Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud and his Israeli counterpart Yair Lapid have participated in a virtual meeting of top diplomats from around the world, hosted by the US State Department.
Two officials familiar with the matter confirmed to English-language online newspaper The Times of Israel hat the meeting took place on December 21.
Both Lapid and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken issued statements afterward, but neither mentioned the presence of Farhan on the Zoom call.
The State Department said Blinken “met virtually with several foreign ministers and representatives of regional organizations”, but did not mention with whom he met.
However, Chinese Ambassador to the US Qin Gang posted a screenshot of the virtual meeting on Twitter, which showed Prince Faisal and Lapid in attendance, along with a host of other diplomats.
I attended the Virtual Meeting with Foreign Ministers Regarding the Omicron Variant convened by @SecBlinken on behalf of Chinese State Councilor & Foreign Minister Wang Yi. https://t.co/8SRZz4Q8AR pic.twitter.com/Z5gOzDx6ZL— Qin Gang 秦刚 (@AmbQinGang) December 22, 2021
Even though Israel and Saudi Arabia do not have formal diplomatic relations, Riyadh has taken a number of steps in recent years toward normalizing relations with the Tel Aviv regime.
Saudis authorities were said to have given a behind-the-scenes green light to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) forging ties with Israel last year, and have since allowed Israeli aircraft to use the kingdom’s airspace for direct flights to Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
Riyadh says it would not normalize relations with Tel Aviv outside of the framework of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, which calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state.
The United States has raised the issue of normalization between Saudi Arabia and Israel in recent years, particularly during the previous administration of former president Donald Trump, which brokered normalization deals between the Tel Aviv regime, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan.
Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and a senior adviser to the former president, wrote in March that Saudi Arabia-Israel normalization was "in sight".
According to a report by American news website Axios, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan brought up the idea of Saudi Arabia normalizing ties with Israel during a meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in September.
The crown prince did not completely reject the proposal, but rather presented US officials with a list of steps, including an improvement in bilateral US-Saudi relations, before such an agreement could move forward.
Saudi foreign minister alleged in an interview with CNN in April that a normalization deal with Israel would be “extremely helpful” and would bring “tremendous benefits” to the Middle East.