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Former Saudi foreign minister Saud Al Faisal dies, aged 75

Prince Saud was world’s longest-serving top diplomat

  • Saudi Prince Saud Al Faisal
    Prince Saud Al FaisalImage Credit: AFP
  • Saudi Prince Saud Al Faisal
    Prince Saud Al-Faisal, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia, addresses the United Nations General AsseImage Credit: AP
  • Saudi Prince Saud Al Faisal
    Prince Saud Al Faisal with UAE Foreign Minister, Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al NahyanImage Credit: WAM
  • Saudi Prince Saud Al Faisal
    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, talks with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal bin AbdulaziImage Credit: AP
  • Saudi Prince Saud Al Faisal
    Prince Saud with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Feb. 12, 2007 at Al Aziziyah Palace in Riyadh, SaudImage Credit: AP
  • Saudi Prince Saud Al Faisal
    U.S. -ex-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during a joint press conference with Prince Saud at the GCC secretImage Credit: AP file
  • Saudi Prince Saud Al Faisal
    Iranian President Mohammad Qutami, right, shakes hand with Prince in this Aug. 3, 2002 file photo. Image Credit: AP
  • Saudi Prince Saud Al Faisal
    President Clinton poses with Prince Saud before a meeting at the UN on Sept. 24, 1996. Image Credit: AP File photo
  • Saudi Prince Saud Al Faisal
    In this June 26, 1945, file photo, Saudi Arabia's Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Faisal bin Abdul AzizImage Credit: AP
  • Saudi Prince Saud Al Faisal
    Image Credit: Agency

Riyadh: Saudi Arabia's former Foreign Minister, Prince Saud Al Faisal, has died on Thursday, family members and a foreign ministry spokesman said late Thursday.

AFP has reported that a nephew of the former Saudi diplomat has confirmed the death.

"May God accept him in paradise," the prince's nephew Saud Mohammed al-Abdullah al-Faisal said on Twitter.

Prince Saud, 75, was the world's longest-serving top diplomat. He was replaced on April 29 by Adel Al Jubeir, the then Saudi ambassador to Washington, who took over the portfolio after Prince Saud relinquished it for health reasons.

Saudi with Bill Clinton
File picture taken, Sept. 24, 1996 shows former US President Clinton with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal before a meeting at the United Nations (AP)
 

Astute diplomat

Prince Saud was born in 1940 and was the world’s longest-serving foreign minister, having stepped down in April after 40 years.

The astute diplomat had developed a reputation for his formidable intellect on the world stage.

When he was appointed in October 1975, the region was dominated by Cold War rivalries, and secular pan-Arab nationalism seemed to be the future.

Egypt and Israel had not yet made peace, and Yasser Arafat led the Palestine Liberation Organisation from shell-pocked refugee camps in Lebanon. Iran's shah still ruled from his Peacock Throne, while in Iraq a young Saddam Hussein was plotting his path to power.

Prince Faisal bin Abdul Aziz Al Saudi
In this June 26, 1945, file photo, Saudi Arabia's Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Faisal bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud, sitting, signs the UN Security Charter, in San Francisco, as members of his delegations sit behind him. Seventy years ago leaders of 50 war-weary countries gathered in San Francisco to create an international order that would save future generations “from the scourge of war.” With that, the United Nations was created. AP

During his tenure, he saw Israel invade Lebanon in 1978, 1982 and 2006, the eruption of Palestinian intifadas in 1987 and 2000, Iraq's invasions of Iran in 1980 and Kuwait in 1990, and the occupation of Iraq by a U.S.-led coalition in 2003.

Riyadh's relationship with Saddam, which went from wary support during the Iran-Iraq war to fierce enmity after the invasion of Kuwait, dominated foreign policy for long periods during Prince Saud's tenure.

For four dacades, Prince Saud was at the forefront of Saudi diplomacy and took the Kingdom’s message of peace across the length and breadth of the planet.

Apart of Arabic, Prince Saud spoke several languages, including English, French, Italian, German and Spanish.

Prince Saud was imbued with an intense desire for knowledge.

Kerry faisal
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, talks with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, after Kerry arrived in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, Nov. 3, 2013. (AP)

Education

His quest for knowledge led him to the prestigious Princeton University in the United States, where he earned a degree in economics and became a member of the exclusive Ivy League club.

He is considered one of the oldest ministers of foreign affairs in the world, where he took office in 1975 and stayed in office until April 29 2015.

He joined the Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources, where he worked as an economic adviser to the Ministry and a member of the Higher Coordinating Committee of the ministry. He was then transferred to the General Organization for Petroleum and Minerals' Petromin 'and became responsible for the petroleum Relations Office, which oversees the relationship coordination between the Ministry and Petromin'

He was appointed deputy director for planning affairs of Petromin in 1970 and Undersecretary of the Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources in 1971.

Timeline

1940 - Prince Saud, a son of King Faisal, was born in 1940 in Taif near Makkah

1964 - Received his Bachelor’s degree in economics from Princeton University, in  New Jersey. That same year, Prince Saud became a consultant to the Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources and a member of its High Coordination Committee.

1970 - Appointed deputy governor of the General Organization for Petroleum and Mineral Resources (Petromin)

1971 - Named Deputy Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources, a post he kept until 1975

October 1975 - King Khaled asked him to become minister of foreign affairs at a time when the consequences of the 1973 Arab-Israeli War resonated strongly through the Middle East. He then highlighted the Kingdom’s concern over the plight of the Palestinian people.

1989 - He helped negotiate the agreement in Makkah that ended Lebanon's 15-year civil war.

2001 – The prince was grieved to hear of the terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001, even more so when he learned about the number of Saudis involved. He said then: “You must understand how shocking it was for Saudi Arabia to have heard the news that 15 Saudis were part of that.” He also let the world know about the distinction Saudis draw between the true Islam and the murderous acts perpetrated by Al-Qaeda.

2002 - Prince Faisal launched King Abdullah's biggest foreign policy initiative, an Arab plan for peace with Israel in return for a withdrawal from all occupied land and a resolution of the refugee problem. "All the neighbourhood, if you will, will be at peace with Israel, will recognise their right to exist. If this doesn't provide security of Israel, I assure you the muzzle of a gun is not going to provide that security," he said at the time. Israel never agreed to the plan and Prince Saud said frequently that the failure to help create a Palestinian state was the biggest disappointment of his career.

2003 - Prince Saud publicly argued against the US invasion of Iraq, presciently warning of a chaotic aftermath that could destabilise the region. "If change of regime comes with the destruction of Iraq, then you are solving one problem and creating five more problems," he said in a British television interview.

2004 - During a moment of tension in Saudi ties with its main ally the United States, he described the relationship as "a Muslim marriage" in which the kingdom could retain different wives if it treated them all with fairness. He retained that incisiveness even as a chronic back complaint and other maladies in recent years made his hands shaky and his speech slurred.

2008 – In a speech before the UN General Assembly, he said: “Israeli occupation of Arab land continues to transform the whole region into multiple crisis zones accompanied by the dramatic suffering of Palestinians causing the spread of despair and extremism.”

2012 - Asked if it would be a good idea to arm Syria's rebels, he said briskly: "I think it's an excellent idea."

April 29, 2015 - Prince Saud relinquishes his post for health reasons. Adel Al Jubeir, then Saudi ambassador to Washington, took over the portfolio.

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