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

2 min

110 shares, 171 points

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

Blinken was making his first visit to the kingdom as secretary of state, with the two countries seeking to repair ties after Washington warned of reassessing its military aid to the kingdom over oil production cuts last year.

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

More recently, however, the US has praised Riyadh for trying to extricate itself from Yemen and its efforts to mediate an end to fighting in Sudan.

Obtaining a normalisation deal between Saudi Arabia and Israel would be a coup for the Biden administration, rivalling the 2020 accord 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 normalising relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel.

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

“We believe that normalisation is in the interests of the region, that it would bring significant benefits to all, but without finding a pathway to peace for the Palestinian people . . . any normalisation will have limited benefits,” Saudi foreign minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan told the press conference.

Blinken has during his three-day visit sought to downplay differences with Saudi Arabia, including the kingdom’s expanding 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 privately say a breakthrough in relations with Israel is unlikely in the near future. Two Saudi sources said neither Israel nor the US were prepared to give the kingdom what it wanted to seal the deal, including concessions to the Palestinians and an upgrade in military co-operation.

The kingdom is also looking for US help in building a civilian nuclear plant, but Washington has balked at Saudi conditions on enriching uranium domestically.

Both diplomats downplayed Saudi Arabia’s expanding 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 that the US would not abandon the region for China, Iran and Russia.

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

Blinken also said there was common ground between his administration and Saudi Arabia on Syria. The country and its leader Bashar al-Assad have been ostracised since the Syrian civil war erupted in 2011, but were readmitted to the Arab League last month after Saudi lobbying.

“We’re not going to be in the business of normalising relations with Assad, with that regime, it’s not earned that step towards recognition,” he said. “But because the goals are pretty much the same, I think moving forward . . . we’ll see if we can achieve some progress.”

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

Source: Financial Times

Like it? Share with your friends!

110 shares, 171 points

What's Your Reaction?

Cute Cute
Fun Fun
Hate Hate
Confused Confused
Fail Fail
Geeky Geeky
Love Love
Choose A Format
Personality quiz
Series of questions that intends to reveal something about the personality
Trivia quiz
Series of questions with right and wrong answers that intends to check knowledge
Voting to make decisions or determine opinions
Formatted Text with Embeds and Visuals
The Classic Internet Listicles
The Classic Internet Countdowns
Open List
Submit your own item and vote up for the best submission
Ranked List
Upvote or downvote to decide the best list item
Upload your own images to make custom memes
Youtube, Vimeo or Vine Embeds
Soundcloud or Mixcloud Embeds
Photo or GIF
GIF format