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Blinken discusses Israel normalisation in tented Saudi talks


DE Online Desk
AL-ULA: US top diplomat Antony Blinken said there was “clear interest” in pursuing relations with Israel after talks in Saudi Arabia on Monday, the latest stop in a tour to calm a region inflamed by the Israel-Hamas war.
Blinken also said all the leaders on his tour, which took him to six countries before heading to Israel, had agreed to work with the US to help Gaza’s recovery and long-term stability. He was speaking after meeting Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto Saudi ruler, in a lavish tent outside Al Ula, a historic oasis town.
“We talked about (Israeli normalisation) actually on every stop, including of course here in Saudi Arabia,” he told reporters before flying to Tel Aviv. “And I can tell you this, there’s a clear interest here in pursuing that.” Tentative efforts towards potential ties between Saudi, home of Islam’s two holiest sites, and Israel were halted after the Israel-Hamas war flared just over three months ago.
The war started with Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack on Israel, which resulted in about 1,140 deaths, most of them civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.
Israel has responded with relentless bombardment and a ground invasion that have killed at least 22,835 people, most of them women and children, according to the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza. Saudi Arabia did not join the handful of Arab countries — including its neighbour the United Arab Emirates — in signing the US-brokered Abraham Accords recognising Israel in 2020.
In just three days, Blinken has also visited Turkey, Greece, Jordan, Qatar and the UAE on his fourth regional tour since the start of the Israel-Hamas conflict. He said there was “broad agreement” on security for Israel, united Palestinian leadership for the occupied West Bank and Gaza and an eventual independent Palestinian state.
“Now no one I talked to thinks any of this will be easy… but we agreed to work together and coordinate our efforts to help Gaza stabilise and recover, to chart a political path forward for Palestinians and to work toward long-term peace and security and stability,” Blinken said.
“I also found across the board that… leaders are prepared to make the necessary commitments to make the hard decisions to advance all of these objectives.”
Blinken also discussed Red Sea attacks by the Iran-backed Huthi rebels in Yemen, Saudi Arabia’s southern neighbour, which have disrupted shipping in the key maritime route.
Vowing solidarity with the Palestinians, Yemen’s Huthis have launched more than 100 drone and missile attacks on targets in Israel and the waterway, a conduit between Europe and Asia. The United States and 11 allies last week warned of unspecified consequences if the attacks continue.
But the situation is tense for Riyadh as it coincides with attempts to settle a long-running war between the Huthis and a Saudi-led international coalition.
Also in Saudi, Blinken had a meeting with visiting European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell about stopping the Israel-Hamas war spreading, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said.

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