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Saudi FM wants focus on Israeli-Palestinian talks over 'eventual normalization'

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud said the focus of Palestinian-Israeli peace efforts should be on bringing the two sides back to the negotiating table.

Bringing Palestinians and Israelis to the negotiating table should be the priority of peace efforts before "eventual normalization" with Israel, the Saudi foreign minister said today. 

“We have always envisioned that normalization would happen, but we also need to have a Palestinian state and we need to have a Palestinian-Israeli peace plan,” Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud said.

“I believe that the focus now needs to be on getting the Palestinians and the Israelis back to the negotiating table. In the end, the only thing that can deliver lasting peace and lasting stability is an agreement between the Palestinians and the Israelis,” he said during a virtual event hosted by the Washington Institute. 

Prince Faisal is in Washington this week for the inaugural US-Saudi strategic dialogue. During joint remarks with his Saudi counterpart Wednesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he hoped Riyadh would consider striking its own deal with Israel. 

Last month, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain both agreed to recognize the Jewish state under the US-brokered Abraham Accords. President Donald Trump said he expected "five or six" countries, including Saudi Arabia, to soon forge their own normalization deals. 

Under the recent agreement, Israel agreed to suspend plans to formally annex large portions of the West Bank. Removing the threat of annexation helps “lay the groundwork” for the Palestinians and Israelis to return to the negotiating table, the Saudi foreign minister said. 

Prince Faisal has said previously that Saudi Arabia is still committed to the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative. The Saudi-brokered pact calls for recognition to be offered only in exchange for statehood for the Palestinians and Israel’s complete withdrawal from the territories occupied since 1967.