World’s Longest Serving Diplomat Saud Al-Faisal Passes Away

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Saudi foreign minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal, seen, during a press release at Riyadh Airbase in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, March 15, 2009. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
Saudi foreign minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal, seen, during a press release at Riyadh Airbase in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, March 15, 2009. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
JEDDAH (IINA) – Former Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal has died in the United States on Thursday, according to a statement from the Royal Court. “Funeral prayer for the deceased prince will be held at the Grand Mosque in Makkah after Isha prayers on Saturday,” the Saudi Press Agency reported quoting the statement.
Prince Saud was serving as Minister of State, Member of the Cabinet, Advisor and Special Envoy of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, after retiring the job of foreign minister following 40 years of service in the post.
The prince’s death was first announced by Nawaf Al-Faisal, a relative, on Facebook, while a foreign ministry spokesman also confirmed the death on Twitter and expressed condolences. “I wish I could deny the rumor of the news of his death,” the spokesman Osama Nugali tweeted. Prince Saud’s nephew Saud Mohammed al-Abdullah al-Faisal also acknowledged the death of the veteran diplomat. “May God accept him in paradise,” he wrote on Twitter.
Prince Saud, who was appointed in 1975, was the world’s longest serving foreign minister when he was replaced on April 29 by Adel Al-Jubeir, the then ambassador to Washington. His tenure saw Israel invade Lebanon in 1978, 1982 and 2006, the eruption of Palestinian intifadas in 1987 and 2000, Iraq’s invasions of Iran in 1980 and Kuwait in 1990, and the occupation of Iraq by a US-led coalition in 2003. Prince Saud served under four Saudi kings, advancing the Kingdom’s foreign policy, especially after the attacks of September 11, 2001 in the United States.
Prince Saud, a son of King Faisal, was born in 1940 in Taif near Makkah, where in 1989 he helped negotiate the agreement that ended Lebanon’s 15-year civil war. A degree at Princeton in the 1960s was followed by years at the Petroleum Ministry, where he was taken under the wing of his father’s canny and charismatic oil minister Ahmed Zaki Yamani.
His career as a diplomat began traumatically: the new King Khaled named him as foreign minister following the assassination of Prince Saud’s father Faisal, who had retained the foreign affairs portfolio after being made king in 1962. As the foreign minister of an important political and economic US ally in the region, Saud was reported to have been well liked and respected in diplomatic circles.
The US embassy in Saudi Arabia tweeted the US secretary of state John Kerry as saying that “Saud was not only the longest serving foreign minister, but was also one of the wisest”. He was often described as a charismatic leader, willing to talk to reporters, and with a sense of humor. With age, Saud faced many health problems. In the last few years, despite suffering from chronic back pain and having various surgeries, he maintained his challenging role, Al Jazeera reported.
When he was appointed in October 1975, the region was dominated by Cold War rivalries. Egypt and Israel had not yet made peace, and Yasser Arafat led the Palestine Liberation Organization from refugee camps in Lebanon. In 2002, he launched King Abdullah’s biggest foreign policy initiative, an Arab plan for peace with Israel in return for a withdrawal from all occupied land and a resolution of the refugee problem.
“All the neighborhood, if you will, will be at peace with Israel, will recognize their right to exist. If this doesn’t provide security of Israel, I assure you the muzzle of a gun is not going to provide that security,” he said at the time. Israel never agreed to the plan and Prince Saud said frequently that the failure to help create a Palestinian state was the biggest disappointment of his career.
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Clarion India - News, Views and Insights about Indian Muslims, Dalits, Minorities, Women and Other Marginalised and Dispossessed Communities.

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