Saudi delegation to visit West Bank this week to meet Palestinian President Abbas

Naid Al Sudairi, the kingdom's non-resident ambassador to Palestine, will lead the talks

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks at the UN General Assembly in New York. Bloomberg
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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is to meet a Saudi delegation in the occupied West Bank, a Palestinian official has said.

Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Jordan, Naif Al Sudairi, who was appointed as non-resident ambassador to the Palestinians, will lead the delegation on the two-day visit, which begins on Tuesday.

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry said the visit was an "important historic milestone for enhancing and developing bilateral ties".

The trip comes after officials in Saudi Arabia and Israel confirmed efforts were being made to reach an agreement to establish relations between the two countries.

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in an interview with Fox News, said the two sides were getting “closer” to establishing relations.

On Friday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his country was on "the cusp" of establishing ties with Riyadh, a move that would “enhance the prospects of peace with the Palestinians”.

But US officials have said that any deal, expected to include a defence agreement with Washington and a civilian nuclear programme for Saudi Arabia, was some distance away.

Among the issues to be resolved is the Palestinian question, with calls for a revival of a peace process leading to a two-state solution with an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.

Matthew Miller, a US State Department spokesman, told CNN last week that the US has had “productive conversations” with the Saudi and Israeli governments on establishing ties.

On Saturday, Saudi Arabia's Minister of Foreign Affairs told the UN General Assembly that finding "a just, comprehensive solution to the Palestinian issue" was key to Middle East security.

"The solution must be based on resolutions in the international arena and must bring about a peace that allows [Palestinians] to have an independent state based on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital," Prince Faisal bin Farhan said, without explicitly mentioning Israel.

His comments are the latest in a string of public statements from Saudi Arabia on the importance of a Palestinian state.

Despite Mr Netanyahu regarding ties with the kingdom as a priority, far-right members of his coalition have warned they will topple the government if Palestinians are given concessions.

On Friday, far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir released a statement saying that, while his Jewish National Front party supports establishing relations with Saudi Arabia, "we will not accept any concessions to the Palestinians".

"I told the prime minister not to put us in a corner,” he said.

Israel's current government is the most conservative in the country's history and includes pro-settler blocs.

Settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are viewed as one of the largest impediments to the creation of a Palestinian state. The Israeli communities, illegal under international law, are now home to more than 700,000, the UN has said.

Prince Faisal appeared to reference the issue in his comments on Saturday when he said the kingdom "rejects and condemns all the unilateral steps that constitute a flagrant violation of international law and which contribute to the collapse of regional and international peace efforts and are hindering the path of diplomatic solutions".

Members of Israel's government have also endorsed the visits of Jews to Al Aqsa Mosque compound in breach of a "status quo" agreement that bars non-Muslims from praying at the site.

On Monday, Saudi Arabia and Egypt condemned the most recent incursion to the compound.

Saudi Arabia criticised "the continuous provocative practices carried out by a group of extremists at Al Aqsa Mosque under the protection of Israeli occupation forces”.

US-brokered peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel broke down in 2014 and relations between the two sides have plummeted amid a rise in violence.

Last week, Mr Abbas said at the UN General Assembly that no Middle East peace agreement would be achievable until Palestinians were granted full rights.

Updated: September 25, 2023, 12:08 PM