Saud bin Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (Arabic: سعود بن فيصل بن عبد العزيز آل سعود‎), also known as Saud Al Faisal (Arabic: سعود الفيصل‎) (born 2 January 1940), has been the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia since 1975. He is the world’s longest-serving foreign minister.

Early life, education and early political career

Saud bin Faisal was born in Taif on 2 January 1940. He is the second son of King Faisal and Iffat Al-Thunayan. He attended the Hun School of Princeton and graduated from Princeton University in 1964 or 1965 with a bachelor of arts degree in economics. He is full brother of Mohammed bin Faisal, Turki bin Faisal, Luluwah bint Faisal, Sara bint Faisal and Haifa bint Faisal.

He became an economic consultant for the ministry of petroleum. In 1966, he moved to general organization for petroleum and mineral resources (Petromin). In February 1970, he became deputy governor of Petromin for planning affairs. He was also a member of the High Coordination Committee. In 1971, he became deputy minister of petroleum. Until his appointment as state minister for foreign affairs in 1975, Prince Saud served in this post at the oil ministry.

Foreign Minister

Timeline

In March 1975, King Khalid appointed him as foreign minister. He is currently the world’s longest-serving incumbent foreign minister. He is well regarded in the diplomatic community. He speaks seven languages. In December 1977, Anwar Sadat visited Jerusalem without consulting Saudi officials. Upon this event, Prince Saud and Prince Sultan were outraged.

In May 1985, he officially visited Iran and meetings were focused on the annual pilgrimage of Iranians to Mecca. The same year Prince Saud raised awareness in Britain of Soviet activity in the Horn of Africa. He asked Condoleezza Rice to focus on “key substantive issues” of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. He complained that US banks were auditing Saudi Embassy banks illegally. He asserted that auditors were “inappropriate and aggressive”. He also declared that the Saudi Embassy has diplomatic immunity.

Prince Saud said in 2004 that Saudi Arabia would like to reduce its dependence on U.S.-dominated security arrangements. In July 2004, he claimed the real source of problems in the Middle East were not Muslims but “injustice and deprivation inflicted in the region”. In August 2007, he denied allegations that terrorists were travelling from Saudi Arabia to Iraq and claimed it was vice-versa.

On 10 March 2006, he met with Hamas leaders in Riyadh. In July 2006, he urged U.S. President Bush to call for a ceasefire in the Lebanon bombing. In January 2008, he supported parliamentary elections in Pakistan. He indicated that Pakistan did not need “overt, external interference” to solve political division. He commended Nawaz Sharif as stable bipartisan candidate.

In February 2010, he told General Jones to distinguish between friends and enemies in Pakistan rather than using indiscriminate military action. He insisted that Pakistan’s army must maintain its credibility. In November 2010, he led the Saudi delegation at the G-20 Summit.

In January 2011, he withdrew out of mediation efforts to reinstate a government in Lebanon. In March 2011, he went to Europe to rally support for Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Bahrain.

After U.S. Gulf Cooperation Council forum at the GCC secretariat in Riyadh on 31 March 2012, he said it was a “duty” to arm the Syrian opposition and help them defend themselves against the daily bloody crackdown by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. Commenting on the fragile security situation, Prince Saud noted that: “One of the most important causes is the continuation of the unresolved conflict as well as the continuation of the Israeli aggression policy against the Palestinians. “We have discussed, in the meeting, many issues, especially the heinous massacre against the Syrian people. We also discussed the latest developments in Yemen, and reviewed the overall developments and political situation in the Gulf region, the Middle East and North Africa, as well as their repercussions on the security and stability of the region and the world,” Prince Saud said.

Iran and Lebanon

Rather than military action on Iran, Saud Al Faisal called for tougher sanctions such as travel bans and further bank lending restrictions. He has stated U.S. foreign policy has tilted more power for Iran. He has compared the Iranian influence in Iraq with Iranian influence in Lebanon. He commended positive developments by Iran such as its influence over Hezbollah to end street protests.

In 2008, according to leaked diplomatic memos, he accused UN troops in Lebanon of doing nothing. He also expressed concerns over Iran’s influence over Hezbollah.

In early 2011, he expressed fear of the “dangerous” instability in Lebanon after the fall of the Hariri government. He also stated that Lebanon’s ability to establish peaceful coexistence with so many different groups may be a significant loss in the Arab world if the nation failed in creating a government.

In May 2014 it was reported that Prince Saud had invited Iran’s foreign minister, Dr Mohammand Javad Zarif to visit Riyadh, breaking the ice in one of the most hostile relationships in the Middle East ahead of key talks on Iran’s nuclear program in Vienna. Speaking to reporters in the Saudi capital, Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said the kingdom was ready to host Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif “anytime he sees fit” and indicated that Riyadh is willing to open negotiations with its nemesis on the many combustible issues dividing them.

Other governmental activities

Starting in 1998 under the reign of King Fahd, Saud Al Faisal and then the Crown Prince Abdullah managed the energy sector through a committee of technocrats and princes. More specifically, Prince Saud was appointed chairman of the Saudi Aramco’s committee charged with the project assassment in September 1999.

On 20 November 2009, King Abdullah appointed Prince Saud as the chairman of the influential supreme economic council of Saudi Arabia. Prince Saud is also a member of the military service council.

Influence

Saudi foreign policy is designed by the King, not by the foreign minister. He has worked closely with King Khalid, King Fahd and King Abdullah.

Prince Saud was firmly anti-Soviet and is an Arab nationalist. He was more resistant to Israeli proposals than King Fahd. He lamented his legacy might be defined “by profound disappointment than by success”. He regrets how his generation of leaders have failed to create a Palestinian state. He encouraged Iraqis to defend their country’s sovereignty.

His relationship with King Fahd was strained. He is one of King Abdullah’s closest allies. He has led Saudi Arabia’s efforts to redefine its international image after the September 11 attacks. He is mentioned as a candidate to Saudi Arabia’s line of succession. However, he has recently suffered health deterioration. He does not hold majlis unlike other Saudi royals which has been cause for speculation that he is not interested in kingship.

Personal life

Prince Saud is married to Jawhara bint Abdullah bin Abdulrahman, who is his cousin, and has three sons and three daughters. His daughter Haifa bint Saud is married to Prince Sultan bin Salman, the first of Royal Blood and the first Arab astronaut. Prince Saud lives in Jeddah. He has been described (by the British Ministry of Defence) as “tall, handsome, and articulate”. He is well regarded among the diplomatic community and reportedly is a warm man with a good sense of humour. Unlike other members of the Al Saud, he often speaks publicly and interacts a lot with reporters. Prince Saud speaks excellent English. He likes to play tennis.

Social roles

Prince Saud is closely involved in philanthropy. He is a founding member of the King Faisal Foundation and chairman of the board of directors for the King Faisal School and Al Faisal University in Riyadh. He is also a member of the Society for Disabled Children and the Madinah Society for Welfare and Social Services.

Health

Prince Saud has Parkinson’s disease and back pain. He had surgery in California. His physical appearance shows signs of health deterioration, especially difficulty standing upright. On 11 August 2012, Saudi Royal Court stated that Prince Saud had another surgery to remove a “simple” blockage in the intestines due to adhesions resulting from previous surgery. The operation was performed at the Specialist Hospital in Jeddah. Prince Saud went to Los Angeles after he left the hospital on 6 September 2012. The ministry announced that he would stay there for a while.