Saudi Foreign Minister: Palestinian-Israeli agreement is only route to lasting peace

Prince Faisal bin Farhan praises Abraham Accord for temporarily taking annexation off table

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, right, listens to Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud speaks during their meeting at the State Department, October 14, 2020, in Washington, DC.   / AFP / POOL / Manuel Balce CENATA
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Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, said on Thursday that only an agreement between the Palestinians and Israelis could deliver lasting peace.

And Prince Faisal praised the Abraham Accord signed by the UAE and Israel for suspending the latter's annexation of large parts of the West Bank and Jordan Valley.

The minister, who is in Washington for the US-Saudi strategic dialogue, spoke candidly about prospects of normalisation between his country and Israel.

“We have always envisioned that normalisation would happen, but we also need to have a Palestinian state and a Palestinian-Israeli peace plan,” Prince Faisal said at an online event hosted by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

“We believe that the focus now needs to be on getting the Palestinians and the Israelis back to the negotiating table.

"In the end, the only thing that can deliver lasting peace and lasting stability is an agreement between the Palestinians and the Israelis.”

Without that, he feared a “festering wound” would continue to inhibit regional peace.

On Wednesday, standing alongside Prince Faisal, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged Saudi Arabia to normalise relations with Israel.

At the online event, the Saudi royal commended the UAE and Bahrain's announcements of normalisation in September, which he said put annexation "off the table".

“Annexation was a significant threat for peace," he said.

Prince Faisal also said the maximum pressure campaign waged by the US administration on Iran was working, describing Tehran’s influence as “contained and constrained".

“The maximum pressure campaign, while it hasn’t shown a final result, it is working," he said.

"The regime in Iran is less capable of supporting its proxies in Lebanon, Iraq and Syria, and it is certainly showing the pressure domestically."

He urged Iran to return to the negotiating table.

“Our hope is that Iran will sit with the global community led by the US,” Prince Faisal said.

He said any future nuclear deal with Iran would include limits to  Tehran's regional behaviour and its ballistic missile programme.

Otherwise it would be similar to that signed by Iran and world powers in 2015, before US President Donald Trump withdrew the US from it in 2018.

“The path of peace is open. It is up to them [Iran] to take it,” Prince Faisal said.

Mr Pompeo on Wednesday said the US was committed to boosting arms sales to Riyadh to deter Iran.

“The United States supports a robust programme of arms sales to Saudi Arabia, a line of effort that helps the kingdom protect its citizens and sustains American jobs," he said.