A senior Israeli official has visited Saudi Arabia ahead of United States President Joe Biden’s scheduled visit to the region, Israel’s Channel 12 said Friday.
The sides discussed security, with their interests further aligned in recent years over Iran as Jerusalem and Riyadh prepare to normalize relations, the network said, with the senior Israeli official warmly received at a palace in the Saudi capital.
The US National Security Council Middle East coordinator, Brett McGurk, and State Department energy envoy Amos Hochstein traveled to Saudi Arabia earlier this week for talks that included global energy supplies, Iran, and other regional issues.
Axios reported this week that the Biden administration had been mediating between Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Egypt on transferring two islands – Tiran and Sanafir – in the Red Sea from Egyptian to Saudi sovereignty with Israeli “consent.” If successful, this could be a first step to ‘normalizing’ Saudi-Israel relations.
Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and several Iranian military commanders and politicians have cautioned Arab states against following the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in ‘normalizing’ relations with Israel. The Arab League position, dating to 2002 and proposed by Saudi Arabia, is that Arab states should not do so until Israel recognizes a Palestinian state in the territories it has militarily occupied since 1967.
Iran and Saudi relations have thawed in recent months with talks mediated by Iraq. Turkish President Recep Erdogan also recently visited Saudi Arabia.