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US says it has 'real national security interest' in Saudi-Israel normalisation

June 5, 2023 at 8:22 pm

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken [Uzbek Presidency/Anadolu Agency]

The US has a “real national security interest” in Israel and Saudi Arabia normalising relations, Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, said Monday, Reuters reports.

Addressing the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee gathering in the nation’s capital, Blinken said the Biden administration believes “we can, and indeed we must play an integral role in advancing” the elusive diplomatic milestone.

“There’s no illusion that this can be done quickly or easily. But we remain committed to working toward that outcome, including on the trip I’m about to take this week to Jeddah and Riyadh” in Saudi Arabia, he said.

The top US diplomat is slated to depart Washington for Saudi Arabia on Tuesday for a series of meetings with senior Saudi officials, in the first such visit since Saudi Arabia and Iran moved to normalise relations early this year in a Beijing-brokered agreement.

Israel and Palestine

Turning to the Israel-Palestine conflict and long-stalled peace talks to broker a two-state solution, Blinken said the US is committed to talk “with the parties to at least maintain a horizon of hope.”

READ: Blinken excludes Israel from Middle East trip

“In the immediate term, that means de-escalation, refraining from unilateral measures that increased tensions that strengthen security cooperation to counter violence, and then improve daily life for the Palestinian people,” he said.

“Preserving a horizon of hope also means that we have to continue to reject unequivocally any actions taken by any party that undermine the prospects of a two-state solution,” he added.

He pointed disapprovingly at acts of terrorism, “any move toward annexation of the West Bank de facto or de jure,” and the disruption of the status quo at holy sites. In addition to damaging the possibility of holding peace talks, Blinken said home demolitions and forced evictions “undermine the basic daily dignity to which all people are entitled.”

“We’re also working with the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority to encourage political, economic and security reforms that can lay the foundation for a stable, democratic Palestinian state alongside the state of Israel with secure recognised borders. Ultimately, a two-state solution can only be achieved through direct negotiation between the parties,” he said.

Blinken also detailed annual US aid for Israel, putting the total at roughly $5 billion per year, including $3.3 billion in foreign military financing, $500 million to support missile defense projects, tens of millions for anti-drone and anti-tunneling technologies and $1 billion to replenish Israel’s Iron Dome missile stocks.

He continued to insist that the US will not allow Iran obtain a nuclear weapon, saying its “pattern of hostile behavior underscores a clear imperative” to ensure that does not happen.

“We continue to believe that diplomacy is the best way to verifiably, effectively and sustainably prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon in parallel economic pressure and deterrence reinforce our diplomacy,” he said.

“If Iran rejects the path of diplomacy then, as President (Joe) Biden has repeatedly made clear, all options are on the table to ensure that Iran does not obtain a nuclear weapon,” he added.

READ: Israel ‘not really aware’ about progress of Saudi-US talks on normalisation deal