Arab world’s ties with US discussed at meet

October 23, 2010 - 11:32:32 pm

By Tofol Al Nasr

Washington, DC: The National Council on US-Arab Relations (NCUSAR) concluded its 19th Annual Arab-US Policymakers Conference on Friday.

The two-day Conference drew over 35 speakers from across the Arab world and the United States, drawing from a prominent pool of dignitaries including Prince Turki bin Faisal Al Faisal Al Saud, Prince Abdulaziz bin Talal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Adel Al Jubeir, Saudi Ambassador to the US, James B Smith (Brigadier General), US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia,

Dr Hussein Hassouna, Ambassador of the League of Arab States to the US, Sameh Shoukry, Egyptian Ambassador to the US, Maen Rashid Areikat, Chief of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) to the US, among others.

The speakers highlighted the significance of Arab-US relations, especially since the Middle East supplies the majority of the world’s oil, according to Dr Herman Franssen, Senior Director of the Energy Intelligence Group (EIG) and former advisor to the Minister of Petroleum and Minerals in Oman.

“Competition for access to Middle East crude will increase significantly in the coming decades,” Franssen said while warning that if the US lessens trade with MENA, as suggested by the Obama administration, other regions will move in swiftly to take the US’ place. On the other hand, the MENA region’s critical role as a potential export market to the stagnating US economy was also touched upon by Francisco J Sanchez, Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade and Head of the International Trade Administration. “The MENA region is integral to the US export market,” said Sanchez.

Tensions between the Arab world and the US were dissected by the panel over the two-day conference, and the September 11 attacks were a common theme throughout the discussion.

Prince Turki bin Faisal Al Saud denounced the events as “vicious, cowardly, and criminally inhumane acts,” while praising the swift manner in which Saudi Arabia embraced cultural, social, and religious reform in order to direct public religious discourse toward moderation.

Adel Al Jubeir added that Saudi Arabia was devastated upon learning that 15 of the 19 terrorists associated with the attacks were Saudi citizens.

The ambassador noted that Saudi-US ties are improving rapidly, with signs of optimism illustrated by the increase in the issuance of Saudi visas to the United States.

While only 3,000 US visas were issued to Saudi citizens 5 years ago, there are 65,000 travel visas and 30,000 student visas issued today.

The Palestinian issue was also discussed at the conference as a delicate subject in US-Arab relations. Chas W Freeman Jr, former US ambassador to Saudi Arabia, and President Emeritus of the Middle East Policy Council, implored the audience to place themselves, as Americans, in the place of Palestinians. “Had this happened to us in the US, we would seek retribution”, he said, adding that the Israeli offence “revealed (the US’) considerable limits.” The Peninsula