Middle East Monitor / June 9, 2023
Israel and Saudi Arabia normalizing relations without achieving a two-state solution will only bring limited benefits, according to the Kingdom’s Foreign Minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan.
During a press conference yesterday in Riyadh with US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, he said, “We believe that normalization is in the interest of the region, that it would bring significant benefits to all, following a meeting of the global coalition fighting the Islamic State group. But without finding a pathway to peace for the Palestinian people, without addressing that challenge, any normalization will have limited benefits.
He added, “Therefore, I think we should continue to focus on finding a pathway toward a two-state solution, on finding a pathway toward giving the Palestinians dignity and justice. I think the US has a similar view that it’s important to continue those efforts.”
Saudi Arabia, a Middle East powerhouse and home to Islam’s two holiest shrines, has resisted heavy US pressure to end generations-old non-recognition of Israel, as have Gulf Arab neighbours, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
Riyadh says Palestinian statehood goals should be addressed first, before normalization with Israel. Saudi Arabia went the other way in April in restoring ties with Iran, its key regional rival and Israel’s arch-enemy, in a Chinese-brokered deal.
Blinken, who arrived in Saudi Arabia late on Tuesday, explained that regional integration and de-escalation were key to the region’s stability and prosperity, said, “The Gulf is more connected than ever, both as a region and with countries in the broader Middle East, including Israel. The United States will continue to play an integral role in deepening and expanding normalization.”
Moreover, in response to a question about the condition the country has in order to go forward with the normalization of ties with Israel, and US support for the civilian nuclear program that it is working to build, he said, “It’s no secret that we are developing our domestic civilian nuclear program, and we would very much prefer to be able to have the US as one of the bidders.”
“There are others who are bidding and, obviously, we would like to build our program with the best technology in the world,” he added.
Developing a civilian nuclear program is among Riyadh’s conditions for normalizing ties with Israel, a source familiar with the discussions said, confirming a New York Times report from March.
However, US officials have said in the past that they would share nuclear power technology only if the agreement prevents enrichment of uranium, or reprocessing of plutonium made in reactors – two routes to making nuclear weapons.