Biden considers private meeting with MBS at G20 amid Israel normalisation push

Biden considers private meeting with MBS at G20 amid Israel normalisation push
US President Joe Biden is considering a bilateral meeting with Saudi strongman Mohammed Bin Salman in order to push normalisation with Israel.
3 min read
22 August, 2023
The upcoming G20 summit in New Delhi could see direct talks between Joe Biden and Mohammed Bin Salman over normalisation with Israel [Getty]

US President Joe Biden is considering a private meeting with Mohammed Bin Salman during the upcoming G20 summit set to be held in New Delhi this September.

The possible one-on-one meeting has been discussed by US and Saudi officials for weeks according to Axios, which said that the discussions started before White House National Security adviser Jake Sullivan visited Saudi Arabia this July.

The possible meeting between Biden and bin Salman comes amid an aggressive diplomatic push by the US for a normalisation in relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel.

The initiative also saw US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visit the kingdom in June to discuss the potential deal.

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Although open to the prospect, Saudi Arabia has placed a number of conditions on any normalisation agreement with Israel.

These include a defensive security pact that opens access to further US weaponry, as well as support in developing a civilian nuclear programme which would allow Riyadh to enrich uranium.

Likewise, Saudi Arabia has also conditioned any deal on the formation of an independent Palestinian state. Earlier this month Saudi Arabia named Nayef al-Sudairi as the non-resident ambassador to the Palestinian Territories.

Although Israeli National Security Adviser Tzachi Haneghbi and Foreign Minister Eli Cohen have previously stated that a Saudi nuclear programme would not be an issue, there are growing concerns over Riyadh's desires to domestically enrich uranium according to US and Israeli experts who spoke to Haaretz.

"The US will be setting a dangerous precedent if it agrees to such a demand, and there are much better options to develop a civilian programme in Saudi Arabia," Israeli Atomic Energy Commission deputy director Eli Levite said.

Former Israeli National Security Adviser Meir Ben Shabat also said if Saudi Arabia attained the ability to enrich uranium, "other countries could work to acquire uranium enrichment capabilities in their own territory".

Israel itself has well-developed nuclear capabilities and is suspected of possessing around 200 nuclear warheads.

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Another regional power attempting to develop its nuclear capabilities is Iran, Israel's major rival.

In 2018, The US pulled out of a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, re-imposing sanctions and Iran is believed to be enriching uranium to levels well above those agreed in the deal. 

Former US officials Dan Kurtzer and Aaron David Miller warned that the US allowing Saudi Arabia to enrich uranium would undermine its nonproliferation stance.

Hardline members of the Israeli Knesset have also responded negatively to the official Saudi line about refusing normalisation until a Palestinian state is established.

Earlier this month however, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed that regardless of any formal normalisation, ties between the two countries would deepen.