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Saudis attempted to block UAE-Israel-Jordan deal on energy, water — report

Riyadh said to have proposed its own deal, which would exclude Jewish state, after being left out of largest-ever Jerusalem-Amman deal brokered by Abu Dhabi

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed at Al Salam Palace in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, June 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool, File)
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed at Al Salam Palace in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, June 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool, File)

Saudi Arabia attempted to pressure the United Arab Emirates to torpedo a major deal with Jordan and Israel on energy and water, a report said on Wednesday.

The UAE-brokered agreement signed earlier this week will see the construction of a major solar power plant in the Hashemite Kingdom to generate electricity for the Jewish state while a desalination plant established in Israel will send water to Jordan.

It is the largest-ever cooperation agreement signed between Jerusalem and Amman since the former enemies signed a peace treaty in 1994, and is the largest current renewable energy project in the Middle East.

The Axios website, citing two Israeli officials and another unnamed source, said the Saudis even proposed an alternative plan that it would lead, in conjunction with the UAE and Jordan, which would leave Israel out.

The Emiratis rebuffed the pressure, however, though the signing of the deal was held up for several hours amid the Saudi efforts to block it, the report said.

Saudi Arabia was not aware of the UAE-brokered plan until it was published in the media, according to the report.

L-R: Energy and Water Resources Minister Karine Elharrar, UAE Climate Change Minister Mariam Almheiri and Jordan Water and Irrigation Minister Mohammed Al-Najjar sign a water agreement at a Dubai Expo event on November 22, 2021, as US Climate Envoy John Kerry and UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed look on. (UAE Foreign Ministry/Twitter)

Riyadh, which unlike the UAE and Jordan does not have official diplomatic relations with Israel, worried the deal would sabotage its crown prince’s efforts to lead climate efforts in the region.

Israeli, Emirati and Saudi officials all declined to comment on the report.

The deal represented the latest byproduct of the Abraham Accords normalization agreement Israel signed with the UAE last year under the auspices of the Trump administration. The Biden administration has also pledged to build on those agreements while remaining adamant that they are not a replacement for Israeli-Palestinian peace.

A general view shows part of a new 15 million euro solar plant during its official inauguration at the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, on November 13, 2017. (AFP Photo/Khalil Mazraawi)

Saudi Arabia was left out of the project because it hasn’t normalized its ties with Israel, according to Axios.

Feasibility studies for the project are due to start next year.

Jordan is one of the world’s most water-deficient nations and its cooperation on water with Israel dates back to before the two established formal relations.

Israel is also a hot, dry country, but its advanced desalination technology has opened opportunities for selling freshwater.

Experts say the future cooperation could help improve relations, which Jordan’s King Abdullah has described as a “cold peace.”

AFP contributed to this report.

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