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Blinken sees “clear interest” in strengthening Israel-Saudi relations

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has expressed optimism about the potential for improved relations between the United States and Israel during talks in Saudi Arabia on Monday.

Blinken, who embarked on a regional tour aimed at calming tensions, revealed that all leaders he met during his six-country tour were committed to assisting in the recovery and long-term stability of Gaza.

Speaking to reporters after a meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the historic oasis town of Al Ula, Blinken shared insights into discussions about Israeli normalization at every stop on his tour.

He stated, “There’s a clear interest here in pursuing that.” The talks come after tentative efforts between Saudi Arabia and Israel were interrupted by the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas conflict three months ago.

The conflict, triggered by Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack on Israel, has resulted in a significant loss of lives, with casualties reaching approximately 1,140, mostly civilians, according to official Israeli figures.

In response, Israel launched a relentless bombardment and ground invasion, causing the death of at least 22,835 people in Gaza, predominantly women and children, according to the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza.

Notably, Saudi Arabia, despite its regional influence, did not join other Arab countries in signing the US-brokered Abraham Accords that recognized Israel in 2020.

Blinken’s whirlwind tour also included visits to Turkey, Greece, Jordan, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.

He emphasized a “broad agreement” on crucial issues, including security for Israel, united Palestinian leadership, and the pursuit of an independent Palestinian state.

Despite acknowledging the challenges, Blinken expressed optimism, stating, “Leaders are prepared to make the necessary commitments to make the hard decisions.”

In addition to the Israel-related discussions, Blinken addressed the Red Sea attacks by Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, causing disruptions in the vital maritime route.

The rebels have launched more than 100 drone and missile attacks on Israel and the waterway, prompting a warning from the United States and 11 allies of unspecified consequences if the attacks persist.

This situation adds complexity for Saudi Arabia as it attempts to settle the long-running conflict between the Houthi rebels and a Saudi-led international coalition.

During his time in Saudi Arabia, Blinken also met with European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell to discuss efforts to prevent the Israel-Hamas conflict from escalating further.

The situation remains tense for Riyadh, coinciding with attempts to find a resolution to the ongoing war in Yemen between the Houthi rebels and the Saudi-led coalition.

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