No ties with ‘Israel’ without Palestinian State recognition: Riyadh

The Saudi Foreign Ministry says Riyadh told Washington that there will be no diplomatic relations with “Tel Aviv” unless an independent Palestinian state is recognized.

  • This handout picture provided by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) shows Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (C-R) receiving US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (C-L) in Riyadh on February 5, 2024. (Photo by SPA / AFP)

Saudi Arabia will establish diplomatic relations with “Israel” only if a Palestinian state is recognized within its 1967 borders with the eastern part of al-Quds as its capital and the aggression on the Gaza Strip is ended, the Saudi Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and “Israel” would depend on ending the war in the Gaza Strip and a clear path to establishing a Palestinian state. Earlier, he met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in Riyadh.

“The Kingdom has communicated its firm position to the U.S. administration that there will be no diplomatic relations with Israel unless an independent Palestinian state is recognized on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital, and that the Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip stops and all Israeli occupation forces withdraw from the Gaza Strip,” the Ministry said in a statement.

It is necessary that the “Palestinian people obtain their legitimate rights,” the ministry stressed, adding that it called on the permanent members of the UN Security Council to recognize the Palestinian State.

Israeli commentators were quick to interpret the statement as “reflecting Saudi anger” over remarks made earlier by John Kirby, the spokesperson for the US National Security Council.

During a press conference earlier this week, Kirby had touched on normalization talks between Riyadh and “Tel Aviv” preceding Operation Al-Aqsa Flood on October 7, mentioning that the US had received “positive feedback” from both sides.

This came shortly after Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan stated to CNN that Riyadh would not recognize “Israel” or contribute to the rebuilding of the Gaza Strip unless there is a credible plan for the establishment of a Palestinian state.

On Tuesday, Blinken said that bin Salman reiterated an interest in ties with “Israel” but wants an end to the war in Gaza.

“With regard specifically to normalisation, the crown prince reiterated Saudi Arabia’s strong interest in pursuing that,” Blinken told reporters in Doha a day after their meeting in Riyadh.

“But he also made clear what he had said to me before, which is that in order to do that, two things will be required — an end to the conflict in Gaza, and a clear, credible timebound path to the establishment of a Palestinian state.”

Saudi normalization now awaiting ‘Israeli commitment’: Reuters

But on Friday, two senior regional sources informed Reuters that Saudi officials have told their US counterparts that Riyadh is willing, in exchange for normalization with “Israel”, to accept “a political commitment from Israel towards a two-state solution” without having the occupation take any concrete steps. 

This was done in a bid to get a defense pact with Washington approved before the US presidential elections.

One of the senior regional sources stated that “normalization does require really – if not legally, at least politically – a commitment from the Israelis that they are open to a two-state solution.”

“If Israel stopped its military offensive on Gaza – or at least declared a ceasefire – it would make it easier for Saudi Arabia to go ahead with the deal,” they added.

One of the regional sources stated that Saudi officials have privately urged Washington to press “Israel” to end its genocide in Gaza and commit to a “political horizon for a Palestinian state,” saying that this would push Riyadh to normalize relations with the occupation and help fund Gaza’s reconstruction.

The regional sources also added that Saudi officials have not stated exactly what an “acceptable pathway to a Palestinian state” would involve,  hence they can strike a deal with “Israel” without it involving any binding moves, according to Reuters.

Earlier, The Washington Post reported that the United States informed “Israel” that the Saudi normalization agreement should begin within the next two months.

This is partly because Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman is demanding, as part of the normalization package, a treaty that provides security guarantees similar to NATO for Saudi Arabia.

Given that it is an election year in the United States, according to the newspaper, the deal is likely to receive Senate approval by June, and if delayed beyond that, it might be buried under election campaign policies.

Read more: US State Dept eyes options for possible Palestinian state recognition

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