UAE, Israel normalisation of relations, Israeli settlement freeze announced

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Senior Advisor Jared Kushner, US Treasury Secreatary Steven Mnuchin, National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien and others applaud after US President Donald announced a normalisation agreement between the UAE and Israel, August 13, in Washington.(AP)

ABU DHABI/WASHINGTON--US President Donald Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh al-Nahyan agreed today to the full normalisation of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, the Emirati news agency WAM reported Thursday.

Under the deal, Israel has agreed to suspend applying sovereignty to areas of the West Bank that it has discussed annexing, senior White House officials said.

In a tweet, Sheikh Mohamed announced that during a three-way call, Israel agreed to stop further annexation of Palestinian territories.

“During a call with President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu, an agreement was reached to stop further Israeli annexation of Palestinian territories. The UAE and Israel also agreed to cooperation and setting a roadmap towards establishing a bilateral relationship,” he said.

Delegations from Israel and the United Arab Emirates will meet in the coming weeks to sign bilateral agreements regarding investment, tourism, direct flights, security, telecommunications and other issues.

The two countries are expected soon to exchange ambassadors and embassies.

“Israel for the foreseeable future will be focused on building this relationship and pursuing all the advantages that can come from having this new relationship with this country, and we also (believe it) breaks the ice for doing more normalizations and peace agreements with other regional players as well,” one White House official told Reuters.

The joint statement published by the Emirati news agency said: “This historic diplomatic breakthrough will advance peace in the Middle East region and is a testament to the bold diplomacy and vision of the three leaders and the courage of the United Arab Emirates and Israel to chart a new path that will unlock the great potential in the region. All three countries face many common challenges and will mutually benefit from today’s historic achievement.”

A WAM photo compilation of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, US President Donald Trump, and Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. (WAM)

It added that, “as a result of this diplomatic breakthrough and at the request of President Trump with the support of the United Arab Emirates, Israel will suspend declaring sovereignty over areas outlined in the President’s Vision for Peace and focus its efforts now on expanding ties with other countries in the Arab and Muslim world. The United States, Israel and the United Arab Emirates are confident that additional diplomatic breakthroughs with other nations are possible, and will work together to achieve this goal.”

The statement further pointed out that “Israel and the United Arab Emirates will join with the United States to launch a Strategic Agenda for the Middle East to expand diplomatic, trade, and security cooperation.”

Following the announcement of the agreement, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said in a statement: “The United Arab Emirates has secured Israel’s commitment to halting the annexation of Palestinian territories in order to sustain efforts to achieve a two-state solution.”

He stressed that “this decisive freeze on the annexation of Palestinian territories is a significant diplomatic achievement and comes in furtherance of the UAE’s belief that establishing normal relations with Israel will enable it to play a direct and constructive role in enhancing the region’s security and stability.”

“In this context,” he added, “The UAE seeks to build upon previous regional and international efforts aimed at reaching a solution to this conflict in reflection of the UAE’s multilateral approach to sensitive regional issues.”

Gargash acknowledged the important role played by the US in backing the Emirati initiative which made the agreement possible. He reiterated Abu Dhabi’s unwavering commitment to the Palestinian cause.

“The United States played a key role in this pragmatic step by the UAE, affirming its continued commitment to the Arab Peace Initiative and the rights of the Palestinian people to establish a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital,” he said.

“Moreover, this agreement fosters opportunities for cooperation in several sectors, including in the economic, cultural, scientific, and technological fields to bolster the region’s prosperity,” he went on to say.

“In view of these developments, the UAE calls for a return to direct negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians as the sole parties capable of reaching a permanent and sustainable solution to this conflict,” Gargash concluded.

The peace deal was the product of lengthy discussions between Israel, the UAE and the United States that accelerated recently, White House officials said.

“HUGE breakthrough today! Historic Peace Agreement between our two GREAT friends, Israel and the United Arab Emirates,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

The officials described the agreement, to be known as the Abraham Accords, as the first of its kind since Israel and Jordan signed a peace treaty in 1994.

It also gives Trump a foreign policy success as he seeks re-election on November 3.

White House officials said Trump senior adviser Jared Kushner, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and Middle East envoy Avi Berkowitz were deeply involved in negotiating the deal, as well as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien.

Israel’s abandonment of the annexation plan changes little on the ground at a time when the Jewish state already holds overall control of the West Bank and continues to expand its settlements there.  It does, however, defuse much of the tension that was building up in recent months over expectations of Israeli annexation.

The bold move by the UAE gives it added credibility as a forward-looking voice for peace and tolerance in the region, experts say.

Emirati President Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan declared 2019 to be the “The Year of Tolerance” in the UAE and, within this context, the country announced the building of the Abrahamic Family House, a massive interfaith compound in Abu Dhabi that is slated to open in 2022 and will include a synagogue.

A secret synagogue also draws practising Jews in and Israelis travelling with Western passports routinely enter the UAE without a problem.

Israelis in the UAE reportedly work in Dubai’s gold and diamond trade as well.

Emirati officials also have allowed Israeli officials to visit and the Israeli national anthem was played after an athlete won gold in an Abu Dhabi judo tournament. Israel also has a small mission representing its interests at the International Renewable Energy Agency in Abu Dhabi.

Next year, Israel will take part in the UAE’s delayed Expo 2020, the world’s fair being hosted by Dubai.

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