A minivan explodes in Kabul, killing at least 3 civilians and wounding 4 others

A minivan explodes in Kabul, killing at least 3 civilians and wounding 4 others
A minivan explodes in Kabul, killing at least 3 civilians and wounding 4 others

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - Saudi Arabia ‘can’t live with Israel’ without independent Palestine: Envoy to UK

LONDON: Saudi Arabia “can’t live with Israel” without the creation of an independent Palestinian state, the Kingdom’s ambassador to the UK has said.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s “Today” program, Prince Khalid bin Bandar said Saudi Arabia was “close” to a normalization deal with Israel before the Oct. 7 Hamas attack, but any agreement was contingent upon the creation of an independent Palestine.

And despite the ensuing violence and the “deplorable” casualty rate in Gaza, the Kingdom still believes in normalization with Israel “that doesn’t come at the cost of the Palestinian people,” he added.

Prince Khalid refuted claims that the Oct. 7 Hamas attack was designed to spoil Arab normalization with Israel.

“This conflict goes back almost 100 years — that’s the reason this conflict happened, not because of Saudi Arabia and its normalization talks with Israel. We can’t live with Israel without a Palestinian state,” he said.

“We were close to normalization, therefore close to a Palestinian state — one doesn’t come without the other.”

Prince Khalid said Palestinian interests are the foremost concern of Saudi negotiations with Israel, adding: “It’s the interests of the Palestinian people that are the most important. This isn’t a Saudi-Israeli peace plan, this is a Palestinian-Israeli peace plan.”

Asked if Hamas could play a role in a future Palestinian state, he said: “It requires a lot of thought, a lot of work. If you look at Ireland today, many of the members of its largest party would’ve been recognized as terrorists 40 years ago here in the UK.

“So there’s always room for change if you have optimism and hope. But when there’s a conflict, the first thing you have to recognize is that both sides have lost.

“And when both sides lose, both sides are then willing to compromise. And if there’s no compromise, there’s no solution.”

But Israel’s government, which Prince Khalid described as suffering from an “extreme, absolutist perspective,” is failing to work on achieving compromise, he warned.

“They’re saying things that if any other government official in any other country said, not only would they be criticized, they’d also be roundly condemned. And in most sensible governments, they’d be asked to leave the government,” he said.

As part of its immediate plans to end the violence in Gaza, Saudi Arabia “absolutely” supports an immediate ceasefire, Prince Khalid added, commenting on the Kingdom’s potential involvement in a future administration of the enclave.

“We don’t have a perfect, immediate solution,” he said. “We’re stuck at a stage where the international community hasn’t yet agreed on a ceasefire. And until we can get everybody working on a ceasefire together, it’s difficult to decide what the method is.

“Definitely, I think something has to be in Gaza. I think that the Palestinian Authority has a lot of resources in its hands to be able to move in. But almost certainly, it will require international involvement.

“How it’s made up, where it comes from — that has to be in discussion with the Palestinians, the international community, and without question, you can’t do it without the Israelis accepting it. The big stopping point to this is Israel, not everyone else.”

The risk of radicalization among Gazan civilians also presents a long-term issue, Prince Khalid said.

He condemned the “unprecedented level of the violence that has been carried out by both sides, but in particular by what’s meant to be a responsible state in Israel over the last three months.”

Prince Khalid described the casualty figures among civilians in Gaza as “deplorable — absolutely deplorable.”

He added: “What’s that going to create? It’s going to create a lack of hope among not just the Palestinian people … but all kinds of people. All (of them) see a failure of humanity because no one has done anything to stop it.

“Normally when there’s a conflict like this, the world really begins to step into action and begins to try. Efforts are being made, but it’s not enough. How many more people have to die before we get anywhere?”

Prince Khalid urged the UK to moderate its position on the conflict because “nuance and perception is important.”

A “blind spot” toward Israel by Britain and other countries is a “real problem” and stands in the way of lasting peace for the Palestinians, he said.

“If anyone else had done what the Israelis are doing today, you would’ve seen them cut off from the international community, you would’ve seen people talking about sanctions, you would’ve seen all sorts of things,” he added. “It’s difficult for anyone with any sense to look at what’s happening and say it’s justified.”

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