The Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu flew to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on Sunday to meet the nation’s Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman and the Secretary of State of the United States Mike Pompeo, US media reported. However, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister has denied such reports.
“No such meeting occurred,” said Prince Faisal Bin Farhan Al Saud, foreign minister.
The source of the news is information from aviation tracking data that showed that a private jet made a trip from the Israeli capital of Tel Aviv to Neom, where a meeting of the Saudi Crown Prince and US Secretary of State of scheduled already. Some reports, quoting Israeli officials, suggest the head of Mossad – Israel’s national intelligence agency – Yossi Cohen was also part of the trip.
The information further revealed that the jet was on-ground for approximately 2 hours before returning to Israel, some time past midnight. The jet, according to Haaretz, is the same private plane Netanyahu took several times for his visits to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The meeting, if confirmed, would be of great importance to the changing geopolitical situation of the Middle East. The news comes after Israel made significant progress in normalising ties with its Arab neighbours, in September UAE and Bahrain recognised Israel as a state.
After these events, the US Secretary of State made comments that he was confident other Arab countries would follow the lead of UAE and Bahrain; “we hope Saudi Arabia will consider normalising its relationships as well, and we want to thank them for the assistance they’ve had in the success of the Abraham Accords so far,” Pompeo said.
While Riyadh has continued to maintain it it would not recognise Israel unless a settlement can be reached over the Palestinian issue, the recent comments made by Saudi officials have indicated a shift towards a softer and solution orientated approach. Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud said his country has “supported normalisation with Israel for a long time, but one very important thing must happen first: a permanent and full peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians”.