Saudi Arabian Crown Prince and Prime Minister Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud said in a US television interview that his country was moving steadily closer to normalising relations with Israel and also warned that if Iran gets a nuclear weapon, ‘we have to get one’.
“Every day we get closer,” the Crown Prince told Fox News according to excerpts of an interview to be shown later yesterday, when asked to characterise talks aimed at long-time foes Israel and Saudi Arabia reaching a landmark agreement to open diplomatic relations.
The conservative US network’s interview with the Crown Prince comes as President Joe Biden’s administration presses ahead with an effort to broker historic ties between the two regional powerhouses, Washington’s top Middle East allies.
The normalisation talks are the centrepiece of complex negotiations that also include discussions of US security guarantees and civilian nuclear help that Riyadh has sought, as well as possible Israeli concessions to the Palestinians.
“For us, the Palestinian issue is very important. We need to solve that part,” PrinceMohammed bin Salman said when asked what it would take to get a normalisation agreement. “And we have a good negotiations strategy till now.”
“We got to see where we go. We hope that will reach a place that will ease the life of the Palestinians and get Israel as a player in the Middle East,” he said, speaking in English.
The Crown Prince also voiced concern about the possibility that Iran, a mutual adversary of Saudi Arabia and Israel that the US wants to contain, could obtain a nuclear weapon. Tehran has denied seeking a nuclear bomb.
“That’s a bad move,” he said. “If you use it, you got to have a big fight with the rest of the world.”
Asked what would happen if Iran did get a nuclear bomb, he said: “If they get one, we have to get one.”
While US officials insist any breakthrough is far away and steep obstacles remain, they privately tout the potential benefits of a regional mega-deal.
These include removing a possible flashpoint in the Arab-Israeli conflict, strengthening the bulwark against Iran and countering China’s inroads in the Gulf. Biden would also score a foreign policy win as he seeks re-election in November 2024.
The broadcast of the Crown Prince’s comments was scheduled for the same day as a meeting between Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in which they pledged to work together toward Israeli-Saudi normalisation, which could reshape the geopolitics of the Middle East.
Both leaders also said Iran could not be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon.
The Saudi Crown Prince issued the stark warning to Tehran despite the two countries having agreed in Chinese-brokered talks in March to restore relations after years of hostility.