For the first time, representatives of the State of Israel are making a public visit to Saudi Arabia. They are taking part in a UNESCO meeting which has been taking place since Sunday in Riyadh.
An Israeli delegation participated, Monday, September 11 in Riyadh, in a UNESCO meeting, the first public visit of representatives of the State of Israel to Saudi Arabia, against a backdrop of speculation about possible normalization between the two countries.
Middle Eastern heavyweight and guardian of Muslim holy sites, Saudi Arabia does not recognize Israel and has not joined the 2020 Abraham Accords, brokered by the United States, which enabled the Israeli state to normalize its ties with in particular two neighbors of the Saudi kingdom, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
“We are happy to be here. It’s a good first step,” an Israeli official, who asked not to be named, told AFP. “We thank UNESCO and the Saudi authorities,” he added.
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An AFP correspondent saw members of the Israeli delegation seated in the meeting room. On the table in front of them, a plate with the word “Israel” written on it.
An enlarged meeting of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee is currently being held in Riyadh.
Saudi Arabia has repeatedly said it sticks to the Arab League’s decades-old position of not establishing formal ties with Israel until the conflict with the Palestinians is resolved. not resolved.
In recent months, Riyadh and Washington have discussed Saudi Arabia’s conditions for progress toward normalization, including security guarantees and assistance for a civilian nuclear program with nuclear enrichment capability. ‘uranium.
Saudi Arabia needs to know if the Israelis are “working to see tangible progress in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Hesham Alghannam, a Saudi Arabian analyst at the Arab University, told AFP in August. Nayef for security sciences in Riyadh.
Despite the lack of relations, Riyadh announced in July 2022 the opening of its airspace to “all carriers”, including Israelis. At the time, the kingdom denied that the measure was a sign of a normalization process.
Last August, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Saudi authorities for their “warm attitude” towards Israeli passengers after the forced landing in Jeddah, in the west of the kingdom, of a plane flying from the Seychelles in Tel Aviv.
In the same month, a summit in Egypt between Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas “discussed US efforts to achieve normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel and the requirements of the Palestinian Authority in the context of the signing of such an agreement,” said a Palestinian source familiar with the matter.
Egypt and Jordan, the first Arab countries to sign a peace treaty with Israel, in 1979 and 1994 respectively, are Riyadh’s major regional allies.
Source: France 24