JEDDAH: The Arab Peace Initiative proposed by Saudi Arabia in 2002 will be an essential part of any potential normalization agreement with Israel, the Kingdom’s envoy to Palestine said on Tuesday.
“The Palestinian matter is a fundamental pillar,” Nayef Al-Sudairi, the new non-resident ambassador, said after meeting Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki in Ramallah for talks and to present his credentials.
“And it’s certain that the Arab initiative … is a cornerstone of any upcoming deal."
Al-Sudairi recalled that there was once a Saudi Embassy in the East Jerusalem district of Sheikh Jarrah, and “hopefully there will be an embassy there” again.
The 2002 initiative proposed Arab relations with Israel in exchange for its withdrawal from the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza and the Golan Heights, and a just resolution for the Palestinian cause.
Al-Sudairi on Tuesday led the first Saudi diplomatic delegation to the occupied West Bank since the ill-fated Oslo Accords in 1993. Envoys crossed overland from Jordan.
The Oslo Accords were meant to lead to an independent Palestinian state, but years of stalled negotiations and deadly violence have left any peaceful resolution a distant dream.
Benjamin Netanyahu’s hard-right extremist government has been expanding illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, and at least 242 Palestinians have been killed so far this year in an escalation in violence by settlers and the Israeli military.
The US, which has brokered talks between Israel and the Palestinians in the past, has made no major push toward a two-state solution since a failed effort nearly a decade ago.
Washington is now urging Israel and Saudi Arabia to normalize diplomatic relations, following similar deals involving the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco. In a US TV interview last week, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said a deal was “closer every day”.