Normalisation with Israel to bring region ‘tremendous benefit’: Saudi FM

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Normalisation with Israel would bring “tremendous benefit” to the region, the Saudi foreign minister has said, but such an accord with the kingdom would depend on progress in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Under the “Abraham Accords” brokered by former US president Donald Trump last year, four Arab countries — the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan — agreed to normalise ties with the Jewish state.

But Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said Thursday that any deal with Saudi Arabia was “very much dependent on progress with the peace process”.

“I think normalising Israel‘s status within the region would bring tremendous benefit to the region as a whole,” he said during an interview.

“It would be extremely helpful both economically but also socially and from a security perspective.”

Gulf powerhouse Saudi Arabia has repeatedly affirmed its decades-old policy of not establishing formal ties with Israel until a deal is reached to resolve the conflict with the Palestinians.

But mutual concern over Iran has gradually brought Israel and Gulf countries closer, and Riyadh has quietly been building relations with the Jewish state for several years.

Reports in November that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held secret talks in Saudi Arabia fuelled speculation that a normalisation accord with the Gulf’s top power could be in the making.

Riyadh, however, denied the meeting had taken place.