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HomeEconomyAntony Blinken says normalizing Saudi-Israel relations is US 'priority'

Antony Blinken says normalizing Saudi-Israel relations is US ‘priority’


Washington’s top diplomat Antony Blinken said the US would push for normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel, saying a deal was a priority for the government.

Blinken made his first visit to the kingdom as secretary of state, with the two countries seeking to restore ties after Washington last year warned of a reassessment of its military aid to the kingdom due to cuts in oil production.

Before that, US President Joe Biden threatened to make Saudi Arabia and its crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, a pariah for the 2018 murder of Saudi commentator Jamal Khashoggi and for the war in Yemen.

More recently, however, the US has praised Riyadh for its efforts to break out of Yemen and for its efforts to end the fighting in Sudan.

Getting a normalization deal between Saudi Arabia and Israel would be a coup for the Biden administration, similar to the 2020 deal that President Donald Trump oversaw between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and three other Arab countries.

“I think this would be an important step forward. . . and it is a priority for us,” Blinken said at a joint press conference with his Saudi counterpart in Riyadh, referring to the normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel.

But Saudi Arabia has pushed back, saying publicly that the kingdom first needed Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians.

“We believe that normalization is in the interest of the region, that it would bring significant benefits to all, but without finding a path to peace for the Palestinian people. . . any normalization will have limited benefits,” Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said at the press conference.

During his three-day visit, Blinken sought to downplay differences with Saudi Arabia, including the kingdom’s growing ties with China and Syria. Other senior US officials, including Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan, have also visited Saudi Arabia in recent months.

Saudi, Western and European sources say privately that a breakthrough in relations with Israel is unlikely in the near future. Two Saudi sources said neither Israel nor the US were willing to give the kingdom what it wanted to seal the deal, including concessions to the Palestinians and an upgrade in military cooperation.

The kingdom is also seeking help from the US to build a civilian nuclear power plant, but Washington has objected to Saudi terms to enrich uranium domestically.

Both diplomats downplayed Saudi Arabia’s growing ties with China after Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Saudi Arabia in December. The visit came months after Biden attended a summit in the kingdom and vowed the US would not leave the region for China, Iran and Russia.

“We’re not asking anyone to choose between the US and China,” Blinken said. “We’re just trying to demonstrate the benefits of our collaboration.”

Blinken also said there was an agreement between his government and Saudi Arabia on Syria. The country and its leader Bashar al-Assad have been exiled since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011, but were readmitted to the Arab League last month after Saudi lobbying.

“We are not normalizing relations with Assad, with that regime, it has not earned that step towards recognition,” he said. “But since the goals are pretty much the same, I think we’re moving forward. . . we will see if we can make any progress.”

Biden also said Washington would continue to advocate for human rights in the kingdom, where critics, including US citizens, have been detained.

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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