Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu meets Saudi Arabia's crown prince, Mike Pompeo

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Jerusalem [Israel], November 23 (ANI): In the first visit of its kind, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday travelled to Saudi Arabia, where he met with Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, informed an Israeli official on Monday.

Netanyahu was in Neom, a Red Sea city, for five hours for the first known high-level meeting between an Israeli and Saudi leader. He was accompanied by Mossad intelligence chief Yossi Cohen, reported The Times of Israel.

Earlier today, Pompeo said he had held a 'constructive' meeting with Saudi Arabia's crown prince the night before, as he wrapped up a seven-nation tour that included stops in Israel and Gulf nations. He made no mention of the reported presence of the Israeli leader.

"Pleasure to meet with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Our security and economic partnership is strong and we'll continue to harness it to advance efforts to counter malign Iranian influence in the Gulf, economic goals under the Vision 2030 plan, and human rights reform," tweeted the Secretary of State.

"Constructive visit with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Neom today. The United States and Saudi Arabia have come a long way since President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and King Abdul Aziz Al Saud first laid the foundation for our ties 75 years ago," said Pompeo in another tweet.

According to The Times of Israel, the reports of Netanyahu's arrival came after Twitter users noticed that a private jet had made a rare trip between Tel Aviv and Neom on Sunday evening, sparking speculation of a high-level meeting.

Netanyahu had originally been slated to hold a meeting of his COVID-19 cabinet meeting on Sunday night but pushed it off by a day, saying that the groundwork still needed to be completed.

A trip by the Israeli leader to Saudi Arabia would mark a watershed moment in shifting Gulf ties with Israel, which have been bolstered in recent months at the urging of the Trump administration.

Covert ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia are believed to have been growing in recent years. The shift in policy has reportedly been led by the crown prince, who sees Israel as a strategic partner in the fight against Iranian influence in the region, according to The Times of Israel.

The Trump administration has hoped Saudi Arabia would join the UAE and Bahrain in recognizing Israel and forging diplomatic ties, a move seen as increasingly distant in the wake of Joe Biden's election as US president. But Saudi leaders have indicated that Israeli-Palestinian peace will have to come first.

When the White House announced in August that the United Arab Emirates and Israel had agreed to establish full diplomatic ties, followed by Bahrain weeks later, Saudi Arabia refrained from criticising the deal or hosting summits condemning the decision, despite Palestinian requests to do so.

The Palestinians have slammed the agreements as a "betrayal of Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Palestinian cause," but government-controlled Saudi media hailed them as historic and good for regional peace.

The outgoing US administration and Israel are also seeking to step up pressure on Iran in the final days of the Trump's White House. (ANI)