A Conversation with Prince Turki

Article excerpt

THE NATIONAL Council on U.S. Arab Relations (NCUSAR) hosted a "Conversation with Prince Turki bin Faisal Al Saud" at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, DC on Dec. 2, 2008. During Prince Turki Al-Faisal's tenure as ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the United States, from Sept. 13, 2005 until Feb. 2, 2007, he made many friends as he traveled the country talking to everyday Americans in 37 states. His efforts to rebuild his country's image in the United States was essential following the attacks on 9/11. Before he left he pledged to take a break from his new duties at the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies in Riyadh to keep up the dialogues.

As promised, this past fall Prince Turki returned to co-teach a graduate course entitled "Politics of the Arabian Peninsula" at Georgetown University with NCUSAR director Dr. John Duke Anthony, and speak at numerous events. The Washington Post published Prince Turki's op-ed entitled "Peace for the Mideast: How Our Plan Could Aid Barack Obama's Efforts,"on Dec. 26, 2008, soon after his return to Riyadh.

The first global issue the new U.S. president will face is Palestine, Prince Turki predicted during his Dec. 2 "Conversation" with a large DC audience. There are other important issues which affect the whole world, including the economic meltdown, Prince Turki agreed, but Barack Obama has promised to tackle Palestine in his first term instead of waiting until the second, which is traditional.

President Obama doesn't need to "invent anything new or wait for divine intervention," Prince Turki said. All the mechanisms and plans and proposals-the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, Oslo, Annapolis, U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338-already are on the table, he pointed out. Thus there is no need to initiate a new process. "What we want is implementation," Prince Turki explained. "It's the right thing to do." He suggested Obama appoint a special Middle East envoy to remain "on the ground," with full authority to negotiate and implement a peace agreement.

Turning to another global problem, the "suspicion and mistrust between Iran and the rest of the world," Prince Turki said that Iranians believe they are being singled out and isolated, whereas other countries have developed nuclear weapons and faced no repercussions. …