US-Saudi deal that could pave way to normalisation with Israel weeks away, Blinken says

Secretary of State Antony Blinken tells Congress agreement could be ‘weeks away’

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday that an agreement with Saudi Arabia that could pave the way to normalising relations with Israel may be “weeks away”.

Mr Blinken, addressing the House appropriations subcommittee, outlined efforts to advance the move, saying “normalisation between the two countries … would be a game-changer”.

“We have pursued the work to try to get that agreement,” Mr Blinken said,

“It requires two things: first some understandings and agreements between the United States and Saudi Arabia on security, on nuclear energy and on defence co-operation.

"Those agreements, in principle, are very close to being able to be concluded.”

From there, Mr Blinken said the agreement would need to be approved by Congress, adding that the deal could be “weeks away” from being sent to legislators for review.

He said normalisation with Israel “would reshape the region and well beyond”, pointing to Saudi Arabia's significance in the Arab and Muslim world.

White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan travelled to Saudi Arabia where he met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Sunday, as the two sides continue work on the agreement.

The administration of President Joe Biden has long been looking to build on the Abraham Accords, which saw the UAE and Bahrain establish relations with Israel, followed by Sudan and Morocco.

But the Hamas-led attacks in Israel on October 7, which killed 1,200, and Israel’s retaliatory military campaign in Gaza – where more than 35,700 Palestinians have been killed so far, according to local heath authorities – have complicated prospects for normalisation.

Saudi officials have said relations with Israel would be impossible without steps towards recognising a Palestinian state.

But Israel's far-right government has shown little interest in the possibility of a two-state solution.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in January that he “will not compromise on full Israeli security control over all the territory west of Jordan – and this is contrary to a Palestinian state”.

Updated: May 22, 2024, 11:37 PM