US national security adviser, Saudi Arabia’s crown prince meet to discuss ‘semi-final’ security deal

Dubai, United Arab Emirates — President Joe Biden’s national security adviser met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman early Sunday to discuss what the kingdom described as the “semi-final” version of a sweeping security deal between the countries.

The announcement by the state-run Saudi Press Agency comes as the strategic agreement was nullified following Hamas’ attack on Israel on October 7, which killed 1,200 people and took 250 others hostage to the Gaza Strip.

In the time since, a punishing Israeli air campaign and ground offensive have killed more than 35,000 Palestinians there, jeopardizing the security deal that saw Saudi Arabia diplomatically recognize Israel for the first time since its founding in 1948.

Saudi state media did not release images of the meeting between Jake Sullivan and Prince Mohammed in Dhahran, a city in the kingdom’s far east that is home to the state-run oil giant, the Saudi Arabian Oil Co., known as Saudi Aramco. .

“The semi-final version of the drafts of strategic agreements between the kingdom and the United States of America, which are almost finalized – and are being worked on between the two sides in the Palestinian issue to find a credible path – were discussed,” said the statement released after the talks.

That included “a two-state solution that meets the aspirations and legitimate rights of the Palestinian people” and “the situation in Gaza and the need to end the war there and facilitate the access of humanitarian aid,” the statement added.

Saudi Arabia has long called for the creation of an independent Palestinian state along Israel’s 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital. However, that may likely be untenable for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose government depends on support from hardliners who oppose a two-state solution and support Israeli settlements on land the Palestinians want for that state.

The White House had acknowledged Sullivan’s trip and that he would later leave for Israel. However, there was no immediate statement from the US on the discussions, other than to say they would include “the war in Gaza and continued efforts to achieve lasting peace and security in the region.”

Saudi Arabia – like other Gulf Arab countries – has long relied on the US to guarantee security for the wider Middle East, as tensions over Iran’s nuclear program have spiraled into a series of attacks in recent years. The proposal now being discussed would likely deepen this and reportedly include access to advanced weapons and possibly trade deals as well.

Saudi Arabia has also pushed for nuclear cooperation in the deal that would allow America to enrich uranium in the kingdom — something that worries nonproliferation experts as spinning centrifuges open the door to a possible weapons program. Prince Mohammed has said the kingdom would pursue a nuclear weapon if Iran had one. Iran has increasingly threatened in recent weeks that it could do this.