Saudi crown prince, US national security advisor meet for talks

AFP || Shining BD

Published: 5/19/2024 6:01:17 AM

Prince Mohammed bin Salman and US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan met in Saudi Arabia's eastern city of Dhahran to discuss a "semi-final" version of strategic agreements between the two countries, official Saudi media reported on Sunday.

The agreements are considered a major part of Washington's efforts to bring Riyadh around to recognising the state of Israel for the first time -- efforts complicated by the ongoing war in Gaza.

Prince Mohammed, the kingdom's de facto ruler, and Sullivan discussed "the semi-final version of the draft strategic agreements between the Kingdom and the United States of America, the work on which is close to being completed", according to Saudi state media.

The two sides also discussed "what is being worked on between the two sides on the Palestinian issue to find a credible path towards a two-state solution".

The talks also touched on "the situation in Gaza and the necessity of stopping the war there, and facilitating the entry of humanitarian aid".

Sullivan is scheduled to visit Israel later on Sunday for talks about the war, according to the White House.

The Biden administration has been seeking for some time to reach an agreement under which Saudi Arabia would recognise Israel in exchange for a stronger security relationship with Washington, which is already its most important security partner.

The Saudis are also bargaining hard for help developing a civilian nuclear programme.

Last September, before Hamas's October 7 attack on Israel that sparked the war in Gaza, Prince Mohammed said in an interview with the US network Fox News that "every day we get closer" to a deal to normalise ties.

But those efforts have been severely damaged by the more than seven months of fighting in Gaza and the rising civilian toll there.

The October 7 attack resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.

Israel's retaliatory offensive against Hamas has killed at least 35,386 people in Gaza, mostly civilians, according to data provided by the Hamas-run territory's health ministry.

Since the outbreak of the war, Saudi officials have said that relations with Israel are impossible without steps toward recognising a Palestinian state, something Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has long opposed.

It is unclear whether Riyadh and Washington will move forward with their agreements, as Saudi Arabia and Israel have not reached a normalisation agreement, according to analysts.

But high-level talks about what Saudi Arabia wants from the United States have continued.

During Blinken's last visit to Riyadh in April, he and his Saudi counterpart said that a final agreement on the US-Saudi component of the deal was close.

Shining BD