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CNBC Transcript: Saudi Arabian Prince Turki Al-Faisal

Below is the transcript of a CNBC interview with Saudi Arabian Prince Turki Al-Faisal. The interview was first broadcast on CNBC's Capital Connection on 12 February 2019.

HADLEY GAMBLE (HADLEY): I'm with PRINCE AL FAISAL. Thank you so much for joining us.

PRINCE AL FAISAL It's always a pleasure.

HADLEY: I want to follow on that because there are still a lot of questions in spite of the fact that you have enormous interest in getting involved in Vision 2030. There have been a lot of bad headlines over the last year for the kingdom and there are investors who were saying like Mr Sawiris that they're not ready to get inside the kingdom yet. They're not ready to put their money inside them yet because there hasn't been in their minds enough accountability. What's your take?

PRINCE AL FAISAL: I think they are mistaken. The kingdom has come a long way in providing the right atmosphere for people to invest in the country not just on issues of accountability but also on issues of transparency, on issues of rule of law, the fact that we are members of the World Trade Organization. We're bound by these issues to make life easier for investors. And Mr Sawiris is missing a great opportunity that others have already come and put their money in the Kingdom. In the past year or two I think there have been an increase in the Foreign Investment in the kingdom rather than a decrease in spite of the negative media hype that we've seen around the world and that is because the kingdom has a solid foundation of all of these things that I mentioned.

HADLEY: In terms of what happens next there, there have been a lot of questions not just about the death of Jamal Khashoggi but also of but also of course about what happened at the Ritz Carlton in Riyadh when we had the crackdown just several months ago now. And also of course what happened with Saad Hariri. There are questions about leadership. Now I know you're no longer in government but you are a member of the royal family. What can we expect to see coming from Saudi Arabia in the next year. Because there has been a bit of tunnel vision there .

PRINCE AL FAISAL: When you know as I said the accountability and transparency is a growing industry in Saudi Arabia. It's not diminishing, it's increasing. And on the issue of the Ritz Carlton affair, in the kingdom that was a very welcome step because it showed the people that the government was concerned about corruption. And it brought in the high and not so high for questioning for accounting for their actions and literally reach accommodations with some of them and some of them I think have been transferred to the courts etc. so that's a sign of accountability.

HADLEY: Your Royal Highness, I'm going to have to toss to the break. But we're going to have you back in just two minutes we'll be back in two on Capital Connection with His Royal Highness.

HADLEY: Welcome back to Capital Connection. We are live at the Milken Institute MENA Summit. I'm joined once again by His Royal Highness Turki Al Faisal. We were just saying how many strides the country has made frankly since all of the negative headlines that we've been seeing over the last month talking about investment, talking about the fact that you feel that investors like Sawiris are missing out on opportunities in the kingdom. But I want to take a step back here and ask you about more broadly what's happening in the region itself. We've seen heightened rhetoric again and again coming from Iran who said that they won't listen to anyone if they decide to develop ballistic missiles themselves. There have been reports that Saudi Arabia is developing missiles at sites in the desert. Do you think that this is going a bridge too far?

PRINCE AL FAISAL: I don't know about these news because I have not seen any official comment on them. So I can't really comment on whether missiles are being developed but I've described Iran in the past and I think that description still fits. The leadership in Iran has developed into a paper tiger with steel claws, the steel claws are the militias that they have established throughout the Middle East whether it is Hezbollah or the Houthi or the al-Abbas or the various militias operating in Iraq and Syria whose main purpose is to further Iran's influence and its domination over the areas in the Middle East. And it's a paper tiger because look what's happening in Iran. There are bread lines. There are demonstrations, spontaneous demonstrations in all of the cities in Iran. We've seen huge protests that have taken place with people chanting why are we helping Syria why are we helping Lebanon. Let us concentrate on Iran. It is that kind of government it is a dysfunctional government.

HADLEY: Do you think that we are close to seeing a regime change in the country?

PRINCE AL FAISAL: I don't know. I think it would be premature to try to predict anything of that sort. But definitely listen to Rouhani he's saying that Iran has never faced such a difficult economic situation as now and their currency is in the pits. So that is the administrative capacity of the leadership in Iran that they are turning their people into paupers instead of providing them with health services, with food, with all of the things that people look forward to. So I hope that with Mr. Trump's sanctions against Iran we're going to see a change of the of the conduct of the leadership of Iran. The Iranian people are the first victims of this leadership.

HADLEY: When you take a step back and look at what you've seen over the last 10 to 15 years coming from the United States in terms of their foreign policy what's happening in Afghanistan with the withdrawal of troops. What's happening in Syria as well. Is the United States getting it right in the Middle East?

PRINCE AL FAISAL: Unfortunately I think the U.S. has made wrong decisions when they invaded Iraq for example. I think that was the wrong decision. And I remember at the time I was ambassador in the U.K. and I was interviewed about that situation. I said I hope that the U.S. will not be as precipitous in leaving Iraq as it was in getting into Iraq. Unfortunately the Bush administration and then the Obama administration and now we see Mr. Trump taking out American influence and troops from Iraq, Syria is the same. I think it is wrong especially at this juncture when we see other ambitious and if you like malevolent forces trying to take advantage of that particularly Iran.

HADLEY: And what about Turkey?

PRINCE AL FAISAL: Turkey. You know it's a big puzzle to me. What Turkey wants. They seem to have a very confused policy in our part of the world. Initially, if you remember when events erupted in Syria and so on they were very much into helping the Syrian people overcome the difficulty of the Assad regime. Now we see Turkey aligning itself with Iran which is the major supporter of Assad and joining with them in a common activity in Syria. For me it is not clear what the Turks want and I wish they would be more amenable to clarifying where they stand on these issues.

HADLEY: What do you say to those particularly in Europe who condemn Saudi Arabia's involvement in Yemen?

PRINCE AL FAISAL: Well I think they're again misinformed and misguided in that the kingdom is in Yemen because the legitimate Yemeni government asked for help against the Houthi who tried to takeover militarily in Yemen. The kingdom's action was supported by a coalition of countries not just from the Middle East but from around the world. And that action was further supported by United Nations Security Council resolution 2216 under Chapter 7, which allows for military support to go to the legitimate government. The war in Yemen was started by the Houthis not by Saudi Arabia and the humanitarian aspects of that war are influenced by what the Houthis are doing. They are denying access for example to the grain silos in Hodeidah port that could be used to help the starving people of Yemen. And the kingdom is providing the largest amount of humanitarian aid to the people of Yemen.

HADLEY: Your Royal Highness, my final question would have to be about the challenges you see on the horizon more globally. I understand that there are problems continuing here in the region. There are questions about leadership in the United States a lot of polarization, and also of course. You were former head of intelligence. You understand that AI and technology is making us even more vulnerable. What do you see as the challenge facing us?

PRINCE AL FAISAL: The challenge is in providing a future for young people in the area and I think in many parts of the world people under the age of 30 make up huge segments of the population and to be able to meet the challenges of peace and prosperity, these young people have to find jobs. And it's not just in our part of the world but if you look at Africa if you look at Latin America if you look at even some parts of Europe itself, the issue of employment is an important issue.

HADLEY: Employment, inequality.

PRINCE AL FAISAL: I think education and acquisition of skills they are the tools by which we can meet that challenge.

Hadley: Your Highness thanks so much for joining CNBC

PRINCE AL FAISAL: Thank you Ms Gamble.


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