UPDATE - US distances itself from reported breakthrough in Saudi-Israel talks

UPDATE - US distances itself from reported breakthrough in Saudi-Israel talks

'There's no agreed to framework to codify normalization or any of the other security considerations,' says White House


By Michael Hernandez

WASHINGTON (AA) - The White House rebuffed a reported breakthrough Wednesday in talks to normalize relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, saying it is premature.

National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said the report "has left some people with the impression that the discussions are farther along and closer to some sense of certainty than they actually are."

"There's still a lot of conversations that have to occur before we get there. So bottom line is there is no agreed to set of negotiations. There's no agreed to framework to codify normalization or any of the other security considerations that we and our friends have in the region," he told reporters.

"But there is a commitment by the administration to keep talking and to keep trying to move things forward," he added.

The Wall Street Journal newspaper reported earlier that Saudi Arabia and Israel agreed on what it called "the broad contours" of a pact that would see Saudi Arabia extend diplomatic recognition to Israel in exchange for "iron clad" security guarantees from the US and help in the development of a civilian nuclear program.

Israel would also agree to further the process to establish a Palestinian state, it said. It noted, however, that talks on the issue are very early, and face strong opposition from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who has publicly downplayed the importance of the issue in the ongoing negotiations.

Netanyahu's government is also packed solidly with senior officials who oppose the creation of a Palestinian state, and who continue to push for expanded settlement construction in the occupied West Bank in a bid to annex further Palestinian land.

Diplomatic efforts to achieve a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict have been stalled for years, and have shown no sign of resuming any time soon.

For its part, Washington is seeking to have the Kingdom make guarantees that it will impose limits on its relationship with China, the Journal said, adding that officials hope to finalize the deal within a year.

Following the White House's rebuttal, the State Department acknowledged "progress" in the talks, but said the Wall Street Journal's report "vastly overstated the reality of the situation."

"We've made progress on a number of issues, not going to get into what the progress is, but it is still a long road to go up with an uncertain future. But it is an important issue that we think we should continue to pursue," spokesperson Matthew Miller told reporters.

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