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June 28, 2009


State Department Revises Employees' Family
 Residency Policy in Kingdom

State Department Revises Employees' Family Residency Policy in Kingdom

SUSRIS -- June 28, 2009 -- The U.S. State Department, citing a "greatly improved security environment" in Saudi Arabia, revised its policies governing residency of employees' family members in the Kingdom in a June 26 announcement. The Bureau of Consular Affairs "Travel Warning," posted to the Department's Web site, said all family members were authorized to return to the Consulate General in Dhahran and adult family members and non-school age children were authorized to return to the Embassy in Riyadh. The State Department employees at the Consulate in Jeddah will continue to serve unaccompanied tours.

Click for larger mapThe announcement recognized the improved security climate in the Kingdom, especially in the Eastern Province and Riyadh, but cautioned that "there remains an ongoing security threat due to the continued presence of terrorist groups, some affiliated with al Qaida." The travel warning, in addition to noting the status change for State Department families, provides information and recommendations for other American citizens traveling to Saudi Arabia.

In October U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Ford Fraker told SUSRIS that he was satisfied with security conditions in the Kingdom and that Washington was pursuing a program to return employees' families. He said the security situation there was compatible with Americans working, living and visiting Saudi Arabia and he recounted the progress made, "We're in stage three of a return of families program. In September 2007, I got approval for stage one - adult family visitation for two week visits. This was followed by stage two - approval for all family members to visit for two weeks." Fraker said the embassy in Riyadh was pursuing a program of return of families, "The first step will be the return of adult family members and a move to a two-year posting."

Ambassador Ford M. FrakerAmbassador Fraker, who completed his posting as America's top diplomat in Riyadh in April 2009, told
SUSRIS in the exclusive interview that the family visitation and residency policy served as an important signal to American businesses. The wording of State Department travel warnings, he explained, made it difficult in some cases for business people to have visits approved by their corporate officials. Fraker said that, "An executive would say that he was going on a business development trip to Saudi Arabia and his corporate lawyer would say no you're not because you are not covered." He noted that, "The travel warning has been rewritten so there are no legal impediments now, as far as corporate insurance to prevent executives from traveling to the Kingdom." 

In April 2004 Washington evacuated many "official" Americans from the Kingdom and "strongly urged" other American citizens to leave over concerns that terrorists were planning attacks. A terrorist campaign had been launched by al Qaida against the Kingdom and Western interests in March 2003 with an attack on residential compounds in Riyadh that left 27 victims dead and 160 people injured. Among other al Qaida acts was the December 2004 strike at the U.S. Consulate in Jeddah. Five non-American employees were killed in the attack at the compound. The attacks were met with countermeasures by Saudi Arabia such as determined security and law enforcement efforts as well as a campaign to undermine the terrorists' ideology. These efforts were outlined in this year's
U.S. State Department "Annual Report on Terrorism," which noted, "The Saudi government continued to build its counterterrorism capacity and efforts to counter extremist ideology."

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