(TIMES OF ISRAEL) – US President Joe Biden and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman agreed to eventually “build on” the US-brokered negotiations that had been underway to normalise ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia before the outbreak of the Gaza war, the White House said after the two leaders spoke last week.
Biden and bin Salman “affirmed the importance of working toward a sustainable peace between Israelis and Palestinians as soon as the crisis subsides, building on the work that was already underway between Saudi Arabia and the United States over recent months”, said a readout from the White House.
Biden administration officials have acknowledged that the normalisation effort is no longer the most immediate priority for the US and Israel, as they work to respond to the October 7 Hamas onslaught. However, the White House insists that it is still committed to the goal and has suggested that one of the reasons for the Hamas massacre was to try and thwart the effort.
Biden, but more notably bin Salman as well, “welcomed ongoing efforts to secure the release of hostages held by Hamas and called for their immediate release”, according to the readout.
The two leaders also welcomed the recent delivery of humanitarian aid into Gaza while recognising the need for additional assistance.
Biden hailed “the Gulf Cooperation Council’s contribution of $100 million to support these humanitarian efforts, and discussed the disbursement of $100 million from the United States to support the response”.
“The two leaders agreed on pursuing broader diplomatic efforts to maintain stability across the region and prevent the conflict from expanding,” the White House said.
According to a statement about the phone call later released by the Saudis, the Saudi crown prince called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, rejecting the targeting of civilians.
He also urged resuming the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and Biden thanked him for his efforts to prevent regional escalation, the readout said.
International news agencies reported last month that Riyadh had decided to put normalisation with Israel “on ice” amid the Israel-Hamas war.
Saudi Arabia in the weeks before the attacks had spoken of progress in US-led diplomacy to normalise relations with Israel – which would be a landmark step for the conservative kingdom that is guardian of Islam’s two holiest sites.