April 24, 2009

Prince Touts C.U.-Saudi Bond

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The relationship between Cornell University and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was publicly acclaimed yesterday when His Royal Highness, Prince Turki Al-Faisal, addressed a gathered audience at Statler Auditorium.
Prince Turki’s speech, “What We Expect from America: a Saudi Perspective,” the latest in the Foreign Policy Distinguished Speaker Series held by the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, focused largely on how the United States should handle issues throughout the Middle East.
In starting the talk, Wasif Syed, chairman of the Prince Turki Al-Faisal Welcome Committee, noted Prince Turki’s authority in Middle East foreign relations.
“Prince Turki, as one of the most senior members of the Royal Family of Saudi Arabia, is uniquely suited to give a perspective on this issue,” Syed said. “Saudi Arabia has played a pivotal role in the twentieth century and will continue to do so for centuries to come.”
President David Skorton formally introduced Prince Turki to the audience, emphasizing that he was “personally and professionally pleased” with the growing connection between Cornell and Saudi Arabia, which is rooted in the establishment of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology.
“Former [Cornell] President Frank T. Rhodes was instrumental in the signing of the charter of King Abdullah University, and now sits on its board of trustees,” Skorton noted.
“We are delighted that you’re here today to give an insight into Saudia Arabia and our relations.”
Beginning with a traditional invocation of Allah, the Prince addressed the audience for nearly an hour and took questions for another half hour, offering advice, criticism and anecdotes gained from his experiences with the United States as well as with Cornell itself.
He called the partnership between Saudia Arabia and Cornell a “groundbreaking relationship,” and expressed his hope that the two “would work together on issues that will impact all of mankind.”
Prince Turki detailed momentous events throughout the 81-year history of U.S.-Saudi foreign relations. He spoke fondly of the initial assistance of Arthur Crane, an American entrepreneur to King Abdul Aziz, the first leader of Saudi Arabia, in efforts to find underground sources of water to irrigate the lands of the new established Arab nation. The geologist that Crane sent did not find any water, but instead noted a potential for oil to be discovered.
Prince Turki also noted that the tension between the two nations was at its highest when they disputed over Israel, first during its founding in 1948 and more intensely in 1973, during the Ramadan war, also known as the Yom Kippur War. At that time, the United States’ support of Israel led to an oil embargo that dramatically raised gas prices in the United States. [img_assist|nid=37197|title=Bridging the gap|desc=His Royal Highness Prince Turki Al-Faisal, a former Saudi Ambassador to the United States, addresses a crowd in Statler Auditorium yesterday.|link=node|align=right|width=|height=0]
He also focused on more recent events, highlighting the support of the United States during the Persian Gulf War of 1991 when Iraq invaded Kuwait and threatened to do the same to Saudia Arabia.
“We will always be grateful that you sent your kids to stand alongside our soldiers,” he said.
Another major event Prince Turki highlighted was a dispute between President George W. Bush and then-Crown Prince Abduallah in 2001. The prince explained that when it became evident that Bush was abandoning the Middle East peace processes that President Bill Clinton — a Georgetown classmate of Prince Turki — advocated, relations between the two countries cooled. As a result, Crown Prince Abdullah wrote to Bush explaining that the two nations had reached a crossroads, and a decision had to be made whether or not they would follow the same path or go their separate ways.
“That acted as a wake up call [for Bush],” Prince Turki said.
By and large Prince Turki expressed a satisfaction with the relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia so far, particularly in spite of numerous dangers and problems that were generated by the acts of Sept. 11, 2001.
“Despite these hostilities, the two governments remained cool headed … and managed to overcome the effects of that situation.”
Prince Turki also turned an eye to the future, offering advice on how the United States and President Obama should handle foreign policy.
“We don’t want any more plans,” he said, “we don’t want Obama to say … ‘come and tell me what you want.’ No. We want Obama to tell us what he wants. … We want an end vision to all this.”
“We’re willing to listen to what [Obama] tells us and do what he says,” he continued. “He should take advantage of this, put his foot on the ground … not just speak, but also act.”
“We’re holding our breath and waiting.”