected by the presence of more than half a million foreign troops. That turned out to be not the case. We came out of the war stronger than before, we restored legitimacy in Kuwait, and we moved on.

There are other challenges that we dealt with. In the 1970s, people used to argue that Saudi Arabia with all this income and all this rapid change that is happening, that this would create instability. It didn’t. In the 1990s, the reverse was true. They were saying because the drop in oil prices and because of budget deficits, Saudi Arabia wouldn’t have enough money in order to take care of its development and that this would create instability. It didn’t. And the reason it didn’t is because Saudi Arabia is not an ideological country. We have no ambition beyond our borders. We are a country that seeks peace and stability and security in our neighborhoods, so that we can focus on our internal development and on improving the quality of life of our citizens. That’s what accounts for the stability of our government.

Today we are facing a number of challenges in the region, as I have mentioned. We have the war in Syria, where Saudi Arabia with a number of its allies, including the United States, Great Britain, and France, is supporting the moderate opposition in their fight against Bashar al-Assad, who’s responsible for the murder of more than 400,000 people and the displacement of more than 12 million people, and the destruction of a whole nation. To reach a settlement that is based on the Geneva One Communique and UN Security Council Resolution 2254, which calls for the establishment of an interim governing council that will take the power away from Bashar al-Assad, manage the affairs of the country, write a new constitution, hold elections, and then move Syria towards a new future in which Bashar al-Assad has no role. That’s our objective and that’s what we are working towards.

In Iraq, we hope that the Iraqis will be able to implement the reforms that they have agreed to in 2014, that would provide rights to all of its ethnic and religious groups, so that the fertile environment in which Daish grows in Iraq will be removed and then the ability to take on Daish becomes better.

Yemen, of course, this was not a war Saudi Arabia wanted. This was a war of necessity, not a war of choice. It was a war of last resort. We were dealing with a situation where a radical militia, allied to Iran and Hezbollah, took over a government, took over an air force, was in possession of ballistic missiles, and presented a direct and imminent threat to Saudi Arabia. They moved from the town in Sadah, to Imran, captured Sanaa, captured the government, moved to Taiz, and were about to capture the legitimate President of Yemen. So, we interfered, based on Article 51 of the UN Charter, at the request of the legitimate government, in order to protect the legitimate government, and that’s what we’ve done.

Our objective, and we’ve said this from the beginning of the conflict, is to protect the legitimate government, remove a threat to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its neighbors from this radical militia, and to open the door for a political process in Yemen that will lead to an implementation of the Gulf Initiative, the outcome of the national Yemeni dialogue, and UN Security Council Resolution 2216. That’s what we seek, that’s what we hope will happen. We have been very supportive of the efforts of the UN Special Envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed and we will continue to be supportive of them.

We are very concerned about the humanitarian situation in Yemen. We have been by far been the largest provider of humanitarian assistance to Yemen, not only during the conflict but even from the forty years preceding the conflict. No country has given more support to Yemen than the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. We do so because Yemen is a brotherly country, the Yemeni people are our neighbors. We want stability and peace in Yemen because instability and war in Yemen has an impact on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, so it is our objective to be supportive of our Yemeni brethren. And we hope there will be an agreement on the political track, so that the war can end and Yemen can move from death and destruction to reconstruction and prosperity, and that’s what we’re hoping for.

We had some peace talks in Kuwait, and the UN Envoy presented some proposals. The Yemeni government was able to accept the proposals with great difficulty, but they accepted them, the Houthi-Saleh alliance rejected them, and as a consequence no agreement was made. We have tried about ten days ago in Jeddah, to bring the GCC states together with the US and the UK and the UN Special Envoy in order to see if we can have an initiative that would allow Yemenis to move towards a settlement. We have some ideas. The special envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed is discussing those ideas with prominent members of the Security Council and also, I believe, will discuss them with the Yemeni parties, and we’re hopeful that the Yemenis, and in particular the Houthi-Saleh faction, will agree with this so we can put an end to this war.

There have been allegations of the coalition indiscriminately bombing civilians which are not based on facts. Our military is very sophisticated. We are very careful in picking targets, and we are very careful in avoiding or minimizing civilian casualties. We have an investigation mechanism in place when we have reports of the destruction of civilian facilities. Those are investigated and made public. We have so far concluded, I believe, eight or more investigations, and we have a number of other investigations that are in place.

What I have not seen in the media is criticism of what the Houthis and Saleh are doing with their indiscriminate artillery shelling of towns and villages, with their hijacking of food convoys, with their laying siege to cities and towns and in the process starving the population of the cities and towns for political gain. I have not seen condemnation of the Houthi-Saleh alliance of their use of child soldiers, children that are 9, 10, 12, 13 years old that they put in battle against all laws of war. That’s where the problem is. But we have been in consultation with different organizations about making the flow of humanitarian assistance to the Yemen War more efficient and effective. And we have been in consultation with friendly governments about minimizing the civilian casualties in Yemen.

So, this is where we are. We are dealing in the Middle East with Daish and al-Qaida, and Daish emerging in Syria, in Iraq, and now spreading to Libya and other places. They have a large number of foreign fighters from many countries. The concern is that those foreign fighters will go back to their countries and create problems, as we saw in Europe, as we saw in other places.

And so, it is imperative that there will be very strong cooperation within the international community, in terms of exchanging information and expertise, and in terms of confronting this scourge to all of humanity.

We believe that the most important step in defeating ISIS or Daish, is to remove the fertile ground in which it operates. In Syria that means change in Bashar al-Assad. In Iraq it means implementing reforms so that the root cause that attracted Daish disappears and then we isolate them as outlaws.

And then in the forefront of countries fighting terrorism we have suffered many terrorist attacks, we have lost many of our heroic security personnel. We have lost many innocent citizens, but we determined to go after the men, the money, and the mindset that leads to terrorism, and we have been very effective in killing and capturing terrorists, in stopping their finances and in confronting their ideology. And we have worked with countries on a bilateral basis as well as on a multilateral basis in order to go after this scourge that knows no religion, no humanity, and no morals.

We have put together an Islamic military alliance that includes, so far, forty countries with the objective of mobilizing the resources across the Islamic World in order to go after the terrorists as well as the ideology that they use to recruit people. And also to be able to share resources and knowledge so that those who have the means can help those who don’t, and those who have the expertise can share that expertise with those who don’t, and then this way we use holistic approach to fight terrorism and extremism.

We have also been a founding member of the international coalition against Daish in Syria. Our pilots have been among the first to fly missions over Syria. And we continue to do so.

Our objective is to rid our region and our world of this scourge, and I have great confidence that we will achieve this, but it will take patience, persistence, from this, determination. And we have all of this, and we will continue to wage this battle until we succeed, so that we can create a better future for our children and our grandchildren.

We have many bilateral, as I mentioned, and multilateral agreements with countries in this field and we continue to strengthen those efforts in all areas.

So, I don’t want to come here and give you a lecture. I’d rather hear what you are interested in me talking about so I can respond to your questions. But, in a nutshell, the visit of his Royal Highness the Deputy Crown Prince to Japan has been extremely successful. We are very pleased with the results. We believe it will take the relationship to a higher level. There are tremendous opportunities for the two countries to work together, the visions that they have for their future plans in terms of Japan’s fourth industrial revolution and Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 are very complimentary, and they align with each other. I believe the view that the two countries have of the international system and international law and regional issues is very much aligned. We have great respect for Japan, as I have mentioned, and Japan’s outlook towards the world and we welcome a greater involvement by Japan in the international system as well as in the Middle East.

So, let me stop here and see if there are any questions you would like me to answer.

Imad Ajami: Thank you, Your Excellency. He gave us a very important and real information. Then I let you ask him, I open the floor, I open the questions for the floor. And I start by Mr. Degawa from NHK.

Nobuhisa Degawa: Thank you very much your highness, my question is about…

Imad Ajami: Please be short.

Nobuhisa Degawa: Okay, Iranian nuclear issue. JCPOA was signed last year in July, and since then, do you think Iran is observing the JCPOA, and do you think Iran’s real intention is creating its nuclear bomb in the future? And if you think so, what do you think is the best way to contain the threat of Iran? And Israel has the same perception about Iran, that Iran is seeking a nuclear bomb. Is there any possibility of having some kind of cooperation with Israel to contain Iran’s threat?

Adel al-Jubeir: Well, with regards to the agreement reached between Iran and the P5+1, and what Iran is complying with, this is really up to the P5+1. They have the mechanism for those inspections, so I’m not in the position to comment on this.

With regards to Iran’s desire to acquire nuclear capability, it would take a mind reader to tell you this. What I can tell you is that we are very concerned with Iran’s nuclear program. We were concerned that any agreement may not be firm enough to deny Iran of nuclear capability, and we have said that as the talks were underway, if there are agreements that prohibit Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, that has a robust and intrusive inspections mechanism, and that has the ability to put in place sanctions should Iran violate those agreements, that we would welcome such an agreement. And we have been assured by the P5+1 countries that this in fact is the case. So that is it on the nuclear program.

The concern that we also have is that Iran would use access to funds, frozen funds, in order to fund its nefarious activities, and support terrorism, and to support sectarianism. On that issue we have not been satisfied by yet. What we have seen is we have seen Iran engaging in more aggressive policies when the talks began, and we have seen Iran continue those aggressive policies after an agreement have reached. We see Iran increasing its involvement in Syria, its support for Hezbollah, its support for the Houthis, its covert activities to try to destabilize the countries in the region. We don’t see a change of those. We see them trying to smuggle weapons into Bahrain, into Kuwait, into Saudi Arabia. We see them planting cells for sabotage and terrorism throughout the region. So the policies have not changed. We hope they will change, but we don’t see that change yet.

We had hoped that Iran would use the nuclear agreement and the income it will receive from that agreement in order to develop its country, in order to build schools and roads and hospitals and improve its infrastructure in order to improve the lives of its citizens. But we have not seen this.

And we have heard reports of an increased budget for the Revolutionary Guards, which is a terrorist organization, designated by the international community as such, which is responsible for sending troops to fight the Syrian people, which is responsible for recruiting Shia militias from Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan to go fight on behalf of Iran in Arab countries. That’s what we’ve seen.

We hope that Iran, a great nation with a great history, with great people, will be able to change its policies, the policies it adopted after the revolution of 1979, so that it can become a member of the international community in good standing, and that we can have good relations with. That’s our hope.

But we haven’t seen that change, unfortunately, and we will continue to resist Iran’s aggressive policies, and we will continue to speak out against Iran’s aggressive policies, and we will see what else will happen. Iran has been shunned by the international community. Iran has been rejected by the Islamic World. We saw that in the Islamic Summit in Turkey, when the whole Muslim world rejected sectarianism and Iran’s support for terrorism, and Iran’s support for Hezbollah. We see this in the way countries deal with Iran. The world is saying to Iran, your behavior is not acceptable. You cannot assassinate diplomats and blow up embassies. You cannot engage in terrorism and support terrorist organizations. You cannot enflame sectarianism and claim that every Shia should belong to Iran and ignore nationalities and citizenship and expect the world to be warm and welcoming towards you. That’s what we have.

Imad Ajami: Thank you, Your Excellency.

Nobuhisa Degawa: (inaudible follow-up about Israel)

Adel al-Jubeir: There is no cooperation. We don’t have relations with Israel.

Imad Ajami: I give you from Nikkei, please.

Nihon Keizai Shinbun Journalist: (partially inaudible question about the Vision 2030 program)

Adel al-Jubeir: We have our large trading partners, the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, India, China, Japan. All can play a role in terms of Vison 2030. Our objective is to transform our economy, vitalise our economy, and acquire the best expertise that we can, and the best practices that we can, regardless of where we get them from.

Japan has tremendous advantages in terms of robotics, in terms agricultural technology, in terms of medical technology, in terms of manufacturing technology. Japan has some of the largest financial institutions in the world. So of course I would expect that Japan will have a big role in Saudi Arabia’s 2030 vision.

The same can be said of the US, and Germany, and the UK. India has a very strong IT department. China has proposed supercomputers and other issues where they can contribute.

So, we’re saying wherever we can have expertise, whoever we can encourage to come and invest in the Kingdom is most welcome. There’s also a two-way street: one is investment into the Kingdom and the other is investment by the Kingdom. We are diversifying our portfolio, our public investment fund, our sovereign wealth fund, so that we have a larger… right now we have a very small percentage of funds invested outside Saudi Arabia. We want to increase that, so that we’re looking for opportunities all over the world in terms of what we can invest in that could be the next best thing, so to speak. We look for those opportunities in a number of countries, including Japan.

Imad Ajami: From Fuji TV… Who want to ask, please?

Journalist: (partially inaudible question relating to the role and status of women in Saudi Arabia)

Adel al-Jubeir: Yes, for women? Yes of course. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, we have education, for instance, 55% of our college students are women; more than 60% graduate students. We have a scholarship program that has more than 200,000 students studying around the world, more than 30% are women. In the previous scholarship program that was in the 1970s, the percentage of women was less than 10%. So it’s getting better and we’re focusing on this area. The professions are open to women in Saudi Arabia. We have some of our best doctors, some of our best engineers, some of our best lawyers, some of our best executives are ladies. And the idea is to encourage that, without forcing it. We are a conservative country in terms of… socially… and we want to make sure that we encourage a greater participation of women within the social balance. But this is the trend line we are moving towards.

Imad Ajami: From Mainichi? Please.

Kyodo News Journalist: Let me get back to the regional issue. After the nuclear deal last year, many of the Japanese company are considering going back to the Iranian model, but at the same time they are looking at the serious confrontation between Saudi Arabia as a big risk. Do you see any sign of… (inaudible)… the conditions for rapprochement is possible? Also, again the regional issue, under any circumstances, President Bashar al-Assad can stay in place after postwar Syria? What are the conditions?

Adel al-Jubeir: Well Bashar al-Assad cannot stay, period. The Syrian people will not accept it. If somebody had killed 400,000+ people and made more than 12 million people refugees, that’s more than 40% of all Syrian people, and destroyed the country, he has no place in Syria. I can’t imagine any Syrians who would accept this, and so this is the way it will be. He has to leave, period.

The question is, he has to transfer power to governing council, and then leave. And ultimately this will happen. And if it doesn’t happen through a political process, which we hope will be the case, it will happen by force, except it will take a long time, with more death and destruction, that he will be responsible for.

So, the issue of Bashar al Assad, there is no circumstance in which he will stay after a settlement. It’s not going to happen.

Kyodo News Journalist: 0%?

Adel al-Jubeir: I think if you ask the Syrian people, they will tell you less than 0%. They’re not going to accept it.

Now with regards to Iran, the issue of rapprochement with Iran is very simple. We have done no harm to Iran. All we want is Iran to act like a nation state and like a good neighbor. Iran has to decide if it’s a revolution or a nation state. If it’s a revolution and it doesn’t respect international law and international norms and wants to spread its revolution, and wants to cause death and destruction, we can’t deal with it. If it acts as a nation state that abides by the principles of international law and the principle of good neighborliness, and the principle of non-interference in the affairs of others, and stays away from sectarianism, yes, we will have the best relations with Iran.

But think of it, Iran’s constitution calls for the export and the spreading of its revolution. We’re on the receiving end. Iran’s constitution calls for its taking over of all the Shia. They called them “the dispossessed,” meaning they don’t recognize citizenship. It would be like The Vatican saying every Catholic in Germany, Italy, Spain, England, America, South America belongs to me, not to their governments. Would the world accept this?

Iran has, like I said, assassinated diplomats, attacked embassies more than any country in the world. They have conducted terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia. They have harbored and sheltered Al-Qaida officials including Saad bin Ladin, Usama bin Ladin’s son. They have been there for more than 13 or 14 years. They had contact with Usama bin Ladin in the 1990s when he was in Sudan, and were providing him with supplies. It was Iran that was responsible for the Khobar Towers bombings in 1996 in which more than 120 people were killed.  It was the Iranian military attache Sharifi in Bahrain who was the control officer of this. The bomb material came from Hezbollah in Lebanon. The bomb maker Hezbollah. The top three leaders of this plot fled to Iran and stayed there. One of them we captured a year ago in Lebanon with an Iranian passport, even though he’s a Saudi citizen. That’s aiding and abetting terrorism. When Usama bin Ladin’s house, when he was killed and the documents in his house were retrieved, it was very clear that he was telling his lieutenants, coordinate with the Iranians, talk to the Iranians, make sure the Iranians are okay with this. Isn’t that aiding and abetting with terrorism?

With Daish for instance, the Iranians in Syria are fighting against the moderate opposition. They were not fighting against Daish in the first two to three years because they wanted Daish to grow, so they could say either it’s Bashar al-Assad or Daish. And the other interesting thing is, for the past ten years, have you seen an attack against Iran by Daish or Al-Qaida? Why? Aren’t they supposed to be radical Sunni organizations that don’t like Shia. Why? Because, we believe, they are in cahoots with them. So, now I go back to the question: what will it take to have better relations with Iran? it will take a change in Iran’s behavior. It will take Iran stopping its policies of death and destruction and sectarianism against us and our neighbors in the region.

Kyodo News Journalist: That means a regime change?

Adel al-Jubeir: It doesn’t. They can change their behavior, abide by international law. Whatever regime the Iranian people want is their business, as long as it’s a regime that respects international law, that respects the principle of good neighborliness, that respects the principle of non-interference, and that does not support terrorism. But that is not what we have.

I want Iran to show me one Iranian diplomat that we did harm to. I want them to show me one terrorist cell that we planted in Iran. Zero. But we can show you a lot in Saudi Arabia. The Iranian supply weapons to the Houthis, missiles that they use to attack our citizens in the south, and they deny it. Four vessels were stopped carrying Iranian weapons, and they still deny it. So how can we deal with a country that is on a rampage, and that is engaged in aggressive behavior against us, and then it says it wants to talk to us? About what? So that’s the thinking now.

With regard to companies doing business or looking to do business with Iran, I think that the reason companies have been reluctant is because Iran is designated as a state sponsor of terrorism, not by us, by the international community.

Kyodo News Journalist: (begins asking another question but is cut off)

Imad Ajami: Please, please, it is not one by one. You have other colleagues. We have four more minutes please. Be short please, because…

Journalist: (question about Syria while filming was briefly interrupted)

Adel al-Jubeir: We have said that Bashar al-Assad has to leave according to the Geneva One Declaration. Our position has not changed. It has always been the same. He has to hand over power to the governing council and then leave, and then the institutions of Syria will be preserved, so that you have law and order, and you have functioning government. And then you have a governing council that then works on a new constitution and elections. Our position with regards to Bashar al-Assad has not changed, and will not change.

Do we have time for one more?

Journalist: (partially inaudible question about Turkish policy in Syria)

Adel al-Jubeir: I don’t believe the Turkish position on Syria or on Bashar al-Assad has changed, and they have made this very clear, not only to us but to the world. The Geneva One Declaration, like I said, calls for the establishment of the governing council that would take power and authority from Assad, and that would manage the affairs of the country. Once they take over power, Assad leaves. That’s the Turkish position. That’s the international community’s position with regard to Syria. So I don’t… I think people try to look at fine lines or think that there are changes, but it’s very simple, he has to leave.

Imad Ajami: Last two short questions, please.

Bloomberg News Journalist: Do you think Saudi Arabia is moving towards an agreement with other OPEC members and non-OPEC members to freeze oil output, and how would that benefit the market and Saudi Arabia?

Adel al-Jubeir: I think our position has been very clear, I mean ultimately supply and demand and the market forces are what control the price of oil. We have… there could be some arrangements made with regards to, between producers, but not at the expense of Saudi Arabia. We have said that we have abandoned the policy of being a swing producer more than twenty years ago. And the propositions that we have put forth and the ideas we have put forth did not materialize in the last meeting in Doha because of the Iranian insistence of having a blank check. I think now the other producers are coming to the view that the Saudi position is the correct one, and I think we’re beginning to have a meeting of the minds. But it is a work in progress, and we’ll see what happens in the meeting in Algeria. And I’m hopefully optimistic, and I want to caution you that this is not an area that is my expertise. My colleague the Minister of Energy is the one that is more familiar and more expert in this. But I believe that there seems to be a coming together on a common position and we hope that they would be able to get there during the meeting, the upcoming meeting.

Imad Ajami: Last question please. Mainichi, please.

Mainichi Shinbun Journalist: What do you think about Russia’s attitude in Syria?

Adel al-Jubeir: The clear Russian position is that they’re in Syria to fight terrorists. The Russians have told us that they want a negotiated settlement where the Syrian people decide the future of their country. Russia has supported, and in fact was instrumental in putting together, the Geneva One Declaration. Russia has been part of the, what is called the Vienna Group, the two meetings in Vienna of the countries that have an interest in the Syrian conflict. And Russia was also one of the key countries in formulating and voting for UN Security Council 2254. So, the way I see the Russian position is that, ultimately, they believe that there has to be a governing council that will take over affairs of the country that will set us the stage for elections, and that will move Syria towards a new future where the Syrian people decide what their future looks like.

So, I don’t think the difference on the strategic level is as profound as people think it is. I think the difference in opinions have to do with at what point, and by what means, do you determine Assad’s future, and this is an area that the countries that of what I call the Vienna group are in discussion about, but I think ultimately it is Bashar al-Assad who has to sign on to this process, agree to the transition, and then we can move Syria towards a better future.

Imad Ajami: Thank you, Excellency. We appreciate you coming. And all of you, we are inviting you to FCCJ now to have lunch together. We can continue our discussion.

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