Prince Saud al-Faisal a fix­ture of Mideast diplo­macy

For­mer Saudi for­eign min­is­ter with 40 years in the post dies

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - OBITUARIES - BY AB­DUL­LAH AL-SHIHRI AND LEE KEATH

Saudi Ara­bia’s Prince Saud alFaisal, who was the world’s long­est-serv­ing for­eign min­is­ter with 40 years in the post un­til his re­tire­ment this year, has died, the min­istry spokesman said Fri­day. He was 75.

The tall, stately Prince Saud was a fix­ture of Mideast diplo­macy, rep­re­sent­ing the oil-rich Gulf pow­er­house as it wielded its in­flu­ence in cri­sis af­ter cri­sis shak­ing the re­gion - from Le­banon’s civil war in the 1970s and 1980s, through mul­ti­ple rounds of Arab-Is­raeli peace ef­forts, the 1990 Iraqi in­va­sion of neigh­bour­ing Kuwait and the sub­se­quent Gulf War, al-Qaida’s Sept. 11, 2001, at­tacks in the United States, the 2003 U.S.-led in­va­sion of Iraq to the cur­rent day’s ten­sions be­tween the Arab Gulf bloc and Iran, Arab Spring up­ris­ings, Syria’s civil war and the spread of Is­lamic State group ex­trem­ists.

The coun­try’s gov­ern­men­towned media an­nounced Saud’s death af­ter mid­night Fri­day. The of­fi­cial an­nounce­ment, car­ried by state tele­vi­sion, did not state the cause of death. The prince had un­der­gone mul­ti­ple surg­eries in re­cent years for his back, which left him walk­ing with a cane, and for other ail­ments.

Word of his pass­ing first emerged late Thurs­day when Saudi For­eign Min­istry spokesman, Osama Nu­gali, wrote on his of­fi­cial Twit­ter feed, “The eye tears, the heart sad­dens. We all are sad­dened to be sep­a­rated from you.”

The prince, who took the min­istry post in 1975, re­tired on April 29, cit­ing health rea­sons. At the time, U.S. Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry hailed him, say­ing he “has not just been the planet’s long­est-serv­ing For­eign Min­is­ter but also among the wis­est.” He was suc­ceeded in the post by Adel al-Jubeir, who be­fore that was Saudi Ara­bia’s am­bas­sador in Washington.

Saud was the son of Saudi Ara­bia’s third king, Faisal, who ruled from 1964 un­til he was as­sas­si­nated in 1975. Prince Saud, who had a bach­e­lor’s de­gree in eco­nom­ics from Prince­ton Univer­sity and had been deputy petroleum min­is­ter, was soon af­ter ap­pointed to the for­eign min­is­ter post, which his fa­ther had held dur­ing his reign. The young prince, flu­ent in English and French, brought an air of so­phis­ti­ca­tion and charisma, whether in crisp suits or in the tra­di­tional Saudi white robe and gold-trimmed black cloak with a red-check­ered head piece. Soft spo­ken, he of­ten showed a sense of hu­mour not of­ten seen among the pub­licly stolid royal fam­ily.

He was fa­ther to six chil­dren, three boys and three girls. King Sal­man’s son, Prince Sultan, is mar­ried to one of Prince Saud’s daugh­ters. The late prince’s broth­ers are also known as highly ed­u­cated and elo­quent, with Prince Khaled al-Faisal serv­ing as the gover­nor of Mecca and another brother, Prince Turki al-Faisal, head­ing a re­search cen­tre and think-tank af­ter decades as the head of in­tel­li­gence.

Mamoun Fandy, au­thor of Saudi Ara­bia and the Pol­i­tics of Dis­sent, said his death marks the end of an era as the el­der roy­als move to shift power to younger princes.

AP PHOTO

In this Mon­day, Nov. 4, 2013 file photo, U.S. Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry, left, speaks with Saudi Ara­bia’s For­eign Min­is­ter Prince Saud al-Faisal in Riyadh, Saudi Ara­bia. The coun­try’s For­eign Min­istry spokesman said Thurs­day, the prince, who was the world’s long­est serv­ing for­eign min­is­ter with 40 years in the post un­til ear­lier this year, has died. He was 75.

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