Saud al-Faisal, former Saudi foreign minister, dies

RIYADH (TIP) (Saudi Arabia): Saudi Arabia’s prince Saud al-Faisal, 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 July 9. 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 neighboring 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 government-owned 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.

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Kerry expressed his condolences to Saud’s family and friends, King Salman and to the people of Saudi Arabia, saying the prince was “a man of vast experience, personal warmth, great dignity, and keen insights who served his┬ácountry loyally and well.” “I personally admired him greatly, valued his friendship, and appreciated his wise counsel,” Kerry added. “His legacy as a statesman and diplomat will not be forgotten.” President Barack Obama said in a statement that generations of U.S. leaders and diplomats benefited from Saud’s “thoughtful perspective, charisma and poise, and diplomatic skill.”

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