Positive depiction of Saudi Arabia and its leaders as high-ranking Saudi prince visits Canada
Author: Mohammed Azhar Ali Khan (Ali Khan is identified as “a member of the editorial board of The Citizen” at the bottom of the article.)
Source: The Ottawa Citizen, October 6, 1987, p. A9
ORIGINAL TITLE: Canada, Saudi Arabia move closer; Visiting Saudi prince ‘pleased’ with new economic partnership
Prince Saud Al-Faisal Al-Saud of Saudi Arabia and External Affairs Minister Joe Clark seem to have achieved a breakthrough in their efforts to forge closer relations between their countries.
The two governments have signed a comprehensive agreement granting each other most-favored-nation status, which the prince describes as a “qualitative leap into a new economic partnership.” They have revived a joint economic committee that had become rusty. They have put the businessmen of the two countries in contact.
Prince Saud, the highest-ranking Saudi ever to visit Canada, said he is “immensely pleased” and very hopeful about future co-operation between Canada and Saudi Arabia.
The prince is the son of the late King Faisal, one of the most respected Middle Eastern leaders of this century; the nephew of King Fahd, the current king; and the country’s foreign minister.
At a dinner given by Clark on the weekend, Prince Saud said Canada “enjoys a special status in world affairs” – because it has no colonial history and supports United Nations activities for peace and security.
Although Saudi Arabia has economic agreements with the U.S., Japan and several European countries, he said he is particularly keen for co-operation with Canada, because the two countries are middle-sized and complement each other.
This co-operation started some years ago. Some 3,000 Canadians are working in Saudi Arabia. More than 300 post-graduate Saudis are enrolled in Canada. In 1986, Canada’s exports and services to Saudi Arabia reached $600 million, making that country Canada’s biggest trading partner in the Middle East. Imports from Saudi Arabia came to $187 million.
Both Canadians and Saudis consider this minuscule. Saudi Arabia has spent some $500 billion U.S. in recent years on development. American, European, and Japanese businesses secured the lion’s share, selling equipment, services and expertise. Canada got peanuts.
Now the Saudis are entering a new phase – maintaining the infrastructure, seeking more sophisticated training, starting joint ventures. It remains to be seen whether Canada will join in a big way – the new Saudi five-year plan will cost some $274 billion U.S. by the end of 1990 – or will pick up the leftovers after the other industrialized countries have scooped up their share.
Clark wants Canada in the front row, providing expertise, helping Saudi Arabia develop and creating jobs for Canadians.
When Clark visited the Middle East last year, he coaxed his Saudi counterpart into visiting Canada. The two leaders revived the joint economic committee that was set up in 1976 to promote economic co-operation between the two countries but which had become moribund.
The committee winds up its meeting today. High officials of the two countries discussed increased co-operation in mining, transportation, communications, agriculture and education and training.
The meeting was attended by some of Saudi Arabia’s top 27 businessmen who had come on a one-week trip to Canada, at the initiative of the Department of External Affairs, to consider business projects here. They visited Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa. Some of them were euphoric about Canada, praising it as a beautiful country, with friendly, open people, and saying they’d visit it again with their families and consider economic collaboration.
Canada and Saudi Arabia, despite the lack of top-level contact so far, have co-operated for years. Canada and the Arab countries are jointly financing 45 aid projects in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. Canada’s share of the $8-billion cost of these projects is $1 billion, with the Arabs providing the rest.
Between 1973 and 1985 OPEC aid, in the form of soft loans, went to 99 countries and came to $82 billion. Arab-OPEC countries devote an annual average of 2.17 per cent of their Gross National Product to foreign aid, compared to the 0.35 per cent average of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development countries and the 0.12 per cent of the Eastern Bloc countries.
Saudi Arabia is the world’s leading donor in absolute terms, averaging 6.62 per cent of its GNP for foreign aid. Canada and Saudi Arabia are co-operating on 17 aid projects in 14 countries.
During his visit, Prince Saud has repeated to Canadians his concern about tension in the Gulf. At their official dinner, both Clark and Saud spoke about the urgent need for a just settlement of the Arab-Israeli dispute and for ending the destructive war between Iran and Iraq. But the prince said world peace is also threatened by the Soviet Union’s continued occupation of Afghanistan and by “weaknesses and ailments inherent in the international economic system in general, and the international monetary system in particular.” He deplored the “protectionist trends in some industrialized countries.”
Last week, at the United Nations, the prince said his country’s foreign policy is based on the principles of the United Nations Charter, which is in accord with “what Islamic law stipulates for the conduct of international relations. As the Custodian of the Two Holy Places, King Fahd bin Abdul-Aziz noted in an address … that Islamic belief is an integral doctrine which is based on mercy, compassion, solidarity, brotherhood and mutual respect, and is devoid of oppression, deceit and treachery.”
Prince Saud is concerned that Islam is often misunderstood in the West. He has begun sounding out Princeton University to establish a chair for Islamic studies there.
Tall, dignified and regal, the prince resembles his late father, whom I met in 1971 in Jeddah. Saudi rulers are accessible to people, and even today King Fahd has a weekly majlis or gathering, where almost anybody can meet him.
Dignified and unpretentious, the king told me that Moslems of Canada should remember the Islamic message of human and especially Islamic, brotherhood and base their lives on obedience to God.
Given their deep devotion to Islam, the Saudis have tried to modernize without sacrificing these religious beliefs.
Prince Saud symbolizes the harmonious blend of traditional beliefs and modern education. His father, King Faisal, was deeply religious and moral – a devoted family man, who worked hard for his people’s welfare.
Saud’s mother, Princess Iffat, a dedicated wife and mother, sought to improve women’s position in the kingdom. Prince Saud was born in 1940 and received his early education and religious instruction in Saudi Arabia. He received his BA in Economics from Princeton University in 1964.
Returning home, Saud, like other sons of King Faisal, started at the bottom, as an economic researcher in the state-run oil company. His hard work, brilliant mind and royal lineage pushed him fast. By 1971, he had become deputy minister of petroleum and mineral resources.
On March 25, 1975, King Faisal was assassinated, a tragedy that shocked the Moslem world. Four days later, Prince Saud was named minister of state for foreign affairs and then foreign minister, a post he has continued to hold under his uncles King Khaled and King Fahd.
It’s a demanding job, given Saudi Arabia’s key position in the Arab and Moslem worlds. But the prince doesn’t neglect his wife and six children. His oldest son, Mohammed, is in a military school in Texas learning to be a pilot.
For relaxation, Prince Saud plays tennis, swims and reads, his current favorite subject being astronomy. He likes to ski, but doesn’t get much time.
Prince Saud also displays flashes of humor. Meeting Canadian journalists, he accidentally tripped a microphone. “We’re trying to control the news,” he joked.
Like his parents, Prince Saud has a passion: to promote education among Saudis. He is keen that they acquire high education and he said that the best guarantee of future Canadian-Saudi relations is for Saudis to get training in Canadian institutions. This way they will feel close to Canada.
He has helped establish an Institute for Diplomatic Studies at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He has another passion: promoting the replenishment of Saudi Arabia’s natural wildlife, which has been steadily diminished by hunters over the years. He aims to bring the numbers of desert animals back to their previous levels.
Prince Saud lives in a dangerous part of the world. His hope is to make the world less volatile and more humane – a goal all sensible people share. Not many Canadians can say to him Ahlan wa sahlan (Welcome), but if they knew him, they would wish him well.
Black & White Photo; Wayne Hiebert, Citizen; Prince Saud is highest-ranking Saudi to visit Canada