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White House's Sullivan traveling to Saudi Arabia for talks with MBS

FILE PHOTO: Sullivan speaks at a press briefing at the White House in Washington

By Steve Holland

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan plans to travel to Saudi Arabia this week for talks with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman amid a U.S. push for progress toward normalizing relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Talks on normalization had been put on ice in the immediate aftermath of the Oct. 7 attack by Palestinian Hamas fighters on southern Israel and Israel's subsequent assault on Hamas-ruled Gaza, but conversations have resumed in recent months.

A U.S. official said Sullivan planned talks with the crown prince to check in on the issue but did not expect a major breakthrough.

A second U.S. official said Sullivan would consult broadly on a number of matters.

"He has not been to Saudi Arabia in some time and there’s lots to discuss," the second official said.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on March 21 that the United States and Saudi Arabia had made "good progress" in talks on normalizing ties between the kingdom and Israel, without providing a timeline for concluding a deal.

As part of a normalization deal, Saudi Arabia wants to clinch a mutual defense pact with Washington and get U.S. support for its civil nuclear program.

(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Stephen Coates)