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Israel ‘very optimistic’ about normalisation deal with Saudi Arabia

June 27, 2023 at 12:35 pm

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen [Israel Foreign Ministry/Anadolu Agency]

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen is “very optimistic” that Israel and Saudi Arabia will normalise relations before March next year, the Jerusalem Post has reported.

“Israel is interested in advancing a peace agreement with Saudi Arabia,” Cohen explained during a briefing on Sunday. “This is an attainable agreement… the Saudis are interested in it, as well.”

He added that such an agreement “will not be part” of the Abraham Accords and would include other countries as well.

Talks on a Saudi-Israel normalisation agreement are ongoing through various channels, said the minister, but mainly via Washington. “There is a window of opportunity until March 2024 for an agreement with Riyadh, after which the political system in the US will focus on the presidential election later in the year.”

According to the former US ambassador to Israel, Martin Indyk, in an interview with CNN, three “expensive” demands have been made by Saudi Arabia to the United States in order to move normalisation with Israel forward: a security guarantee from the US, such as NATO’s Article 5 commitment to Saudi Arabia; the free flow of weapons from the US, including F-35 aircraft; and a green light for an independent Saudi capacity to enrich uranium.

Saudi Arabia does not recognise Israel, nor did it join the Abraham Accords concluded between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain in 2020. Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal Bin Farhan said on 8 June that while normalisation between Saudi Arabia and Israel is in the interest of the region, the Palestinian issue must be addressed first.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reiterated his desire to establish relations with Saudi Arabia, and said that this would be a quantum leap for a comprehensive peace between Israel and the Arab world, bringing to an end the Arab-Israeli and Palestinian-Israeli conflicts.

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