Saudi Arabia has not ended normalisation talks with Israel
Negotiations have been suspended for now
Claim: Saudi Arabia has ended all negotiations on potentially normalising ties with Israel following the recent escalation between Israel and Hamas.
Fact: The Kingdom has suspended talks, as per media reports. The Saudi Arabian government has not given any official statement on the matter.
What’s happening in Gaza?
On 7 October 2023, the Al Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, launched a “surprise attack” on Israel via sea, land, and air. In response, the Israeli government formally declared war on Hamas on 8 October 2023.
At least 1,400 fatalities have been reported in Israel, and 230 people are held captive in Gaza as per Israeli authorities. The Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza reported that more than 10,818 people have been killed in Gaza, according to data published on the website of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Fact or Fiction?
On 9 October 2023, the Facebook page Pakistan Tribune claimed that Saudi Arabia had ended all negotiations to normalise ties with Israel following the escalation of violence between Israel and Hamas.
Saudi Arabia had been in the process of normalising diplomatic ties with Israel, with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman indicating a growing closeness between the two countries in September 2023.
Over the past few months, US President Biden and his senior advisors have been engaged in negotiations with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia and Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, to establish a complex three-way normalisation agreement by the year’s end, according to The New York Times.
However, Reuters reported on 13 October 2023 that “Saudi Arabia is putting U.S.-backed plans to normalise ties with Israel on ice”, as per two sources familiar with Riyadh’s thinking.
On 14 October, France 24 reported that a source familiar with the discussion told AFP that “Saudi Arabia has decided to pause discussion on possible normalisation and has informed US officials”.
The reports cited above are contrary to Samaa TV’s report that Saudi Arabia announced the end of all negotiations, and the decision was conveyed to the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken. Soch Fact Check could not find any credible news reports of the Kingdom making such an announcement or the release of any official statement by Riyadh on the matter.
In an interview with NBC News, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan on 15 October said that Saudi Arabia-Israel normalisation talks are not on a “formal pause”.
In fact, the US is still making efforts to normalise ties between the two countries. On October 15, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a meeting with the Crown Prince. According to The State Department’s statement, the two leaders discussed their mutual dedication to enhancing stability, security, and prosperity in the Middle East and beyond. While the official Saudi statement also confirmed the meeting, it did not provide details.
The Kingdom has, however, made its official stance on the Israel-Gaza escalations clear. On 24 October, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, called for an immediate ceasefire, lifting the blockade of Gaza and also reiterated the call on 25 October for reaching a just, two-state solution by establishing an independent Palestinian state with the 1967 borders.
Saudi Arabia, on 28 October, also condemned the Israeli ground operations in the Gaza Strip due to its “threat to the lives of Palestinian civilians”, urging the international community to secure an immediate cease-fire based on the recent resolution adopted by the UN, according to a report by Anadolu Agency.
The White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters on 31 October that Saudi Arabia is still interested in pursuing the mega-deal.
Responding to a journalist’s question about the status of the normalisation negotiations that were in progress before 7 October, Kirby said, “Without getting into specifics — we came away from those discussions confident that we have a path to get back towards normalization and that there is an interest on the Saudi side to pursue that”.
Following Saudi Defence Minister Khalid bin Salman’s recent visit to Washington, the White House has said that Saudi Arabia is still interested in pursuing a potential agreement to normalise relations with Israel after the crisis in Gaza ends.
Soch Fact Check, therefore, finds the claim that Saudi Arabia has ended its efforts to normalise ties with Israel seems to be misleading.
Conclusion: The claim that Saudi Arabia has ended its efforts to normalise diplomatic ties with Israel appears to be misleading. The negotiations are currently on hold.
Background image in cover photo: Abdulrhman Alkhnaifer
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