John Kirby
John KirbyREUTERS/Jim Bourg

Saudi Arabia is still interested in pursuing a normalization agreement with Israel despite the war in Gaza, US National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby told reporters on Tuesday.

Kirby was responding to a question about recent meetings between Saudi Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman Al Saud and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.

“We came away from those discussions confident that we have a path to get back towards to normalization and that there’s still interest on the Saudis’ side in pursuing that,” said Kirby.

“Obviously what’s going on between Israel and Hamas makes it harder to make practical progress on it right now. I would also remind that even before October 7 we were still months away from some sort of agreed framework,” he added.

Kirby stressed that the US is committed to Israeli-Saudi normalization and “the Saudis are still committed to it. But obviously, we’re all focused, including our Saudi friends, on what’s going on in Gaza.”

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said last week that he believes talks on normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia will resume immediately after the conclusion of the war in Gaza.

"At the moment we are waiting for a ceasefire, after that the peace process must be restarted. It must be possible. If we are not ready to overcome the obstacles and history, there will never be a chance for peace. The Arabs have shown that they are serious and ready, we hope it will happen soon," Prince Faisal said.

Shortly after the start of the war in Gaza, sources told Reuters that Saudi Arabia is putting the US-backed plans to normalize ties with Israel on ice.

Before the start of the fighting, both Israeli and Saudi leaders had been saying they were moving steadily towards a deal.

Kirby told reporters at the end of September 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.”

Days later, 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.