The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Fahd bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud opened the deliberations of the third year of the second term of the Shoura (Consultative) Council at Al-Salam Royal Court in Jeddah today. The event was attended by Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, Deputy Premier and Commander of the National Guard, Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, Second Deputy Premier, Minister of Defense and Aviation and Inspector General, Prince Fahd bin Mohammed bin Abdul Aziz, Prince Mit'eb bin Abdul Aziz, Minister of Public Works and Housing, Prince Naif bin Abdul Aziz, Minister of Interior, Prince Faisal bin Turki bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, Prince Bander bin Khalid bin Abdul Aziz, Prince Abdullah bin Turki bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, Prince Saud Al-Faisal, Foreign Minister, Prince Mamdouh bin Abdul Aziz, Chief of the Strategic Studies Center, Prince Abdulmajeed bin Abdul Aziz, Governor of Al-Madinah region, Prince Bander bin Fahd bin Saad, Advisor to the Minister of Interior, Prince Saud bin Abdul-Mohsin, Acting Governor of Makkah region, other princes, religious Ulama, civil and military senior officials.
In a key-note address, King Fahd expressed his pleasure at opening, as is customary every year, the new session of the third year of the second term of the Shoura Council. He said that the Consultative Council has now taken its proper place among the national institutions responsible for the development in the country. The sincere commitment of its leaders and its members has earned the Council world-wide recognition. He praised the performance of the Shoura Council over the last six years of its existence for contributing effectively in decision-making. 'Your Council has made a substantial contribution by studying and reviewing laws, regulations and agreements and by using the consultative process to ensure decisions are taken for the benefit of the country', he told the Shoura members. He confirmed that the decision to expand the Council from 60 to 90 members was a step in the right direction 'to meet the expanding development-related needs, to discharge the renewed responsibilities, and to enrich the debates on the floor that yield apt and clearly defined decisions'.
He said the process of consultation in the Kingdom proved effective because it was characterized by justice, sincerity and dedication for the benefit of the nation. 'Emanating from the Sharia law, there was no doubt that the Shoura benefited the Kingdom by generating correct opinion and prudent decisions'. The King expressed pride at the innovative aspects of Shoura experience in the Kingdom. He attributed the success first to God the Almighty and then late King Abdul Aziz whose 'far-sighted planning made us a beacon for many Muslim countries in this field'. He recalled that today's event comes within the celebrations of the nation of the centennial of the establishment of the Kingdom by late King Abdul Aziz bin Abdulrahman Al Saud. King Fahd expressed his habitual pleasure 'in speaking on internal matters' which he said were dependent on two factors in the Kingdom: 'the citizen and the resources of the country'. He recalled that the world economy has faced 'serious challenges in the last few years, particularly the oil market which has suffered sharp price slides, a matter which affects our country among so many others in the world'. The King confirmed that Saudi Arabia was following its well-known strategy to seek, inside and outside Opec, the restoration of equilibrium in the oil market through co-operation with other producers to the benefit of both producers and consumers. He said the determination of the Kingdom to reach this goal has recently had a positive impact in the oil market situation 'which gives some cause for optimism'.
Touching on economic matters once again, King Fahd praised the role being played in the Kingdom by the private sector in helping to achieve the Kingdom's goals 'by developing the national workforce and laying a firm economic base'. He praised the Saudi private sector for its ability to adapt and deal with economic developments and challenges. He recalled that 'confidence in the experience and ability of the Saudi private sector had led the Government to take practical measures two years ago to initiate a process of privatization, thus allowing the private sector to undertake responsibilities in the management of several giant service utilities'. He cited the communication sector, and the leasing, operation, maintenance and management of docks and machinery at seaports. He also cited moves towards privatization in the field of power generation and distribution. He said the decision to merge the electricity corporations and all power-generation related establishments was designed to 'enable the private sector to compete in establishing and managing the power plants in the Kingdom'. He recalled that the government has also granted mining concessions to a number of cement companies to further strengthen their financial and industrial abilities.
The monarch recalled that this year a new oil field at Al-Shaiba was opened and that the Taadeen Company was granted a new mining concession for exploiting the raw gold and silver. He told the gathering that the Kingdom was determined to join the World Trade Organization despite the changing economic circumstances. 'However, we emphasize the importance of making progress in bringing about Arab economic integration in a world of large economic blocs', he said. He reiterated the call of Saudi Arabia for foreign investment in the Kingdom and for the transfer of technology into the country. He said the door is open for major international companies to invest in the Kingdom's industrial sector, based on the principle of stability and sustained production for the mutual benefit of the two parties. He said the outlines of the seventh five-year development plan had been studied by the Shoura Council and Cabinet, prior to initiation in six months.
He told the audience that the Kingdom would follow its program to diversify the sources of income to reduce dependence on the oil sector. To this effect, he confirmed the Kingdom's policy of co-operating with friendly oil-producing countries to maintain the stability of oil market and to keep the prices steady, while still maintaining an appropriate production quota for the Kingdom. He said he could not cite all that has been done and would be done by the Government for the benefit of its people, but only wanted to cite enough examples to confirm to all that the Government was totally committed to the pursuit of policies which empower the Saudi people to achieve national prosperity for themselves and for future generations. He said the government is committed to provide all parts of the country with the most advanced services and it is also committed to the creation of job opportunities for Saudi youth in both the governmental and private sectors. He cited the training programs undertaken by the governmental bodies, private companies and chambers of commerce and industry. He expressed confidence that the private sector would demonstrate utmost national co-operation in the recruitment of Saudi university graduates. He also expressed satisfaction at the campaigns conducted recently by governmental authorities to recruit Saudis in public and private sector vacancies.
The King also announced that the government was committed to the expansion of education as the main pillar of the economic and social development of the nation. He cited as one of the educational achievements of last year the merger of Abha branches of King Saud University and Imam Mohammed bin Saud University, to be named after late King Khalid bin Abdul Aziz. The King reviewed the comprehensive renaissance in the fields of education, health, industry, agriculture, communication, telecommunications and water. But he placed special emphasis on the water conservation program initiated by the Shoura Council and Council of Ministers during last year. He called on citizens and expatriates to observe the water conservation instructions for both potable and irrigation water and to build on past success.
Turning to external affairs, the King focused attention on the crucial regional and international role the Kingdom has to play. He said the Kingdom's foreign policy remained firm and consistent, being based, as it is, on continuous consultation with sisterly and friendly states in the world on current international political developments. He said this consultation takes place through contacts and meetings with foreign guests who come here seeking our views or through the successful visits made by Crown Prince Abdullah recently to several countries of the world. He said 'top of our agenda with Arab leaders are ways of enhancing Arab co-ordination and unity, creating mechanisms for Arab joint action concepts and maintaining the paramount and vital interests of the Arab nation'. The King confirmed that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was always supportive of the Palestinians in their struggle to establish an independent state, with Al-Quds as its capital. He considered the United Nations resolution last year to upgrade the representation status of Palestine as an important achievement in the right direction.
He reiterated the Kingdom's concern over the derailed Middle East peace process and called for its reactivation, according to the agreements of Oslo, Madrid and Washington, based on the United Nations Security Council resolutions No.s 242, 338, 425 and the principle of land for peace. He emphasized the importance of resuming negotiations on all tracks from the point where they were suspended. He recalled that the Kingdom had called on the co-sponsors of peace in the Middle East, particularly the United States, to exercise pressure and exert greater efforts to push the peace process forward and persuade Israel to moderate its intransigence which threatens the peace process with collapse. He said the Israelis were continuing to put obstacles in the face of peace and stability in the region, citing the recent bombing of Lebanon in which a number of civilians had been killed or injured and vital facilities had been destroyed. He also recalled that Saudi Arabia was calling on the world community to urge Israel to keep its hands away from the Holy City of Jerusalem and not to alter the legal status of the city.
Needless to say that the Kingdom supports the GCC, Arab League, Organization of Islamic Conference, Organization of African Unity and United Nations and any other mechanism that guarantees the enforcement of justice, peace, security and stability in the world. He warned of the existence of 'flash points' in the Islamic world, citing the current dispute between Pakistan and India and between other Islamic countries. He reiterated the Kingdom's call for them to use self-restraint and to seek dialogue, understanding, negotiations and arbitration in order to secure the interests of all parties peacefully. He recalled that the Kingdom was and will remain an advocate of peace. In this context, the Kingdom called for the banning of weapons of mass destruction in the region and the establishment of the Middle East as a nuclear free region. The Kingdom rejected the latest nuclear tests by some parties as an exercise which endangers peace in the region.
He described what was happening in Kosovo as a difficult lesson for the nation of Islam. He recalled that Saudi Arabia had urged the world community to take decisive action to stop the tyrannical and brutal practices of Serbia against the people of Kosovo. He expressed the hope that the people of Kosovo could enjoy peace and stability again on returning to their homeland, following the intervention of NATO and the peace agreement.
He drew attention to the phenomenon of terrorism in the world, particularly as perpetrated by Arab and Islamic terrorist leaders. He expressed pleasure that the Arab Interior Ministers have signed an anti-terrorism agreement and expressed hope that it would be actively put into force for the stability and security of innocent people in the region. He called on security authorities and all parties influencing public opinion to co-operate in eradicating the phenomenon of terrorism. He said 'the situation in our region is not so bad'; the Gulf Co-operation Council represents the constructive and sincere efforts of its leaders and people for peace and co-operation. In this context, he cited the rapprochement between the Kingdom and Iran which he described as a country bound by so many vital relations with the Kingdom and the Gulf region. He expressed hope that relations with Iran would proceed positively for the benefit of all parties in the Gulf region. The King said Saudi Arabia and South Africa had been successful in drafting an agreement acceptable to Libya which had circumvented the Lockerbie dilemma. He said the Kingdom was aware of some domestic and regional problems pending solution but 'it is a matter of time before they are settled', he said.
He repeated that, domestically, education, training and recruitment of the males and females of the country would remain the main concern of the Government. He underscored the importance of the regional administrative councils in the Kingdom as channels of contact and participation, the transmission of complaints and suggestions of citizens. He called for more efficiency for the councils of regions. He concluded by thanking the chairman, deputy chairman and members of the Shoura Council for their efforts exerted in the last year for the benefit of the nation.
For his part, Sheikh Mohammed Ibrahim bin Jubeir welcomed the King and thanked him for his advice. He recalled that the Shoura Council was entering its 75th year since it was decreed by late King Abdul Aziz and its seventh year since it was reactivated by King Fahd. He noted that efforts to issue the basic act of rule, the Shoura Act, the Cabinet Act and the Councils of Regions Act was yielding fruit. He confirmed that the Shoura Council members were aware of their mission and the role of their country regionally and internationally. He said the application of Shoura principle in the Kingdom was one aspect of the adherence of its leadership to the instructions of God and His Prophet (peace be upon him).