The White House has announced that United States National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan held a meeting with Saudi leaders in Jeddah to discuss efforts for a more peaceful, secure, prosperous, and stable Middle East. The meeting, which took place on Thursday, focused on bilateral and regional matters, including initiatives to achieve these goals. However, the read-out of the meeting did not mention a possible normalization agreement between Saudi Arabia and Israel, a priority for the US in the region.
This meeting comes at a time when President Joe Biden is striving to establish relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, two long-time adversaries. While the US has been pushing for closer ties with Saudi Arabia, it remains a controversial figure in the country due to its association with the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 and other alleged human rights abuses. Biden had previously condemned the Saudi government during his presidential campaign, vowing to make them pay the price for their actions. However, since taking office, Biden has softened his rhetoric and continued the US’s close ties with Saudi Arabia.
The meeting in Jeddah was attended by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has been considered the kingdom’s de facto ruler due to King Salman’s failing health. Sullivan has previously met with bin Salman in May to discuss closer ties between the Middle East and India. In the meeting, they discussed greater cooperation on regional matters and explored avenues for increased collaboration. This visit is part of the Biden administration’s efforts to strengthen relations with the crown prince and build on the progress made in previous meetings.
One of the key topics discussed during the meeting was the path to peace in Yemen, a country plagued by a long-standing civil war. Saudi Arabia intervened in the conflict, causing tensions with Iran, which supports the Houthi forces. However, in March, China brokered an agreement for Iran and Saudi Arabia to reestablish diplomatic relations and ease tensions. This agreement also helped alleviate the conflict in Yemen between the Saudis and the Houthis. Since then, hostilities have decreased, and a UN-backed truce has allowed essential supplies to reach the country. Sullivan commended the progress made in Yemen and expressed support for ongoing UN-led efforts to bring the war to an end.
While peace in Yemen was a primary focus of the meeting, questions about the possible normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel were not addressed in the statement released by the White House. The US has been pushing for Arab countries to establish ties with Israel, as demonstrated by the Abraham Accords brokered by the Trump administration in 2020. Although the accords led to the establishment of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Morocco, and Sudan, a similar agreement with Saudi Arabia has yet to materialize. Saudi officials have adhered to the Arab Peace Initiative, which calls for Israel to withdraw from occupied territories before normalization can occur. However, Israel has continued to expand its settlements in the occupied West Bank, leading to increased violence. The US has expressed its interest in playing a role in facilitating normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia.
In his speech before the US Congress, Israeli President Isaac Herzog expressed hope for improved relations with Saudi Arabia and thanked the US for its efforts in establishing peaceful relations in the region. While significant hurdles remain, both Israel and Saudi Arabia have shown an interest in pursuing closer ties. The US will continue to play a vital role in promoting these relations and working towards a more peaceful and stable Middle East.
In conclusion, the meeting between US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Saudi leaders focused on efforts for a more peaceful, secure, prosperous, and stable Middle East. While the read-out did not mention a normalization agreement between Saudi Arabia and Israel, the meeting explored bilateral and regional matters. The visit is part of the Biden administration’s efforts to establish closer relations with Saudi Arabia, despite the controversial figure of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The discussions also touched on the path to peace in Yemen, where progress has been made with the help of UN-led efforts. Normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia remains a goal for the US, although significant hurdles need to be overcome. The US will continue to foster Israel’s international ties and work towards a more peaceful and stable Middle East.