​​Dear RH Lords, Members of Parliament, Ladies and Gentlemen.​

It is my pleasure to welcome you to our embassy.

As everyone here knows, the relations between our countries are strong and have stood the test of time. For decades, Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom have worked together and at times been partners in many areas of international affairs. Today, the fact that these relations are ongoing and ever-evolving can only be considered a good thing, both for us and the world in general.

However, let me be frank with you. There are widespread misconceptions about Saudi Arabia in the British media and these are held as fact by certain circles of British society. It is now normal to disparage the Kingdom and to belittle any political or economic effort or reform made by the Saudi government. There are some in Britain who have an ideological dislike, even an aversion to what Saudi Arabia represents. This is an attitude that needs to be challenged, not only by rhetorical persuasion, but by appeal to the facts.

The fact is, our nations share numerous concerns, such as human rights, economic and political development, and combating terror. These issues cannot be solved instantly, but require greater understanding, reflection, and measures that are befitting to the complexities of culture and custom.

Let me start with human rights.

Human rights are central to our thinking and an indispensable part of our beliefs. Without indulging in theoretical analysis on the universality or relativity of human rights, I will list some of the achievements made by my government in protecting and enhancing these rights.  

First, the Saudi government has enacted legislation to permit the working of governmental and non-governmental organisations in the Kingdom. These organisations have encouraged and promoted human rights and enhanced civil society. Now both citizens and the press are free to report any violations or breaches. 

Second, to enhance the role of the judiciary and ensure greater independence for the executive powers, the government issued a law in October 2007 to create the Supreme Judicial Council. The decisions of the Council are final and decided by the verdict of the majority. The Minister of justice, who before had the power to ask for any ruling to be reconsidered, is no longer enjoys such a prerogative. This development did not escape the attention of Human Rights Watch, which said in its report in 2010: “With time the judiciary may become a fairer institution as a result of King Abdullah’s judicial reforms.”

Third, the Labour law in 2006 eased the restrictions on sex segregation, and Royal Decree 187 in 2005 now permits private companies to employ women. A Council of Ministers resolution has also allowed women to apply for licences to run their own businesses. Lately, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz has granted women their political rights to vote and to run for a seat in the next municipal elections, as well as the right to be members of the Consultative Council.

These are some examples, and there are many more. But what we see in the Kingdom is a natural progression conforming to the social and cultural changes of our society, which, it must be added, remains profoundly conservative. These changes are not mere gestures; they are deeply structural, in-depth changes to the fabric of our society, and they are a testament to the readiness of the government to listen, discuss and act in our citizens’ best interests.

Now to the economy. The kingdom is on very firm ground. Its economy is growing in strength despite the fact that it is in a region witnessing uncertainty and increasing instability. The Saudi government has managed to successfully steer the economy towards sustainable growth and expansion, which has resulted in the kingdom now claiming the title of the region’s largest economy and the 5th fastest reforming economy among 183 countries surveyed by the World Bank.  Recently the government has also allocated $400 billion for further infrastructural development, including airports, roads, as well as programmes focused specifically on education and training, research and development, information technology, health, social and security services. Yet, despite these expenditures, our budget is still running a surplus and our foreign reserves have increased to more than 500 billion dollars. 

Holding 25% of the world’s oil reserves and 70% of global spare capacity, the current projection for the Kingdom in the coming five years is to earn on average about 250 billion dollars per year. Supported by such a powerful economy, the kingdom has become an indispensable state. We take our importance to the global economy as both a responsibility and a state of affairs that dictates that our interests and wishes can no longer be overlooked

On the political front, the kingdom and its policies are designed to ensure a safer Middle East and a better world. In the Middle East we are left with a festering and inhumane tragedy - the problem of Palestine. The kingdom strongly believes that peace is a distant dream without a just and lasting solution for the Palestinians, who are the only citizens of the world still living without a state of their own. The Palestinian tragedy is not just a concern for the Palestinians but for us all. And with the other gathering storm in the Arab World - the endeavours of Iran to acquire nuclear technology - the world (to paraphrase the Foreign Secretary William Hague) will become much more dangerous if the Palestinian issue remains unsolved.

King Abdullah’s peace initiative is a reasonable settlement to this conflict supported by all Arab states. Unfortunately, the current Israeli leadership has opted to ignore it, play for time, and look for alternatives, keeping them in control of Palestine. Saudi Arabia will not accede to these demands, nor approve of them. Peace is a must, and Israel must abide by international law and UN resolutions.

In Bahrain we were again at the receiving end of criticism. We were criticised for sending forces to Bahrain and blamed for involvement in acts of violence against the citizens of Bahrain. I reiterate, we did not invade Bahrain, but responded to the legitimate invitation of the Bahraini government, acting upon the requirements of the defence agreement signed between the nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council. The Bahraini government asked for assistance to ward off threats from Iran, and we responded as required, without violating international law or the Charter of the United Nations. Indeed, in a sign of the propriety of our actions and assessment of the Bahraini situation, only one government in the world differed in its view from us, and that was Iran, who saw the move as a threat to its interests and opted to publicise its interference in the deceptive phraseology of human and minority rights. But it is important to point out that Saudi forces participating in the mission in Bahrain did not involve themselves in policing but in the job of protecting strategic installations and other designated vital sites.

In fact, on many occasions the British government, in response to questions tabled in Parliament, informed MPs that Saudi Forces were not involved in internal policing in Bahrain. And it assured parliament that there was no evidence to prove Saudi involvement in any acts that violated human rights in Bahrain. We acted in Bahrain in the best interests of our country and in total conformity with international law and the Charter of the UN.

In Syria my government has repeatedly called on the Syrian government to respond to the demands for reform by its people. It encouraged the Syrian authorities to do so, and when it was ignored, it condemned the violence. The Custodian of Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah, in a message, called on President Assad to refrain from all attacks. He warned him of the consequences and hoped he would choose the path of wisdom in order to prevent Syria from descending further into chaos. In doing so, my government acted in unison with Arab states represented by the Arab League, and it supported an initiative to bring peace to Syria. Unfortunately, the Syrian leadership has not heeded our advice, and they seem unaware of the serious implications of their policy on their country and the region.

Nations such as Egypt, Libya and Tunisia are also of paramount importance to us, and we have made it clear that we have always respected the choices of their people. And whenever that choice is made public, the Saudi government is ready to extend the hand of assistance and friendship. We welcomed the new Tunisia and the emerging Libya. With Egypt we have rushed to its assistance with billions of dollars to help its government and to invest in certain projects. We will continue to help those seeking positive transformations of their societies.

On the issue of terror, we have fought hard to defeat it. We have succeeded in crushing Al-Qaeda on Saudi territory, and we are still vigilant and working hard with our allies to stamp out the scourge of terrorism and those who wish to commit crime in the name of God. Saudi Arabia, as the birthplace of Islam, is particularly determined to fight such evil and prove the falsehood of its ideology. In this spirit we have presented our proposal to establish an international counter terrorism centre which, gladly, was adopted by the UN, and King Abdullah has already contributed 10 million dollars to its fund. In short, we are working on all fronts to defeat terror and, with the help of God, we shall prevail. 

To conclude, I can say with confidence that although there are issues in our society and political culture that still need to be addressed, Saudi Arabia, whose leadership has taken strong and calculated reforming steps over many years, has emerged as a nation fully equipped to play a stabilising role in the Middle East and the world.

Thank you