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Saudi Arabia has put Saudi-Israel normalisation efforts on hold after violence began in Gaza Strip

This combination of images shows US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (left) and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. — AFP/Files
This combination of images shows US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (left) and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. — AFP/Files

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who has been busy on a crisis tour of the Middle East for this week, sought support on Sunday from Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler, who has warm ties with Israel but has delayed normalisation.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the senior US diplomat had a nearly hour-long early morning meeting at the royal's property near Riyadh, according to a US official.

"Very productive," Blinken said when asked about the meeting after returning to his hotel.

Blinken has been touring the region after Hamas fighters attacked and entered Israel from the blockaded Gaza Strip on October 7 and killed 1,300 people, mostly civilians, AFP reported.

The attack sparked a massive retaliatory campaign targeting Hamas in Gaza that resulted in the killing of more than 2,300 people.

For the past few months, before the violence in the Gaza Strip region started, the Saudi crown prince had spoken of progress in US-led diplomacy to normalise relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Saudi Arabia has put the process on hold after the violence, and Blinken has said that disrupting Saudi-Israel normalisation efforts may have partly motivated the Hamas attack.

The kingdom is home to Islam's two holiest sites, making recognition a historic coup for Israel, which in 2020 normalised relations with three other Arab states, according to AFP.

As part of a package, Saudi Arabia — which like Israel has tense relations with Iran — has been seeking security guarantees from the United States, its longtime partner and consumer of its oil.

However, Prince Mohammed is deeply controversial in the United States, where intelligence linked him to the 2018 killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a US-based Saudi journalist, which Riyadh has denied, blaming rogue operatives.

President Joe Biden — who once vowed to make the kingdom a pariah — drew protests at home after a visit to Saudi Arabia last year when he shared a friendly fist-bump with Prince Mohammed.

Blinken will travel later Sunday to Egypt, the sixth Arab country he will visit as he seeks to pressure Hamas and prevent the war from spreading.

Egypt is a key intermediary between Israel and Hamas, and US officials say Cairo worked on an arrangement to let US citizens leave the Gaza Strip but that Hamas impeded their movement on Saturday to the sole border crossing at Rafah.

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