Thursday, December 21, 2006

U.S. ambassador appears to confirm Israeli-Saudi contacts

"The United States ambassador to Israel appeared to confirm on Wednesday that there have been high-level contacts between Israel and Saudi Arabia, which do not have diplomatic relations.

A spokesman for the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv would not comment, however, saying he has no knowledge of the reported statements.

In September, Israeli press reported that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had held talks with a member of Saudi Arabia's royal family on Middle East peace and Iran's nuclear program.

Although neither the Israeli nor Saudi governments has confirmed such contacts, when asked about the matter, Ambassador Richard Jones said he thought "it [is] a very important development that this contact ... was announced."

The ambassader said he doesn't have "any particular details on [the contacts] but the very fact that ... first of all they would be able to communicate and that they would be willing communicate with one another I think shows a very serious approach," he added.

Jones noted some Israeli officials have recently spoken more favorably of an Arab-Israeli peace plan Saudi Arabia proposed 2002 which the Israelis long viewed as a nonstarter.

"I think they (the Israelis) recognize that Saudi Arabia's policies have evolved in recent years and that Saudi Arabia is now more interested, and more on the side of peace. And ... as a result, the Israelis are warming to that," he said.

"And so there is definitely something going there, but beyond the one contact that was in the press I am not privy to [it]," he added."