2005 Annual Conference - Keynote Address Transcript

His Royal Highness Turki Al-Faisal delivered these remarks at the 59th annual conference in November, 2005.
Monday, November 7
9:00 am
- Wednesday, November 9
5:00 pm
1761 N Street NW
Washington, 20036

Event Information

His Royal Highness Turki Al-Faisal delivered these remarks at the 59th annual conference in November, 2005. 

 

My name is Wyche Fowler. I serve on the board of the Middle East Institute. Since most of you were here last night, you know that this is our 59th anniversary event. We know that this two-day conference is timely. We hope it will be provocative, as we look at serious forums for dialogue about the critical issues facing the United States and our friends in the Middle East. We thank you very much for participating and hope that it will be an educational and rewarding experience for all of us.

In the summer of 1996, shortly after 19 American airmen were killed at Al-Khobar in Dahran in Saudi Arabia, I was asked by President Clinton to assume the responsibilities on behalf of our country in Saudi Arabia. As you can imagine, one of the first people that I met was the director of general intelligence, Prince Turki Al-Faisal. Because of, I guess, I like to think my political instincts, I immediately sensed in him a man of character, of strong resoluteness, and because of his 25 years as director of general intelligence, a person who understood the opportunities and the limitations of intelligence. In my four and a half years of working with him and in the Kingdom, all three of those were shown to be true.

It was under his leadership and after that terrible tragedy that our intelligence communities began to work more closely together. Systems were put into place sharing intelligence and working together at the highest level. That had sometimes been wanting in the past. It was under his leadership during that time that the systems were put into place of cooperation in the intelligence community that have helped us enormously in fighting our common enemy.

As most of you know, he was educated in this country, first at the prestigious Lawrenceville School in New Jersey and later as a distinguished graduate of Georgetown. He is an international philanthropist. He’s a founding member of the King Faisal Foundation, chairman of the King Faisal Center for Research in Islamic Studies, which is an organization with the sole aim of promoting understanding between Islamic, Christian and Jewish organizations.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Kingdom has sent one of its finest. The United States will be the beneficiary as we work with him to repair long-term relationships that got off track after 9-11 and as we continue to build a more solid foundation to face the challenges that both our countries face. It’s my honor to present to you the former ambassador to the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, now in his debut appearance as the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the United States, Prince Turki Al-Faisal.

His Royal Highness Prince Turki Al-Faisal, Ambassador to the United States, The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

It is a privilege to be with you today at this important conference, and to address you on one of the greatest challenges facing our world: terrorism and the misunderstanding it has created about Islam and the Islamic World.

The scourge of terrorism has defiled our world. Nothing makes it right. Nothing justifies it. It has ripped communities apart. It has eaten away at international and cultural understanding. It has tried to turn friends into enemies.

Terrorism has become the biggest single threat to international peace and stability.

Al-Qaeda, and other groups like it, ladies and gentlemen, are evil cults with a political terrorist agenda. They thrive on spreading fear and destroying bonds between people and nations.

The actions of these cults are condemned by all rational individuals and governments; by people of every color, creed and persuasion; from north to south and from east to west.

There are those that would have you believe that the current wave of terrorism springs from and is, or has been, supported by Saudi Arabia.

That is absolutely not true. We have suffered as a result of terrorism. We do not support them. We do not fund them. These terrorists are as much against us as they are against you.

Yes, 15 of the 19 terrorists involved in the 9/11 attacks were Saudi citizens. This fact is a scar on our history. It is a burden that my countrymen will have to live with for the rest of our lives. It is a fact about which we are frequently reminded. But these deviants do not represent Saudis or the Islamic faith.

We no more supported the criminal act committed on September 11 than the people of Italy or the Italian government supported the terrorist activities of the Red Brigade, or the Germans supported the violence of the Bader-Meinhof gang. As the 9/11 Commission stated: “We have found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded the organization.”

Terrorism is not the exclusive domain of one people. It does not belong to one time or to one place.

The challenge posed by Al-Qaeda is that unlike other terrorist organizations, it has no one declared enemy, and no one focus. Al-Qaeda has pitted itself against the whole of humanity.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Extremism is the mantra of a few, of a tiny group whose minds have been twisted and turned to serve an evil agenda. They have left logic, reason and compassion behind. They do not belong to any nationality or any faith. They have disconnected themselves from nations and peoples, from any true faith, and from humanity as a whole. Bali, Madrid, London, Riyadh, New York, Sharm Al-Sheikh, and Casablanca have all become compass points on the global map of terror. There is no logic to these evil attacks, no obvious target. The victims are old and young; Muslim, Christian, Jew and Hindu; English, American and Saudi.

The question we ask ourselves is why?

What makes a man end his life and, in the process, take the lives of innocent people?

Let me be absolutely clear: It has nothing to do with any faith.

Much as Al-Qaeda tries to connect its acts with Islam, it cannot, any more than the Waco suicide pact of David Koresh and his Branch Dividians, which killed 74 people, can claim to be Christian, or Baruch Goldstein who massacred more than 20 Palestinians in a mosque in Hebron can claim to be Jewish, or the suicide pact of the Order of the Salar Temple which killed 56 people can claim to truly have anything to do with Hinduism.

Al-Qaeda is not, and never has been representative of Islam. Well before 9-11, religious scholars in Saudi Arabia had consistently and unequivocally condemned terrorism in general and suicide bombings in particular.

It is true that our senior ulama – our religious scholars – follow a fundamental school of Islam. It is true that they lead a morally conservative life. But it is also true that they condemn all suicide bombings and the taking of any innocent life.

It is to our despair that terrorists claim to be faithful to Islam and faithful to God. They are not.

They wrongly attempt to use Islam to bolster and proselytize their extremism. They wrongly pervert Islamic texts in order to support their political agendas. They wrongly issue politically motivated fatwas permitting suicide bombings and the taking of innocent lives.

They are totally and utterly wrong and they are absolutely in violation of the basic teachings of Islam. This is not Islam and these acts are absolutely not the work of God.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

There is no faith that condones the taking of innocent life or celebrates suicide.

“Thou shalt not kill” is one of the Ten Commandments passed down to us all by the Prophet Moses.

“Whoever kills a person has killed the whole of humanity,” states one of the best-known Qur’anic verses.

I believe suicide reflects an individual’s alienation from God and from the human family which binds us all together. This human bond transcends all other divisions among us. It is at the heart of our survival as human beings. It is a bond revealed at its best in moments of tragedy – think of the heroes and heroines who came to the rescue of the victims of the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, or Hurricane Katrina, or the terrible earthquake in Pakistan, or the Asian Tsunami. Think of the people who put their lives at risk to help others, who when hungry and cold share what little they have with their neighbors.

This is the best of humanity.

Let me share with you something that was said recently by one of the victims of the July 7 bombing in London this year. I was in London at the time of the bombings, which occurred less than a mile from our London embassy. The city came to a standstill. Dozens of people were killed and hundreds cruelly and dreadfully injured and maimed.

Ian, a young man traveling on the subway at the time of the attack was one of those maimed for life. He was blasted out of his seat and thrown out of the exploding carriage and against the electric cables of the subway tunnel. His survival in itself was a miracle. In a report broadcast three months after the attack, he remembered that terrible day.

Recalling the smoke, the fear, the shouting, he said – and I quote:

“You saw the best of humanity and the worst of humanity. What springs to mind is not the worst of humanity. Anyone who straps explosives to themselves to make a point, whatever point they are making is a murderer and you cannot get into the mind of a murderer as a rational person. So you focus on the best of humanity. What people did to save other people, tearing off their clothes to use as blankets and bandages, running for water, phoning the relatives of people who were hurt.”

Allow me to share with you another eyewitness account, this time about the terrorist attacks in Riyadh in May of 2003. Talal, a young Saudi and a resident of the Al-Hamra compound, had this to say:

“As a resident of the Al-Hamra compound targeted by the terrorists in the devastating attacks in Riyadh last week, I saw it happening before my eyes. For the first time in my life I realized what the word ‘terrorism’ really means. It wasn’t anything like what we hear in theories and hypotheses floating around or on television programs and comments. It was something beyond human comprehension. On that day I lost a number of good friends and neighbors, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, with whom I had shared moments of joy and sorrow.

“I saw bullets flying indiscriminately killing Muslims and non-Muslims. I heard the cries and moaning of the injured whose only fault was that they happened to be there at that particular moment”.

“On that night I realized our need to wake up from a long sleep and confront the causes and conditions that allowed such a terrible thing to happen. This is vitally necessary in order for neither people nor government to become hostage to one group or a set of ideas that wants to confine an entire population to the narrowest kind of thought.”

There are so many human stories like these from New York, Washington, Riyadh and London. It is clear from these accounts that the pain inflicted by terror transcends nationalities and religions. It affects all of us as human beings.

This natural humanity is our human bond.

Like Ian and Talal, I do not believe we can rationalize or understand those who carry out these evil crimes.

But who are these terrorists? Why do they follow the twisted and evil path of Al-Qaeda? They violate the principle of humanity, and the teachings of their faith. They are criminals. Their twisted vision is a cancer in the body of Islam that must and will be excised and cast out.

It is alien to the healthy body of the faith that holds the world’s one billion Muslims together.

Muslims are people of the book, along with Christians and Jews. Muslims revere Abraham and Isaac and all the prophets of the Old and New Testaments from Noah to Jesus. Together, we hold in common a belief in one just and loving God, and in the sanctity of the life we have been given. As it says in Deuteronomy (chapter 30 verse 19): “I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses: choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying him and hold fast to him.” This is an important message for us all.

The challenge is to find a way to root out this evil from our midst without tearing apart communities and tearing to shreds friendships built over 100 years or more.

It is imperative that we find a way of destroying this evil cult which is trying to contaminate the Islamic faith and drive a wedge of destruction between East and West; between Muslim and Christian and Jew.

How do we meet this challenge?

We must cut off this network of support. One country cannot do this alone. This is an international organization that has spread its evil tentacles across our precious world. And so the communities of the world must stand shoulder to shoulder in the fight against these terrorist organizations, against those who support them and against those who condone their actions.

We in Saudi Arabia are committed to this fight. As the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah has declared, we will show no mercy to those who kill the innocent. We will fight them for as long as it takes to destroy them. We will fight them for 10 or 20 or 30 years. And in the end, God willing, we will rid our region of this scourge.

In Saudi Arabia we are fighting terrorism on every level.

First, our security forces are actively tracking and chasing down any terrorist groups or individuals found to be operating within the Kingdom.

We have questioned thousands of people. We have detained over 800 suspects. We have killed or captured more than 100 known terrorists, and in the process stifled over 50 terrorist attacks.

And we have paid a steep price. More than 90 of our security forces have lost their lives, and more than 150 have been injured in the line of duty. For the sacrifices they have made to ensure the safety of our citizens and residents, these brave men will forever have our respect and gratitude and appreciation.

Second, we are actively cutting off any possible financial support from within the Kingdom. We have frozen the assets of those suspected of supporting terrorism.

We have introduced stringent new laws to prevent funds from reaching unknown destinations and terrorist groups directly or indirectly. According to one official from the G-8’s Financial Action Task Force, our new regulations “probably go further than any country in the world.”

We have regulated our charities nationally and internationally and are in the process of setting up a National Commission for Charitable Works Abroad to monitor charitable activity outside the Kingdom. We are taking no chances. Until it is up and running, all Saudi charities are prohibited from sending funds abroad.

We believe that the scourge of terrorism and drug dealing are intertwined. Terrorists are using drug dealing to fund their operations, and drug dealers are using terrorism to protect their turf. Take out one, and you diminish the other.

Third, we are seeking to further strengthen international cooperation and coordination against the international threat of terror. Al-Qaeda is more dangerous than previous terrorist organizations because it is not against one society, but against all societies. It is not national but supranational.

To this end, we have established cooperative relationships with many countries, including the United States. In fact, we currently operate two Joint Task Forces with the US to combat terrorism and terror financing. These task forces have been effective in achieving their missions, and have become a model for how nations can work together to defeat terror.

To seek ways to enhance international cooperation, Saudi Arabia last February hosted an international conference in Riyadh that brought together, for the first time, security experts from over 50 nations, including US Homeland Security Advisor Frances Townsend, who remarked: “We stand with the Saudis in [the war on terrorism] and this conference is a testament to their commitment – to their dedication to combating terrorism.”

These delegations came together to discuss the global threat and to seek ways to enhance effective international cooperation against the terrorism.

One of the key recommendations endorsed by delegates at this conference was the Riyadh Declaration to set up an international counterterrorism centre.

Fourth, and finally and most importantly, we are addressing any misunderstanding about the true meaning and faith of Islam. We are doing everything we can to educate people about the true tenets of our faith, a faith of peace and compassion, not of war and terror.

Shaikh Abdulaziz bin Abdullah Al-AsShaikh, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia and Chairman of the Council of Senior Ulema, recently stated: “Muslims should...inform all people that Islam is a religion of righteousness, betterment and progress…. The unjust killing of a human being in Islam is forbidden.”

We have launched an unprecedented public awareness campaign to educate our citizens about the dangers of terrorism and extremism.

We are updating our educational curriculums and removing any material that can be possibly interpreted as advocating intolerance or extremism.

Our senior religious scholars speak out actively against any evil interpretations of Islam, any mixing of politics with religion. Our Ministry of Islamic Affairs is implementing a long-term program to monitor the messages emanating from our mosques and religious schools and to ensure that those messages reflect the true spirit of Islam.

And action has been taken against anyone found to be preaching intolerance. So far, more than 2,000 imams have been dealt with as a result of this new policy.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Islam acknowledges and celebrates the differences between us – it does not condemn them. As revealed in the Quran: “Oh mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other.”

We must strengthen our mutual respect for one another and look for greater understanding as nations and tribes. Our differences should not divide us, but be a source of enrichment in our lives and relationships with one another.

We must address one other important issue, one further challenge. What are the politics, the philosophy behind these terrorist attacks? There is a well-known saying in Arabic: “Your true friend is one who is honest with you, not one who agrees with you.”

So I will be honest with you. I believe there are issues, important political issues that we have to address to reduce the ability of Al-Qaeda to recruit from among the youth in the Muslim world.

Al-Qaeda feeds its global pool of supporters, with a diet of discontent and perceived injustice.

Images of destruction, people without homes, soldiers standing at roadblocks, the broken landscape of countries plagued by discontent are beamed across our world. The explosion in communications technology and the advent of the Internet has brought this despair into our homes, onto our computer and television screens. And these images are used by Al-Qaeda to recruit foot soldiers in its global war on humanity.

Nothing has done more to damage Western and Islamic relations than the uneven handling of affairs between Israel and the Palestinian people. The unguarded confusions and vulnerability of the peoples of Iraq and Afghanistan as they search for stability have proven to be more ugly breeding grounds for terrorism.

Al-Qaeda has used this unsettled and ongoing turmoil to support its mantra of discontent and in the process invoked the name of Islam, the idea of jihad.

Let’s briefly look at each of these issues.

The Arab-Israeli conflict has been an open wound in the Middle East for over five decades. According to figures published last month by the highly respected International Institute of Strategic Studies in London 30,000 people have died as a result of that conflict since 1978. In the past five years, 4,000 people have died. The tens of thousands injured, made homeless and destitute by this conflict is incalculable.

It is this cause above all others that has given lifeblood to this evil cult of hate, that has fed the followers of Al-Qaeda.

It is a cause which can no longer be ignored or set aside. At no time in history has the resolution of this problem been more urgent. And at no time in history has the solution been clearer.

The Arab Summit in Beirut in 2002 adopted the peace initiative put forth by then-Crown Prince, now King Abdullah for resolving the Arab-Israeli dispute.

This initiative is straightforward: In exchange for Israeli withdrawal from the territories occupied in 1967, including Jerusalem, and the establishment of a Palestinian state, all Arab countries would sign peace agreements with Israel and the Arab-Israeli conflict would formally end. Normal relations between Israel and all the Arab countries would follow.

What became known as the “Arab Peace Initiative” was supported by the United States and the vast majority of nations. But Israel has yet to respond to this genuine offer of peace.

The world must now act – with resolution, with urgency, with commitment and with justice. We must do everything to support these two countries as they struggle to find a peaceful and fair resolution of this conflict. Ladies and Gentlemen, the US is the only country that can play a vital and important role in this.

President George Bush’s commitment to a two-state solution and his declared desire to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians during this term of his office is extremely important and welcome. But in committing itself to work for peace in this region, America must be even-handed. They must look for a just solution, not only for the sake of the Palestinians and Israelis but for the sake of the world community.

Now, let us look briefly at Iraq. The confusion, despair and vulnerability of the Iraqi people as they search for stability in their country after decades of oppression and political abuse have provided another breeding ground for the evil philosophy of terror.

Here, suicide bombers have become the insurgents’ weapons of choice.

These terrorists are followers of Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi and Al-Qaeda who claim to be fighting the American forces. But they are killing Iraqis and, more dangerously, fighting the emergence of a secure, stable and united Iraq.

To counter this, we in Saudi Arabia have provided financial and material aid to the Iraqi people, and we are doing what we can to support all efforts to bring about stability between the different factions. Three weeks ago, and at the Kingdom’s initiative, a meeting was convened in Jeddah to seek ways to bring all Iraqi factions together.

The Secretary-General of the Arab League, Mr. Amr Moussa, was tasked at that meeting to travel to Iraq and consult with our Iraqi brethren about convening a meeting of all Iraqi factions in Egypt in order to explore the means for arriving at national reconciliation.

These efforts have been supported by the United Nations and by the Bush administration. And we pray that our Iraqi brothers will be able to reach agreement on a common future in which Iraq’s unity and territorial integrity is preserved, and in which every Iraqi faction is treated justly.

Finally, allow me to turn to Afghanistan, a nation which has suffered greatly during the past 25 years and more. It has been subjected to invasion, civil war and cruel and extreme dictatorship. It has been a boiling pot of discontent and so nurtured the birth of Al-Qaeda and became its first training ground.

There is hope for Afghanistan. Today the first glimmers of positive development can be seen in Afghanistan. We must support the emergence of their national government, new programs to disarm illegal groups and the development of the country. But, it is a fragile stability and we must support it in every way we can.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

There are those who believe that the war against Al-Qaeda is a war between East and West; between Christianity and Islam. Some see it as a “clash of civilizations.” But, we are not engaged in a clash of civilizations; we are instead engaged in a war “for civilization.” It is a war that pits all peace-loving people, regardless of their culture or faith, against the forces of darkness.

Differences are real and need to be acknowledged, but the bonds of common humanity, of common values, of being citizens together of one world are stronger.

The challenge is to speak up, to speak out and drown the voices of extremism and intolerance, regardless from where they emanate. And we must build bridges of understanding between our cultures and faiths.

We cannot meet this challenge alone. We need to act together as one strong world community, one force for good.

Let us all remember that we are but guests passing through and staying a while in this small and precious world in which we live.

We have an obligation to our children and grandchildren, like our ancestors before us, to leave our world in a better state than we found it.

Thank you, and God’s peace and blessings are upon you.

Question & Answer:

Wyche Fowler: Thank you for that reflective and extremely informative address.

Question: Your comments are welcome but why has it taken so long for Islamic leaders to speak out against terrorism?

HRH Prince Turki Al-Faisal: It has not taken long. If you go back to all of the published accounts of Muslim leaders, not just from the past decade but from the 1960s, when terrorism began to plague our part of the world, you will see that leaders – religious and political – have come out strongly against terrorism.

As an example of that, in 1999 Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Asheikh, the mufti of Saudi Arabia, was asked in an interview what he thought about suicide bombers. He condemned them and came out and said that they are against all the teachings of Islam. This was greatly reported in Saudi Arabia but it was not reported anywhere else.

I think perhaps part of the fault lies with us, in that we have not tried to export these statements and these sayings as diligently and as actively as maybe we should have. But also I think part of the fault lies with most particularly the Western media, who choose to highlight the negative rather than the positive elements that come out of the Middle East. So a statement like that by Sheikh Abdul Aziz at the time maybe would have been thought of in the New York Times or the Washington Post or ABC Television or Fox News, or whatever you want, as not being very important. But bin Laden’s statements about waging war against the United States and against humanity is considered more important and given more highlight.

So I think both of us, in our part of the world and in the West, have been at fault in not more actively and more forcefully putting out and publishing and openly declaring these statements that have come out from political and religious leaders against terrorism and against suicide bombings.

Question: Does your government consider Iran a state sponsor of terrorism? Also, the questioner wants to know about Syria, especially in light of you and your government’s very close relationship with former Prime Minister Hariri and his unfortunate assassination.

HRH Prince Turki Al-Faisal: We have friendly relations with Iran. We trade with them, we communicate with them. We believe that engaging in dialogue with Iran is better than isolating them. So we promote that kind of policy, not only in the Gulf but worldwide. We believe that in talking with Iran we can achieve much more than in not talking to them.

As far as Syria is concerned, it is true that the death of Al-Hariri was as much mourned in the Kingdom, because he was a Saudi citizen as you know, as he has been mourned in Lebanon and in other places. We are working with the Syrians and with the international community to find the culprits who committed that horrendous and dastardly deed. We believe that through the United Nations process that issue of justice for the killers of Hariri will be brought to close.

Question: You have held municipal elections but apparently those elected have yet to meet. Is that true? Give us a progress on the election cycle.

HRH Prince Turki Al-Faisal: Yes, it is true. That is because of mostly bureaucratic reasons. Hopefully by the beginning of this coming year, in January, all of the municipal councils will have gotten together to start their work. As one who was privileged to go and register in the process of the elections in the Kingdom and taking out an election card, I feel that all Saudis who did that are proud of that process and want to continue it and do it in our way. Our country is a relatively young country but it is a country that is looking to the future. In looking to the future, we are hoping to achieve and accomplish many of the things that others have accomplished before us, with as minimum damage to our society and our coherence as may have affected other countries in their search for more representative and more stable government.

Question: Since the Gaza disengagement, the trend has been to encourage in some parts different kinds of relations with Israel. Does the Gaza withdrawal and this trend change the Saudi initiative? Three other people would like to know why Saudi Arabia has not condemned the Iranian president’s call for the elimination of Israel.

HRH Prince Turki Al-Faisal: The Gaza initiative was welcomed by Saudi Arabia and by other Arab countries – more importantly, by the Palestinian people. But we want to see it as a first step, not as the final step, in the Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza. If anything, it reinforces the need that was put forward in the Abdullah initiative for the total withdrawal of Israeli forces from occupied territories.

As far as the condemnation of Iran’s statements on Israel, we prefer to deal directly with the Iranians and tell them face to face what we think of their statements rather than making a public issue of it and gaining some cookies, if you like, from those who might want to disperse that to other countries.

Wyche Fowler: Last question. I think you and I and most of the people in this room would agree that the strength of the Saudi-U.S. relationship over the last 30 or 40 years has been the number, like you, of Saudis who were educated in this country, preferred to study here, made friends. Those friendships developed into commercial relationships and joint ventures and have continued in alumnae associations. Since 9-11, of course, there has been a regrettable reduction in that exchange. I know that is also on King Abdullah’s mind. Do you have any good news to report either on our visa policy or behind-the-scenes decisions that will get our student exchanges going again?

HRH Prince Turki Al-Faisal: I do have good news to report. As you referred, Ambassador Fowler, to King Abdullah’s talks with President Bush, where they agreed in a joint statement on increasing the number of Saudi students who come to this country. This year alone we have increased our scholarships to students coming to the United States by 3,000 students, and hopefully in the next five years it will reach in the region of 15,000 students. So we’re hoping to increase that. The process is in place.

I came three days ago on a Saudia flight from Jeddah to Washington in which there were at least 50 Saudi students on that plane. I was told when I arrived in New York that the New York airport authorities have set aside a special room for Saudi students who come through, because they come in such large numbers, in order to process them. They actually hire more people now in the New York airport to do that. So if anybody is looking for a job, I think they can apply for that.

But there is an increase. The visa issue is something that still we are working with the U.S. government on. There has been much improvement on that, I’m very pleased to report. But there still remain some hiccups, if you like, in the bureaucracy in the United States on expediting the visa procedures for Saudis. Your government and my government are working very closely on removing those hiccups.

May I just say, before I end my presence in front of you – Ambassador Fowler is a great adventurer. I don’t know if many of you know this or not but he actually crossed the Nafud Desert on a camel, traveling several hundred miles with a group of just as foolhardy Saudis as he was. In the process we nearly lost him. There was a proverbial, if you like, desert storm that they encountered on the way and for nearly 48 hours or so we were very anxious about them. But fortunately they’ve been found and as you can see he’s still with us.

So thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. You’ve been very gracious.

Wyche Fowler: The Crown Prince wanted to know whether I wanted to come back and do that again. We have a saying in English, in America, Your Royal Highness – that was a once in a lifetime experience. Not again.

Thank you again, Ambassador Turki, to honor us with your presence and your thoughts. We wish you well. I repeat again, those citizens of the United States are fortunate to have a man of your experience and integrity representing your country. Thank you again.

About this Transcript:

His Royal Highness delivered this address as the opening keynote for MEI's 59th Annual Conference at the National Press Club in Washington DC. The introduction and Q&A were transcribed. The body of the transcript was provided in advance and is used here in the interest of expediency