A delegation of Israeli officials has traveled publicly to Saudi Arabia for the first time, in the latest sign of increasingly overt ties between the two countries.
The Israeli delegation, led by Amir Weissbrod, a deputy director-general in the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, will be observers at a Unesco world heritage meeting. They are not on a bilateral visit.
The visit comes as Washington is pushing to broker normalization of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, which are believed to have quietly cultivated ties in recent years over their shared suspicion of Iran. A formal agreement would be a historic step toward integrating Israel into the wider region, but it faces major challenges.
The Saudis are reportedly demanding significant progress on resolving the conflict with the Palestinians — a hard sell for the most right-wing government in Israel’s history — as well as U.S. defense guarantees and aid in establishing a civilian nuclear program.
The 45th session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee is being held in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, from Sunday through Sept. 25. The committee determines which sites are added to the World Heritage List and supervises their conservation.