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Israel’s foreign minister says visit to Saudi Arabia ‘on the table’


FILE PHOTO: Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen and German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (not pictured) speak to reporters as part of Israel’s efforts “to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons” in Berlin, Germany, February 28, 2023. REUTERS/Annegre

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel’s Foreign Minister Eli Cohen on Wednesday held out the prospect of a visit in the future to Saudi Arabia, and said at least one more Arab country would normalise ties with Israel this year.

“This (visit to Saudi Arabia) is on the table, there is no date yet,” he said, speaking to Israel’s Army Radio during a state visit to Azerbaijan.

In 2020, Israel reached accords to normalise ties with Saudi Arabia’s Gulf neighbours, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain and later included Morocco in the so-called Abraham Accords.

It has made no secret of its desire for closer ties with Saudi Arabia, which has held back on formally recognising Israel in the absence of a resolution to Palestinian statehood goals. Earlier this week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said normalisation with Riyadh would be a “giant step” towards ending the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Cohen said that this year at least one more country would join the Abraham Accords, without elaborating.

He added that the issue of normalising relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia came up during U.S. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham’s meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman this week.

“The enemy of Saudi Arabia is certainly not Israel. Its enemy is Iran,” Cohen said on Wednesday.

Saudi Arabia and Iran ended years of hostility following a China-brokered agreement in March. When asked about the restoration of ties between Riyadh and Tehran, Cohen said that such a development could bode well for Israel.

“It is precisely this thing that can lead to a balancing act of (Saudi Arabia) moving closer to Israel,” he said.

Earlier on Wednesday, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Jeddah where the two discussed the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, Palestinian WAFA news agency reported.

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