Prince Saud al-Faisal a fixture of Mideast diplomacy
Former Saudi foreign minister with 40 years in the post dies
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.
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.