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Author: 
P.K. Abdul Ghafour, Arab News
Publication Date: 
Sun, 2006-05-14 03:00

JEDDAH, 14 May 2006 — The Saudi-US Committee for Strategic Dialogue will hold its second meeting in Washington on May 18. The meeting will explore the prospects of expanding cooperation in military, security and economic sectors and fighting terrorism, according to Saudi Ambassador to the United States, Prince Turki Al-Faisal.

Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal and his American counterpart, Condoleezza Rice, will co-chair the meeting, which will also discuss the problems facing Saudi students, businessmen and visitors in obtaining visas from the US Embassy in Riyadh.

The committee was formed during the historic meeting of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah and US President George W. Bush at the president’s Texas ranch on April 25, 2005. It held its first meeting in Jeddah on Nov. 13 last year.

In a statement to the Saudi Press Agency, Prince Turki said the Washington meeting would discuss a range of issues to enhance bilateral cooperation, scientific and cultural exchanges and cooperation in the field of energy in addition to international issues of mutual concern.

Prince Turki said the committee had been set up to institutionalize relations and deepen coordination on strategic and political issues. “The dialogue helps facilitate Saudi-US cooperation in combating terrorism, the most common threat faced by both nations,” the ambassador said. He also called for improving cultural understanding between Saudi Arabia and the US through educational exchanges and the media.

“The committee will discuss the prospects of reopening US consulates in both Jeddah and Dhahran in order to facilitate obtaining of visas by both Saudi businessmen and students,” SPA quoted the ambassador as saying. He noted the desire of the US to meet the educational expenditures of some Saudi students in the country. Talks are now under way to finalize a scholarship program named after King Abdul Aziz and former US President Franklin Roosevelt.

The first meeting in Jeddah set up six working groups for counterterrorism; military affairs; energy; economic and financial affairs; consular affairs and partnership; and educational exchange and human development in the US and Saudi Arabia.

After the Jeddah meeting, Prince Saud said that he and Secretary Rice had discussed various structures for the dialogue, its objectives and responsibilities. “We also discussed a number of broad issues of mutual interest,” Rice noted, including the course of reform in Saudi Arabia, fighting terrorism, and bringing stability to Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as economic relations.

Prince Saud stressed Saudi Arabia’s seriousness in combating terror. “Visit the country and see whether we’re serious about fighting terror or not. Our people are being killed. Our resources are being squandered on terrorist activity. We are fighting as hard as we can.,” he said.

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