A senior U.S. diplomat remarked on Thursday that Washington’s relationship with Saudi Arabia is in “very good shape.” This statement comes in the wake of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s first interview with a Western media outlet since 2019, marking one of the initial comments regarding the matter.
“I think the bilateral relationship is in very good shape,” Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf said in an interview with Al Arabiya.
Speaking on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, Leaf said US talks to mediate a normalization deal between Saudi Arabia and Israel also reflected the strong ties between Washington and Riyadh.
During an interview with Fox News that aired on Wednesday, MBS said that Saudi Arabia was getting “closer” to a deal with Israel with each passing day.
Saudi Arabia has several demands from the US as well as concessions it wants Israel to make towards the Palestinians in return for normalization.
“Even the effort that we’re undergoing now, in close consultation with Saudi leaders, and on the other side, with Israel leaders… this process itself is going to enhance our relationship,” the top US diplomat for the Middle East said.
Asked about what concessions Israel should make to the Palestinians, Leaf reiterated previous stances issued by Biden administration officials over the last two years.
“The president, the secretary, the national security advisor have all been on the record… that the best way forward is a negotiated two-state solution, living side-by-side with equal measures of security and prosperity,” Leaf said.
Saudi Arabia and the US signed a memorandum of understanding to establish the India – Middle East – Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC).
Leaf also praised the recent US-brokered agreement between Saudi Arabia, the US, the EU, India, UAE, France, Germany and Italy to establish an economic corridor between Asia, the Gulf and Europe.
The India – Middle East – Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC) strengthened the US relationship with Saudi Arabia and reflected the commonality of US-Saudi objectives.
She highlighted the unprecedented regional integration that will take place once the project is complete and functioning. “The integration is not just between Israel and Arab states, although it’s a very important piece, it’s also among the Arab states,” Leaf said.
As for Iraqi and Turkish frustration with being excluded from the IMEC, Leaf said many projects are underway in the region to help connect people and build jobs and prosperity. “So, this is not by any means a project that excludes, but rather brings together.”