White House's Jake Sullivan in Saudi Arabia for regional integration talks

Visit comes as Biden administration seeks to boost ties with the kingdom

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan. AFP
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US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan met Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and other officials in Jeddah on Thursday for talks aimed at “advancing a common vision in the region.”

The National Security Council confirmed Mr Sullivan’s trip, and said talks would centre on the Yemen peace process and “initiatives to advance a common vision for a more peaceful, secure, prosperous and stable Middle East region interconnected with the world".

Saudi officials said the visit touched on “strategic relations between the two countries and ways to enhance them in various fields".

The Biden administration has been working to upgrade relations with Saudi Arabia after a strain last year concerning oil-production cuts and other issues.

The visit also comes as Washington pursues its goal of expanding the Abraham Accords, hoping for Israel and Saudi Arabia to normalise relations.

The New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman on Thursday wrote that the Biden administration is pursuing a regional grand bargain for a US-Saudi mutual security pact under which Riyadh would normalise relations with Israel in return for Israel granting concessions for Palestinians.

The Biden administration this week criticised Israel after the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pushed ahead with reforms to the Supreme Court, which have led to weeks of bitter protests.

Brian Katulis, senior fellow and vice president of the Middle East Institute in Washington, told The National that he believes the judicial overhaul is not helpful to an expansion of the Abraham Accords.

Mr Katulis recommended that the Biden administration should “raise the connection between these two issues” to the Israelis, and tell America's longtime ally that it is “missing an opportunity here".

An NSC official declined to say whether the talks in Riyadh discussed Israel's judicial overhaul.

The 2020 Abraham Accords led to the UAE and Bahrain starting formal relations with Israel. Morocco and Sudan followed suit.

The Biden administration is also facing domestic pressure as it moves to expand Saudi relations, which historically have ebbed and flowed.

Updated: July 27, 2023, 9:06 PM