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Saudi prince says Yemen is a security threat

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Turki al-Faisal says terrorism crosses into Saudi Arabia from Yemen
  • He says extremists are working to create a sanctuary
  • Al-Faisal calls the Israeli-Palestinian conflict the most important issue in the region

(CNN) -- An increasingly unstable Yemen represents a security threat to Saudi Arabia, both along the border and internally, Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal said on Friday.

Speaking at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts, al-Faisal said Yemen is being ripped apart by an insurgency in its north and by a southern secessionist movement, enabling al Qaeda to operate and strengthen throughout the country.

"Terrorism emerges from Yemen and crosses into the kingdom," he said. "Refugees fleeing the conflict there flood across our border."

Al-Faisal, the former chief of Saudi Arabia's intelligence service and an ex-ambassador to the United States, added that extremists in Yemen have reportedly made deals with local tribal leaders for supplies and protection, creating a sanctuary there similar to the one in Pakistan's tribal areas.

"Should the situation worsen, this would become an even greater security threat," he said.

Authorities in Saudi Arabia recently tipped off U.S. and European officials to the presence of parcel bombs that were en route to the United States from Yemen. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the Yemen-based arm of the al Qaeda terrorist network, has claimed responsibility for the planned attack.

"All I can say ladies and gentleman, for now, is that we have troops along the border. We are doing all we can to help the country," he said.

Al-Faisal also touched on the topic of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, calling it the most important issue in the Middle East right now. As he has been in the past, he was firm in his criticisms of Israel.

Peace negotiations between Israel and Palestinian Authority officials have stalled over the issue of Israeli settlement building in the West Bank.

"Israel's unwillingness to cease its unlawful colonization and continued refusal to grant the Palestinians their own homeland is the core reason that this conflict continues," he said. "The kingdom continues to call on Israel to take the necessary steps towards peace and justice."