Israeli communications minister visits Riyadh amid normalisation speculations

Last week the White House said Saudi Arabia and Israel were moving towards the outline of a deal

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The delegation from Israel attends the UNESCO Extended 45th session of the World Heritage Committee at the al-Murabba Palace in Riyadh on September 11, 2023. — AFP
The delegation from Israel attends the UNESCO Extended 45th session of the World Heritage Committee at the al-Murabba Palace in Riyadh on September 11, 2023. — AFP

  • Trip comes week after tourism minister Haim Katz visited KSA.
  • Karhi is likely to deliver a speech during his trip, his office says.
  • His delegation comprises representatives from foreign ministry.


Israeli Minister Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi landed in the Saudi capital Riyadh Monday to participate in a meeting of a UN agency's Universal Postal Union, as there have been speculations that the two countries are on the path to establishing diplomatic ties.

His trip to the oil-rich kingdom comes nearly a week after Israeli tourism minister Haim Katz participated in a UN meeting in Riyadh — the first official from the country to visit Saudi Arabia as both countries do not have formal diplomatic relations.  

A statement from the minister's office read: "Karhi is likely to deliver a speech during his trip, and meet with officials including the US ambassador to Saudi Arabia and Turkish minister." 

"He is heading a 14-member delegation that includes lawmaker David Bitan and representatives of the foreign ministry," the statement said.

Saudi Arabia, home to the holiest sites in Islam, Mecca and Medina, has never recognised Israel and long insisted it would not do so without a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a just settlement for Palestinian refugees.

However, the administration of US President Joe Biden is pushing for a landmark deal that could reorder the Middle East.

Riyadh is bargaining hard for security guarantees from Washington as well as assistance with a civilian nuclear programme that would have uranium enrichment capacity.

The Palestinians have warned that they must be taken into account in any deal, and it is unclear what concessions Israel might be willing to make.

Last week the White House said Saudi Arabia and Israel were moving towards the outline of a deal.

"All sides have hammered out, I think, a basic framework for what, you know, what we might be able to drive at," National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters.

His comments came on the heels of a visit to Riyadh by Israeli Tourism Minister Haim Katz, who attended a United Nations World Tourism Organization event, becoming the first Israeli minister to head an official delegation to the kingdom.