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Blinken Reaches Out to Netanyahu and Abbas as Saudi Deal Push Intensifies

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on the phone within hours of one another on Tuesday, according to U.S. State Department Speaker Matthew Miller.

The call with Netanyahu focused on common interests, like the expansion of Israel’s regional integration, a possible nod to the ongoing discussions with Saudi Arabia about a defense agreement with Washington, which could include a peace deal with Israel.

Blinken and Netanyahu also spoke about countering the nuclear threat posed by Iran, which in recent months, has stepped up its efforts to smuggle explosives and weapons into Israel in order to facilitate terror attacks in the country, the Israel Defense Forces recently revealed,

The secretary reaffirmed the White House’s commitment to Israel’s security and the bilateral partnership, adding that Washington will continue to support “policies that ensure freedom, security, and prosperity for Israelis and Palestinians alike.”

Speaking with the Palestinian Authority (PA) leader Abbas, Blinken expressed his concern about the ongoing wave of violence in the West Bank and his “support for measures to advance freedom and security and improve the quality of life for the Palestinian people.”

Blinken and Abbas also discussed actions threatening the two-state solution, which they both support.

The statement did not directly allude to recent reports that the PA is seeking concessions that will be “irreversible” and serve as a stepping stone to statehood in the context of the trilateral negotiations between the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Israel.

In a press briefing shortly after the phone calls, U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan confirmed that the talks were in the context of exploring whether a “broader normalization” is possible.

Sullivan downplayed the significance of the calls, however, when he said they do not “portend any imminent breakthrough or action with respect to the question of normalization,” and stressed, “We don’t expect any imminent announcements or breakthroughs in the period ahead.”

He added that the visit to the Saudi Kingdom by White House Coordinator for Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Brett McGurk this week focused on efforts to keep the peace in Yemen and not the normalization talks.

The phone calls between Blinken, Netanyahu and Abbas, occurred against the background of a flurry of diplomatic activity between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.

A delegation of top American officials, led by McGurk, traveled to Saudi Arabia this week, while a PA delegation is in the Saudi capital Riyadh during the same time.

This article originally appeared on All Israel News and is reposted with permission.

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