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Top White House officials meet MBS to talk Saudi-Israel normalization

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh as the White House seeks to further integrate Israel into the Middle East.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (C) arrives at the Palais Brongniart for the New Global Financial Pact Summit in Paris on June 22, 2023. Dozens of global leaders are gathering in Paris on June 22 for a summit to tease out a new consensus on international economic reforms to help debt-burdened developing countries face a growing onslaught of challenges, particularly climate change. (Photo by LUDOVIC MARIN / POOL / AFP) (Photo by LUDOVIC MARIN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — US President Joe Biden’s National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, his top deputy on Middle East policy Brett McGurk, and senior adviser for energy and infrastructure Amos Hochstein met Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh on Thursday to advance efforts aimed at establishing formal ties between the kingdom and Israel.

The visit was first reported by the New York Times and later confirmed by the White House and the Saudi government. Riyadh said the meeting was also attended by Energy Minister Prince Salman bin Abd al-Aziz, Defense Minister Khalid bin Salman, the governor of the Public Investment Fund, Yasir al-Rumayyan, and Saudi National Security Adviser Musaid al-Aiban. Saudi Ambassador to the United States Princess Reema bint Bandar and US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Michael Ratney also attended. 

A National Security Council spokesperson said in a statement that normalization with Israel was discussed — alongside other issues. "We continue to support normalization with Israel, including with Saudi Arabia, and obviously continue to talk to our regional partners about how more progress can be made. It’s one effort we are pursuing toward advancing US foreign policy goals for a more peaceful, secure, prosperous and stable Middle East region," the spokesperson said.

In exchange for what would be a historic decision to normalize relations with Israel, the Saudis are reportedly asking Washington to provide a NATO-style mutual defense agreement with the the kingdom, along with help developing a civilian nuclear program, in addition to advanced weapons systems such as more THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) ballistic missile defense batteries.

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