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Saudi Arabia cancels visit by top Israeli official over leak of Netanyahu's NEOM trip: report Open in fullscreen

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Saudi Arabia cancels visit by top Israeli official over leak of Netanyahu's NEOM trip: report

Saudi Arabia hosted Israeli Prime Minitser Benjamin Netanyahu last month [Getty]

Date of publication: 4 December, 2020

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The official who was due to visit Riyadh is thought to have been Mossad chief Yossi Cohen.

Saudi Arabia has cancelled a planned visit by a high-ranking Israeli official to Riyadh, after details leaked about a seceret meeting between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last month.

According to a report by Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot, Mossad hief Yossi Cohen was most likely the official due to visit the Saudi capital city.

Cohen is responsible for coordinating the secret relations between Israel and the Gulf Arab states prior to normalisation and had a hand in officiating relations between Bahrain and the UAE, along with organising Netanyahu’s visit to Oman in October 2018.

Netanyahu, along with Cohen, made a secret visit to Saudi Arabia on November 22, where he stayed in the city of Neom for about three hours. He participated in meetings with the US Secretary of State and the Saudi Crown Prince.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman was left unaware of the secret meeting between his son and the Israeli officials, Saudi sources later said.

The meeting has been rejected and slammed as "rumours" by Riyadh, despite several Saudi and Israel sources confirming it had taken place.

Normalisation to ‘fix reputation’

Last week, it was revealed that Prince Mohammed plans to normalise ties with Israel after President-elect Joe Biden takes office in the White House.

Saudi Arabia is among a number of Arab states rumoured to have been mulling an agreement with Israel in recent years, but the crown prince and de-facto ruler appears to have been hesitant to follow suit with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain this year.

Crown Prince Mohammed, widely known as MbS, nixed plans to normalise ties with Israel after Biden was declared the winner of the November 3 US election, the Wall Street Journal reported.

A historic US ally, Riyadh has suffered a damaged reputation in Washington since the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

Although President Donald Trump stood by MbS, both Republicans and Democrats joined popular calls for sanctions and a halt to arms exports over the Khashoggi killing and the leading Saudi role in the brutal war in Yemen.

The incoming Biden-Harris administration is expected to take Riyadh's human rights violations more seriously and pursue greater accountability on issues such as the detention of rights activists.

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