US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday that the normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel remains “difficult,” and that any agreement between the two should address issues with Palestine.
The secretary gave those remarks in response to a question from a press conference attended also by visiting German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock at the State Department.
“Even as we are working on this,” Blinken said, referring to a potential agreement that would normalize the historically fraught ties between Riyadh and Tel Aviv, “it remains a difficult proposition.”
“The specifics of any agreement in terms of what the different parties are looking for are challenging,” he said.
A future Saudi-Israeli deal “would not be a substitute for Israel and the Palestinians also resolving their difference,” Blinken said, adding that the United States still encourages the State of Israel and the Palestinian Authority to move toward and ultimately achieve a two-state solution.
“Any agreement that might be reached between Israel and Saudi Arabia when it comes to normalization would need to include a significant component for the Palestinians,” he said, stressing that he made the stance clear in his conversations with the Saudi leadership.
The Biden administration has sought to broker the normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel. Both countries, however, have done things that upset Washington since U.S. President Joe Biden took office.
For example, Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu is determined to push ahead with a controversial judicial overhaul despite U.S. concerns. And the Saudi authorities have slashed oil production along with its OPEC partners against U.S. wishes.
These and other contexts prompted a question at the press conference about whether it is worth it for the United States to mediate a rapprochement between two of the most powerful yet mutually antagonistic nations in the Middle East.
Calling the normalization a “transformative event in the Middle East and well beyond,” Blinken said, “the benefit that would accrue, were we able to achieve it, would certainly be worth the effort.”
He said that the Biden administration also expects “progress on a number of issues in a number of areas that clearly are” in the interests of the United States.