Riyadh, 26 September 2023 (TDI): In a diplomatic development, Israeli Tourism Minister Haim Katz has embarked on a two-day visit to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, marking the first-ever public visit by a member of the Israeli cabinet to the Kingdom.
Minister Katz is in Saudi Arabia to participate in a United Nations conference organized by the UN World Tourism Organization. The visit comes as Saudi Arabia explores the possibility of formalizing bilateral relations with Israel, under the auspices of the United States.
The historic visit of Minister Haim Katz underscores the rapidly changing dynamics in the Middle East, as both nations continue their efforts towards normalizing diplomatic ties.
Washington has actively encouraged Israel and Saudi Arabia, along with other regional allies, to strengthen their relations, following the successful normalization agreements reached with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Morocco.
Minister Katz expressed his optimism about the transformative potential of tourism in fostering peace and cooperation between nations.
Furthermore he highlighted, “Tourism is a bridge between nations. Cooperation in the field of tourism has the potential to bring hearts together and drive economic progress. I am committed to advancing cooperation, tourism, and the foreign relations of Israel during this visit.”
The Saudi government has not yet officially confirmed the visit, reflecting the sensitivity of these diplomatic developments. However, it is evident that both countries are keen to explore opportunities for collaboration and strengthen their regional ties.
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Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, recently acknowledged the Kingdom’s increasing proximity to a diplomatic agreement with Israel while emphasizing that the Palestinian cause remains of paramount importance to Riyadh.
The Palestinian leadership has expressed concerns over the normalization agreements, considering them a potential obstacle to their quest for statehood.
In addition to Minister Katz’s visit, Saudi Arabia took another significant step by sending its first delegation to the occupied West Bank in over three decades.
The delegation, led by Ambassador Naif bin Bandar Al Sudairi, affirmed Saudi Arabia’s unwavering support for the Palestinian cause and conducted talks with top Palestinian diplomat Riyad al-Maliki in Ramallah.
This historic visit and the broader regional developments underline the shifting dynamics in the Middle East.