Sat. May 18th, 2024

Saudi Arabia is putting plans to normalise ties with Israel on hold as the conflict escalates between Israel and Hamas, according to sources familiar with Riyadh’s thinking. The war has also prompted the kingdom to engage with Iran, with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman receiving a phone call from Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi. Talks on normalisation with Israel, which were a crucial step for the kingdom to secure a US defence pact, will be delayed. Prior to the conflict, Saudi Arabia had indicated it would not allow its pursuit of a defence pact with the US to be hindered, even if Israel did not offer significant concessions to the Palestinians. However, overlooking the Palestinian issue would risk angering Arabs across the region. The Saudi government has not responded to requests for comment. The reconsideration by Saudi Arabia underlines the challenges facing Washington’s efforts to integrate Israel in a region where the Palestinian cause remains a major concern. The focus on normalisation efforts is currently on other immediate challenges, according to US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan. The first source familiar with Saudi thinking stated that Washington had urged Riyadh to condemn the Hamas attack, but Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan pushed back against this. The regional conflict has also led to the Saudi crown prince and Iran’s president speaking for the first time since a Chinese-brokered initiative led to their re-establishment of diplomatic ties in April. Saudi Arabia has been seeking to ease tensions in the Middle East and has been working towards resolving the Yemen conflict.

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