Saudi FM wants focus on Israeli-Palestinian talks over 'eventual normalization'

From left Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu US President Donald Trump Bahrain Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani and UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed wave from the White House balcony after signing the Abraham Accords [File Tom Brenne

The United States supports a "robust" program to provide weapons to Saudi Arabia, US secretary of state Mike Pompeo said during a joint press availability with his Saudi counterparts at the state department on Wednesday.

According to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the US remains committed to fulfilling its arms sales deal with Saudi Arabia as part of an effort to deter Iran.

Saudia Arabia's top diplomat on Thursday called for direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, while again suggesting the kingdom won't normalize ties with the Jewish state until the decades-old conflict is resolved.

Trump said last month that he also expected Saudi Arabia to recognise Israel "at the right time".

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Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam and site of its holiest shrines, drew up a 2002 initiative under which Arab nations offered to normalize ties with Israel in return for a statehood deal with the Palestinians and full Israeli withdrawal from territory captured in 1967.

Even before the Abraham Accords, nearly 40% of the Arabs polled, except for the Palestinians, felt that "Arabs should do more to convince Israel of the benefits of peace and, therefore, find it desirable to explore normalizing ties with Israel even before a peace agreement is reached". "We hope Saudi Arabia will consider normalizing its relationships as well, and we want to thank them for the assistance they've had in the success of the Abraham Accords so far". The Palestinians have slammed the agreements as a "betrayal of Jerusalem, al-Aqsa Mosque and the Palestinian cause", but government-controlled Saudi media hailed them as historic and good for regional peace.

Israeli occupation authorities announced yesterday their takeover of about 11,000 dunums of (1,000 hectares) of Palestinian land in the northern Jordan Valley region in the occupied West Bank, according to a Palestinian official. Kushner has been pushing Arab states to normalize ties with Israel.

Bringing Palestinians and Israelis to the negotiating table should be the priority of peace efforts before "eventual normalization" with Israel, the Saudi foreign minister said today. They are changing their attitude toward us.

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