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Meeting Saudi FM, Pompeo encourages normalization with Israel

US secretary of state thanks Saudis for ‘assistance’ in Abraham Accords which the Jewish state inked last month with Bahrain, UAE

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud  (L) listens to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speak during their meeting at the State Department in Washington, October 14, 2020. (Manuel Balce Cenata/Pool/AFP)
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud (L) listens to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speak during their meeting at the State Department in Washington, October 14, 2020. (Manuel Balce Cenata/Pool/AFP)

WASHINGTON — US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday encouraged Saudi Arabia to recognize Israel, in what would be a massive boost for the Jewish state amid normalization by two other Gulf Arab kingdoms.

Bahrain, which tightly coordinates its foreign policy with Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates on September 15 signed the so-called Abraham Accords with Israel at the White House.

Hosting Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan, Pompeo said the agreement “contributed greatly to our shared goals for regional peace and security.”

“They reflect a changing dynamic in the region, one in which countries rightly recognize the need for regional cooperation to counter Iranian influence and generate prosperity,” Pompeo said.

“We hope Saudi Arabia will consider normalizing its relationships as well. We want to thank them for the assistance they’ve had in the success of the Abraham Accords so far.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, US President Donald Trump, Bahrain Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa and United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan pose for a photo on the Blue Room Balcony after signing the Abraham Accords during a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, September 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

US President Donald Trump has highlighted Arab normalization with Israel as a major achievement as he seeks another term in November 3 elections, with his evangelical Christian base widely supportive of the Jewish state.

Trump said last month that he also expected Saudi Arabia to recognize Israel “at the right time.”

Gulf Arab kingdoms have found common cause with Trump in his hawkish line against regional rival Iran.

The administration in turn has been sparing in raising human rights concerns with the Arab allies, including over the killing two years ago of US-based writer Jamal Khashoggi at a Saudi consulate.

Pompeo said the United States “supports a robust program of arms sales to Saudi Arabia,” saying the effort helps “protect its citizens and sustains American jobs.”

In a controversial move that triggered an internal probe, Pompeo last year cited a crisis with Iran to bypass Congress to push ahead $8 billion in arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

Lawmakers across party lines have been appalled by the heavy toll on civilians, including destruction of schools and hospitals, in Saudi Arabia’s campaign against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.

US President Donald Trump shows a chart highlighting arms sales to Saudi Arabia during a meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on March 20, 2018. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Pompeo also announced that the United States had acquired a 26-acre (10.5-hectare) site to build a new US embassy in Riyadh.

Alongside work on US missions in Jeddah and Dhahran, the United States is spending more than $1 billion on diplomatic construction in the kingdom, Pompeo said.

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