Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister on Thursday denied media reports of a possible meeting between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, amid speculation about normalizing ties between Gulf Arab states and Israel.
“There is no meeting planned between Saudi Arabia and Israel,” Prince Faisal bin Farhan told the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya English website in response to reports that included one from Israel’s daily Haaretz.
“Saudi Arabia’s policy has been very clear since the beginning of this conflict. There are no relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel, and the Kingdom stands firmly behind Palestine.”
The Palestinian leadership has rejected President Trump’s plan, saying it heavily favors Israel and will deny them a viable independent state.
But Gulf Arab states welcomed the U.S. efforts in a move viewed as prioritizing close ties with Washington vital to countering Iran over traditional unswerving support for the Palestinians.
In 2017, an Israeli cabinet minister said the country had had covert contacts with Riyadh, and Israel Radio reported that Prince Mohammed had met with officials in Israel, drawing an official Saudi denial.
Meanwhile, somewhat more encouraging words came from another Saudi official on Thursday.
“There are positive elements in Trump’s peace plan,” Adel Al-Jubeir, the Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs, said during a visit to Romania.
“These elements may establish the basis for negotiation between the two sides,” he was quoted as saying by The Times of Israel.
He also noted, however, that “the Palestinians have rejected this plan and made it clear that it doesn’t meet their requirements.”
Jubeir, who previously served as Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Washington, stressed that “it is our duty to support the Palestinians.”
Updated Thursday, February 13, 2020 at 3:28 pm comment