Saudi official meets with foreign ministry director in rare visit to Israel

Israel’s Foreign Ministry Director General Dore Gold met with former Saudi Arabian general Anwar Eshki in Jerusalem Sunday. The meeting comes just days after reports confirmed that Gold met with President of Chad Idriss Déby last week in the first visit by an Israeli official to Chad in over 40 years since the country severed ties with Israel in 1972.

Details of their meeting were not released to the press, but Eshki gave a short telephone interview to Israel’s Army Radio where he reported that his visit was centered on lobbying for the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative for resuming the peace process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, stating that diplomatic relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia would normalize after peace is made between Israel and the Palestinians.

On Arab states relations with Israel, Eshki stated that “There will not be any kind of peace with Arab states first,” stating that there “First must be peace with the Palestinian brothers. If the Arab peace initiative is implemented, the Saudi Kingdom and other Arab nations would normalize relations with Israel… The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not the source of terrorism, but it does create fertile ground for acts of terrorism in the region.”

Addressing Iran, he stated “If the conflict is resolved, the countries that exploit the Palestinian issue, namely Iran, will no longer be able to capitalize on it. The Iranian government has greedy aspirations [and] wants to dominate the Middle East all the way to the Mediterranean Sea. That is why Iran instigates terrorism, and it has to stop. We are not enemies of Iran, but of the Iranian regime, which seeks to intervene in the affairs of the peoples of the region.”

On relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, specifically on reports of cooperation in combatting terrorism in the region, Eshki stated “As far as I know there is no cooperation between the Saudi kingdom and Israel on the topic of combating terrorism,” stating that both states however “share a common viewpoint, but differ on the solution.”

He added “It is true that Israel is fighting terrorism, but we want it to put an end to the reasons that gave rise to this terrorism: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We have had enough of bloodshed and war…” He added “The Saudi people want peace. If certain rights are restored, I am sure that the Saudis and other Arab nations will be satisfied, and peace and normalization will become a reality.”

This article originally appeared on Behold Israel, July 24, 2016, and reposted with permission.