King Salman UN address, second Saudi monarch to do so.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman made a rare address to the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday, using the moment to highlight the foundational notions of his regime — his steadfast commitment to the Palestinians, his stature as custodian of Islam’s holiest sites and his assertion that Iran is responsible for much of the region’s instability.

The prerecorded speech to world leaders suggested that the 84-year-old king, who delivers only a handful of public remarks each year, retains oversight of high-level policies despite the immense powers amassed by his son, the crown prince.

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“We in the kingdom, due to our position in the Muslim world, bear a special and historic responsibility to protect our tolerant Islamic faith from attempts by terrorist organizations and extremist groups to pervert it,” Salman said.

He emphasized at the top of his speech that he was speaking from “the birthplace of Islam, the home of its revelation” — a reference to the Muslim belief that the word of God was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad some 1,400 years ago in the mountainous caves of Mecca.

Those words carry political undertones as well. Saudi rivals Turkey and Iran also profess to champion Muslim causes worldwide as part of a broader struggle for leadership of Muslims globally.

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Reading from a piece of paper and seated at a desk under a large portrait of his father, King Abdulaziz, the current monarch reiterated his support for Palestinian statehood as a prerequisite for recognition of Israel.

He said the Arab Peace Initiative, which offers Israel full ties with Arab states in exchange for concessions that lead to a Palestinian state, provides a basis for resolving the region’s longest-running conflict. That 2002 initiative stands in stark contrast to the White House’s Middle East Peace plan, which has been rejected outright by the Palestinians as one-sided in favor of Israel.

The king made no mention of recent deals struck by neighboring United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to formalize ties with Israel. The agreements were brokered by the Trump administration and branded by the Palestinians as acts of betrayal.

Despite the appearance Wednesday that Salman was in control of major policies, there are indications that change is already underway with Israel under the guidance of the crown prince. The divergent messages on the possibility of Saudi ties with Israel reflect what analysts call a generational divide between the world views of the prince and the king.

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Salman hails from an era of leadership that holds with high regard the ideals of pan-Arab and pan-Islamic multilateralism. He was born just four years after his father founded the country by unifying tribes and establishing control over the western Hijaz region, where Mecca is located. He also witnessed the country’s oil-fueled transformation, and as the governor of Riyadh helped to turn the desert capital into a city teeming with skyscrapers, highways, universities and malls. His reign marks the final chapter of power being passed from brother to brother from among the sons of King Abdulaziz as a new generation prepares for the throne.

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