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UAE's Israel embassy to be in Tel Aviv, says Gargash Filed on August 21, 2020 | Last updated on August 21, 2020 at 06.04 am

The minister said the UAE will not negotiate on behalf of the Palestinians.

The UAE is leading the Middle East peace process by breaking "lots of barriers", and other Arab nations would follow suit after the nation's decision to normalise relations with Israel, Dr Anwar Gargash, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, said on Thursday.

Attending an Atlantic Council webinar, Dr Gargash said that while the UAE will have an embassy in Tel Aviv, it seeks de-escalation and dialogue with its neighbour Iran.

"There are many barriers that we broke. Nobody ever thought a Catholic pope would visit the Arabian Peninsula. At that time, it was thought it would be risky but we took the risk," the minister said, referring to the historic visit of Pope Francis to Abu Dhabi in February, 2019.

He said the UAE does not believe that an "exclusivist view of the world from an Arab prism" is conducive for peace and development in a region riven with regional conflicts.

The US-brokered UAE-Israel peace treaty that was announced on August 13 is considered a geopolitical earthquake that will cause a seismic shift in the relations between the Arab countries and Israel.

Israel has agreed to stop annexation of the West Bank in exchange for normalising relations with the UAE.

Relations with Israel

Dr Gargash said relations with Israel will be "warm" as his country has no history of going to war with the Jewish nation unlike Egypt or Jordan. He said the deal was a "calculated risk" that UAE took "for the right reason" of supporting the two-state solution to the Palestinian issue.

When asked about the Palestinian opposition to the accord, Dr Gargash said the UAE is committed to the two-state solution. "By linking to the agreement to the suspension of annexation, we came out with a good deal," he said.

"Our position was to negotiate. Annexation was a real threat on the ground," the minister said, adding that Palestinians need to "negotiate and engage".

On the UAE's role in the peace process, the minister said the UAE will not negotiate on behalf of the Palestinians. "The final shape of whatever emerges will be decided by Israelis and Palestinians."

F-35 jet sales

With the normalisation of relations with Israel, the country should remove "any hurdle" for the US to sell the F-35 stealth fighter jet to the UAE, the minister said.

He said it is the UAE's legitimate right to modernise and upgrade its defence capabilities and the request to acquire the fighter jet made by Lockheed Martin is not a new one.

"We have legitimate requests that are there. We ought to get them... the whole idea of a state of belligerency or war with Israel no longer exists."

"The UAE expects that its requirements will be accepted and we feel that with the signing of this peace treaty in the coming weeks or months... any hurdle towards this should no longer be there," Dr Gargash said.

Everyone benefits

On the pressing areas where the UAE-Israel cooperation will take shape, Dr Gargash said it is a "two-way street". "We will benefit from the technological prowess of Israelis in certain areas and they will benefit from the dynamic nature of the UAE's economy."

He said UAE is very much interested in areas like agriculture, food security, medical research and telemedicine as some of the shortlisted areas. In the same breath, the minister said "there is a lot to do" to facilitate travel of individuals, logistics, banking facilities.

Embassy in Tel Aviv

The UAE will have an embassy in Tel Aviv as the two countries move forward with forging partnerships after the normalisation of relations, Dr Gargash said.

"We are committed... as part of the international consensus on the two-state solution, and any embassy will be in Tel Aviv. So that is quite clear," the minister said during a virtual session with the Atlantic Council Front Page. "The whole idea of suspending annexation, giving space and opportunity for negotiating the two-state solution, you know... it is evident where our embassy will be."

Ties with Iran

Having better relations with Iran is a long-term objective of the UAE and the country believes in de-escalation and dialogue, Dr Gargash said.

But Iran has to acknowledge that its "belligerent regional policies" have created friction not just with the UAE but also with Arab countries and beyond, said the minister.

Reiterating the UAE's stand on the Isreal peace accord. Dr Gargash said: "The deal is not targeted at Iran, nor because of Iran. It is about the UAE and supporting the two-state solution... not about creating some sort of front against Iran."

While he expressed happiness about the overwhelming support for the accord from US President Trump and Democratic candidate Joe Biden, the minister said opposition from some polarising factions were expected.

"This polarisation is reflective of the polarisation before the announcement. But no new line has been redrawn as a result of the UAE's decision to normalise relations with Israel," said the minister, referring to the hostile reactions from countries like Iran and Turkey to the peace deal.


Anjana Sankar

Anjana Sankar is a UAE-based journalist chasing global stories of conflict, migration and human rights. She has reported from the frontlines of the wars in Yemen and Syria and has extensively written on the refugee crisis in Bangladesh, Iraq and Europe. From interviewing Daesh militants to embedding with the UAE army in Yemen, and covering earthquakes, floods, terrorist attacks and elections, she has come out scathe-free from the most dangerous conflict zones of the world. Riding on over 14 years of experience, Anjana currently is an Assistant Editor with Khaleej Times and leads the reporting team. She often speaks about women empowerment on her Facebook page that has 40,000 plus followers.

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