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Saudi Arabia denies meeting between Crown Prince, Israeli PM

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister has denied reports that a meeting took place between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Israeli officials.

“I have seen press reports about a purported meeting between HRH the Crown Prince and Israeli officials during the recent visit by @SecPompeo. No such meeting occurred. The only officials present were American and Saudi,” Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud wrote on Twitter on Monday.

Israeli media reported earlier that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu along with Mossad chief Yossi Cohen and other officials used a private plane and held secret talks in Saudi Arabia on Sunday with Crown Prince Mohammed.

Although Netanyahu refused to comment, Israeli Education Minister Yoav Gallant confirmed that the meeting in Saudi Arabia took place, calling it an “amazing achievement” and “a matter of great importance”.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was in Israel last week, was also at the reported talks. Pompeo has confirmed he was in Neom on the Red Sea as part of a Middle East Tour and met the Saudi Crown Prince. There has been widespread speculation, within Israel and the US that Washington may push for other Arab states to follow suit before President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in.

Saudi Arabia has said it would stick to the decades-old Arab League position of not having ties with Israel until the Palestinine conflict is resolved. The Palestinians have condemned the normalisation deals as “a stab in the back” urging Arab states to hold firm until Israel ends its occupation of Palestinian territory and agrees to the creation of a Palestinian state.

In late August, Netanyahu said Israel was holding “unpublicised meetings with Arab and Muslim leaders to normalise relations with the state of Israel”, without naming any countries. Arab states and Israel are worries that Biden may seek to revive the Iran nuclear deal agreed between Tehran and world powers during Barack Obama’s presidency which was scrapped by Trump.

Trump’s administration has also downplayed the importance of human rights issues and was cautious about criticising Saudi Arabia’s rights record, notably about the murder of prominent journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

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