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Israeli minister makes historic visit to Saudi Arabia

Haim Katz is the first Israeli minister to make an official visit to Saudi Arabia Handout/Haim Katz
Haim Katz is the first Israeli minister to make an official visit to Saudi Arabia
  • First ever official visit to Saudi Arabia
  • Attends World Tourism Day event
  • Haim Katz called tourism ‘a bridge between nations’

Israeli tourism minister Haim Katz made the first ever public visit by a member of the Israeli government to Saudi Arabia this week, attending a World Tourism Day event in Riyadh. 

The Israeli ministry of tourism said Katz was leading a delegation on a two-day stay in the Saudi capital as part of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) forum.

“Tourism is a bridge between nations,” Katz, a veteran of the right-wing Likud party, said in a statement. 

At the same time as Katz arrived in Saudi Arabia, a Saudi delegation headed by non-resident ambassador to Palestine Nayef al Sudairi visited Ramallah on September 26, having been appointed to the post last month. 

Entering the occupied territories via Jordan, al Sudairi held talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that were broadcast on Saudi television.

It was the first Saudi diplomatic visit to the West Bank since the 1990s, when the Oslo accords were signed.

The Biden administration in the US has been pressing Saudi Arabia to normalise ties with Israel ahead of next year’s presidential elections, hoping to score a foreign policy success. 

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman last week told US network Fox that the kingdom was getting closer to a deal with Israel but he also said Saudi Arabia wanted the US to commit to a defence pact. 

The Arab Peace Initiative launched in 2002 by then Crown Prince Abdullah offered Israel peace with Arab states in return for a Palestinian state.

The UAE and Bahrain in 2020 signed normalisation deals with Israel known as the Abraham Accords.