Saudi Arabia denies:”No such meeting occurred. The only officials present were American and Saudi.”
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In what could be a landmark in the Middle East’s history, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flew to Saudi Arabia on Sunday to meet the country’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Israeli media reported.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, currently on a tour of the region, was also reportedly present at the meeting in Neom, Saudi Arabia.
Netanyahu was accompanied by the head of Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, Yossi Cohen, who is widely regarded to have played a key role in preparing the groundwork for the recent normalization of diplomatic relations between Israel and the Arab Gulf states, news reports said.
If confirmed, this will be the “first known encounter between senior Israeli and Saudi officials,” the Associated Press noted. While neighboring Arab states of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain in September signed President Donald Trump-brokered peace deal with Israel, the first such agreements in over 25 years, Saudi Arabia is yet to join the White House-brokered diplomatic initiative.
The news website Times of Israel reported details of the meeting:
In the first visit of its kind, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu traveled to Saudi Arabia on Sunday, where he met with Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, an Israeli official told Hebrew media on Monday.
Netanyahu was on the ground in Neom, a Red Sea city, for five hours for the first known high-level meeting between an Israeli and Saudi leader. He was accompanied by Mossad intelligence chief Yossi Cohen, according to the reports.
Pompeo earlier on Monday said he had held a “constructive” meeting with Saudi Arabia’s crown prince the night before, as he wrapped up a seven-nation tour that included stops in Israel and Gulf nations. He made no mention of the reported presence of the Israeli leader. (…)
The Kan public broadcaster reported that the talks focused on Iran and the incoming Biden administration.
Netanyahu and Cohen traveled to Saudi Arabia on the private plane of businessman Ehud Angel — the same jet that the prime minister used for a covert visit to Oman last year, according to Kan.
BREAKING: Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu travelled secretly yesterday to the city of Neom in Saudi Arabia and had a trilateral meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Israeli source tells me. Netanyahu's office didn't deny the story
— Barak Ravid (@BarakRavid) November 23, 2020
When the UAE and Bahrain signed the Abraham Accords at the White House ceremony on September 15, President Trump was upbeat about more Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, normalizing their relations with Israel on a similar basis.
“We expect Saudi Arabia will be one of those countries,” he said at that time.
The secret high-level meeting reports began surfacing on Sunday after some Twitter users posted flight-tracking data showing a private jet making a trip between Tel Aviv and Neom, where Secretary Pompeo was expected to meet the Saudi Crown Prince. According to media reports, Prime Minister Netanyahu canceled a cabinet meeting scheduled around that time.
“Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Neom on Sunday to discuss bilateral relations, areas of cooperation and ways to enhance them,” English-language Saudi daily Arab News boasted. “The meeting was also attended by Saudi foreign minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan and US Ambassador to the Kingdom, John Abizaid.” The press corp accompanying Secretary Pompeo was kept out of the said meeting in Neom.
“Education Minister Yoav Gallant, a member of Netanyahu’s security cabinet and Likud party, confirmed the Saudi meeting had taken place, describing it as an “amazing achievement,” Reuters news agency said on Monday. Israeli and Saudi officials are yet to comment on the reports, but the meeting was reported by Israeli public broadcaster Kan and the country’s Army Radio.
Saudi Arabia is denying the meeting took place.
I have seen press reports about a purported meeting between HRH the Crown Prince and Israeli officials during the recent visit by @SecPompeo. No such meeting occurred. The only officials present were American and Saudi.
— فيصل بن فرحان (@FaisalbinFarhan) November 23, 2020
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