US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said today, Thursday, that his country will continue to push for a normalization of diplomatic relations between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Israel.
“We will continue to work with Saudi Arabia regarding normalization with Israel,” Blinken said in a press conference with his Saudi counterpart, Faisal bin Farhan.
Blinken emphasized that normalization between his country’s two biggest allies in the Middle East is a priority for Washington, adding that it will pave the way for a more integrated region.
He added, “We discussed this (Israel’s normalization with the Arabs) here, and we will continue to work on it to push it forward in the coming days, weeks and months.”
Bin Farhan responded to Blinken’s statement by saying that the kingdom will not seek peace with Israel without first reaching a solution to the Palestinian issue.
And the Saudi foreign minister said during the same press conference: “We believe that normalization with Israel will have great advantages for everyone, but it will be limited advantages without a path to peace with the Palestinians.”
The Palestinian Authority welcomed Bin Farhan’s remarks, with Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki thanking him in a statement published later on Thursday.
In response, Al-Maliki said, “We wished that the American administration, represented by its president and foreign minister, would have invested a tenth of its efforts to encourage countries to normalize their relationship with the occupying state, in order to end that occupation.”
He added, “Forcing Israel to sit at the negotiating table to reach an agreement that ends the occupation and embodies the two-state solution through a sovereign, viable, and geographically contiguous Palestinian state on the pre-June 4, 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its eternal capital.”
The United States also hopes that Saudi Arabia will normalize relations with Israel, which several Arab countries, including the UAE and Bahrain, have previously normalized their relations with in 2020, according to agreements sponsored by the administration of former US President Donald Trump.
American skepticism about Assad
At the end of a three-day visit to Saudi Arabia aimed at strengthening relations with the oil-rich kingdom, Blinken tried to mitigate other points of contention, especially over Syria, after it was recently returned to the Arab League and Riyadh normalized relations with it.
Blinken stressed that his country does not support the return of Syria to its Arab surroundings, but it agrees with the goals of working on a peace mechanism, confronting the re-emergence of the Islamic State, allowing access to humanitarian aid, and confronting drug trafficking.
“I must admit that we doubt (Syrian President Bashar) Assad’s willingness to take the necessary steps, but we agree with our partners here on what those steps are and on the ultimate goals,” he said.
Bin Farhan defended Assad’s invitation to the Arab summit that took place last month in Jeddah.
He said, “The status quo was not feasible, but was creating an increasing burden on the countries of the region and on the Syrian people.”
Arab countries have put basic issues on the table for discussions with Damascus, including the Syrian refugee crisis, especially in neighboring countries, and the fight against drug smuggling, which is one of the biggest sources of concern for Gulf countries, especially Saudi Arabia, which has become a major market for Captagon pills, mainly manufactured in Syria.
Bin Farhan considered that these issues require “dialogue with Damascus,” adding, “We believe that this track can achieve results that other tracks have not achieved.”
Regarding the human rights file, which constitutes another point of contention between Washington and Riyadh, bin Farhan refused to subject the kingdom to any “pressure.”
Shortly after his arrival in Jeddah, on Tuesday, Blinken had an “open and frank conversation” with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and raised the issue of human rights with him, according to a US official who asked not to be named.
300 million dollars
Blinken and Bin Farhan’s statements came at the conclusion of a ministerial meeting of the international coalition against the Islamic State, during which they also sought to show a unified position regarding the fight against jihadists.
The goal of the meeting was to raise $601 million to finance a fund dedicated to establishing stability in Iraq and Syria. $300 million has been raised so far, according to a joint statement.
The United States has pledged $148 million to this fund.
There is no choice between Washington and Beijing
Blinken stressed that Washington does not give anyone a choice between it and Beijing, seeking to show a unified front with Saudi Arabia, his country’s strategic ally, despite the differences between them.
The role of Beijing, Washington’s adversary, in the Middle East emerged last March when it sponsored a surprising agreement between Riyadh and Tehran, its arch-rival, to resume relations between the two most prominent regional powers in the Gulf after seven years of estrangement.
At the end of a three-day visit to Saudi Arabia aimed at strengthening relations with the rich oil kingdom, Blinken stressed in a joint press conference with his Saudi counterpart, “We are not asking anyone to choose between the United States and China,” adding, “We are simply trying to show the benefits of our partnership and the agreed agenda that we present.” “.
For his part, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan played down the importance of analyzes that his country is getting closer to Beijing at the expense of the relationship with Washington. “We still have a strong security partnership with the United States that is renewed almost daily,” he said, although he favored growing cooperation with China.
In recent years, US-Saudi relations have been strained due to the killing of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in his country’s consulate in Istanbul, and the refusal of the world’s largest oil exporter to contribute to easing the rise in energy prices after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“We are all capable of establishing multiple partnerships and commitments,” the Saudi minister added.