Saudi foreign minister: region will benefit from normalisation with Israel

But Palestinian-Israeli peace is a must for Riyadh to establish ties, Prince Faisal bin Farhan says

Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud speaks during a news conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia March 22, 2021. REUTERS/Ahmed Yosri
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A normalisation of ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel would be immensely beneficial for the region but can happen only once there is an Palestinian-Israeli peace agreement, the kingdom's foreign minister said.

Prince Faisal bin Farhan told CNN that said any decision by Riyadh to establish full ties with Israel was "very much dependent on the peace process".

Prince Faisal pointed out that there had been "a normalisation deal on the table since 2002", referring to the Arab Peace Initiative drawn up by Saudi Arabia and endorsed by the Arab League that year.

The 10-point proposal includes an Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian territories occupied in 1967, the right of return for Palestinian refugees, and the creation of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Under agreements brokered by former US president Donald Trump during his final months in office, the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan agreed to normalise ties with Israel last year.

"I think normalising Israel's status within the region would bring tremendous benefits to the region as a whole," Prince Faisal said. "It would be extremely helpful economically, but also socially and from a security perspective."

However, normalisation can be successful only "if we address the issue of the Palestinians and if we are able to deliver a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders that gives the Palestinians dignity and gives them their rights", he said.

"If we can find a path towards that then I think we can see a much, much safer region, a much more prosperous region, one where everybody can contribute to its success, including Israel."

Prince Faisal's remarks come amid a complex political transition in Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party secured the most votes in the March 23 elections but failed to secure a majority in the fourth election in two years.

President Joe Biden, while stressing his support for Israel, has also signalled he will back away from the unwavering support of the right-wing Netanyahu by his predecessor Donald Trump.