The Saudi Foreign Minister delivered a speech at the UN General Assembly on Saturday, emphasizing the crucial role of resolving the Palestinian issue for Middle East regional security. He indirectly criticized Israel for taking unilateral actions that violate international law without explicitly mentioning the country.
He stated, “To ensure security in the Middle East, we must expedite a just and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian problem. This solution should be rooted in international resolutions and lead to a lasting peace, granting the Palestinian people an independent state within the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital,” said Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan.
Additionally, he expressed Saudi Arabia’s rejection and condemnation of unilateral actions that blatantly breach international law, potentially referring to recent Israeli approvals of West Bank settlements and outpost legalizations.
Furthermore, the minister highlighted Saudi Arabia’s commitment to supporting efforts aimed at enhancing security, stability, inclusive development, and diplomatic solutions. The objective is to reduce tensions, prevent escalation, and foster cooperation among regional states for the betterment of the region’s people.
It’s worth noting that Israel had a diplomatic representative present during the address, even though it occurred on Shabbat. However, the Saudi Foreign Minister’s speech did not directly address Israel or mention ongoing normalization efforts.
The speech comes in the midst of growing discussions about a potential historic peace agreement between Saudi Arabia and Israel. Riyadh reportedly seeks Israeli concessions for the Palestinians but falls short of granting them full statehood. Saudi Arabia is also requesting significant US concessions, including a new defense pact, substantial arms deals, and cooperation on establishing a civilian nuclear program within Saudi borders.
These remarks align with recent positive developments, as Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman expressed optimism about normalizing ties with Israel. In his UN address, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also emphasized the potential transformative impact of a peace deal with Saudi Arabia on the Middle East.
Despite the positive outlook, challenges remain, especially regarding Saudi enrichment of uranium, which requires careful consideration.
In a gesture of goodwill, Israel congratulated Saudi Arabia on its National Day, marking the establishment of the modern Saudi kingdom in 1932.
The Saudi Foreign Minister’s speech also touched upon conflicts in various Middle Eastern countries, expressing a desire for regional stability. He highlighted the recent agreement brokered by China between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which restored diplomatic ties and direct communication after seven years of tensions. This agreement is founded on principles of mutual respect, sovereignty, independent security, non-interference, and adherence to international charters. Following the speech, Bin Farhan held a meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian on the sidelines of the assembly.
The meeting occurred shortly after Saudi Crown Prince Bin Salman’s rare interview with Fox News, during which he asserted that Saudi Arabia would feel compelled to acquire a nuclear weapon if Iran pursued the same path.
He expressed concerns about any country obtaining nuclear weapons, emphasizing the importance of maintaining a balance of power in the Middle East for security reasons. However, he also underscored the unlikelihood of any nation actually using a nuclear weapon due to the catastrophic consequences of initiating a global conflict.
Notably, Iran had raised alarms by restricting access to its nuclear facilities for International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors, a move criticized by the IAEA’s chief as unprecedented. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken characterized Iran’s nuclear program as a destabilizing element and accused Tehran of failing to act responsibly by expelling UN inspectors.
Iran’s foreign ministry attributed the move to what it perceived as an attempt by the United States and three European nations, namely Britain, France, and Germany, to manipulate the IAEA for political purposes. These countries had announced their intention to maintain sanctions against Iran related to its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
Earlier in the month, these nations had called on Iran to address concerns about its nuclear program, including issues related to monitoring equipment and the presence of enriched uranium particles approaching weapons-grade levels.
In 2015, a significant international agreement was reached with Iran, wherein Tehran agreed to limit its nuclear activities in exchange for relief from crippling economic sanctions. However, this agreement began to unravel in 2018 when then-U.S. President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the pact and reinstated sanctions. In response, Iran intensified its nuclear program, and attempts to revive the deal have yielded no substantial progress.
During his UN speech, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dedicated substantial time to addressing the Iranian nuclear threat and Tehran’s support for terrorism. He also indirectly criticized the Biden administration and Western nations for their handling of the nuclear issue.
Netanyahu pointed out that Western powers had pledged to reimpose sanctions if Iran violated the nuclear deal eight years ago. However, he noted that Iran had indeed breached the agreement, yet the promised sanctions had not been reinstated. Netanyahu called for a change in this policy, advocating for the swift reimposition of sanctions. Additionally, he emphasized the need for Iran to face a credible nuclear threat, later clarifying that he meant a “credible military threat.”
Regarding support for a Saudi civilian nuclear program, Netanyahu remained vague during a CNN interview, despite this being a significant demand from Riyadh for a potential agreement. Security concerns have been raised by both Israeli and U.S. officials regarding the prospect of uranium enrichment on Saudi soil.