WASHINGTON (JTA) — Former officials of the Israeli and Saudi governments have held five meetings over the last year and a half to discuss Iran strategy.
The meetings were confirmed Thursday at a press conference in Washington at the Council on Foreign Relations. Speaking were participants Anwar Majed Eshki, a retired Saudi general, and Dore Gold, a former adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who will soon assume the position of director general at Israel’s foreign ministry.
The meetings took place in India, Italy and the Czech Republic, according to Bloomberg News, which confirmed the meetings with another Israeli participant, Shimon Shapira, a retired Israeli general.
“We discovered we have the same problems and same challenges and some of the same answers,” Shapira told Bloomberg, referring to Iran’s nuclear ambitions and its involvement in regional conflicts. Both countries have expressed skepticism about an emergin deal between Iran and the major powers. The Obama administration backs the deal.
Israeli and Saudis have met in the past, in their capacities as former officials, and the two countries are reported to have shared intelligence in recent years.
Public meetings between sitting Israeli and Saudi officials have occurred only in broad, multilateral settings. Saudi Arabia does not have diplomatic relations with Israel, and its officials have said that no relations are likely until Israel embraces the 2002 land-for-peace Arab League peace plan, which Saudi Arabia initiated.