Saudi Arabia seeks security assurances from US as condition for normalizing ties with Israel

Washington (CNN) Saudi Arabia expects U.S. security guarantees and aid for its civilian nuclear program as a condition of normalizing relations with Israel, people familiar with the matter say, setting in motion a critical move that could reshape the political situation in the Middle-East .

Discussions are ongoing, and it was unclear precisely what the terms of a deal might look like, should it materialize.

Increasing security guarantees for Saudi Arabia would likely meet strong resistance from some members of Congress, who have called on the Biden administration to downgrade Washington’s relationship with Riyadh.

Yet President Joe Biden has valued normalizing relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel, as has Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who believes better relations between the two nations could help increase security. in the Middle-East. Israel and Saudi Arabia have had unofficial relations for several years, but remain without official diplomatic relations.

“The better the relationship between Israel and their Arab neighbors, the better it is for everyone,” Biden said Friday at the end of a speech on the economy.

Israel has already concluded diplomatic agreements with other Arab countries, including Morocco, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. The Abraham Accords were a landmark achievement of the Trump administration and Biden has pledged to build on them, especially as Iran’s nuclear program progresses.

A spokesperson for the United States National Security Council declined to confirm that Saudi Arabia was seeking security guarantees from the United States, which was reported earlier by The Wall Street Journal.

Instead, John Kirby, the strategic communications coordinator at the NSC, highlighted the accomplishments Biden achieved while visiting Israel and Saudi Arabia over the summer.

“The president’s trip to the region has accomplished a lot,” Kirby said, citing a deal on the disputed Red Sea islands and a recent announcement from Oman that it would allow Israeli overflights.

“We will maintain this diplomacy,” he said.

The State Department did not respond to a request for comment. The Israeli Embassy in Washington did not comment.

The consequences of a US-brokered deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia could be widespread. This would cast doubt on the future of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, which has escalated in recent weeks under Israel’s right-wing government.

US officials also believe that normalizing relations would lend weight to a regional counterbalance against Iran, which has advanced its nuclear enrichment over the past year.

Last year, Biden vowed that Saudi Arabia would suffer “consequences” after the Saudi-led OPEC+ oil cartel unexpectedly announced it would cut production, although the Biden administration did not does not intend to take proactive steps to punish – let alone significantly redirect its posture towards – – the oil-rich Middle Eastern kingdom.

On Friday, Saudi Arabia and Iran announced they had agreed to restore diplomatic ties after seven years of hostility, in a deal between major regional rivals that could have far-reaching implications for the Middle East. East.

Riyadh and Tehran plan to reopen their embassies under a China-brokered deal, a joint statement from Saudi Arabia and Iran said on Friday.

Kirby said Saudi officials have kept the White House informed of the talks as they progress. But he played down Beijing’s role in brokering the deal, saying the roadmap to restore ties also included talks in Iraq and Oman.

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