Former Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. Prince Turki Al-Faisal said students studying abroad in the U.S. are their nation’s “true ambassadors” in a speech Monday in the Marvin Center.
He said it is important to his country that Saudi students have the opportunity to come to the U.S. to study, as he did at Georgetown and Princeton. The speech, titled “The Challenges and Opportunities Facing Saudi Arabia in the 21st Century,” kicked off an unofficial “Mid-East Ambassador week” with Ahmed Al-Mughairy, the Ambassador of the Sultanate of Oman, speaking Thursday at the Elliott School.
University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, University Marshall Jill Kasle, and Elliot School of International Affairs senior Neda Al-Mubarak, joined the ambassador on stage as he spoke to a nearly full Dorothy Betts Marvin Theatre.
Trachtenberg introduced Al-Faisal, touching on the University’s involved history with Saudi Arabia, which includes Saudi students enrolled at GW, faculty members who have gone to Saudi Arabia for research and an extended exchange of information and resources between the GWU Medical Center and the Middle Eastern nation.
“It’s fitting that the Ambassador join us today because GW is the second home to many members of the Kingdom,” he said.
Early in his speech Al-Faisal addressed the War in Iraq.
“The determination of security in Iraq is a great challenge, as it affects the stability of not just the region, but the whole world,” the ambassador said.
He made it clear that Saudi Arabia supports the efforts of the United States to quell sectarian violence in Iraq, even after the proposal of President George W. Bush to send 21,500 more American troops. Since the U.S. came into Iraq uninvited, it should not leave uninvited, he said backstage after the speech in an interview with The Hatchet.
Al-Faisal, who ended his year- and-a-half term last December, pointed out that Saudi Arabia has to deal with its own internal issues before addressing regional and worldwide conflicts.
In establishing economic wellbeing as his country’s priority, the Ambassador acknowledged the importance of both the finite resource of oil and what he called his country’s “best and infinite resource” – its people. He listed diversification, an increase in regulatory laws, and the country’s recent assent to the World Trade Organization as steps already taken toward a healthier Saudi Arabia.
Following the speech, Al-Faisal fielded questions from audience members focusing on a wide range of Middle Eastern issues including the Iraq War, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and a challenge to Saudi Arabia’s intentions with regards to obeying World Trade Organization regulations.