Clandestine meeting reported by media follows Israel's deals to normalise ties with Saudi allies UAE and Bahrain but Riyadh denied the meeting took place.

A combination picture shows Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman in Osaka, Japan on June 29, 2019 and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on February 9, 2020.
A combination picture shows Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman in Osaka, Japan on June 29, 2019 and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on February 9, 2020. (Reuters)

Israeli media have reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flew to Saudi Arabia for a clandestine meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, which would mark the first known encounter between senior Israeli and Saudi officials.

Hebrew-language media cited an unnamed Israeli official as saying that Netanyahu and Yossi Cohen, head of Israel's Mossad spy agency, flew to the Saudi city of Neom on Sunday, where they met with the crown prince. 

Riyadh, however, denied the Israeli media reports.

The prince was there for talks with visiting US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Flightradar24, which provides live worldwide flight tracking, showed a plane taking off from Tel Aviv on Monday at around 1730 GMT (19:30 local time) and vanishing from radar near Neom around an hour later. 

It showed the same flight appearing on radar near Neom and landing at Tel Aviv at around 1 am local time on Monday. It did not provide any details on the flight.

A member of Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet and Likud party confirmed the reports, calling it an "amazing achievement".

"The very fact the meeting happened, and was outed publicly, even if half-officially right now, is a matter of great importance," Education Minister Yoav Gallant told Army Radio when asked about Sunday's visit.

The Israeli prime minister's office did not respond to requests for comment.

Saudi denial 

But the Saudi foreign minister said, "no such meeting occurred."

"I have seen press reports about a purported meeting between HRH the Crown Prince and Israeli officials during the recent visit by @SecPompeo," Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said in a tweet.

"No such meeting occurred. The only officials present were American and Saudi."

PM Netanyahu, asked about the Saudi trip during a public meeting on Monday of his Likud party, said: "I have never commented on these things and I do not intend to start now."

Slew of agreements

Israel recently signed normalisation agreements with two Gulf states — Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates — and has long maintained clandestine security ties with Saudi Arabia. The Gulf kingdom has been rumoured to be among other Arab states considering establishing open diplomatic ties with Israel.

Those accords were brokered by outgoing US President Donald Trump's administration.

US and Israeli officials have repeatedly indicated that more Arab states were set to forge ties with Israel.

Publicly, Saudi Arabia has said it would stick to the decades-old Arab League position of not having ties with Israel until the Jewish state's conflict with the Palestinians is resolved.

READ MORE: Palestinians outraged as Pompeo visits illegal Israeli settlement 

Source: AP