Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud attends Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment event on the day of the G20 summit in New Delhi, India, Sept. 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Evelyn Hockstein, Pool)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman says in an interview with Fox News airing Wednesday that ongoing negotiations over Israel means the prospects of normalized relations between both countries “get closer” every day but that treatment of Palestinians remains a “very important” issue to be resolved.

Saudi Arabia is discussing a major agreement with the United States in which it would normalize relations with Israel in exchange for a U.S. defense pact and aid in developing its own civilian nuclear program. The Saudis have said any deal would require major progress toward the creation of a Palestinian state, which is a hard sell for the most religious and nationalist government in Israel’s history.

Widely known as MBS, Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader was asked during an interview on “Special Report with Bret Baier” what it would take to normalize relations with Israel and answered that the Biden administration supports that happening.

“For us, the Palestinian issue is very important. We need to solve that part,” he said. In excerpts released ahead of the broadcast, he added that there had been “good negotiations” so far.

“We got to see where we go,” he said. “We hope that will reach a place, that it will ease the life of the Palestinians, get Israel as a player in the Middle East.”

The prince denied reports that the talks had been suspended, saying “every day, we get closer.”

The interview was airing shortly after President Joe Biden met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu while both were in New York for the meeting of the U.N. General Assembly. Biden raised concerns about the far-right Israeli government’s treatment of the Palestinians, urging Netanyahu to take steps to improve conditions in the West Bank at a time of heightened violence in the occupied territory.

Bin Salman has given very few interviews to Western media outlets, particularly since the 2018 killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident and Washington Post columnist, in an operation by Saudi agents that U.S. intelligence says was likely approved by the prince. The prince has denied any involvement.

In the five years since then, the kingdom has shed whatever pariah status it had as focus has shifted to major diplomatic initiatives and progress on Vision 2030, the prince’s wide-ranging plan for overhauling the economy, providing jobs for young people and weaning the kingdom off oil revenues.

Bin Salman was asked if he was worried that Iran could eventually build a nuclear weapon and said that “we are concerned of any country getting a nuclear weapon.”

“That’s a bad move,” he said. “They don’t need to get nuclear weapon because you cannot use it. Even if Iran get a nuclear weapon, any country use a nuclear weapon that means they are having a war with the rest of the world.”

But pressed on if Iran were to get one, would Saudi Arabia seek to do the same, the prince responded, “we will have to get one.”

Saudi Arabia has made major progress in winding down its devastating war with Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, this week hosting a rebel delegation in the capital, Riyadh. It spearheaded the return of Syria to the Arab League, and in March agreed to a Chinese-brokered deal to restore diplomatic relations with Iran, its main regional rival.

The prince’s far-reaching social reforms have transformed the kingdom from an ultraconservative state governed by a strict form of Islamic law to an aspiring entertainment powerhouse, investing billions of dollars in everything from top soccer stars and golf tournaments to video games.

But the prince has proven to be even less tolerant of dissent than his predecessors. Saudis who speak out against his policies, even on anonymous social media accounts with few followers, can face long prison sentences or even the death penalty. The crackdown has even extended to Saudis living on U.S. soil.

The 38-year-old crown prince assumed day-to-day rule after the aging King Salman named him next in line to the throne in 2017, and he could govern the kingdom for decades to come.

Biden, who had vowed to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah” over the Khashoggi killing while campaigning for president in 2020, has since bowed to that reality, patching up relations with the crown prince while seeking his help in controlling oil prices and managing other regional issues.

Saudi Arabia has remained largely neutral on the Ukraine war, providing humanitarian aid to the country and offering itself as a mediator between Moscow and Kyiv. The kingdom maintains good relations with the U.S., China and Russia in order to advance its own national interests.

Still, the crown prince had far warmer relations with former President Donald Trump, who shielded the kingdom from the fallout from the Khashoggi killing and touted it as a major buyer of U.S. arms. Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner is said to have cultivated a close friendship with the prince during the shuttle diplomacy that led to the Abraham Accords between Israel and four Arab countries.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2023. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • 0067 PFM SaskWorks Payroll Investment Plan
    0067 PFM SaskWorks Payroll Investment Plan
  • 0066 WBPC Promo video 30 seconds
    0066 WBPC Promo video 30 seconds
  • 0065 Anova Resources field operator Oxbow
    0065 Anova Resources field operator Oxbow
  • 0064 Estevan OTS
    0064 Estevan OTS
  • 0063 Turnbull Excavating hiring crusher
    0063 Turnbull Excavating hiring crusher
  • 0062 TED_EPAC_Technology_30
    0062 TED_EPAC_Technology_30
  • 0061 SIMSA 2024 For Sask Buy Sask
    0061 SIMSA 2024 For Sask Buy Sask
  • 0060 Arizona Lithium Lease building
    0060 Arizona Lithium Lease building
  • 0059 Southeast College Heavy Equipment Operator
    0059 Southeast College Heavy Equipment Operator
  • 0058 Royal Helium Steveville opens anonymous rocket
    0058 Royal Helium Steveville opens anonymous rocket
  • 0055 Smart Power Be Smart with your Power office
    0055 Smart Power Be Smart with your Power office
  • 0053 Kingston Midstream Westspur Alameda Click Before You Dig large text
    0053 Kingston Midstream Westspur Alameda Click Before You Dig large text
  • 0052 Predator Inspections
    0052 Predator Inspections
  • 0051 JML Hiring Pumpjack assembly
    0051 JML Hiring Pumpjack assembly
  • 0049 Scotsburn Dental soft guitar
    0049 Scotsburn Dental soft guitar
  • 0046 City of Estevan This is Estevan
    0046 City of Estevan This is Estevan
  • 0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
    0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
  • 0032 IWS Summer hiring rock trailer music
  • 0022 Grimes winter hiring
  • 0021 OSY Rentals S8 Promo
  • 0018 IWS Hiring Royal Summer
  • 0015 Latus Viro
    0015 Latus Viro
  • 0013 Panther Drilling PO ad 03 top drive rigs
  • 0011
  • 0006 JK Junior
  • 0002 gilliss casing services
    0002 gilliss casing services
  • 9002 Pipeline Online 30 sec EBEX
    9002 Pipeline Online 30 sec EBEX
  • 9001