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Trump says 'about five' countries are close to normalising ties with Israel

US president says 'positive things will happen' with Saudi Arabia, suggesting that kingdom is open to establishing ties with Israel
Trump handed Israel's Netanyahu a symbolic 'key to the White House' on Tuesday (AFP)
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Washington

US President Donald Trump has said that five additional Middle Eastern countries are close to establishing formal relations with Israel following normalisation deals brokered with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. 

Speaking next to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday, the US president said many Arab countries are moving to normalising ties with Israel "very quickly".

He added that other countries could have joined Tuesday's normalisation ceremony between Israel, the UAE and Bahrain in Washington, but the White House opted to limit the event "out of respect" for Abu Dhabi and Manama - the first Gulf capitals to agree to establish ties with Israel.

"We're very far down the road with about five countries, five additional countries," Trump said.

Trump refused to identify the countries, but he suggested that Saudi Arabia may be amongst them.

"I spoke with the King of Saudi Arabia, and we had a great conversation. And I think positive things will happen there, too," Trump told reporters.

Saudi officials had previously stressed that the kingdom will not normalise relations with Israel outside of the framework of the Arab peace initiative, which calls for establishing a Palestinian state.

In the news conference with Netanyahu and a separate appearance with UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan on Tuesday, the US president repeatedly cited what he called "blood in the sand" to highlight the importance of peace in the Middle East.

"This is peace in the Middle East without blood all over the sand, I say," Trump said. "Right now it's been blood all over the sand for decades and decades and decades. That's all they do - they fight and kill people and nobody gets anything."