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US and Saudi Leaders Discuss Crucial Security Agreement Amid Middle East Tensions

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES —

Early Sunday, U.S. President Joe Biden's national security adviser met with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to discuss the "semifinal" draft of a comprehensive security agreement between the two nations, according to the state-run Saudi Press Agency.

This strategic deal faced challenges after the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel, which resulted in 1,200 deaths and 250 hostages being taken to Gaza. Since then, Israeli airstrikes and a ground offensive have killed over 35,000 Palestinians, per the Gaza health ministry run by Hamas. The conflict has jeopardized the security agreement, which included Saudi Arabia's potential diplomatic recognition of Israel for the first time since 1948.

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Saudi state media did not release any images from the meeting between Jake Sullivan and Prince Mohammed in Dhahran, home to Saudi Aramco. The talks focused on the "semifinal version of the draft strategic agreements" and efforts to establish a credible path towards resolving the Palestinian issue, aiming for a two-state solution that aligns with the Palestinians' aspirations and legitimate rights. The discussions also addressed the situation in Gaza, emphasizing the need to stop the war and facilitate humanitarian aid.

Saudi Arabia has consistently supported the creation of an independent Palestinian state along Israel's 1967 borders, with east Jerusalem as its capital. However, this stance conflicts with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government, which relies on support from hardliners opposing a two-state solution and favoring Israeli settlements in territories desired by Palestinians.

The White House confirmed Sullivan's visit and his subsequent trip to Israel to meet with Netanyahu, stating the discussions would cover "the war in Gaza and ongoing efforts to achieve lasting peace and security in the region."

Saudi Arabia, like other Gulf Arab nations, has long depended on the U.S. for regional security, especially amidst tensions over Iran's nuclear program. The current proposal likely includes enhanced security cooperation, access to advanced weapons, and potential trade deals. Additionally, Saudi Arabia seeks nuclear cooperation from the U.S., including permission to enrich uranium domestically, which raises concerns among nonproliferation experts due to the potential for weaponization. Prince Mohammed has stated that Saudi Arabia would pursue a nuclear weapon if Iran developed one, a threat Iran has increasingly hinted at.

Meanwhile, Iran's mission to the United Nations confirmed indirect talks with U.S. officials in Oman last week, describing these discussions as part of an ongoing process. Oman has previously hosted U.S.-Iran negotiations, including under President Biden, despite the prevailing tensions between the two countries.

The meeting between U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman underscores the complexities and high stakes of Middle Eastern geopolitics. The proposed security agreement between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, potentially involving advanced weapons and nuclear cooperation, comes at a critical juncture following the recent escalation of violence between Israel and Hamas. While both nations are striving to address the Palestinian issue and stabilize the region, significant obstacles remain, including differing visions for a two-state solution and broader regional security concerns, especially regarding Iran's nuclear ambitions. The outcome of these discussions will significantly impact the future diplomatic and security landscape of the Middle East.

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