Saudi Arabia attempted to pressure the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to backtrack on a major deal on solar energy with Israel and Jordan, a report has revealed.
According to the news site, Axios, which cited two anonymous senior Israeli officials familiar with the matter, Riyadh tried to pressure Abu Dhabi into pulling out of a deal to build a huge solar farm in Jordan which would supply Israel with electricity. In return, Tel Aviv would construct a desalination plant which would provide water to Amman.
Saudi officials reportedly called their Emirati counterparts to protest the deal and encourage them to cancel it, even offering an alternative deal between Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Jordan, which would have side-lined Israel.
That agreement went ahead on Monday, however, with US climate envoy, John Kerry, backing it up and attending the signing, making it the region’s largest renewable energy project to date.
Riyadh’s protest did alter some aspects of the agreement, as Abu Dhabi notified Kerry and their Israeli and Jordanian counterparts of the Saudi’s dissatisfaction, and requested some changes to the language used in the deal which were accepted. That also caused a delay of several hours for the signing of the deal.
The reason the Saudi government was against the deal was not due to any opposition to cooperating with Israel or supplying it with electricity, but reportedly because Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman wanted to draw the UAE into its own ‘Green Middle East’ vision in which the kingdom aims to lead the region on climate issues.
According to Axios, Saudi Arabia was left out of the deal because it does not have open diplomatic ties with Israel, while the UAE has already established relations with the Israeli government in the Abraham Accords last year.
The incident marks the latest clash of interests between Riyadh and Abu Dhabi which, in recent years, have experienced a fall-out in the alignment of regional interests.