Saudi official says 'Israel normalisation talks' happened in NEOM

Saudi official says 'Israel normalisation talks' did take place in NEOM, while foreign ministry denies
2 min read
23 November, 2020
A Saudi official has told the WSJ that talks did take place between MbS and Netanyahu.
Faisal strongly denied the media reports [Getty]
A Saudi official has told The Wall Street Journal that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did hold talks in the NEOM megacity on Sunday, with the kingdom's foreign ministry strongly denying the reports.

Prince Mohammed and Netanyahu reportedly held secret talks in NEOM late Sunday, according to flight data of a private plane frequently used by the Israeli premier that was tracked heading to Saudi Arabia.

The aircraft was seen flying from Tel Aviv to NEOM in northwest Saudi Arabia late Sunday, before returning back to Israel at around midnight.

A Saudi source told the WSJ on Monday that the crown prince and Netanyahu did hold talks in the futuristic Saudi city but failed to reach an agreement on the issue of normalisation.

The senior royal advisor told the financial daily that talks between MbS and Netanyahu lasted "a couple of hours" and touched on regional issues such as normalisation and Iran - a rival of both countries.

Israel Army Radio claimed that Yossi Cohen, director of the Mossad spy agency, accompanied Netanyahu on the trip, which if confirmed would be the first time a leading Israeli official had visited the kingdom.

The talks were said to have taken place with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in attendance.

However, Saudi Arabia's foreign ministry were quick to deny to reports of the meeting.

"I have seen press reports about a purported meeting between HRH the Crown Prince and Israeli officials during the recent visit by @SecPompeo," Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said in a tweet.

"No such meeting occurred. The only officials present were American and Saudi."

The reports come amid suggestions that Saudi Arabia could follow the UAE, Bahrain and Sudan and normalise relations with Israel.

Saudi Arabia has said it is open to the idea, but only after Israel allows an independent Palestinian state to be established.

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