White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan will visit Saudi Arabia this weekend for talks expected to touch on a civil nuclear cooperation agreement, one piece of a wider arrangement Washington hopes will lead to normalization of Israeli-Saudi relations, Reuters reports.

A civil nuclear deal is envisaged as part of a wider arrangement on Israeli-Saudi normalisation, something that is all but inconceivable while the Gaza conflict rages.

The Gaza death toll, health officials in the coastal enclave say, has risen to more than 35,000 and malnutrition is widespread, as Israel’s offensive continues in retaliation to the Oct 7 Hamas attacks. It is hard to imagine the Saudis being willing to normalise relations while Palestinians are dying in such numbers.

The United States hopes to find a way to give Saudi Arabia several things it wants — a civil nuclear pact, security guarantees and a pathway toward a Palestinian state — in return for Riyadh agreeing to normalise relations with Israel.

However, the wider Israel-Saudi normalisation envisaged as part of a Middle East “grand bargain” remains elusive.

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