Saudi foreign minister warns of regional war amid Gaza crisis

In an exclusive interview with FRANCE 24, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, said his country was “concerned” about the possibility of a regional war in the Middle East. He said he feared that “the longer the conflict in Gaza goes on, the more danger there is for miscalculation, the more danger there is for escalation”.

The Saudi diplomat also accused Iran of being behind the recent attacks on Saudi oil facilities and civilian targets by the Houthi rebels in Yemen. He said Iran was “trying to create chaos” in the region and “destabilize” its neighbors. He called on the international community to “hold Iran accountable” for its actions and to “prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons”.

Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud also expressed his support for the Abraham Accords, the normalization agreements between Israel and several Arab countries, including the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. He said the accords were “a positive step” towards peace and stability in the region and that Saudi Arabia was “open to dialogue” with Israel on the basis of the Arab Peace Initiative, which calls for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Saudi Arabia condemns Hamas rocket attacks on Israel

The Saudi foreign minister also condemned the rocket attacks by the Palestinian militant group Hamas on Israel, which have triggered the worst violence in the region since 2014. He said Saudi Arabia “stands with the Palestinian people” and supports their “legitimate rights”, but that Hamas was “not helping the cause” by launching rockets indiscriminately at Israeli civilians.

He said Saudi Arabia was “working closely” with Egypt and other countries to broker a ceasefire and to end the bloodshed in Gaza, where more than 200 people have been killed, mostly civilians, according to health officials. He said Saudi Arabia was also providing humanitarian aid to the Palestinians and urged Israel to “exercise restraint” and to “respect the sanctity” of the holy sites in Jerusalem.

Saudi Arabia hopes for a revival of the Iran nuclear deal

The Saudi foreign minister also commented on the ongoing negotiations in Vienna to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). He said Saudi Arabia was “hopeful” that the talks would lead to a “stronger and longer” agreement that would address Iran’s “destabilizing behavior” in the region and its “ballistic missile program”.

He said Saudi Arabia was “in constant communication” with the United States and other parties to the deal and that it wanted to be “part of the solution”. He said Saudi Arabia was “ready to engage” with Iran on a “positive and constructive” basis, but that Iran had to “change its approach” and to “stop interfering” in the affairs of other countries.

He said Saudi Arabia was “not looking for a confrontation” with Iran, but that it was “prepared to defend” itself and its interests. He said he did not believe that Iran wanted a broader war, but that it was “playing with fire” by supporting proxy groups and militias across the region.

Saudi Arabia seeks to diversify its economy and society

The Saudi foreign minister also spoke about the ambitious reforms that his country was undertaking to diversify its economy and society, under the vision of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. He said Saudi Arabia was “moving away” from its dependence on oil and was “investing heavily” in renewable energy, tourism, entertainment, and technology.

He said Saudi Arabia was also “opening up” its society and was “empowering” its youth and women. He said Saudi Arabia had made “tremendous progress” in improving human rights and the rule of law and that it was “committed to further reforms”. He said Saudi Arabia was “proud” of its culture and heritage and that it was “welcoming” visitors from around the world to discover its “rich and diverse” attractions.

He said Saudi Arabia was “confident” in its future and that it was “looking forward” to hosting the G20 summit in November 2024, which would be “a historic opportunity” to showcase its achievements and to contribute to the global recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

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