Saudi crown prince reiterates 'strong interest' in Israel ties: Blinken

AFP , Tuesday 6 Feb 2024

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday that Saudi Arabia's crown prince reiterated an interest in ties with Israel but wants an end to the war on Gaza.

File photo: Saudi Arabia s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets with Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. AP


"With regard specifically to normalisation, the crown prince reiterated Saudi Arabia's strong interest in pursuing that," Blinken told reporters in Doha a day after their meeting in Riyadh.

"But he also made clear what he had said to me before, which is that in order to do that, two things will be required -- an end to the conflict in Gaza, and a clear, credible timebound path to the establishment of a Palestinian state."

Saudi Arabia, home to Islam's holiest sites, has never recognised Israel and did not join the 2020 US-brokered Abraham Accords that saw its Gulf neighbours Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates as well as Morocco establish formal ties with Israel.

US President Joe Biden's administration has pushed hard for Saudi Arabia to take the same step.

Under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Riyadh had laid out conditions for normalisation, including security guarantees from Washington and help developing a civilian nuclear programme.

But momentum stalled after the Israeli war on Gaza erupted on 7 October. One week later, a source familiar with the normalisation talks told AFP Saudi Arabia had paused the process.

"We know the immense benefits that come for everyone concerned with Israel's further integration into the region, starting with the benefits for Israel," said Blinken, who is also visiting Israel as part of his Middle East tour.

"That's something that Israelis will have to decide for themselves."

*This story was edited by Ahram Online

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