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Saudi Arabia moving ‘closer’ to Israel normalization: MBS

22-09-2023

RIYADH: WASHINGTON: In a major development, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) said the kingdom was moving closer to normalizing ties with Israel at a steady pace and warned of getting a nuclear weapon if Iran gets one.

In an interview with Fox News, the Saudi crown prince also rejected the reports that Saudi Arabia had paused negotiations for ties normalization.

“Every day we get closer, it seems it’s for the first time real one serious. We get to see how it goes,” he said, stressing the need to solve the “very important” Palestinian issue.

The interview comes as US President Joe Biden-led administration puts efforts into broker historic ties between the two regional powerhouses Saudi Arabia and Israel-Washington’s top Middle East allies.

The normalization talks are the centrepiece of complex negotiations that also include discussions of US security guarantees and civilian nuclear help that Riyadh has sought, as well as possible Israeli concessions to the Palestinians.

“For us, the Palestinian issue is very important. We need to solve that part,” MBS, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, said when asked what it would take to get a normalization agreement. “And we have a good negotiation strategy till now.”

“We got to see where we go. We hope that will reach a place that will ease the life of the Palestinians and get Israel as a player in the Middle East,” he said, speaking in English.

The crown prince, also known as MBS, voiced concern about the possibility that Iran, a mutual adversary of Saudi Arabia and Israel that the US wants to contain, could obtain a nuclear weapon. Tehran has denied seeking a nuclear bomb.

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

Asked what would happen if Iran did get a nuclear bomb, MBS said: “If they get one, we have to get one, for security reasons and the balance of power in the Middle East but we don’t want to see that.”

While US officials insist any breakthrough is far away and steep obstacles remain, they privately tout the potential benefits of a regional mega-deal, according to media.

These include removing a possible flashpoint in the Arab-Israeli conflict, strengthening the bulwark against Iran and countering China’s inroads in the Gulf. Biden would also score a foreign policy win as he seeks re-election in November 2024.

The broadcast of the crown prince’s pre-taped comments came on the same day as a long-waited meeting between Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in which they pledged to work together toward Israeli-Saudi normalization, which could reshape the geopolitics of the Middle East. (Int’l News Desk)

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