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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 June 2018

Saudi crown prince says Israelis have right to their own land

Comments on US tour suggest aim is to secure peace treaty

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed is leading the country into a new energy age. Amir Levy / Reuters
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed is leading the country into a new energy age. Amir Levy / Reuters

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has said Israelis are entitled to live peacefully on their own land, in comments that expressed hope for better relations.

Asked in an interview with US magazine The Atlantic if he believes the Jewish people have a right to a nation-state in at least part of their ancestral homeland, the crown prince was quoted as saying: "I believe the Palestinians and the Israelis have the right to have their own land. But we have to have a peace agreement to assure the stability for everyone and to have normal relations".

Saudi Arabia – birthplace of Islam and home to its holiest shrines – does not recognise Israel. It has maintained for years that normalising relations hinges on Israeli withdrawal from Arab lands captured in the 1967 Middle East war, territory Palestinians seek for a future state.

"We have religious concerns about the fate of the holy mosque in Jerusalem and about the rights of the Palestinian people. This is what we have. We don't have any objection against any other people," said the crown prince, who is touring the United States to drum up investments and support for his efforts to contain Iranian influence.

Increased tension between Tehran and Riyadh has fuelled speculation that shared interests may push Saudi Arabia and Israel to work together against what they consider a common Iranian threat.

"There are a lot of interests we share with Israel and if there is peace, there would be a lot of interest between Israel and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries," he added.

Saudi Arabia opened its airspace for the first time to a commercial flight to Israel last month, which an Israeli official hailed as historic following two years of efforts.

In November, an Israeli cabinet member disclosed covert contacts with Saudi Arabia, a rare acknowledgment of long-rumoured secret dealings which Riyadh still denies.

Saudi Arabia condemned US President Donald Trump's move to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel last year. The kingdom backs a two-state solution.