For the first time in recent years, delegates from Gulf states met openly and publicly with an Israeli government minister as they gathered in Ecuador on Wednesday for the swearing-in of Lenin Moreno as the country’s new leader, in apparent first fruits of US President Donald Trump’s Mideast diplomacy.
Likud Minister Ayoub Kara attended the ceremony in the capital Quito along with leaders of South American nations and representatives from around the world.
Kara tweeted that he was “surprised by the warm attitude of representatives from the Gulf states,” crediting Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia and Israel as a game changer.
Trump has been trying to push for an alliance of the Sunni states, together with the US and Israel to counter Iran. He is pushing Israel and the Palestinians to reach a peace deal, which he says would also facilitate a wider peace between Israel and the Gulf nations.
Kara, a minister without portfolio posted photos of himself with representatives from the Palestinian Authority along with delegates from Oman, Qatar and Yemen and other Arab nations as well as the prime minister of the Sahrawi Republic of southern Morocco, Abdelkader Taleb Omar.
“President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu are coordinating every step of this political initiative, and there is progress on the issue,” Kara said.
Kara joined by Israel’s Ambassador to Ecuador Edwin Yabo, discussed developments in the Middle East initiated by Trump with the Gulf delegates.
In a statement, Kara, who is Druze, said the meetings were “open and cordial,” and that all sides “expressed their approval to move forward with the political negotiations.”
“For the first time, after years of action in the political arena, [representatives of] countries from the Saudi coalition agreed to meet openly with me as a representative of the State of Israel,” he tweeted in Hebrew.
Kara said that the public recognition by those countries of an Israeli minister showed their desire to move toward peace with Israel.
The minister also spoke with the presidents of Ecuador, Colombia, Guatemala and Paraguay, whom he knew from their visits to Israel. He urged them to forge closer relations with Israel join the fight against terrorism.
“Just as Africa has taken giant steps closer to Jerusalem, we will do everything for Ecuador and all of Central and South America to come closer to Israel too,” he said.
Ecuador’s new president took office Wednesday, tasked with steering the oil-rich nation, a flagship of the Latin American left, through troubled economic and political waters.
Congress swore in Moreno, 64, as the quieter successor to his ally, leftist Rafael Correa, one of the feistiest personalities in Latin American politics.
Moreno is the first wheelchair user to become Ecuador’s leader, and one of few in the world ever to serve as president.