President Joe Biden dispatched his national security adviser Jake Sullivan to Saudi Arabia on Thursday for talks with the kingdom’s de facto leader Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, as the White House pushes for a normalization of relations between the country and Israel.
The White House in a brief statement said that Sullivan arrived Thursday in Jeddah for talks with the crown prince and other Saudi officials. The wide-ranging talks covered initiatives to “advance a common vision for a more peaceful, secure, prosperous, and stable Middle East,” as well as efforts to find a permanent end to the yearslong conflict between the Saudis and Iran-allied Houthis in Yemen, according to the White House.
Sullivan and the prince also discussed the Biden administration’s hopes to normalize relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, according to a White House National Security Council official familiar with the matter. The official was not authorized to comment publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
For its part, the kingdom’s state-run Saudi Press Agency acknowledged the meeting, saying only that the two sides “discussed the Saudi-U.S. strategic relations and ways to enhance them in various fields, in addition to the latest regional and international developments of mutual concern.”
The kingdom released no images of the meeting, which saw Saudi Arabia’s defense and energy ministers attend, along with the head of its Public Investment Fund.
The Saudis have shown hesitance to proceed with normalizing relations with Israel at a time when it is led by the most right-wing government in its history, and tensions have soared with the Palestinians. Meanwhile, Israel remains mired in a political crisis over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to weaken its judiciary — a move which has unleashed the biggest protests in the country’s history.
The Saudis have repeatedly called for the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza, territories Israel seized in the 1967 war.
Saudi Arabia also has pushed increasingly for a nuclear cooperation deal that includes America, allowing it to enrich uranium in the kingdom — something that worries nonproliferation experts, as spinning centrifuges open the door to a possible weapons program.
Mohammed already has said the kingdom would pursue an atomic bomb if Iran had one, potentially creating a nuclear arms race in the region as Tehran’s program continues to advance closer to weapons-grade levels.
Information for this article was contributed by Jon Gambrell of The Associated Press.
(Source: NWA Online)