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Israel and UAE to start diplomatic ties

August 13, 2020

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has said the accord represented a "historic day" for his country. US President Donald Trump says he will host a summit for the signing in around three weeks.

Benjamin Netanjahu and Mohamed bin Zayed

Israel and the United Arab Emirates agreed to establish full diplomatic ties on Thursday, meaning the Israeli plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank have been suspended.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the groundbreaking accord represented a "historic day" as he welcomed a "new era" in his country's relations with the Arab world.

US President Donald Trump said he would host the Israeli and UAE leaders at the White House for the signing of the peace deal in around three weeks. 

"I look forward to hosting them at the White House very soon to formally sign the agreement," he said at media briefing on Thursday.

"We'll probably be doing it over the next, I would say, three weeks."

Netanyahu had committed to the annexation of the land sought by the Palestinians but Trump asked him to put those plans on hold, the Israeli PM said. Netanyahu noted the annexation may still go ahead someday but only in cooperation with Washington. The Israeli leader stated: "There is no change to my plan to extend sovereignty, our sovereignty in Judea and Samaria, in full coordination with the United States."

The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi took to social media to confirm the arrangement. "During a call with President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu, an agreement was reached to stop further Israeli annexation of Palestinian territories," Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan wrote on his verified Twitter account. "The UAE and Israel also agreed to cooperation and setting a roadmap towards establishing a bilateral relationship." 

The landmark deal, once signed, would make the UAE only the third nation in the Arab world, along with Egypt and Jordan, to have full diplomatic relations with Israel.

Trump: More to follow

Trump delivered a statement from the Oval Office in which he said: "After 49 years, Israel and the United Arab Emirates will fully normalize their diplomatic relations. Now that the ice has been broken I expect more Arab and Muslim countries will follow the United Arab Emirates."

Ron Dermer, Israel's ambassador in Washington, described the accord as a "great day for peace," before adding, "Israel deeply appreciates all President Trump has done to make this breakthrough possible."

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi joined the chorus of approval. He tweeted: "I read with interest and great appreciation the joint statement between the United States, the brotherly United Arab Emirates and Israel concerning the halt of Israel's annexation of Palestinian land."

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson welcomed the normalization of relations between the two states, as well as Israel's decision not to annex parts of the West Bank for now.

"It was my profound hope that annexation did not go ahead in the West Bank and today's agreement to suspend those plans is a welcome step on the road to a more peaceful Middle East," Johnson said on Twitter.

Palestinians recall ambassador from UAE 

A spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the agreement amounted to "treason" while Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki said the Palestinian ambassador to the UAE would be immediately recalled.

The Islamist group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, described Thursday's development as "a reward for the Israeli occupation's crimes,'' said Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum. "The normalization is a stab in the back of our people.''

Fences, walls, barbed wire - Life in the West Bank

jsi/dj (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)