Senior Biden advisers quietly visited Saudi Arabia last week to continue talks on a potential mega-deal that could include a peace agreement between the kingdom and Israel, two sources with direct knowledge of the issue told Barak Ravid of Axios on Wednesday.
Brett McGurk, the White House Middle East czar, and Amos Hochstein, Biden's senior adviser for energy and infrastructure, visited Saudi Arabia for several hours last Thursday, the sources told Ravid.
The White House did not disclose their trip.
McGurk and Hochstein met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, known by his initials MBS, and other senior Saudi officials and discussed the different elements of the mega deal, according to the sources.
One of the sources said the Biden advisers also discussed other regional and bilateral issues.
A White House National Security Council spokesperson told Axios that they have no "recent travel to read out."
The spokesperson added that McGurk is "in the region regularly working on a host of matters aimed at reducing broader tensions in the Middle East region."
The spokesperson also said that Hochstein regularly "travels to capitals around the world supporting the president's Partnership for Global Infrastructure, including the recently inaugurated India Middle East Europe Economic Corridor."
Last Friday, US National Security Council Spokesman John Kirby told reporters that a “basic framework” was in place for a potential deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia, but also said, “We’re continuing to work at this…until you negotiate everything, you haven’t really negotiated anything final.”
On Tuesday, Deputy State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel poured cold water on the idea that a normalization agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia is near, saying there is still work to be done.
Meanwhile, sources told Reuters last week that Saudi Arabia is determined to secure a military pact requiring the United States to defend the kingdom in return for opening ties with Israel and will not hold up a deal even if Israel does not offer major concessions to Palestinian Arabs.
While an Israeli-Saudi deal is widely expected to include Israeli concessions towards the Palestinian Authority, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently said that the Palestinian Arab issue will be part of a normalization agreement, three sources told Reuters that the Palestinian Arab core demand for statehood would take a back seat.