In ‘strategic’ talks, US exhorts Saudis to normalise with Israel

Washington and Riyadh underline common resolve against Iran.
Thursday 15/10/2020
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, right, listens to Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan speak during their meeting at the State Department, October 14. AFP
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, right, listens to Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan speak during their meeting at the State Department, October 14.( AFP)

Washington--After the opening of the US-Saudi Strategic Dialogue session, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo exhorted Saudi Arabia on Wednesday to join the “changing dynamic” in the region by recognising Israel after normalisation moves by two other Arab Gulf states.

Bahrain, which tightly coordinates its foreign policy with Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates on September 15 signed the “Abraham Accords” with Israel at the White House.

Meeting Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan in Washington, Pompeo said the agreement “contributed greatly to our shared goals for regional peace and security.”

“They reflect a changing dynamic in the region, one in which countries rightly recognise the need for regional cooperation to counter Iranian influence and generate prosperity,” Pompeo said.

“We hope Saudi Arabia will consider normalising its relationships as well. We want to thank them for the assistance they’ve had in the success of the Abraham Accords so far.”

US President Donald Trump has highlighted Arab normalisation with Israel as a major achievement as he seeks another term in November 3 elections, with his evangelical Christian base widely supportive of the Jewish state.

Saudi Arabia has indicated it will proceed at its own pace and conditioned normalisation with Israel on the guarantee of Palestinian rights within the framework  of the Arab Peace Plan.

Trump said last month that he also expected Saudi Arabia to recognise Israel “at the right time.”

Both sides have underlined their resolve to join forces against Iran.

Prince Faisal, who attended the opening session of the US-Saudi Strategic Dialogue in Washington, warned against Tehran’s behaviour in the region.

“The Iranian regime continues to provide financial and material support to terrorist groups including in Yemen, where the Houthis have launched 300 Iranian-made ballistic missiles and drones toward the Kingdom.”

He pointed out that “Iran’s development of its nuclear and ballistic missile program represents a danger to the region and the world.”

The Saudi foreign minister also highlighted the importance of security cooperation between the two countries.  “Our strong partnership (with the US) is vital in confronting the forces of extremism and terrorism that threaten our security and prosperity,” Prince Faisal added.

Pompeo said the United States “supports a robust program of arms sales to Saudi Arabia,” saying the effort helps “protect its citizens and sustains American jobs.”

In a controversial move, Pompeo had last year cited the crisis with Iran to bypass Congress to push ahead $8 billion in arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

Pompeo also announced Wednesday that the United States had acquired a 26-acre (10.5-hectare) site to build a new US embassy in Riyadh.

Alongside work on US missions in Jeddah and Dhahran, the United States is spending more than $1 billion on diplomatic construction in the kingdom, Pompeo said.

According to the US State Department, the dialogue focused on “shared commitments to the furthering of regional security and prosperity, economic development, and the people-to-people exchanges that have underpinned our bilateral relationship since the seminal meeting between President Roosevelt and King Abdulaziz aboard the USS Quincy 75 years ago. ”