August 4, 2021
Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said on Tuesday that the disruptive activities of an emboldened Iranian regime continue to cause strife across the Middle East.
“Iran is extremely active in the region with its negative activity, whether it’s continuing to supply the Houthis with weapons or endangering shipping in the Arabian Gulf,” Prince Faisal bin Farhan told the annual Aspen Security Forum. He added that “we have reports coming in today that may indicate additional activity” by Iran in the Gulf.
The regime in Tehran is also contributing to the political impasse that continues to undermine Lebanon’s economy, he added.
“All around the region, Iran continues to be emboldened,” he said, adding that his country is interested to see how the Biden administration plans to return to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also known as the Iran nuclear deal. The US, under President Donald Trump, withdrew from the agreement in 2018, but President Joe Biden favors a return to it.
“We certainly support a deal with Iran, as long as that deal ensures that Iran will not now or ever gain access to nuclear weapons technology, so that’s the challenge,” the prince said as he addressed the three-day virtual forum, organized by US think tank the Aspen Strategy Group.
He also repeated Riyadh’s stance that it could live with a “longer and stronger” version of the 2015 nuclear deal if it can achieve this goal.
“It’s not that we think Iran should forever be a pariah,” he said. “We would very much welcome Iran as a productive part of the region; it could actually be a significant contributor to regional stability and economic prosperity.
“But that would require engaging in the region as a state actor in a normal way … not supporting militias, not sending weapons to armed groups and, most importantly, giving up a nuclear program which might be used … to develop nuclear weapons.”
Prince Faisal said Riyadh is working with Washington to ensure the safety of global maritime navigation, and continues to discuss issues that concern both nations, including the regime in Tehran and the threat it poses to navigation in the Gulf and elsewhere.
He said the Abraham Accords — normalization-of-relations agreements between Israel and a number of Arab nations, including the UAE — have had a positive effect on relations in the region but added that to build upon this, an acceptable solution must be found to the Palestinian issue. This would result in complete normalization for Israel across the region.
“Without solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a sustainable, long-term way, we are not going to have real sustainable security in the region, so we need to try everything we can to make that happen,” Prince Faisal said.
After previous disputes, Saudi Arabia and Qatar now have good relations and are working together within the Gulf Cooperation Council to enhance regional prosperity, he added.
Turning to the strained relationship between the US and China, he said it is important for both countries to work out their differences in a positive way.
“The global economy can’t handle a complete breakdown in relations between the two biggest economies,” he warned.
Commenting on Riyadh’s relationship with the Biden administration, the prince said that as it has with all US administrations, the Kingdom continues to have robust dialogue with Washington about issues including regional security and climate change.
Saudi Arabia has become a key force in global efforts to counter terrorism and the financing of terrorism, he said. “We need to remain vigilant,” he added, in reference to the upcoming twentieth anniversary of 9/11.
Prince Faisal also pledged that the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 diversification and development plan will achieve its targets on time, and that the enhancement of the tourism, entertainment, and arts and culture sectors are already having a transformative effect on the country.