After Crown Prince Recognizes Israel's Right to Exist, Saudi King Reiterates Support for Palestinians

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In this Nov. 6, 2017 file photo photo provided by the Saudi Press Agency, King Salman attends a swearing in ceremony in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Salman has established special anti-corruption units of prosecutors to pursue embezzlement cases in the kingdom after a recent crackdown
In this Nov. 6, 2017 file photo photo provided by the Saudi Press Agency, King Salman attends a swearing in ceremony in Riyadh, Saudi ArabiaCredit: Saudi Press Agency, via AP, File

King Salman reiterated Saudi Arabia's support for a Palestinian state after his son and heir apparent said Israelis were entitled to live peacefully on their own land - a rare statement by an Arab leader.

The king also emphasised the need to advance the peace process in a phone call with U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday night, made after Israeli security forces killed 16 Palestinians last week during a demonstration along the Israel-Gaza border.

King Salman reaffirmed "the kingdom's steadfast position towards the Palestinian issue and the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people to an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital", state news agency SPA said on Tuesday.

The report did not refer to the comments by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in an interview published on Monday by U.S. magazine The Atlantic, which are the latest public sign that ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel may be growing closer.

Asked if he believes the Jewish people have a right to a nation-state in at least part of their ancestral homeland, Prince Mohammed was quoted as saying:

"I believe the Palestinians and the Israelis have the right to have their own land. But we have to have a peace agreement to assure the stability for everyone and to have normal relations."

Saudi Arabia, birthplace of Islam and home to its holiest shrines, does not recognise Israel. It has maintained for years that normalising relations hinges on Israeli withdrawal from Arab lands captured in the 1967 Middle East war, territory Palestinians seek for a future state.

Increased tension between Riyadh and Tehran has fuelled speculation that shared interests may push Saudi Arabia and Israel to work together against what they see as a common Iranian threat.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in late March that the inauguration of Air India direct flights to Israel over Saudi Arabia creates "huge" potential for Israel with "significant" and "long-term implications."

"The significance is clear to everyone," the prime minister said at his weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, adding that the implications, which he called "of the first degree," have economic and diplomatic implications as well an impact relating to tourism and technology.

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