Saudis pledge peace with Israel if other Arabs lead way

NEW YORK — Saudi Arabia's foreign minister told Jewish leaders last week his country would be ready for normalized diplomatic relations with Israel when the Jewish state makes peace with its neighbors.

Saud al-Faisal, in his first meeting with the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in New York last week, also said American Jews should fully support the Israeli government in its quest for peace.

Saudi Embassy spokesman Adel al-Jubeir played down the significance of the meeting.

"It is not unusual to meet with various private-sector individuals — and we share a common interest in the peace process," he said.

American Jewish leaders have met with Faisal and other leaders in Saudi Arabia. Nonetheless, there are those who believe that the high-level Saudi representation at the Conference of Presidents' forum was unprecedented and signaled a clear warming trend. "It signifies a new openness," said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the conference. "It sends a positive message that they are ready to escalate the relationship to this level." He said the foreign minister emphasized Saudi Arabia's commitment to the peace process.