Michel Cousins, Arab News Staff
Monday 23 February 2004
Last Update 23 February 2004 12:00 am
JEDDAH, 23 February 2004 — In his first public address since arriving in the Kingdom, US Ambassador James C. Oberwetter last night said those who tried to disrupt the relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia would “not succeed”.
The US, he said, had a “long-standing commitment” to the Kingdom. It included not only working together “to defeat the terrorists who have tried hard to drive us apart” but also to ensure the security and prosperity of both countries.
Oberwetter was speaking to a crowd of some 400 guests at a National Day reception at the US Consulate here marking the joint birthdays of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.
For almost 60 years, he said, Saudi Arabia had been one of the US’ “closest allies”. His country had a “tremendous interest” in seeing the Kingdom’s security and stability. This meant encouraging economic reforms. They would lead to increased business and trade growth. This, he believed, would result in the creation of jobs for a growing population.
The two countries had interests which underpinned a “critical relationship”. There was much that both had in common — religious faith, family values, and the pursuit of peace. Washington and Riyadh would continue to talk as close friends, he said, even if it would inevitably include highlighting “the areas where we might differ in approach”. This is what “long-time friends” do, he said. “They freely discuss their differences, work toward mutually beneficial solutions and they celebrate their similarities.”
Following a ceremony moving even to non-American hearts, where the strains of the Star-Spangled Banner wafted on the Jeddah evening air and all eyes seemed fixed on the floodlit Stars-and-Stripes gently waving in the cool breeze, the ambassador said that he intended to work on those areas of “similarity” and give his support to “our friends here working on behalf of changes that will strengthen US-Saudi ties.”
Prior to his appointment, Ambassador Oberwetter was vice president of Governmental & Political Affairs for Hunt Oil in Dallas, Texas. Although new to the diplomatic service, he is not new to the Arab world, he said last night. He had been introduced to Arab culture as a student when his parents lived in Libya.
The ambassador was accompanied by his wife, Anita, who arrived in the Kingdom just four days ago. She would also be part of the US diplomatic team in her own right, he said, focusing on medicine and health care issues.