Saudi Arabia's then-foreign minister Saud al-Faisal attends the closing session of the 25th Arab League summit at the Bayan Palace in Kuwait City, on March 26, 2014
Saudi Arabia's then-foreign minister Saud al-Faisal attends the closing session of the 25th Arab League summit at the Bayan Palace in Kuwait City, on March 26, 2014 © Yasser al-Zayyat - AFP/File
Saudi Arabia's then-foreign minister Saud al-Faisal attends the closing session of the 25th Arab League summit at the Bayan Palace in Kuwait City, on March 26, 2014
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AFP
Last updated: April 30, 2015

Saudi FM Saud al-Faisal steps down after four decades

The world's longest-serving foreign minister, Saudi Arabia's Prince Saud al-Faisal steered the oil giant's diplomacy for four decades before stepping down.

The aged minister, born in 1940, asked to be relieved of his duties due to health problems, and was replaced Wednesday by envoy to Washington Adel al-Jubeir as part of a major shake-up in the Saudi royal family and cabinet.

His departure comes amid serious regional tensions, with Saudi Arabia leading a coalition of Arab states bombing Iran-backed rebels in Yemen and taking part in the US-led campaign against the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.

Saud served under four monarchs, most recently taking a new oath of office after King Salman took over following the death of King Abdullah in January.

Saud was named at the foreign ministry's helm in October 1975, seven months after his father, King Faisal, was assassinated by a nephew.

He oversaw Saudi Arabia's emergence as a major diplomatic player, facing successive regional crises and maintaining a focus on relations with the West.

Saud was closely involved in efforts to end the 1975-1990 civil war in Lebanon, playing a prominent role in pulling off the Saudi-sponsored Taef accord between Lebanese warring factions which silenced the guns.

The seasoned diplomat was in charge 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 launchpad.

But relations with Washington could get testy, and during the unrest that followed the intervention in Iraq, Saud openly criticised US policy in the neighbouring country.

Ties were also strained by the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, in which 15 of 19 plane hijackers were Saudi.

Tensions eased after Riyadh began waging its own war on suspected Al-Qaeda militants who launched a spate of bombings and shootings in the kingdom in 2003.

While Prince Saud frequently visited Washington or received US officials in Saudi Arabia, he was believed to be closer to European diplomats.

The prince, who often swapped the traditional Gulf robe and checkered headdress for elegant suits when on missions in Western capitals, suffered spine problems.

Born in the mountain resort of Taef, 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 company Petromin and the ministry of oil and mineral resources.

The married Saud has three sons and three daughters.

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