Israel in secret talks with Saudis, Arab states to sign peace deal

Israel in secret talks with Saudis, Arab states to sign peace deal
Tue Apr 15, 2014 08:43:23

Israel is holding secret talks with some Arab states that do not recognize it, looking to establish diplomatic ties, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman says.

Amongst the countries he was in contact with were Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, Lieberman has told newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth - the first such disclosure by a senior Israeli official.

Saudi Arabia denied having any talks with Israel. Kuwait was not immediately available for comment.

Both these states, along with most other Arab nations, have traditionally been highly hostile towards Israel, which has only signed peace deals with Egypt and Jordan.

"There are contacts, there are talks, but we are very close to the stage in which within a year or 18 months it will no longer be secret, it will be conducted openly," added Lieberman.

Lieberman said he was in touch with "moderate" Arabs - a term Israelis often use for Persian Gulf Arab states and elsewhere in the Middle East that align with US interests. He also said he would have no problem visiting Saudi Arabia or Kuwait.

"I have spent more than a few years of meetings and talks with them," he said.

A spokesman for Saudi Arabia's Foreign Ministry said: "There are no ties or talks with Israel at any level."

Yedioth paraphrased Lieberman as saying some new Israeli-Arab peace accords would be signed in 2019.

"I'm certain that by then we will have a situation in which we have full diplomatic relations with most of the moderate Arab states. And you can count on my word," he said.

However, analysts have scoffed at the idea that ties between Israel and much of the Arab world could be normalized while the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remained unresolved.

US-brokered peace talks between the two are floundering, with no indication that a resolution is anywhere in sight.

Lieberman, who has worked hard in recent months to soften his hardline international image, suggested Arab nations were as eager as Israel to be open about their shared interests.

"I think that they too are stewing in their own juice and reaching an awareness that there will be no choice but to move from the secret stage of the dialogue between us to the open stage of the talks," he said.

BA/BA

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