The British Prime Minister flew to Saudi Arabia from Israel on Thursday evening to hold crisis talks with the Crown Prince of the country, Mohammed bin Salman – also known in the media as MBS.
Rishi Sunak’s emergency trip comes amid fears of a regional war in the Middle East, as Iran is ramping up its chilling warnings against Israel and the Hezbollah group backed by the theocratic nation continues to be involved in skirmishes on the Israeli northern border.
The meeting between Mr Sunak and MBS was announced by Downing Street hours before the trip was due, with a spokesman stressing “Saudi Arabia remains an important partner” in the region.
The pair had already spoken on the phone on Wednesday, in a bid to de-escalate regional tensions.
Downing Street said that the Prime Minister had “welcomed Saudi Arabia’s leadership in seeking a peaceful resolution to the crisis”.
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A spokesman added: “The leaders agreed on the importance of avoiding further destabilisation across the Middle East, including through Iranian proxies in the region, and committed to coordinate action to de-escalate tensions.”
Mr Sunak, the spokesman continued, expressed Britain’s support for Israel and its right to defend itself after being hit by an unexpected and devastating terror attack on October 7.
The UK is also set to provide “further humanitarian aid for Palestinians in Gaza” as well as “continue to support the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people to statehood, alongside regional partners like Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt”.
The attack launched by Hamas earlier this month, which killed around 1,400 people including at least nine UK nationals, came at a time Tel Aviv and Riyadh were working towards a normalisation of their relations.
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Saudi Arabia initially reacted to the terror attack by seemingly suggesting Israel had provoked Hamas, as it said its treatment of Palestinians led to the “explosion of the situation”.
Only days prior, MBS had indicated efforts to improve his country’s relations with Israel were successful – progress proven by the Israeli Tourism Minister, Haim Katz, travelling to Saudi Arabia in late September and a Saudi delegation heading to the West Bank.
Tensions between Riyadh and Tel Aviv spiked again this week, after a blast destroyed on Monday evening the Al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City, killing hundreds of civilians.
Hamas and the Palestinian leadership accused Israel of hitting the hospital in one of the retaliatory air strikes it has been launching since the terror attack.
On Wednesday, Riyadh joined a host of other Arab capitals in laying the blame on the Israeli military for the bombing.
The Saudi foreign ministry said: “This dangerous development forces the international community to abandon double standards it has used to selectively apply international law when it comes to Israeli criminal practices and requires a serious and firm stance in order to provide protection for defenceless civilians.”
Israel has denied responsibility for the explosion and claimed the tragedy was the result of a malfunctioning rocket fired by Palestinian Islamic Jihad militants from an area near the hospital.
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