Daniel Kawczynski MP: The positive role of Saudi Arabia in the Middle East peace process
Our country benefits tremendously from the bilateral trade that we have with Saudi Arabia. Saudi imported billions of pounds of British goods last year and tens of thousands of British jobs are dependent on this trade.
Britain, more than any other country, has been entrusted with the security of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by her government. Not only do we supply the vast bulk of their military defense capabilities, but we also train many of their air force personnel. It has therefore fallen to Britain to help protect this critically important ally and our participation has been greatly appreciated by the Saudi people over the years.
We remember the huge support given by King Fahad during the First Gulf War in providing bases and accommodation for our troops in the run up to the liberation of Kuwait. Although some might argue that they had no choice because of their fear of further Iraqi expansion - and it is certainly true that Saddam’s forces did cross the Kuwaiti border and infiltrate approximately 40 miles of Saudi territory before being repelled by Allied forces - the predicament faced by the Saudis was indeed onerous. Not only were they subject to bombing by Scud missiles, they had to accommodate a huge Western military presence on their territory, which is always very difficult to sell domestically.
Saudi Arabia has shown extraordinary compliance and tolerance of the ensuing second invasion of Iraq. In spite of the fact that this has removed a brutal despot from the Middle East, Iraq has descended into chaos, becoming a breeding ground for Al Qaeda insurgency -imagine having that at our back door. The Saudis, with their local knowledge and expertise, must surely have suspected that something like this could occur on their borders and yet they have been supportive of us throughout. The volatility of the Iraqi situation has meant that a huge protective fence with radar and mines has had to be constructed along the 800 mile Saudi-Iraqi border at a cost to the Saudi government of hundreds of millions of dollars.
I believe we must engage with the Saudi authorities and her people more and more. We must all play our part in getting to know the Kingdom and building friendships with them. To secure Saudi Arabia as a genuine close ally and partner is the responsibility of all of us.
Moving to the subject of peace and security in the Middle East, I have read carefully the peace initiative made by King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, where he presented the following plan calling for full Israel withdrawal from all the Arab territories occupied since 1967.
In implementation of Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, reaffirmed by the Madrid Conference of 1991 and the Land-for-Peace Principle, and Israel's acceptance of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, in return for the establishment of normal relations in the context of a comprehensive peace with Israel, emanating from the conviction of the Arab countries that a military solution to the conflict will not achieve peace or provide security for the parties, the Council:
1. Requests Israel to reconsider its policies and declare that a just peace is its strategic option as well.
2. Further calls upon Israel to affirm:
I - full Israeli withdrawal from all the territories occupied since 1967, including the Syrian Golan Heights, to the June 4th 1967 lines, as well as the remaining occupied Lebanese territories in the south of Lebanon;
II – the achievement of a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem to be agreed upon in accordance with United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194;
III - the acceptance of the establishment of a sovereign independent Palestinian state on the Palestinian territories occupied since June 4th 1967 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
3. Consequently, the Arab countries affirm the following:
I – that they consider the Arab-Israeli conflict ended, and enter into a peace agreement with Israel, and provide security for all the states of the region;
II – the establishment of normal relations with Israel in the context of this comprehensive peace.
4. Assures the rejection of all forms of Palestinian patriation which conflict with the special circumstances of the Arab host countries.
5. Calls upon the government of Israel and all Israelis to accept this initiative in order to safeguard the prospects for peace and stop the further shedding of blood, enabling the Arab countries and Israel to live in peace and good neighborliness and provide future generations with security, stability and prosperity.
6. Invites the international community and all countries and organizations to support this initiative.
7. Requests the chairman of the summit to form a special committee composed of some of its concerned member states and the Secretary General of the League of Arab States to pursue the necessary contacts to gain support for this initiative at all levels, particularly from the United Nations, the Security Council, the United States of America, the Russian Federation, the Muslim states and the European Union.
The government of Saudi Arabia and the Arab League have called on the Israeli government and the Israelis as a whole to accept this initiative to protect the prospects of peace and to spare bloodshed so as to enable the Arab states and Israel to coexist side by side and to provide for the coming generations a secure, stable and prosperous future.
They call on the international community with all its organisations and states to support the initiative.
I believe that Saudi Arabia is a key broker in any attempt to restart the Middle East Peace Process. In my recent speech in Westminster Hall on Anglo-Saudi relations (24th July 2007) I highlighted the crucial role that Riyadh can play in securing peace in the region. Examples of Saudi involvement include:
- proposing the 2002 peace plan and securing entire Arab League support for it
- acting as a broker to try to bring Fatah and Hamas together;
- promoting dialogue between Sunnis and Hezbollah in Lebanon;
- persuading the Arab League to reaffirm its commitment to the Peace Plan at the Riyadh Summit of 2007;
- doing everything possible to ensure that the Arab League play their part in financing vital educational and humanitarian projects in areas of conflict.
I very much hope that all Members of Parliament study carefully the Saudi proposals for peace in the Middle East. They are in my view a true breakthrough which gives us the chance in a lifetime to secure peace.