Saudi Prince Turki Bin Faisal Al Saud. Image Credit: Gulf News Archive

Seoul: Prince Turki Al Faisal, the Chairman of the King Faisal Centre for Research and Islamic Studies and one of the highest ranking members of the ruling Al Saud family, called on a reexamination of the world order as he delivered a warmly received keynote address at the Asan Plenum 2015 on “Reordering the World Order: A Saudi Perspective” in Seoul, Korea.

He urged Washington to “rethink its policies in the Middle East to be a trusted leader again and ... [to] look into the region holistically free of its obsession with a nuclear deal with Iran and Israel’s security.”

Obama’s pivot towards Iran instead of Asia, Prince Turki said, “contributed to the collapse of the regional system of the Middle East, and the unleashing of radical terrorist forces that are destroying the concept of nation-states in the region.”

Prince Turki reflected some of the profound policy changes under way in the Kingdom, including the emphasis on the US as the conference theme proposed to answer the question: “Is the US back?”, he reiterated that calls to “reform the UN system, which is a metaphor for the waning international order, have been on the agenda of the international community since the early nineties of the last century,” adding: “Alas, all calls fell on deaf ears despite the continuing talk of the need for such restructuring to reflect the new realities of the world.”

“Failing to do so,” underscored the former ambassador to London and Washington, “led the world to the state of uncertainty that we are witnessing nowadays.”

In what was a masterful assessment, the Saudi leader’s address covered the gamut, as he recognised the positive contributions made by the UN system in the post Second World War environment, which ranged from the maintenance of the balance of power to “freeing many countries and societies from the plight of colonialism and subjugation,” to providing vital aid in the fields of health, education, environment, refugees, and development,” all under the premise “of equality between states, the right of self-determination, and the primacy of International Law.”

Nevertheless, Prince Turki hammered, world powers engaged in a devastatingly costly hot and cold wars, and while the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the “unipolarity” that emerged did not translate into “a more equitable international order that reflects the principles that the US was preaching during the cold war: Rule of Law, Self-determination, Human Rights, Freedom and Equality.”

There were no doubts that Washington was still a key country in the international system, Prince Turki underscored, though he quoted Zbigniew Brzezinski’s prescient recent remarks: “For the first time in history almost all of humanity is politically activated, politically conscious and politically interactive. Global activism is generating a surge in the quest for cultural respect and economic opportunity in a world scarred by memories of colonial or imperial domination”.

Under these circumstances, the Saudi thinker wondered how could the five permanent members of the UN Security Council overlook the roles that India, for example, or numerous other countries, wished to play join the family of active nation-states. Arabs, Africans and Latin Americans required effective representation too, which is why Prince Turki proposed “to reform the UN system for it to be fair, inclusive, reflective and up to the aspirations of the people of the world.”

The time was right to democratise the institution, he emphasised, as the Middle East required fresh attention to free itself from the demons of self-determination that transformed the area into the “the hell where the principle of the right of self-determination has been burned.”

Israel deprive Palestinians of their homeland and basic rights of self-determination and statehood, he reminded the audience, and while Washington protected it, he underlined that neither country championed justice. Similarly, the UN members states failed in Syria, Iraq and in Yemen too.

The sum total of these abuses at the Security Council persuaded Saudi Arabia to call for genuine reforms and to grant the General Assembly legislative powers that cannot be vetoed.

“Had Korea not avoided the Russian veto, 65 years ago,” Prince Turki avowed, “there would not have been the thriving and dynamic Republic of South Korea” that was all too evident to attendees.