update deskMiddle East

Blinken to visit Israel, Saudi Arabia amid normalization push

The trip will include a visit to Ramallah.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meet in Jerusalem, Jan. 30, 2023. Photo by David Azagury/U.S. Embassy in Israel.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meet in Jerusalem, Jan. 30, 2023. Photo by David Azagury/U.S. Embassy in Israel.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit Israel and Saudi Arabia later this month amid a diplomatic push to bring the Sunni kingdom into the Abraham Accords.

The trip, which the State Department has yet to confirm, is to take place during the third week of October and include a visit to Ramallah in the Palestinian Authority.

Blinken last traveled to the Jewish state in January, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailing the visit as evidence of the two countries’ strong bond, based on common interests and values.

The forthcoming visit comes after U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said on Friday that Jerusalem and Riyadh have agreed on the contours of a possible American-mediated normalization agreement.

Israeli Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi arrived in Riyadh on Monday night at the head of a 14-strong delegation, becoming the second Cabinet member from the Jewish state to visit the Gulf nation in a week.

Karhi, a Likud Party member and close ally of Netanyahu, is being accompanied by Knesset Economic Affairs Committee chairman David Bitan and representatives of the Foreign Ministry, Communications Ministry and Israel Post.

The minister is slated to address the Universal Postal Union’s 2023 Extraordinary Congress and meet with U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Michael Ratney. Karhi is also expected to hold bilateral meetings with Saudi colleagues during the trip.

Last week, Tourism Minister Haim Katz became the first Israeli Cabinet minister to be granted an entry visa by the Saudi government, arriving in Riyadh to participate in a conference of the United Nations World Tourism Organization and mark World Tourism Day, celebrated annually on Sept. 27.

Netanyahu has repeatedly said that bringing Saudi Arabia into the Abraham Accords would constitute a “quantum leap” for peace in the Middle East.

The 2020 Trump administration-brokered accords normalized relations between Israel and four Arab nations: The United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan.

In his recent address to the U.N. General Assembly, Netanyahu said that a deal with Riyadh would have far-reaching implications, including encouraging other Arab nations to normalize relations with Israel.

He called the Abraham Accords “a pivot of history” and said the whole world is reaping their benefits. “All these are tremendous blessings,” said the premier.

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