Kuwait, Saudi Arabia deny ties with Israel

Foreign Minister Liberman says secret talks are aimed at countering Iranian threat

Avigdor Liberman holds a press conference in the Knesset on June 10, 2013 (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Avigdor Liberman holds a press conference in the Knesset on June 10, 2013 (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Officials in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia categorically denied on Tuesday claims by Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman that Jerusalem was forging ties with governments in the Gulf states.

In an interview published Monday in the Hebrew daily Yedioth Ahronoth, Liberman claimed that Kuwait and Saudi Arabia were but two of a number of Arab countries that were quietly in contact with Israel, despite the countries not having diplomatic ties.

However, both governments dismissed his assertion as false.

“These claims are baseless. There are no meetings, official or unofficial contacts, public or secret,” a Kuwaiti diplomat told the state-run Kuwait News Agency.

The diplomat added that Kuwait would be “the last country to normalize relations with Israel.”

In Riyadh, a spokesman said “There are no ties or talks with Israel at any level,” according to Haaretz.

Liberman had claimed that Jerusalem was in contact with moderate Muslim states to coordinate a united front against the Iranian threat.

“There are contacts, there are negotiations, but we are close to the point where in a year or 18 months it won’t be secret anymore, it will be out in the open,” he told the paper.

Riyadh has denied reports of cooperation with Israel vis-à-vis Iran in the past, including a November Sunday Times report that claimed Saudi Arabia would provide Israel with support for a military strike.

However, it is widely believed that Jerusalem maintains some sort of engagement with various states in the Persian Gulf region, even if the government is extremely careful not to publicly admit such ties — in order not to jeopardize them.

In July, Israel opened a virtual embassy with the Gulf Cooperation Council, a Twitter account targeted toward Gulf states, with the intention of opening new channels of communications.

The GCC includes Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, and Kuwait.

Diplomatic documents released by WikiLeaks in 2010 revealed that Israel had held clandestine contacts with Gulf states, including Bahrain.

Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.

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