An exclusive interview of Interfax-Ukraine and Ukraine in Arabic with Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to Ukraine Mohammed bin Suleiman al-Mashar
Mohammad Farajallah (editor-in-chief of the agency Ukraine in Arabic)
Maksim Urakin (Interfax-Ukraine)
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan arrived in Kyiv on a surprise visit, met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and other officials, and agreed on a previously announced aid package. Are there any changes in Riyadh’s position on the war in Ukraine, especially since the Kingdom has been criticized for siding with Russia in the war against Ukraine?
Under the guidance of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud – God bless him – and under the guidance of His Royal Highness Crown Prince and Prime Minister Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz – God bless him – the Kingdom is eager to provide humanitarian and emergency assistance to countries affected by natural or humanitarian disasters, and to provide support to all countries and peoples without discrimination or any other motives, based on the awareness of Saudi Arabia of the importance of its humanitarian role at the international level.
His Highness the Crown Prince pays great attention to the implementation of humanitarian efforts along with political efforts with various countries to achieve a peaceful solution to end the Russian-Ukrainian war as part of His Highness’s desire to achieve regional and global security, peace and stability.
Your Excellency, is a position of neutrality considered positive in such crises? What role can neutral states play?
The neutral and balanced position of Saudi Arabia in the Russian-Ukrainian war contributed to the success of the mediation led by His Highness the Crown Prince on purely humanitarian principles, which led to the release of ten foreign captives – citizens of the Kingdom of Morocco, the United States, the United Kingdom, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Sweden and the Republic of Croatia, who were held captive by the armed forces of Russia.
In October 2022, the Kingdom announced a humanitarian aid package for Ukraine, which is in line with Saudi Arabia’s position in supporting countries and peoples that are prone to various crises. What role does Saudi Arabia play in the world in humanitarian matters?
The Kingdom’s $400 million humanitarian aid initiative for Ukraine, including power generators and medical supplies, is significant in light of the humanitarian conditions facing the Ukrainian people, especially during the harsh winter.
Previously, the Kingdom provided through the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre, the World Health Organization and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees $10 million worth of medical assistance and shelter materials intended for Ukrainian refugees in Poland.
In recent years, Saudi Arabia has provided over $96 billion worth of humanitarian aid to 156 countries.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has always been among the top ten countries in the world for aid, and in 2021, the Kingdom ranked third in the world for humanitarian aid.
Your Excellency, may I ask what the Kingdom provided to the citizens of Ukraine who were on its territory during the war?
After the start of the Russian-Ukrainian war, the competent authorities in the Kingdom, by royal decrees and for humanitarian reasons, took the initiative to extend the visas of Ukrainian tourists, businessmen and families in the Kingdom for a period of three months with the possibility of extending them without charging any fees or fines.
His Highness the Crown Prince, Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman held a telephone conversation with President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy in October 2022 and reaffirmed the Kingdom’s position in support of everything that contributes to de-escalation and the country’s readiness to continue mediation efforts. Can we rely on foreign mediation to end the war in Ukraine?
Since the beginning of the war, the Kingdom has taken a balanced position regarding the Russian-Ukrainian crisis. It was welcomed by both countries, which have strong relations with Saudi Arabia in several areas. The Crown Prince seeks to use this relationship to reach a peaceful solution to the war.
Since the beginning of the crisis, His Highness has been mediating efforts between the two countries to reach a political solution to end the war as his contribution to maintaining international security and stability. Saudi Arabia supports international efforts to reduce tensions and escalation between Russia and Ukraine, as well as to initiate measures to ensure the restoration of stability and create conditions for negotiations leading to a peaceful and political solution to the crisis based on the Charter of the United Nations and the principles of international law.
Saudi Arabia was among 141 countries that voted in favor of a UN resolution to withdraw Russian troops from Ukraine. Can this position affect relations between Riyadh and Moscow?
The position of the Kingdom and its vote in support of the United Nations resolutions adopted regarding the Ukrainian crisis stems from the commitment to the need for all countries to comply with the Charter of the United Nations and the principles of international law and our complete rejection of any violation of the sovereignty of all countries. The Kingdom declared a clear position on the Russian-Ukrainian crisis, based on the principles of international law. It reaffirmed its support for all efforts aimed at resolving the Ukrainian crisis through dialogue and diplomacy, as well as continuing to work on the implementation of the agreements concluded between the parties concerned and approved by the Security Council in Resolution 2202 on regional security and conflict settlement in eastern Ukraine.
The visit to Kyiv of His Highness the Minister of Foreign Affairs was called historical. Do you agree with this characterization?
The visit of His Highness Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud to Kyiv and his meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is considered historic. On the one hand, this is the first visit of an Arab foreign minister to Ukraine since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and on the other hand, the first visit of a Saudi Arabian foreign minister to Ukraine since the beginning of diplomatic relations between the two countries over thirty years ago.
His Excellency the President of Ukraine justifiably called it historic. In fact, we are very grateful to His Excellency for all his friendly statements about Saudi Arabia. I also hope that this visit will give a new impetus to intensify our mutual dialogue in order to develop bilateral relations.
Can you tell us the details of communication and negotiation?
Support by the Kingdom of everything that contributes to de-escalation, protection of civilians, a serious search for political solutions through negotiations, support for all international efforts aimed at resolving the political crisis, as well as opportunities for expanding cooperation between the two friendly countries and ways to support and develop them in many areas. In addition, we discussed the development of the situation in the regional and international arenas.
Can you tell us about the content of the agreements signed during the visit?
During the visit of His Highness Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, two documents were signed in the President’s Office of Ukraine as documentation of the package of Saudi Arabian assistance to Ukraine in the humanitarian sphere, the decision to allocate a separate support package in the amount of $400 million.
Supervisor General of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre Abdullah Al Rabeeah and Deputy Prime Minister for Reconstruction of Ukraine and Minister of Communities, Regions and Infrastructure Development Oleksandr Kubrakov signed a joint program of cooperation between the Ministry of Communities, Regions and Infrastructure Development the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre in the amount of $100 million. CEO of the Saudi Fund for Development Sultan Abdulrahman Al-Marshad and Ukrainian Energy Minister Herman Haluschenko signed a Memorandum of Understanding regarding a $300 million Saudi grant to finance oil derivatives