Published on June 7, 2023 at 09:36
Updated on June 7, 2023 at 10:24 am
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken spoke with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah on Tuesday-Wednesday night, on the first day of his visit to Saudi Arabia, and discussed human rights and possible normalization of relations between Riyadh and Israel.
The two had an “open and honest conversation,” and Mr. A US official said in a statement that Blinken raised the issue of human rights with Mohammed bin Salman “both in general and in relation to specific issues”.
“They recognized that we have differences and found many points of convergence (…),” he said, at the meeting, which began at midnight local time at the royal palace and lasted one hour and 40 minutes.
“They discussed the normalization of relations with Israel and agreed to continue the dialogue in this regard,” the US official said.
– Conflict in Sudan –
Discussions also focused on the conflict in Sudan, where the United States and Saudi Arabia, mediators, have failed to implement several skirmishes between warring generals.
The United States has said it is willing to resume talks in Jeddah with diplomats from both sides if it is “serious” about its willingness to honor a ceasefire that would help deliver humanitarian aid.
Since April 15, fighting in Sudan between the army led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhane and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitary of General Mohamed Hamdan Daghlo has claimed more than 1,800 lives and more than one and a half. Millions of displaced people and refugees.
MM Blinken and bin Salman reaffirmed “their commitment to stability, security and prosperity in the Middle East and beyond,” including ending the conflict in Yemen, the spokesman said in a statement.
The US secretary of state arrived in Jeddah on the Red Sea late on Tuesday, the first day of a visit to Saudi Arabia.
A Saudi ally, to which Washington has supplied many weapons, plays a key role in the region and US officials have made no secret of their desire to maintain strong ties.
– Anti-ISIS Coalition –
After Jeddah, Mr. Blinken leaves for Riyadh on Wednesday.
On Thursday, still in the Saudi capital, he will co-chair with his Saudi counterpart a meeting of the coalition of countries fighting the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group, created in 2014 and uniting dozens of countries.
The three-day visit comes against the backdrop of historic reconciliation between Saudi Arabia and two of America’s arch-enemies, Iran and Syria, ushering in a shift in the geopolitical landscape in the region.
The Islamic Republic, a sworn enemy of the United States and Israel for decades, reopened its embassy in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday after a seven-year hiatus.
Relations between Washington and Riyadh have been complicated as Joe Biden’s administration has accused the wealthy Gulf nation of human rights abuses and influence on crude prices.
Human rights activists on Tuesday called on the US diplomatic chief to raise the issue with Saudi officials.
Among them is Abdullah al-Qahtani, an American citizen whose father, Mohammed al-Qahtani, served a 10-year sentence in Saudi Arabia for founding a civil rights group. Mr. Blinken “must bring up my father’s situation. Is he alive? Was he tortured? We don’t know,” she said in a virtual press conference.
As for normalization with Israel, the matter is extremely sensitive and will create a new upheaval in the region after recent rapprochement between Riyadh and Tehran, under China’s support, but also between Riyadh and Damascus, after years of coldness.
In a speech to the pro-Israel AIPAC lobby in Washington on Monday, Blinken said his country “has a genuine national security interest in promoting normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia.”
In recent years, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco have normalized their relations with Israel, breaking with decades of Arab consensus that the settlement of the Palestinian issue should be accompanied by the establishment of relations with Israel.