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Blinken urges Israel-Saudi normalization

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called for normalization of Israeli-Saudi ties during remarks at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy summit in Washington shortly before d departing for talks in Saudi Arabia
— Washington (AFP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told a powerful pro-Israel lobby group Monday that Saudi-Israeli normalization is deeply important for Washington and pledged that Iran would never be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons.

"The United States has a real national security interest in promoting normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia. We believe we can and indeed we must play an integral role in advancing it," Blinken told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC.

Speaking hours before departing for talks in Riyadh and Jeddah, Blinken said the administration of President Joe Biden was committed to the Abraham Accords, an initiative launched under previous president Donald Trump to persuade Arab countries to establish formal relations with the Jewish state.

But so far Riyadh has held back, though it has opened up to Israeli commercial flights and has had many contacts with Israel.

"Israel's further integration in the region contributes to a more stable, a more secure and more prosperous region, and a more secure Israel," Blinken told the AIPAC audience.

He said the Biden administration has "no illusions" that bringing about a full Saudi-Israel normalization can be done quickly or easily.

"But we remain committed to working toward that outcome, including on my trip this week to Jeddah and Riyadh for engagements with Saudi and Gulf counterparts," he said.

Nevertheless, he added: "Integration and normalization efforts are not a substitute for progress between Israelis and Palestinians, and they should not come at its expense."

Meanwhile Blinken reiterated Washington's pledge that Iran will not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons.

"The US-Israel relationship is underwritten by the United States commitment to Israel's security. That commitment is non-negotiable; it is ironclad," he said.

"If Iran rejects the path of diplomacy, then, as President Biden has repeatedly made clear, all options are on the table to ensure that Iran does not obtain nuclear weapons," Blinken said.

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