CNBC News Releases

CNBC Interview with Saudi Foreign Minister, Adel Al-Jubeir


Below are excerpts on an interview with CNBC's Hadley Gambley and Saudi Foreign Minister, Adel Al-Jubeir at the Munich Security Conference.

HG: Foreign Minister, thank you so much for joining CNBC. I want to kick off by asking you about some comments we heard from America's top National Security Advisor over the last couple of days. He was saying that companies, and European nations like Germany that do business with Iran are essentially writing a blank cheque to the revolutionary Iranian Guard. Do you agree?

FM: Yes.

HG: What's the plan then? Because you have to talk to the European countries and explain to them that what they're doing is negative for the region. How do you get that message across?

FM: We are talking to our friends in Europe about this. We are letting them know that the nuclear agreement that was signed with Iran is lacking. The sunset provision has to be amended, and the inspections have to broadened to include non-declared and military sites. We also believe the nuclear agreement itself does not resolve the issue of Iran's radical behaviour which has to do with the ballistic missile resolutions of the United Nations, exporting ballistic missiles that are used to target civilians. They also do not deal with the issue of Iran's support for terrorism, we believe that Iran should be made to pay a price for its violations of ballistic missile resolutions, and for its support of terrorism. And we believe that a large percentage of the Iranian economy is controlled by the revolutionary guards and companies associated with the guards. And we believe that any dealings with those companies only serve to enrich the revolutionary guards and cause them to cause more mischief within the region and the world.

HG: Speaking of that mischief, when we talk about what happens next regionally—what is Saudi Arabia's plan to tackle what H.R. McMaster has essentially said Iranian backed militias that are growing to be growing in various countries like Hezbollah- what's the plan?

FM: The danger is that Iran planted Hezbollah in Lebanon over 30 years ago. Hezbollah has become the foremost terrorist organization in the world. The Iranians have planted the Houtis in Yemen and they are growing and seeking to take over a strategically important country. They are trying to establish Hezbollah like organizations in the region. And this has to be stopped. With regards to what steps we may or may not take in this area and we will be taking steps. I don't believe it's appropriate for me to discuss them on public television.

HG: Well we had to ask. When you look at what happens next in the region with regards to Russia, last time we spoke about this just a year ago, you were talking about the potential for Saudi Arabia and Russia to work together and not just economically but also in terms of foreign policy. Right now Russia and the U.S. are having many difficulties not the least of which is cybersecurity. Is there an ability for Saudi Arabia to influence what happens between those two countries?

FM: The two countries are superpowers. They have interests and also they compete. They cooperate, and I believe that between the two of them they'll be able to resolve their differences. We have extremely important and strategic ties with the United States, and have had them for over 80 years. We are developing very strong relations with Russia, and we continue to work on those relations and so our objective is to have the best relations we can with every country.

HG: When you look at what is happening in the energy space in particular, there is a lot of excitement surrounding Russia's relationship now with Saudi Arabia whether it be on oil, or on other economic opportunities or investment. What about nuclear? Because there's a lot of talk now whether or not Saudi Arabia will work with the U.S. for example in terms of developing nuclear energy facilities. If there's an opportunity to also work with Russia, is that something that could be on the table?

FM: We are looking at a number of countries that have nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. We are looking at the issue of the viability of building nuclear reactors in order to produce energy so that we can save the oil and export it in order to generate revenue. The countries that we are talking to are probably roughly 10 countries or so around the world and we have made a decision yet with regards to which path we will take and which country will be focusing on more.

HG: So if the U.S. said no, we don't want you to process your own nuclear fuel, would that be a deal-breaker then?

FM: This is really something that's up to our nuclear energy professionals to deal with, but our objective is we want to have the same rights as other countries.

HG: Recently we've seen Iraq looking for investment and aid. Both countries in particular Saudi Arabia and the UAE really stepped up there. Are there ties to that kind of money, what are you trying to achieve?

FM: We want to support Iraq in its rebuilding efforts. We want to have the best relations with Iraq that we possibly can. We have an embassy in Baghdad the consulate you know we just opened an embassy in Basra. We intend to a consulate sorry. We intend to open another consulate in Najaf. We are opening bridges border crossings, we have commercial airline traffic between the two countries. We have established a coordinating council between our two governments to enhance the relationship and to institutionalize it across the board. We have seen trade and investment skyrocket between the two countries. We intend to have closer political consultations with our brothers in Iraq, and we intend to have the best possible relations with them. When the donor's conference was put together at the invitation of the emir of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates the other Gulf countries stepped up and provided almost a third of the 30 billion dollars that was pledged to Iraq. So we want to help Iraq back on its feet. The ironic thing here is that the Iranians have pledged zero.

HG: When you look at what's happening with the U.S. in particular, Mohammed Bin Salman is going to be taking a road trip. It's been looking like he's going to be going to the U.S. as well. Can you give us any sense of when we might end up seeing a meeting between the Qataris and the Saudis in Washington?

FM: The issue of Qatar abuse will be resolved within the GCC and it will be resolved within the region. With regards to the timing of the resolution of this issue it's really up to the countries they know what's expected of them and they need to take the steps necessary to stop their behaviour, their negative behaviour and become a respectable member of the GCC. But we haven't seen that so far, they've taken some steps but not enough.

HG: Finally, the Munich Security Conference—a major focus on cyber security. Saudi Arabia has been the victim in the past from cyber attacks from Iran. What steps are you taking specifically to combat that threat?

FM: We are taking all the steps necessary to provide defences for our data banks and for our Internet and so forth. And we are also taking steps necessary to train our own people in order to be able to engage in offensive operations to make it hopefully impossible for people to penetrate those systems.

HG: In terms of the dangerous nations behind those cyber attacks, Russia, China, North Korea, Iran. Who do you consider the most dangerous nation?

FM: Iran. Iran is the only country that has attacked us repeatedly and has tried to attack us repeatedly. In fact, they tried to do it on a weekly basis.