Palestinian officials welcomed their first Saudi Arabian ambassador, even as the kingdom mulls over establishing formal diplomatic relations with Israel.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s diplomatic adviser Majdi al-Khalidi received a copy of the credentials of Ambassador Nayef al-Sudairi as a non-resident envoy in Jordan on Saturday, according to Palestinian news agency Wafa.
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Al-Sudairi, the kingdom’s current ambassador to Jordan, will also serve as consul general in Jerusalem.
Al-Khalidi said the occasion is “an important step that will contribute to further strengthening the strong brotherly relations that bind the two countries and the two brotherly peoples”, Wafa reported.
The Saudi envoy also called the appointment “an important step”, which underscores the desire of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman “to strengthen relations with the brothers of the State of Palestine and give it a formal boost in all areas”, he said in video broadcast by the Saudi state-affiliated Al-Ekhbariya channel.
The file for the Palestinian Territories has traditionally been handled by Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Amman.
Palestinian analyst Talal Okal said the new appointment is a step towards an official Saudi representation office in the occupied West Bank.
“It is also a message Saudi Arabia was committed to the rights of the Palestinians in a fully sovereign state,” Okal said.
Push for normalisation
The ambassador’s appointment occurred while the United States is looking to normalise Israeli-Saudi relations.
The US, Israeli and Saudi officials, however, have said any such deal is a long way off, as a number of thorny issues – from Israeli raids in the occupied West Bank, to Saudi nuclear power development – stand in its way.
Riyadh has repeatedly said it will stick with the decades-old Arab League position of not establishing ties with Israel until the conflict with the Palestinians is resolved.
Still, in recent months, Riyadh and Washington have held talks concerning Saudi conditions for normalisation. These include security guarantees and assistance with a civilian nuclear programme.
Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said on Thursday “peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia is a matter of time”.
According to Aziz Alghashian, a Saudi analyst and expert on Saudi-Israeli relations, Saturday’s move “gives insight into how diplomatic relations might be between Saudi Arabia and Israel: a Saudi ambassador to Palestine with a file for Israel”.
“The immediate signal is to treat Saudi demands for Israeli concessions seriously,” Alghashian said.
Last week, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said the Palestinian Authority is hoping to relay its concerns to Saudi officials about the normalisation push.