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US pressuring Saudi Arabia to join Israel-UAE meeting in Abu Dhabi

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An Israeli media report says that the Americans are mounting pressure on Saudi Arabia to join a trilateral summit of Israel, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and the US, which is due to be held in Abu Dhabi on Monday.

The two-day visit will include working meetings of the joint teams ahead of the signing of cooperation deals following the U.S.-brokered agreement to normalize ties between Israel and UAE, which was announced on Aug. 13.

Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth said on Sunday that Saudi envoys may arrive in Abu Dhabi on Monday to join the trilateral summit, which will focus on the normalization deal that Washington brokered between Israel and the UAE earlier this month.

The Israeli report said Jared Kushner, an advisor to Trump, National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien, US Middle East envoy Avi Berkowitz, and other US officials will travel to the UAE together with an Israeli delegation led by Meir Ben-Shabbat, the Israeli security advisor.

Tellingly Kushner is also trying to persuade Saudi Arabia to join the signing ceremony of the normalization agreement in October.

"Ahead of the planned event in Washington, Kushner and his aides have recently been working with [Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed] bin Salman to approve the dispatching of high-ranking Saudi envoys to Abu Dhabi as early as tomorrow, in parallel with the arrival of the Israeli delegation," Yedioth Ahronoth said.

The Middle East Eye news portal had previously claimed that the Saudi Crown Prince had pulled out of a planned visit to Washington DC to meet Netanyahu after he received reports that news of his trip had been leaked.

Sources told MEE that Trump and Kushner have been pushing for the meeting to happen to relaunch bin Salman's image as a young Arab peacemaker and shore up regional support for the deal between Israel and the UAE.

Saudi Arabia reacted cautiously to the Israel-UAE deal, saying it will stand by a 2002 Arab peace initiative on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, without condemning the agreement that has angered supporters of the Palestinian cause.

Historic Milestone

In a historic milestone, an Israeli passenger plane flew through Saudi Arabian airspace Monday on the first direct non-cargo flight between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

El Al Flight 971, carrying high-level Israeli and US delegations, flew southeast down almost the entire length of Saudi Arabia to reach its destination in Abu Dhabi. It was the first time an Israeli plane was given permission by the kingdom to use its airspace.

By crossing Saudi airspace, the Boeing 737-900 jet, from Israel's national carrier fleet, was able to shave nearly four hours off the flight time. About 1.5 hours after takeoff from Tel Aviv, the plane buzzed over Riyadh.

From Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to members of his staff on board the flight as it hovered above Riyadh.

In a video message shared to his social media accounts, the prime minister was seen on the phone with members of the Israeli delegation, cheering the "historic day" as he traced his finger over a map of Saudi Arabia and outlined the flight route.

Since 2018, Saudi Arabia has allowed Air India flights to Israel to use its airspace, but not Israeli airlines, which have to take a long detour via the Red Sea.

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Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)
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