(In progress) – camp in the desert which was absolutely extraordinary. And I thank Ambassador Smith and Janet for their service here. And what he said just now to all of you he says in private all the time. (Laughter.) He is very proud of this team here in Riyadh.
I want to thank you each for your work – Foreign Service and Civil Service officers from the United States and our locally engaged staff as well. After five years of one-year tours and unaccompanied assignments, it is wonderful to be here during this period of positive change. It’s great to see the normalization of a mission, family members who are here with their loved ones. And I want to thank the Embassy’s management and security staff for all the work that has been done so that we can bring U.S. employee family members back to the Kingdom.
The United States and Saudi Arabia have weathered many challenges over the years and we are going forward into the future together on behalf of promoting peace and prosperity and stability. And you are an important part of that work. Every single day, what you do in relating to the government and the people of the Kingdom is absolutely essential. I want to thank you for your focus on higher education. We are slowly returning the number of Saudi students back to the pre 9/11 levels. And the King mentioned that to me today and he noticed it, and it is so important. In fact, he’d like even more students going to the United States.
We thank you for your engagement on reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan, Gaza, Lebanon, Iraq, and the Horn of Africa, where our Saudi partners are providing very vital help. And we see it in your groundbreaking work over the last year to stand up the Office of Program Management in the Ministry of Interior which is helping the Saudis protect their critical infrastructure, which is not only, as you know, important to Saudi Arabia but important to the entire world.
And thank you for your efforts on international conflict resolution and Saudi Arabia’s support for a two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Now, all of this progress is yielding important progress on security, too. We’re working with the Saudi Government to stem terrorist financing and to combat extremism. Consular staff is working day in and day out with law enforcement and intelligence agencies. And I’m also encouraged by DOD’s training programs as well. We’ve got the Saudi National Guard and the U.S. military training mission.
So you are very busy, and I know that a lot of this takes extra effort on your behalf. And there is just no way that I could do my job or that Jim could do his job without your help, without your expertise, your experience, and your backup.
With respect to the locally engaged staff, I want to speak to a concern that one of your colleagues raised on my Secretary’s Sounding Board that has been brought to my attention. I understand that many of our locally engaged staff are not Saudi citizens, they’re from elsewhere and therefore are not eligible for social benefits such as retirement benefits that are available through the Saudi system. I’ve asked the Human Resources and the Office of Overseas Employment to review this situation and to see whether there is anything we can do to address this issue.
So again, thank you. (Cell phone rings.) That’s probably somebody saying get back to work. (Laughter.) So thank you for everything you are doing and that you will be doing on behalf of this great partnership and friendship between the United States and Saudi Arabia. Thank you all very much. (Applause.)