Saudi Arabia to Host Gaza Talks Next Week With Top US, UK and Arab Officials

(Bloomberg) -- Saudi Arabia plans to host a meeting on Monday to discuss Gaza’s future with foreign officials including US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, according to people familiar with the matter.

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The talks in Riyadh may also include UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron and key officials from the European Union, Jordan, Egypt, and Qatar, as well as the Palestinian Authority, said the people, who asked not to be identified speaking about private matters. Officials from Israel, which doesn’t have diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia, and Hamas are not thought to be attending.

One of the people described it as a crisis meeting, designed more for initial talks between the sides than anything likely to achieve concrete outcomes.

The discussions will happen on the sidelines of a special edition of the World Economic Forum.

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The Saudi government didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Saudi Arabia and other Arab states have been highly critical of Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza and called for an immediate cease-fire. The US, UK and EU are pressuring Israel to allow more aid into the Palestinian territory to ease its humanitarian crisis and prevent a famine.

They are urging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to launch an offensive on the city of Rafah, which the Israeli military says is the last bastion of Hamas, an Iran-backed group considered a terrorist organization by the US and EU.

Washington has also been frustrated by what it sees as a lack of Israeli planning for Gaza’s post-war situation, and by Netanyahu’s unwillingness to discuss steps toward a two-state solution with the Palestinians.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar have signaled they’re willing to help fund Gaza’s reconstruction if Israel accepts negotiations on Palestinian statehood, Bloomberg has reported. The plan is broadly backed by US President Joe Biden.

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The war erupted when Hamas fighters swarmed into southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and taking 250 hostage. Israel’s retaliatory air and ground assault on Gaza has killed more than 34,000 people, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

Blinken has traveled to the Middle East several times since then, seeking to contain the conflict. In March, he met Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the kingdom to discuss Gaza.

In addition, they spoke about a possible US-brokered deal that may ultimately see Riyadh normalize ties with Israel in exchange for a security pact with Washington. The Saudi government has said Israel must show its willing to accept a Palestinian state for the deal to happen.

--With assistance from Alex Wickham.

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