June 22, 2024

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How Saudi Arabia’s plan to ‘de-risk’ the Middle East was upset by Israel-Hamas war

2 min read

Saudi Arabia and Israel had seemingly been edging closer to a landmark deal to normalize their diplomatic relations – and then the Hamas attack on Oct. 7, 2023, happened.

Since then, thousands have died in Gaza and in Israel. And fears of the conflict spreading across the region form the backdrop to frenzied diplomacy across the region, including a visit to Israel by U.S. President Joe Biden on Oct. 18.

It also threatens to undermine a key pillar of Saudi Arabia’s foreign and domestic agenda: the “de-risking” of the region. With Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman set on implementing “Vision 2030” – an ambitious economic, social and cultural program – and developing the kingdom as a destination for tourism and investment, a renewal of regional instability is the last thing the crown prince needs.

De-escalating tensions

Certainly, the escalating violence in the Middle East presents a challenge to the shift toward de-escalation of tensions across much of the broader region in recent years.

This has included the signing of the Abraham Accords in 2020, which established diplomatic relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco. But it goes further, including multiple-state treaties that have healed rifts across the Gulf, culminating in the signing of a deal in March 2023 to restore Saudi-Iranian relations.

These diplomatic breakthroughs opened up a space for greater regional cooperation through initiatives such as the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor unveiled at the G20 meeting in India in September 2023.

The hope of officials across the region was that economic development could integrate the region and move discussion away from the failure to make progress on resolving the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

The Palestinian question

Violence in Israel and Gaza threatens to knock Gulf states off a delicate balancing act of supporting the Palestinian cause in front of their largely Muslim…

Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, The Conversation

2023-10-21 08:29:22

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