RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Prince Saud al-Faisal, formerly the world’s longest-serving foreign minister who oversaw four decades of turbulent diplomacy for the oil-rich kingdom, died on Thursday (Friday in Manila).
A statement from the Royal Court said Prince Saud, who was born in 1940, died in the United States.
It did not give the cause of death but said funeral prayers would be held on Saturday night in the Muslim holy city of Mecca.
He oversaw Saudi Arabia’s emergence as a major diplomatic player, facing successive regional crises and maintaining a focus on relations with the West.
“He was a symbol of honesty and hard work,” the Royal Court said.
Arab League Chief Nabil al-Arabi expressed his condolences in a statement, as did Germany’s embassy in Riyadh calling Prince Saud a “respected statesman”.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in a statement that the top diplomat had “worked tirelessly for peace and stability in the Middle East.”
Saud was replaced as foreign minister in April by Washington ambassador Adel al-Jubeir in a major shake-up of the Saudi royal family and cabinet.
His departure came as Saudi Arabia leads a coalition of Arab states bombing Iran-backed rebels in Yemen and takes part in the US-led campaign against the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.
In his last public address in the Saudi capital, Prince Saud in April said the Sunni kingdom “was not at war with Tehran” but called on its Shiite regional rival Iran to stop arming rebels in Yemen.
Iran has denied giving weapons to the Huthi rebels.
Four decades in office
Saud served under four monarchs, and took his final oath of office in March after King Salman acceded to the throne following the January death of King Abdullah.
He was first named foreign minister in October 1975, seven months after his father, King Faisal, was assassinated by a nephew.
He was closely involved in efforts to end the 1975-1990 civil war in Lebanon and led the kingdom’s foreign policy during the 1980-1988 Iraq-Iran war, Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait and the 1991 Gulf War in which US-led forces used Saudi Arabia as a launch pad.
Born in the southwestern mountain resort of Taif, Saud graduated with an economics degree from Princeton University in New Jersey in 1964.
He came to the foreign ministry after stints at state oil product firm Petromin and the ministry of oil and mineral resources.
The prince was married with three sons and three daughters.