The Israeli Minister of Tourism left today for Saudi Arabia to participate in a UN conference, Reuters reported. His office said it was the first official visit to the country by a member of the Israeli government.
Haim Katz’s two-day visit to Riyadh comes as Saudi Arabia seeks to reach an eventual US-brokered deal that would establish formal bilateral relations with Israel, Reuters reported.
“I will work to establish cooperation to promote Israel’s tourism and international relations,” said Katz.
Reuters specifies that the government of Saudi Arabia has not yet confirmed the visit of the Israeli minister.
Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported that Saudi Arabia’s newly appointed ambassador to the Palestinian Authority presented his credentials to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas today in his first visit to the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
The AP notes that Naif bin Bandar al-Sudayri’s visit to the West Bank coincides with Katz’s visit to Riyadh. This, according to the agency, precedes the normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel. The AP also recalls the position of Saudi Arabia – that it will normalize its relations with Israel only if there is significant progress in the project to create an independent Palestinian state.
“Hopefully our next meeting will be in Jerusalem,” al-Sudairi told reporters, referring to Riyadh’s intention to assist in “the creation of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.”
Palestinian representatives in the city of Ramallah remained silent on this prospect. The foreign minister of the Palestinian Authority – Riyad al-Maliki, noted only that today’s meeting with the ambassador is “a milestone for history”.
“He is here to start working on the development of relations between our two countries. To defend the Palestinian cause is a great responsibility,” al-Maliki said to Riyadh’s envoy.