Prince Mohammed bin Salman says Saudi Arabia closer to establishing Israel relations

Saudi Crown Prince voices concern to Fox News about possibility of Iran getting a nuclear weapon

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Israel and obtaining nuclear weapon

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Israel and obtaining nuclear weapon
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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has said his country is moving closer to establishing relations with Israel, and warned that if Iran gets a nuclear weapon then Riyadh will get one too.

In a wide-ranging interview with Fox News that was broadcast late on Wednesday, Prince Mohammed outlined his vision for Saudi Arabia and addressed global issues including his relationship with US President Joe Biden, as well as China and Russia.

When asked about a prospective deal to establish relations with Israel, Prince Mohammed told Fox News correspondent Bret Baier: “Every day we get closer."

He said reports that Riyadh had told the Biden administration it was putting talks on hold because Israel’s right-wing government was unwilling to offer any concessions to the Palestinians were "not true", and the negotiations were "serious".

An extension of the Abraham Accords to include Riyadh would herald a major shift in regional politics and give Mr Biden a significant foreign policy win before the 2024 presidential election.

The complex negotiations centre on Israeli concessions to the Palestinians, an issue regarded as crucial by Saudi Arabia. Media reports have said a grand bargain would also include US security guarantees.

“For us, the Palestinian issue is very important. We need to solve that part,” Prince Mohammed said in the rare, English-language interview.

“We've got to see where we go. We hope that will reach a place, that it will ease the life of the Palestinians, get Israel as a player in the Middle East."

The broadcast followed a meeting between Mr Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

The two leaders pledged to work together towards establishing Saudi-Israeli ties.

Iran and Yemen

On Iran, Prince Mohammed said the recent normalisation of ties were an important move away from long-time tension.

"We don't want [tensions] to be normal," he said. "If there is opportunity to shift that and to go to prosperity and interest and working with Iran and ... bringing Iran to work with the Arab world and the Middle East, why not?"

On Yemen, where Iran-backed Houthi rebels have fought against a Saudi-led coalition, Prince Mohammed said Riyadh was "trying to push" forward with a peace deal and wanted to invest in Yemen.

But he voiced concern about the possibility of Iran, a mutual adversary of Saudi Arabia and Israel, obtaining a nuclear weapon. Tehran has denied it is seeking to develop a nuclear bomb.

“That's a bad move,” he said. “If you use it, you've got to have a big fight with the rest of the world.

“If they get one, we have to get one.”

War in Ukraine

Turning to the war in Ukraine, the Saudi Crown Prince said Russia's invasion was "something bad and we didn't want to see it".

"Invading a country, it's something against the rules of the UN," he said.

The Crown Prince said the decision by Opec+ to cut oil production was based on market stability and was not intended to help Russia wage its war in Ukraine.

"We just watch supply, demand. If there is shortage of supply our role in Opec+ is to fill that shortage," he said.

"If there is oversupply, our role of Opec+ is to measure that for the stability of the market."

Prince Mohammed noted that Riyadh has good relationships with both Kyiv and Moscow, and is trying to push "steps to solve this problem".

US and China

Addressing his relationship with Mr Biden, who once said he wanted to make Saudi Arabia a "pariah" state after the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Prince Mohammed said he now has "really an amazing" relationship with Mr Biden.

When asked about Khashoggi's killing, he said those responsible were in prison and Saudi Arabia has reformed the security system to "be sure that these kind of mistakes" do not happen again.

The interviewer asked the Crown Prince, who is 38, about his assessment of the mental acuity of Mr Biden, 80.

"He is sharp, really well focused, well prepared. That's what I see," he said.

On China, Prince Mohammed credited Beijing for its role in fostering the rapprochement with Iran and said President Xi Jinping is "trying to do the best for China".

Vision 2030

Saudi Arabia has undergone major changes in recent years as it has shifted to diplomatic initiatives and progress on Vision 2030, the Crown Prince's wide-ranging plan for overhauling the economy, providing jobs for young people and moving the kingdom away from oil revenue.

Prince Mohammed said he hoped that between 100 million and 150 million people would visit the kingdom by 2030.

He was also asked about critics who have accused Saudi Arabia of investing heavily in golf and other sports in attempted “sportswashing", or spending to improve the kingdom's political image abroad.

Prince Mohammed said he was not concerned by such claims and if sports investments continue to increase Saudi Arabia's gross domestic product significantly, then his country would "continue to do sportswashing".

Updated: September 21, 2023, 8:14 AM