Saudi Arabia to host Arab, EU diplomats for talks on Gaza war

Top Arab and European diplomats are expected to begin arriving in the Saudi capital this weekend for an economic summit and meetings on the war in Gaza, diplomatic officials said on Friday.

The two-day World Economic Forum special meeting, scheduled to begin in Riyadh on Sunday, includes in its official program appearances by the Saudi, Jordanian, Egyptian and Turkish foreign ministers.

A Gaza-focused session on Monday is set to feature newly appointed Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Mustafa, Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly and Sigrid Kaag, the United Nations aid coordinator for the Gaza Strip.

French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne is among European officials traveling to Riyadh during the summit for talks on the war, which erupted with Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack on southern Israel in which terrorists murdered some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took 253 hostages.

“Discussions with European, American and regional counterparts on Gaza and the regional situation are planned in Riyadh,” a diplomatic source said on Friday.

Sejourne’s objectives for the trip include working towards the release of the hostages seized during the Hamas attack and achieving a lasting ceasefire, said Christophe Lemoine, spokesperson for the French foreign ministry.

French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne attends a meeting on the second day of a G7 foreign ministers meeting on Capri island, Italy, April 18, 2024. (Remo Casilli/Pool via AP)

He will also travel to Israel and the Palestinian territories and plans to “reiterate to the Israelis our firm opposition to an offensive on Rafah,” Lemoine said, referring to the southern city where much of Gaza’s population has sought refuge.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock is due to arrive Monday in Riyadh to meet officials including Kaag and Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates, said spokesperson Sebastian Fischer.

“The visit will be about working on the many different flashpoints of the crisis in the Middle East, on de-escalation and on making progress towards a peaceful future,” Fischer told reporters in Berlin on Friday.

“As you all know, the Gulf states also have an important role to play here.”

Saudi Arabia’s neighbor Qatar hosts a Hamas political office and has served as a mediator in talks that have so far failed to secure a durable ceasefire and the release of the 129 hostages who remain in Hamas captivity in Gaza.

Saudi Arabia has never recognized Israel, but before the Hamas attack, United States President Joe Biden’s administration was hoping it would do so as part of a landmark deal that would also see Riyadh and Washington ramp up their security partnership.

(Source: Times of Israel)