RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has clearly said that it is ready to normalise relations with Israel based on the 2002 Arab initiative proposal for peace.
In an interview with the Riyadh-based Arab News daily, Abdallah Al-Mouallimi, the kingdom’s permanent representative to the UN, said Riyadh is committed to the Arab Initiative for peace, which calls for the end of the Israeli occupation of all Arab territories occupied in 1967 and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital in return of normalising ties with Israel.
“The official and latest Saudi position is that we are prepared to normalise relations with Israel as soon as Israel implements the elements of the Saudi peace initiative that was presented in 2002,” Al-Mouallimi said.
He added that once implementing the initiative, Israel will have recognition “not only from Saudi Arabia but the entire Muslim world, all 57 countries of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation”.
“Time does not change right or wrong. The Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories is wrong no matter how long it lasts,” the diplomat said.
Last month, Israeli media reported that a delegation of some 20 American Jewish leaders had visited Saudi Arabia and met with senior officials there, including at least six government ministers and senior representatives of the Saudi royal house, in an effort to review possibilities of establishing ties between Riyadh and Tel Aviv.
Saudi Arabia has repeatedly reiterated its commitment to the Arab parameters for peace with Israel expressed in the 2002 Saudi-proposed Arab Initiative.
Israel occupied East Jerusalem during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and annexed the entire city in 1980 in a move that has never been recognised by the international community.
One big issue of his decade as UN ambassador has been the future of Palestine, thrown into the spotlight by moves from some Arab countries to normalize relations with Israel. He defused speculation that the Kingdom might be about to reset relations with Tel Aviv.
“The official and latest Saudi position is that we are prepared to normalize relations with Israel as soon as Israel implements the elements of the Saudi peace initiative that was presented in 2002. That calls for the end of occupation of all Arab territories occupied in 1967 and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, and granting the Palestinian people the right of self-determination,” he said.
“As soon as that happens, not only Saudi Arabia but the entire Muslim world, all 57 countries of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, would follow suit in terms of recognizing the state of Israel and establishing relations with her,” he added.
“Time does not change right or wrong. The Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories is wrong no matter how long it lasts. Israeli practices in the West Bank and Gaza — with regards to settlements and with regards to the siege and with regards to denying the Palestinians their dignity and their rights — is wrong, and that doesn’t change,” Al-Mouallimi insisted.
He said that Saudi Arabia is “not convinced” by the arguments put forward by the administration of US President Joe Biden to keep the Houthis of Yemen off the list of international terrorist organizations.
Abdallah Al-Mouallimi, permanent representative from Saudi Arabia to the UN, said he had taken the issue up with US diplomats in New York following the decision of President Biden last year to remove the Iranian-supported militia from the list.
“They explained to us that the reason they did that is purely technical, because they have staff in Yemen that are working with humanitarian organizations and they have Yemeni people who are also working with these organizations and they said that if the Houthis are designated as a terrorist organization the Yemeni parties would not be able to deal with them, and that would put the lives and safety of the American parties in jeopardy,” he said.
“We’re not quite convinced that there is a good argument,” he added.
Al-Mouallimi, who has been head of the Saudi mission to the UN since 2011, gave his comments on the hot issue of the Houthis’ terrorist status in an interview on Frankly Speaking, the series of video interviews with leading policymakers.
He also spoke of the “intractable” nature of the Yemen conflict, the role of Iran in stoking the hostilities there, the possibility of Saudi Arabia normalizing relations with Israel, and the Kingdom’s progress on human rights over the past decade.
He pledged to continue working with US and other diplomats over the terrorism designation issue. Former President Trump put the Houthis on the list toward the end of his administration, only for new President Biden to immediately remove them — on the same day the Iran-backed Houthis attacked a civilian airport at Abha in Saudi Arabia.