In Brief: Saudis indicate nuclear programme as price of normalising with Israel

Crown prince Mohamad bin Salman > US State Department, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Saudi Arabia has reportedly asked the United States to approve the development of a civilian nuclear programme in exchange for the kingdom normalising relations with Israel.

The demand is the latest in a series of asks put to the US from Riyadh, though such a deal remains “very far off”, the Times of Israel has quoted a senior Middle East diplomat as saying.

Despite American enthusiasm for normalisation between Israel and Saudi Arabia, the Saudis have reportedly pointed to congressional scepticism in Washington and the recent uptick in violence in Israel and the West Bank as making any deal with Jerusalem less palatable in the broader Arab world.

The Biden administration is known to fear that a Saudi nuclear programme would risk accelerating a regional arms race, in response to which Riyadh has reportedly proposed close US-Saudi collaboration on nuclear and other defence matters.

Notably, the diplomat claimed that Saudi officials had not raised any specific demands with regard to the Palestinians in these talks with Washington, with some speculation that this is planned for final negotiations.

It is longstanding Saudi policy that the creation of a Palestinian state is the price of diplomatic normalisation with Israel.

Saudi Arabia agreed last year to open its skies to Israeli airliners.