Israel PM optimistic about historic pact with Saudi Arabia
Israel and Saudi Arabia currently have no official bilateral relations, but have been covertly working together on security issues for some time
Israel is "on the cusp" of establishing formal diplomatic ties with Saudi Arabia by finalising a US-brokered breakthrough peace agreement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in New York on Friday.
"Peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia will truly create a new Middle East," he said.
The two countries currently have no official bilateral relations, but have been working together covertly on security issues for some time. On 20 September, Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman had also confirmed the efforts to normalise relations. However, he had added that the progress of the agreement would depend on how Israel deals with Palestinians.
Israel's confidence in reaching a peace accord with Saudi Arabia is notable, considering Riyadh and Washington have stressed the inclusion of Palestinians in the diplomatic process.
Netanyahu, however, inserted his own take on the push for Palestinian inclusion and said, "They (Palestine) should be part of that process, but they should not have a veto over the process."
Saudi Arabia has consistently stood by the demand for the creation of a Palestinian state, which would contradict the Netanyahu government's current stance on the matter.
Saudis are also negotiating a defence deal with the US and seeking development of their own nuclear programme, stoking fears of an arms race with Iran.
But Netanyahu was optimistic, even saying the deal could happen soon. "We probably will in the end achieve it, because it makes sense, but I think that if we want to seize this opportunity, we have to do it in the next months," he told US broadcaster Fox News.
During his address at UNGA, Netanyahu also underlined his country's normalisation efforts with other countries in the Middle East, and mentioned four countries which normalised relations with it in 2020 as part of the Abraham Accords.
"There's no question the Abraham Accords heralded the dawn of a new age of peace. But I believe that we are on the cusp of an even more dramatic breakthrough, an historic peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia," Netanyahu said.