Monday, 25 January 2021

Israeli PM held secret talks in KSA with Pompeo, crown prince, Saudi Arabia denies

JERUSALEM: Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held secret talks in Saudi Arabia with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, several media said, in the first reported trip by an Israeli premier to the kingdom.

The meeting, reported Monday by Israeli public broadcaster Kan and other outlets, comes weeks after the Jewish state reached historic deals to normalise ties with two Saudi allies, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

Those deals, known as the Abraham Accords, were brokered by the administration of US President Donald Trump, who leaves office in less than two months.

There has been widespread speculation, within Israel and the United States, that Washington may push for other Arab states to join the Abraham Accords before President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was in Israel last week, was also at the reported talks, according to Kan s diplomatic correspondent.

Pompeo has confirmed he was in Neom on the Red Sea as part of a Middle East Tour and met with Prince Mohammed, who is widely known by his initials MBS.

Publicly, Saudi Arabia has said it would stick to the decades-old Arab League position of not having ties with Israel until the Jewish state s conflict with the Palestinians is resolved.

The Palestinians have condemned the Abraham Accords as “a stab in the back”, urging Arab states to hold firm until Israel ends its occupation of Palestinian territory and agrees to the creation of a Palestinian state.

But experts have said that Biden s upcoming inauguration may have created urgency in Riyadh, which has dealt discreetly with Israel over a joint desire to contain common foe Iran.

 

Kan quoted multiple Israeli officials as saying that Netanyahu and the head of the Mossad spy agency, Yossi Cohen, “flew yesterday to Saudi Arabia and met Pompeo and MBS in the city of Neom”.

Prominent diplomatic correspondent Barak Ravid of Walla News and Axios reported that Netanyahu and Cohen flew on a plane belonging to Israeli businessman Udi Angel.

Saudi Arabia on Monday denied Israeli media reports of landmark talks between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during a visit by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

“I have seen press reports about a purported meeting between HRH the Crown Prince and Israeli officials during the recent visit by @SecPompeo,” Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said in a tweet.

“No such meeting occurred. The only officials present were American and Saudi.”

Israeli public broadcaster Kan and other outlets had reported that the meeting took place Sunday, weeks after the Jewish state reached historic deals to normalise ties with two Saudi allies, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

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