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Khamenei: Big mistake to negotiate with Israel

News - Middle East

'With an intense and planned struggle they should force the enemy to retreat towards the point of demise.'

Any move to negotiate with Israel would be an "unforgivable mistake", Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday.

"Movement toward negotiation with the cheating, lying and oppressive regime (of Israel) is a big, unforgivable mistake that will push back the victory of the people of Palestine," Khamenei said in a statement posted on his official website.

In his statement, Khamenei called on the people of Muslim countries to defeat Israel.

"With an intense and planned struggle they should force the enemy to retreat toward the point of demise," he said.

The comments came after Saudi Arabia's crown prince said Israelis were entitled to live peacefully on their own land.

Saudi Arabia does not officially recognise Israel, but Mohammed bin Salman's comments, quoted in the US magazine The Atlantic, are a further sign of an apparent thawing in bilateral ties.

Power struggle 

They come as mainly Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia faces off against predominantly Shia Iran in a regional power struggle. Tehran and Riyadh back opposing sides in the conflicts in Yemen and Syria as well as rival political groups in Iraq and Lebanon.

The statement, which did not explicitly name Saudi Arabia, said it was the duty of all Muslims to support Palestinian resistance movements and it pledged continued Iranian backing for the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas.

After the crown prince's comments, his father, King Salman, reiterated Saudi Arabia's support for a Palestinian state.

Riyadh has long maintained that normalising ties with Israel hinges on an Israeli withdrawal from Arab lands captured in the 1967 Middle East war - territory Palestinians seek for a future state.

However, Saudi Arabia opened its airspace for the first time to a commercial flight to Israel last month, which an Israeli official hailed as historic following two years of efforts.

In November, an Israeli cabinet member disclosed covert contacts with Saudi Arabia, a rare acknowledgement of long-rumoured secret dealings which Riyadh still denies.

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