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politicsUSA

US, Saudi Arabia close to potentially historic security deal

The United States and Saudi Arabia are “days away” from concluding a potentially historic bilateral deal that has long been a top priority for President Joe Biden as it would begin a parallel path aimed at normalizing relations between the Kingdom and Israel, a top source said. close to the matter at CBS News. Sunday.

A US official confirmed that much progress was made Saturday during a meeting between national security adviser Jake Sullivan and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, a city in the kingdom’s far east which houses its state-owned oil giant. the Saudi Arabian Oil Co. known as Saudi Aramco.

In a statement released Saturday evening, the Saudi Foreign Ministry called the draft agreement “almost final.”

The first part of the deal includes a series of agreements between the United States and Saudi Arabia, including defense guarantees and civil nuclear cooperation. The Biden administration would strengthen ties with Saudi Arabia at a time when adversary China is trying to expand its influence in the Middle East.

A second element would normalize relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel, but that depends on a complex and ambitious third element that would pave the way for a Palestinian state.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently described this part of the vision as requiring both “calm in Gaza” and a “credible path to Palestinian statehood.” Sullivan, who arrived in the region on Saturday, and other Biden officials also visited Israel on Sunday and are expected to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss the proposed deal.

A source very close to the Kingdom’s position told CBS that Saudi Arabia had made it clear that nothing could move forward without a two-state solution that included autonomy in the West Bank and Gaza. Putting aside the Palestinian issue is now almost impossible due to widespread outcry in the Arab world over the immense humanitarian toll on Palestinians in Gaza since Israel invaded the 40-kilometer territory in pursuit of Hamas terrorists who killed 1,200 people on October 7.

Since then, Biden has frequently cited his belief that Hamas launched the brutal attack to stop its earlier attempts to forge a normalization deal between Saudi Arabia and Israel that would not have prioritized the Palestinians.

Given Netanyahu’s stated opposition to a Palestinian state, it is unclear what he will accept, but the domestic political crisis in Israel is putting pressure on him. Two of three ministers in the Unity War Cabinet publicly questioned Netanyahu’s Gaza strategy last week, and Minister Benny Gantz threatened to stop by June 8 if key decisions were not made. In recent days, Gantz also spoke with Sullivan about the Saudi deal, according to a spokesperson.

Biden administration officials hope Netanyahu will view the significant security and diplomatic victory of normalization with Saudi Arabia as an opportunity and reason to compromise on Palestinian issues despite the danger of alienating right-wingers whose support is essential to the survival of one’s country. fragile coalition government.

Some of these right-wing nationalist ministers seek Israeli colonization and control of the predominantly Palestinian West Bank and Gaza, and call them in biblical terms Judea and Samaria.

There are also domestic complications in the United States. The close source acknowledged to CBS News that “pressure is on” to close the deal given that there are only weeks left in the congressional calendar and a security deal would have to be reached by lawmakers for their approval. The assumption was that Democrats were skeptical of the Kingdom’s human rights abuses and that Prince Mohammad would be more likely to greenlight the deal and its nuclear component if asked by a Democratic president.

Republican Senator Lindsay Graham – a Trump ally – also visited the region and pushed for the diplomatic deal that builds on the architecture of the Trump-era Abraham Accords, which helped normalize relations between Israel and many of its regional neighbors, but without success. Saudi Arabia. Although Trump could theoretically also pursue an Israeli-Saudi deal if he wins the November general election, it could be more difficult for him to persuade Democrats to vote for it. During his 2024 presidential campaign, Trump frequently touted his legacy in the region.

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