US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan attempted to downplay the significance of a round of high-level talks on a Saudi deal, telling reporters in Washington: “We don’t expect any immediate announcement.”
He spoke after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken held back-to-back calls on Tuesday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Sullivan confirmed that part of the conversation related to a potential agreement between Riyadh and Washington, which would include a normalization deal with Israel and gestures to the Palestinians.
“It’s an important moment for a check-in at a high level,” Sullivan said of the Blinken calls.
“Secretary Blinken is well poised to do that, given his relationships with both men and the central role that he is playing in efforts to explore whether in fact, a broader normalization is possible,” he said.
Such calls, he explained, are certainly not “routine” or “run of the mill,” Sullivan confirmed.
But those calls do “not portend any imminent breakthrough or action with respect to the question of normalization,” he said.
He took a similar stance with respect to the trip to Saudi Arabia this week of Deputy Assistant to the President and White House Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa Brett McGurk and US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf. They are joined by the Biden administration’s Special Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking.
Focus of Saudi Arabia trip is Yemen, Sullivan confirms
Sullivan said the focus of their trip to Riyadh was Yemen.
“We are entering either our 17th or 18 month – 18th month of a truce – the longest period of peace in Yemen in years – which has been delivered in part through painstaking US diplomacy.
“We not only want to keep that going, we want to deepen it and get to a permanent peace in Yemen. And that’s one of the main reasons that Brett is there,” Sullivan said.
That being said, Sullivan added, a normalization deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia “will be one of the topics on the agenda.”
He confirmed their meeting with a Palestinian delegation in Saudi Arabia, during which they will talk “about the whole range of issues relative to the Israeli-Palestinian file.”
McGurk will also travel to Bahrain to meet with the country’s Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa in advance of his visit to Washington next week.
Israel’s Foreign Minister Eli Cohen met with Khalifa in Bahrain earlier this week. Leaf is expected to visit Israel next week.