Pompeo encourages Saudi Arabia to normalise relations with Israel

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WASHINGTON: United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday (Oct 14) encouraged Saudi Arabia to recognise Israel, in what would be a massive boost for the Jewish state amid normalisation by two other Gulf kingdoms.

Bahrain, which tightly coordinates its foreign policy with Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates signed the so-called Abraham Accords with Israel at the White House on Sep 15.

Meeting Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan, Pompeo said the agreement “contributed greatly to our shared goals for regional peace and security”.

“They reflect a changing dynamic in the region, one in which countries rightly recognise the need for regional cooperation to counter Iranian influence and generate prosperity,” Pompeo said.

“We hope Saudi Arabia will consider normalising its relationships as well. 

“We want to thank them for the assistance they’ve had in the success of the Abraham Accords so far.”

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President Donald Trump has highlighted Arab normalisation with Israel as a major achievement as he seeks another term in Nov 3 elections, with his evangelical Christian base widely supportive of the Jewish state.

Trump said last month that he also expected Saudi Arabia to recognise Israel “at the right time”.

Gulf Arab kingdoms have found common cause with Trump in his hawkish line against regional rival Iran.

The administration in turn has been sparing in raising human rights concerns with the Arab allies, including over the killing two years ago of US-based writer Jamal Khashoggi at a Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

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Pompeo said the US “supports a robust programme of arms sales to Saudi Arabia”, saying the effort helps “protect its citizens and sustains American jobs”.

In a controversial move that triggered an internal probe, Pompeo last year cited a crisis with Iran to bypass Congress to push ahead US$8 billion in arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

Lawmakers across party lines have been appalled by the heavy toll on civilians, including the destruction of schools and hospitals, in Saudi Arabia’s campaign against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Pompeo also announced that the US had acquired a 10.5ha site to build a new embassy in Riyadh.

Alongside work on missions in Jeddah and Dhahran, the US is spending more than US$1 billion on diplomatic construction in the kingdom, Pompeo said.

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