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Editorial: Crown prince sets the record straight on terror

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Naif has had a forceful impact at the United Nations in New York. In two addressees to the General Assembly he urged greater generosity toward refugees and increased cooperation in the face of international terrorism.
Besides his two important public statements, the crown prince held an intense round of meetings with world leaders. These included discussions with US President Barack Obama and President Francois Hollande of France.
The UN’s summit for refugees and migrants, which the crown prince first spoke at, could not have come at a better time. The UN Refugee Agency has produced a deeply disturbing report. It shows that the world has never seen such a high level of refugees. Every single day, some 34,000 people are forcibly displaced by conflict or persecution. Around the world, 65.3 million people have been on the move. Conflict and oppression account for 21.3 million refugees driven from their homes. More than half of these unfortunates are under the age of 18. Their chances in life are much diminished by a lack of access to schools. In Syria the fighting has left no less than 2.1 million children and adolescents without access to any education.
The crown prince told UN members that the Kingdom had given refuge to 2.5 million Syrians. Some 140,000 Syrian children were being educated in the country’s schools and universities. He stressed that Syrian families were not treated as unwelcome refugees. They were given residence permits and were greeted as guests.
Nor has Saudi Arabia’s helping hand ended there. The government recognizes the challenges of the sprawling refugee camps established by countries neighboring Syria. It has already given $800 million to help support these camps. On top of this, Saudis and expatriates have contributed very generously to two separate countrywide appeals for Syrian refugees. Saudi charities are also active in the camps. One of their most important jobs has been in counseling Syrians, particularly children, traumatized by the horrors they have seen.
The Kingdom has been equally concerned by the refugee crisis in Yemen caused by the Iranian-backed Houthi rebellion. Operation Decisive Storm to restore the Yemeni government is crushing the rebels. But at the same time more than half a billion dollars have already been provided in humanitarian assistance. A generous welcome has been given to Yemeni refugees in Saudi Arabia itself. More than 285,000 Yemeni students are being given free education. And Yemeni refugees elsewhere have not been forgotten. Aid worth $42 million has been provided to Yemenis who have fled to Djibouti and Somalia.
In recent years the global scale of the refugee tragedy has increased steadily. The UN has often struggled to draw in crisis funds. Governments still facing domestic austerity were reluctant to find spare cash. In the face of recessionary forces, the Kingdom has rejected austerity. The launch of Vision 2030 is the ambitious alternative route it has chosen to follow. And the decision to invest for economic growth is mirrored in help to the outside world. The crown prince pointed out to UN members that Saudi Arabia was the world’s third largest donor in terms of emergency relief and humanitarian and development aid. In the last four decades it has provided an extraordinary $139 billion in international assistance.
When he spoke to the General Assembly for a second time, the crown prince addressed the issue of terrorism. He said that long before 9/11 the Kingdom had itself been the victim of a terror campaign. It had confronted 100 terror operations including 18 terrorist attacks. It had been among the first to condemn the 2001 attacks on America. It was therefore, he said, “puzzling” that Congress had pursued a bill, which would allow families of 9/11 victims to sue the Kingdom on the basis that the majority of the attackers had been Saudis.
And it is indeed perplexing. With the Americans and Italians, Saudi Arabia heads an increasingly effective coalition to cut terrorist funding. It is sharing the security expertise it has gained so painfully in combating terrorists within the Kingdom. It has pioneered and financed UN-based coordination of the fight against international terrorism.
It has long been clear that its enemies are intent on trying to link Saudis with terror. This is to stand the truth on its head. The chief accuser is Iran. Its motives are obvious. It seeks to undermine the Kingdom’s key regional leadership. And the hypocrisy is stunning. Iran, not Saudi Arabia, is a sponsor of terrorism. Its bloody work can be seen in Yemen, Lebanon and Syria.

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