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Saudi prince rules out engagement with Israel until Arab land is returned

By Glenn Kessler
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 4, 2010; 6:52 PM

Saudi Arabia will refuse to "directly or indirectly engage Israel" until it leaves all land captured during the 1967 Six-Day War, a leading member of the Saudi royal family said Thursday, dashing any hopes the Obama administration might have had for rapprochement before a final peace deal.

"For us to take any steps toward any form of normalization with the Israeli state before these Arab lands have been returned to their rightful legitimate owners would undermine international law and turn a blind eye to immorality," Prince Turki al-Faisal, the former Saudi ambassador to the United States, said in a speech at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Turki, though out of government, is considered a candidate to succeed his ailing brother, Saud al-Faisal, as foreign minister.

In his speech, which came as the Obama administration is trying to breathe new life into stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, Turki emphasized that since 2002 Saudi Arabia has led an Arab effort to recognize Israel if it reaches agreements on the return of the territories, including East Jerusalem, and arrives at a "just settlement" of claims by Palestinian refugees.

In an unusual detour into U.S. politics, Turki also warned against a return of the "neoconservative philosophy." He said that under the policies of President Obama, many Americans may have believed "that the neocon movement has died, the victim of its own failed, delusional ambitions." But, he said, "this recent election will give more fodder for these warmongers to pursue their favorite exercise, war-making."

As an example of what he labeled neoconservative thinking, Turki dissected in detail a recent article on foreignpolicy.com by Robert Satloff, the executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Satloff warned Obama about actions that he thought might be counterproductive to reaching a peace deal, including failing to make clear that a military option remains on the table in confronting Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Satloff's advice "threatens to start a new conflict as a pretext for ending another," Turki said.

Satloff, in an interview, said he is "nonpartisan to the bone" and his organization includes thinkers from across the political spectrum. "I will take it as a compliment that I am read in Riyadh," he said.

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