Donald Trump expects Saudi Arabia to join UAE-Israel deal

Saudi Arabia says it will not follow the United Arab Emirates in establishing diplomatic ties with Israel until it has signed an internationally-recognised peace accord with the Palestinians.

The UAE last week became the first Gulf state to normalise relations with Israel, in a US-brokered accord that raised the prospect of similar deals with other Arab states – including Saudi Arabia.

But after days of conspicuous silence and in the face of US pressure to announce a similar deal, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan ruled out the possibility until the Palestinian issue is resolved.

“Peace must be achieved with the Palestinians” on the basis of international agreements as a pre-condition for any normalisation of relations, Prince Faisal told reporters during a visit to Berlin on Wednesday.

“Once that is achieved all things are possible,” he added, in a comment that was consistent with Saudi Arabia’s previous stance on the issue.

US President Donald Trump said he expected Saudi Arabia to join the agreement announced last week by Israel and the UAE to normalise diplomatic ties and forge a broad new relationship.

“I do,” Trump replied on Wednesday when asked at a White House news conference if he expected Saudi Arabia to join.

Under the accord, which Trump helped broker, Israel agreed to suspend its planned annexation of areas of the occupied West Bank. The agreement also firms up opposition to regional power Iran, which the UAE, Israel and the US view as the main threat in the Middle East.

‘Detrimental’

Prince Faisal said the kingdom remained committed to peace with Israel on the basis of a 2002 Arab Peace Initiative.

He reiterated criticism of Israel’s “unilateral policies” of annexation and building settlements in the occupied West Bank as “illegitimate” and “detrimental” to a two-state solution. But he also voiced cautious optimism over last week’s deal.

“Any efforts that result in holding back the threat of annexation could be viewed as positive,” he said.

Saudi Arabia, which does not recognise Israel, drew up the 2002 initiative by which Arab nations offered to normalise ties with Israel in return for a statehood deal with the Palestinians and full Israeli withdrawal from territory captured in 1967.

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