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Biden, Saudi crown prince discuss Israel-Hamas war diplomacy

WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden and Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman on Tuesday (Oct 24) discussed efforts to prevent the Israel-Hamas conflict from widening, the White House said.

They agreed in a call to pursue broader diplomatic efforts “to maintain stability across the region and prevent the conflict from expanding,” the White House said, adding the two leaders will remain in close coordination.

Biden and the Saudi crown prince welcomed the delivery of humanitarian assistance from Egypt into Gaza and recognised that “much more is needed for civilians” to have sustained access to food, water and medical assistance, according to the White House.

They both welcomed ongoing efforts to secure the release of hostages held by Hamas and called for their immediate release, the White House added.

Biden and the Saudi crown prince affirmed the importance of working towards “sustainable peace” between Israelis and Palestinians as soon as the crisis subsides, the White House said, adding they will be “building on the work that was already underway between Saudi Arabia and the United States over recent months”.

Biden and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken have said they thought Hamas’ Oct 7 assault on Israel that left over 1,400 people dead was in part motivated to disrupt a potential normalization of ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia, home to Islam’s two holiest shrines, gave its blessing to Gulf neighbors United Arab Emirates and Bahrain establishing relations with Israel in 2020 under the US administration of Donald Trump.

Riyadh has not followed suit, saying Palestinian statehood goals should be addressed first.

Gulf states including Saudi Arabia worry a wider conflict would affect their national security and have been pressing for a ceasefire in Gaza and a lift of the siege on the strip.

Although it has called for a “humanitarian pause” for aid deliveries, the United States has thus far not supported a ceasefire, with White House national security council spokesman John Kirby saying a ceasefire at this stage will benefit Hamas.

Since Oct 7, Israel’s heavy air strikes on Hamas-ruled Gaza have killed over 5,700 Palestinians, including over 2,300 children, Gaza officials say.

Gaza, a 45km-long strip of land that is home to 2.3 million people, has been ruled politically since 2007 by Hamas but faces a blockade from Israel.

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