Middle East Eye / August 12, 2023
New ambassador position will be filled by Nayef al-Sudairi, the current ambassador to Jordan.
Saudi Arabia on Saturday named a non-resident ambassador to Palestine who will also serve as consul general in Jerusalem, a new position announced amid speculation about possible future ties with Israel.
The role will be filled by Nayef al-Sudairi, the current ambassador to Jordan, according to a social media post from the embassy in Amman confirmed by a Saudi foreign ministry official.
The appointment represents “an important step” underscoring the desire of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman “to strengthen relations with the brothers of the State of Palestine and give it a formal boost in all areas”, Sudairi said in a video broadcast by the Saudi state-affiliated Al-Ekhbariya channel.
The file for the Palestine has traditionally been handled by Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Amman.
But during US President Joe Biden’s tour of the Middle East last year, the Saudi civil aviation authority announced that it was lifting overflight restrictions on “all carriers”, paving the way for Israeli planes to use Saudi airspace.
Biden himself flew directly to Jeddah from Israel’s Ben Gurion airport for his talks with Saudi leaders.
The kingdom denied at the time that the airspace move was “a precursor to any further steps” towards normalization.
Riyadh has repeatedly said it would stick to the decades-old Arab League position of not establishing official ties with Israel until it ends its occupation of Palestine.
Yet in recent months Riyadh and Washington have held talks on Saudi conditions for progress on normalization, including security guarantees and assistance with a civilian nuclear program with uranium enrichment capacity, according to people briefed on the meetings.
Hesham Alghannam, a Saudi analyst at the Naif Arab University for Security Sciences in Riyadh, told AFP this week that Saudi Arabia needs to know whether the Israelis are “actively working towards making tangible progress on resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict”.
After a meeting on Saturday at the Palestinian embassy in Amman where Sudairi presented a copy of his credentials, Majdi al-Khaldi, Palestinian presidential adviser for diplomatic affairs, said he “welcomed” the appointment, official Palestinian news agency WAFA reported.
It “will contribute to strengthening the strong and solid brotherly relations that bind the two countries and the two brotherly peoples,” Khaldi said.
A Palestinian Authority official said that with this announcement “Saudi Arabia has reaffirmed its recognition of the state of Palestine with Jerusalem as its capital”.
“This is one part of several steps and we will continue to develop the relationship with them,” he told AFP on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the media.
A spokesman for the Israeli foreign ministry offered no immediate comment, referring media to recent comments by Foreign Minister Eli Cohen that “peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia is a matter of time”.
Saturday’s move “gives insight into how diplomatic relations might be between Saudi Arabia and Israel: a Saudi ambassador to Palestine with a file for Israel,” said Aziz Alghashian, a Saudi analyst and expert on Saudi-Israeli relations.
“The immediate signal is to treat Saudi demands for Israeli concessions seriously.”
Sudairi’s appointment also sends a “public message of support to the PA (Palestinian Authority),” said Ghaith al-Omari, a senior fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
“Given the PA’s dire financial situation, Saudi assistance could make a huge difference” apart from offering “badly needed diplomatic support to the PA”, he said.
Palestinian officials welcome first Saudi Arabia ambassador
Al-Jazeera / August 12, 2023
The ambassador’s appointment occurred while the US is looking to normalize Israeli-Saudi relations.
Palestinian officials welcomed their first Saudi Arabian ambassador, even as the kingdom mulls over establishing formal diplomatic relations with Israel.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s diplomatic adviser Majdi al-Khalidi received a copy of the credentials of Ambassador Nayef al-Sudairi as a non-resident envoy in Jordan on Saturday, according to Palestinian news agency WAFA.
Al-Sudairi, the kingdom’s current ambassador to Jordan, will also serve as consul general in Jerusalem.
Al-Khalidi said the occasion is “an important step that will contribute to further strengthening the strong brotherly relations that bind the two countries and the two brotherly peoples”, WAFA reported.
The Saudi envoy also called the appointment “an important step”, which underscores the desire of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman “to strengthen relations with the brothers of the State of Palestine and give it a formal boost in all areas”, he said in video broadcast by the Saudi state-affiliated Al-Ekhbariya channel.
The file for the Palestinian Territories has traditionally been handled by Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Amman.
Palestinian analyst Talal Okal said the new appointment is a step towards an official Saudi representation office in the occupied West Bank.
“It is also a message Saudi Arabia was committed to the rights of the Palestinians in a fully sovereign state,” Okal said.
Push for normalization
The ambassador’s appointment occurred while the United States is looking to normalize Israeli-Saudi relations.
The US, Israeli and Saudi officials, however, have said any such deal is a long way off, as a number of thorny issues – from Israeli raids in the occupied West Bank, to Saudi nuclear power development – stand in its way.
Riyadh has repeatedly said it will stick with the decades-old Arab League position of not establishing ties with Israel until the conflict with the Palestinians is resolved.
Still, in recent months, Riyadh and Washington have held talks concerning Saudi conditions for normalization. These include security guarantees and assistance with a civilian nuclear program.
Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said on Thursday “peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia is a matter of time”.
According to Aziz Alghashian, a Saudi analyst and expert on Saudi-Israeli relations, Saturday’s move “gives insight into how diplomatic relations might be between Saudi Arabia and Israel: a Saudi ambassador to Palestine with a file for Israel”.
“The immediate signal is to treat Saudi demands for Israeli concessions seriously,” Alghashian said.
Last week, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said the Palestinian Authority is hoping to relay its concerns to Saudi officials about the normalization push.
SOURCE: AL-JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES