Riyadh, Agencies – Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz met with the Quartet’s Middle East envoy, Tony Blair, at the royal ranch in Jenadriyah, near Riyadh yesterday.
During the meeting, King Abdullah and Blair discussed international efforts to restart the Middle East peace process, in particular next week’s peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland.
The meeting was also attended by Prince Mishaal bin Abdulaziz, Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Saud Al-Faisal, Chief of General Intelligence Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz and Saudi Ambassador to the US Adel A. Al-Jubeir.
U.S. President George W. Bush spoke to King Abdullah by telephone on Tuesday to invite him formally to attend the summit at Annapolis, Maryland on Nov. 27. Blair arrived in the Saudi capital on Wednesday from Egypt.
Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal has said the kingdom will attend if there is an agenda that deals clearly with core issues involved in setting up a Palestinian state alongside Israel.
Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul-Aziz, on a visit to Moscow, said Saudi Arabia wanted the conference to focus on “core issues, at the forefront of which is the creation of an independent Palestinian state.”
The official Saudi Press Agency quoted Prince Sultan as telling Russia’s Itar-Tass news agency in an interview that the conference should set a timetable for solving various aspects of the conflict — an apparent reference to peace efforts between Israel and Lebanon and Syria.
He did not say if the kingdom will take part in the conference.
Blair, the former British prime minister, is the diplomatic liaison between the ‘Quartet’ of peace mediators — the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations — and Israel, the Palestinians and Arab countries.
Saudi media said he was met at Riyadh airport by intelligence chief Prince Mugrin bin Abdul-Aziz, and a government source said he would have talks with King Abdullah. Blair came from Egypt where he met President Hosni Mubarak.
“He was in Cairo with Mubarak … he is trying to pull together a better picture from the Quartet’s perspective of who’s going to be in attendance,” a European diplomat said.
“Whether it will have an impact on the Saudi position is debatable,” he added.
Western diplomats say any change in the Saudi position could emerge after Arab foreign ministers meet in Cairo on Friday. Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit has said he will attend the Annapolis meeting.